After a full first day of location scouting, Sir Ridley Scott fronted the Sydney press corps to discuss his blockbuster Prometheus sequel, Alien: Covenant, which begins a 16 week shoot in April, 2016.
“I discovered I get on with Aussies,” joked the legendary British filmmaker, the grand façade of the old Manufacturers Hall hiding the early pre-production activity within. “I’ve worked with one of the toughest ones there is five times, a Mr Crowe, and we are now friends. We weren’t always friends, but now we are friends. I think I’m going to enjoy Sydney.”
Joining the director was The Honourable Julie Bishop, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs (pictured, right), who acknowledged that incentives were being re-evaluated in order to attract studio productions to Australia. “I know that film industries, both here and abroad, have been lobbying consecutive governments for a very long time to make our tax arrangements more competitive and attractive,” she said. “Other countries had increased their location off-set to around 30%, so we matched that, and immediately drew a response from 20th Century Fox and the Alien production team, as well Disney and Marvel studios for the Thor series.” Flanked by NSW Minister for the Arts Troy Grant and Federal Minister for Industry, Resource and Energy, Anthony Roberts, Ms Bishop revealed that, “within the context of the next budget, any permanent changes to be made to the location off-set [will be considered].”
Alien: Covenant represents estimated revenue for the state of US$61million, with approximately 600 jobs to be generated. Having lost out during the bidding to secure Scott’s last film, The Martian, Ms Bishop stated with some circumspection, “The opportunity to have a film of [this] stature, to be filmed by a director of Sir Ridley’s standing, is one not to be missed.”
A savvy businessman, Sir Ridley Scott recounted a time when his native industry suffered due to a lack of concessions for large-scale productions. “I used to own Shepparton Studios in a pre-tax rebate U.K. film industry. Twenty-two stages over twenty-two acres; it’s where I shot Alien, and I wanted to put back into the industry,” he recalled. “Our biggest problem was that when a big film moved out, we had no return business because we had no rebate. So I sold it. Then, God damn, four years later the rebate happened and today, you can’t get into Shepparton or Pinewood or Leavesden. When you combine the frequency of production with the talent and infrastructure already in place, everything gets better.” (Pictured, left; Scott directing Veronica Cartright and Sigourney Weaver in Alien).
When questions turned to the scale of the production, Scott hinted that his narrative would drill down into the epic history of the alien life cycle. “It’s a very complex story,” he said. “Prometheus 1 was born out of my frustration that of the three sequels that followed my 1979 film, Alien, no one posed the question, ‘Who made the alien and why?’ Alien: Covenant further develops that evolution. When this film finishes, there will be another one then another one, which will drive into the back end of the 1979 film, explaining why the ‘space jockey’ was there and why did he have the alien inside of him.”
Prometheus leading man Michael Fassbender (pictured, right) will arrive in Australia in mid-March to reprise the role of android David. Scott revealed that the actor will play, “a doppelganger, so you’ll have two Michaels,” and that Noomi Rapace, as Shaw, will make a brief re-appearance. Other casting is still in contract phase, but the director confirmed that Australian actors will feature. “I would always look to do that,” he said, “It’s a very natural thing to do.”
The windfall for the local industry will be immense over several years, the level of production on a scale not seen since the heady days when the region hosted The Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy, Bryan Singer’s Superman Lives and Rob Cohen’s Stealth in quick succession. Scott confirmed that, should the shoot proceed with relative ease, all three planned instalments will shoot in Oz. “That’s the whole point,” he said. “We will be employing up to 600 personnel, all Australian, and all representative of a highly-skilled labour force.”