The science fiction and horror franchise surrounding Alien launched in the late ’70s with the premiere of Ridley Scott’s original film featuring Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) being stalked around the Nostromo starship by a Xenomorph. Alien inspired three sequels that premiered throughout the ’80s and ’90s before Scott returned to the franchise with the prequel film, Prometheus, that hit theaters in 2012. Now, 20th Century Fox is gearing up for a second prequel movie – the sixth installment in the overall franchise – titled Alien: Covenant.
The film follows the crew aboard a colony ship called the Covenant (for which the film is named) as they arrive on a distant planet and meet its unfriendly inhabitants. Katherine Waterston – who recently co-led this year’s return to the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – stars in Scott’s Alien: Covenant as a crew member of the ship named Daniels. Although there have been rumors concerning Covenant’s connection to Alien, little is known about Daniels and much the Scott’s Prometheus followup.
At a recent film showcase, Fox screened footage from Alien: Covenant and other upcoming 2017 releases for press, including a sizzle reel of Daniels and a scene featuring new creatures called Neomorphs. We recently had a chance to sit down with Waterston and discuss the footage, her work on set with Scott, and the inspiration she drew from the original Alien film.
So, we saw a little bit of a sizzle reel for your character in Alien: Covenant, but not too many details about her, can you talk about her journey through the movie?
Katherine Waterston: I actually don’t think I can.
Then, can you talk about doing the stunts?
Waterston: Definitely! They were fun. It’s such a relief when I get asked a question and I’m like ‘Okay, I can actually go there.’
I’d never really done stunts like that before, I did a little bit on Fantastic Beasts… I have so much respect for people who do this now, big action movies, it’s a particular kind of challenge — but it’s also kind of like being on an adult-sized jungle gym. It’s also just really fun.
I was always kind of begging Ridley to let me do more than he had originally intended to allow me to do, because he likes to come in on schedule, under budget and if I broke my leg it would obviously extend the shoot in a significant way. So he’s always trying to get me to do less, but I won about half those battles and got to do some really fun stuff.
We also saw the new creature, the Neomorph, what was it like working with those?
Waterston: What was amazing about working with this art department and creative team was that we got to see images of all this stuff. So we had a strong sense of what we’d be dealing with in the situations where you don’t always have the creature in front of you.
But we also had an amazing stunt team and they were like performance artists, they would act out a lot of the stuff the Neomorph would do… I’m so scared to say anything about the movie! But it was so exciting to really see that finished product and hear the Neomorph [in the footage], that was new to me, watching just yesterday, the sounds it makes.
What was your reaction to seeing the footage?
Waterston: I was terrified, and bewildered that I could be so terrified because I read the script, I was there on set, I know what happens and yet… It’s just a testament to Ridley’s genius that he can even scare someone who knows what’s coming.
I’ve heard this movie is going to be a little bit scarier than Prometheus, is that true?
Waterston: Well, I’m such a chicken that Prometheus scared me. It scared me a lot. Yeah, but I think that that is the plan. The script scared me a lot, just reading it alone at home, so yeah I think that there will be some pretty scary stuff.
Alien: Covenant is the sequel to Prometheus, but it’s also a prequel to Alien, can you explain how it fits into the overall franchise or how it relates to Prometheus?
Waterston: Yeah, I mean, that’s how it … fits into it. Yeah, and I think it has elements of both films. Like, it’s got some aspects that are similar to Prometheus and then [it] does feel, in many ways, like a return to the original. But again, it’s its own thing, too, and sometimes I think describing things in those terms limits it in a way and gives the audience information it’s better for them not to have.
When I first saw the original Alien, I didn’t even know what I was about to see, I had never seen a trailer or anything. My friend’s older brother put it on to traumatize us — which it did – and I think that will be the most fun way to watch this movie too — with fresh eyes. So I don’t like to give too much away about that. But obviously you look at IMDB, you know Michael Fassbender’s in it, so there is going to be a connection from Prometheus.
Did you draw any inspiration from that original Alien movie?
Waterston: I think I’ve been inspired by that film since I first saw it. I mean, it was really useful to think about. I think all of the actors in this film, we’d get together, we’d talk about what worked so well in that film — that the characters were specific, you understood their relationships with one another, some people were buddies, some people didn’t get along. It just felt like a real workplace, like an office in space. So when things start going badly, you’re invested in the characters in a way I think amplifies the horror and the fear because you’re invested. So I think that was something we all understood — the script and Ridley, everybody understood that was important.
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.
Ridley Scott directs Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollet, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby in the film.