: Could you talk about the ALIEN franchise? How
has that developed?
: Not that well. The second was brilliant.
I think James Cameron is on the level of Steven Spielberg as a director. He did
a smart thing. He didn't try to compete with the first. He concentrated more on
action. Brought the little girl in. It was the perfect complement to our film.
The exoskeleton and the queen being larger than any of the other aliens. That
was a superb evolution.
From there, some very bad things happen. The critics and the
box office prove it. 3 and 4 were quite failed, flawed movies. Audiences didn't
The one later sequel that did work was the first ALIENS VS.
PREDATOR. It had a great inspiration based on comic books. It was like "Frankenstein
meets the Wolf Man," two unbeatable creatures fighting. It grossed over
$200M and was not extremely expensive.
Unfortunately, they didn't refresh the franchise on the
second AVP. Just too many repetitive elements from one AVP to the other. I’m just
happy that I got a shared story credit on only the first one in 2004.
: Which brings us to PROMETHEUS.
: I read the script for that, and I thought,
it's got a lot of great scenes, but the ending is gonna undo it. There are some
things you can't follow. Why would they destroy a race they created?
: Why would an advanced race of super-powerful
aliens need to destroy humanity by dropping aliens on us? Why not nuke us from
orbit? It sort of felt to me like a classic visual director's movie: one scene that's cool after another, but
nothing holding it all together.
: Some directors, when God gave their visual
talent, maybe He did something to impede their story talent.
: What themes bind your work together?
: If I had to choose one thing to bind my work
together, it would be: I want to amaze
the world. I don't want to make a movie that is something they've seen before
in any other movie. I'm a writer and a producer, and those two always fight
each other. The showman in me cares less about the story working great than the
audience going bananas. Usually the showman wins, but I'm working with partners
who excel at character, and they keep me on track.
: How has the environment changed since you
: Those that make the decisions on big budget
films seem less interested in original material, more inclined to lean heavier
than ever on sequels and remakes. But
still we see from time to time hugely creative original material that does get
made successively. That gives me and
others I know the courage to continue and go for highly imaginative ideas.
I heard Dick Zanuck say seven years ago, you can't figure
out what a good script is. Intelligence and craftsmanship count, but the only
way you really know is gut instinct. Your brain can talk you out of some of
your best ideas. And he was in both eras, at Fox under his father, and then at
Warners. He did JAWS and THE STING.
Was TOTAL RECALL too complicated? Financiers said it
wouldn't work. They felt the action
audience will be annoyed by the convoluted story structure. They'll find it too
cerebral. For eight years, everyone said "6 people will come and see
it". Arnold wanted to do it, but he couldn't do it until he became number
one at the box office. And people thought ALIEN would not get made—it was too
These days it takes a major name to do something original.
Joss Whedon's AVENGERS did a billion seven hundred thousand because they let
him do it the way he wanted. Cameron, Spielberg, Christopher Nolan—they have the
clout to do the outrageously imaginative. No one wanted to do INCEPTION, but
"How can we turn down the guy who made a billion on BATMAN?" I was
thrilled when the executives said in an interview, "We wouldn't have done
it if it wasn't Christopher Nolan." That took a lot of character to admit.
I can't go by logic. I have to trust my own instincts. Do I
like it myself? It's that simple.
That's why I'm having difficulty now. The business people
are trying to go by logic. To sell a script, you have to do things that the
buyers don't think are too crazy. But the things that do the best, if they're
done well, are the things that are too crazy.