Next month, 20th Century Fox will release the big-budget sci-fi feature Prometheus, directed by Scott Ridley.
In an interview with Daily Variety, emerging screenwriter John Spaihts, who shares a writing credit on Prometheus with Lost creator Damon Lindelof, said the idea for the Alien prequel was hatched from a general meeting he took at Scott Free, director Ridley Scott's production banner, back in 2009.
"After discussing a few other projects, Michael Costigan, the president of the company, mentioned they wanted to revisit the Alien universe," Spaihts tells Variety.
Acknowledging that the Alien franchise with Sigourney Weaver couldn't go any further, Costigan and Spaihts, in a 45-minute session, surmised that the only way to revisit the Alien franchise was to go back.
"I just started riffing about how you'd have to do it and what the secrets behind the first film would have to be," Spaihts says. "At the end of it, he asked if I could write down what I said and email it to Ridley, who was in the editing bay for Robin Hood at the time."
Lindelof was later brought in by Fox to do a re-write on the script with Spaihts praising the Emmy-winning writer’s work for being "extremely respectful" of the original script.
"We worked sequentially, not at the same time, so I can't say that we collaborated," Spaihts says of Lindelof's involvement. "But he came up with some cool new ideas and ways of deepening and complicating certain relationships and ideas and I think it really works."
Opening in the U.S. on June 8, Prometheus follows a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on an epic journey through the darkest corners of the universe. Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender star in the R-rated film.
Fox had long-insisted that Prometheus carried only “strands of D.N.A.” from Scott's original Alien film, with studio executives publicly denying that the film was an Alien prequel.
"There's a larger philosophical debate around that debate," Spaihts says of the Alien disclaimer, adding that he wasn't involved in the decision, nor did he understand it.
"Certainly it's set in the universe of Alien and prior to the events of Alien," he says.
Still, the studio's plans for Prometheus are epic in scale. The estimated $150 million film has always been developed as a franchise, according to Spaihts.
"That was discussed from the very beginning," he says of the potential sequels. "The story I developed with Ridley to begin with unfolded in the context of a larger arc that we imagine playing out. So that conversation has never really ended."
For now, the final cut of Prometheus has been delivered to the studio and will begin screening for press in the near future.
Spaihts notes that the human questions Ridley Scott raised in the original Alien (1976) are still present in Prometheus but play out on a much larger stage.
"It's epic in scale as opposed to intimate," the writer says. "So in that sense it's almost completely opposite of the original film."
As for his next endeavor, Spaihts is currently writing another familiar property, Universal's remake of The Mummy, which the screenwriter promises will be "genuinely dark and scary."
"I think it's possible find a great story in whatever framework you've been asked to write in," he says of Hollywood's remake rage. "Whether you're continuing a saga or reinventing one, there should always be potential to make good art."