Ri­d­ley’s be­lieve it or not

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ANY fe­male who kicks butt – par­tic­u­larly alien butt – in a movie has one woman to thank for her ex­is­tence: Ri­p­ley.

War­rant Of­fi­cer Ellen Ri­p­ley, played by Sigour­ney Weaver, first ap­peared in Ri­d­ley Scott’s 1979 sci - fi clas­sic Alien, mak­ing it to the end of the film as the only sur­vivor of the space min­ing ship Nostromo. But it was in James Cameron’s se­quel

Aliens, when Ri­p­ley faced down the Alien Queen and growled, ‘‘ Get away from her, you bitch!’’, that fe­male em­pow­er­ment hit a new high.

For ac­tresses, it was a big mo­ment. Just ask Char­l­ize Theron, who kinda sorta maybe picks up where Weaver left off in Scott’s new Alien pre­quel,

Prometheus.

‘‘ I dare you to find an ac­tress who wouldn’t bring it up,’’ says Theron of Ri­p­ley’s im­pact.

‘‘ How could you be a girl in this in­dus­try and not ( be a fan)? I mean, it was the first time I saw a woman like that.

‘‘ It wasn’t fake, it wasn’t a char­ac­ter, she was so tan­gi­ble, she was real . . . it blew me away.’’

How much butt- kick­ing Theron gets to do in Prometheus re­mains a mys­tery for now – Scott has suc­ceeded in keep­ing the film’s plot pretty much un­der wraps.

What we do know is that the story be­gins in Scot­land in 2089, where ar­chae­ol­o­gists ( played by Lo­gan Mar­shall- Green and The

Girl With the Dragon Tat­too star Noomi Ra­pace) find a star map left by aliens 35,000 years ago. The Wey­land- Yu­tani Cor­po­ra­tion sends out a sci­en­tific ex­ploratory ves­sel, named Prometheus, to fol­low the map into space. Theron is Mered­ith Vick­ers, the cor­po­ra­tion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on board.

‘‘ She’s very cold and she’s very de­tached,’’ Theron says. ‘‘ She’s red tape, she’s there to make ev­ery­body’s life hell be­cause she has a bud­get to bring this mis­sion in un­der . . . Even­tu­ally you start to re­alise she’s us­ing ev­ery­body and mov­ing the pawns.’’

Still, like the rest of Prometheus, Vick­ers’ agenda re­mains un­clear.

And that’s just the way Theron likes it. In fact, so badly would she like to be an au­di­ence mem­ber wit­ness­ing Prometheus for the first time that she al­most wishes she wasn’t in the movie.

‘‘ We live in a day and age where a trailer gives away ev­ery­thing,’’ Theron says. ‘‘ I wish I didn’t know as much as I did, be­cause this is the film you don’t want to know about, this is the film ( where) you want to sit in a theatre and have the lights go out and just go for the ride.

‘‘ You know what it’s like when you’ve read a book and you hear some­body else is read­ing it and you’re so jealous be­cause they’re about to go on the jour­ney? I feel that way about this movie.

‘‘ Of all the movies, this was the one I wish I just saw as a viewer.’’

In re­al­ity, how­ever, there was no way Theron was ever go­ing to de­cline the chance to work with the great Scott.

‘‘ There are a hand­ful of film­mak­ers, guys that are his age that make movies still to­day and they’re icons,’’ she says. ‘‘ And ev­ery ac­tor has one of those guys that they dream to work with. For me it was Ri­d­ley Scott.’’

Did he live up to the hype? ‘‘ Not so much.’’ She smiles. ‘‘ So much more, so much more.’’ In fact, the only thing that ul­ti­mately may have come be­tween Theron and her dream was an an­gry Aussie by the name of Mad Max.

Have a look at Theron’s fil­mog­ra­phy and it might look as if she was out of ac­tion be­tween 2009’ s The Road and Jan­uary’s

Young Adult.

But she was ac­tu­ally in Australia for some of that time, pre­par­ing to shoot Mad Max:

Fury Road with Bri­tish ac­tor Tom Hardy. ‘‘ I didn’t con­sciously take time off, it was just kind of re­ported that way,’’ she says. ‘‘ I was sup­posed to go do Fury Road for Warner Bros with Ge­orge Miller, so they’d given me a good set of time to train for that. Then I went out to Australia and we were in hair and make- up tests and we were a cou­ple of weeks away from shoot­ing the film and then the film had to push.

‘‘ Then when they got more hard dates about how much the film was gonna push they al­lowed Tom and me to go and take work. I mean, up to that point I wasn’t al­lowed to take a movie be­cause I re­ally be­longed to them.’’

She first grabbed the chance to shoot

Young Adult quickly with Ja­son Reit­man ( she scored a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion for her per­for­mance as a thor­oughly un­lik­able au­thor who tries to break up her high- school boyfriend’s mar­riage). Prometheus came next, and was a far more in­volved ex­pe­ri­ence. The way Theron tells it, the en­tire cast fol­lowed Scott down the rab­bit hole to face the big ques­tions the film poses. Which are? ‘‘ The heart of it,’’ Theron says, ‘‘ is the age- old ques­tion: Where do we come from? Who made us? What is the mean­ing of all of this? It’s the thing we all strug­gle with, whether it’s faith- based or sci­ence- based.

‘‘ And what if you were to meet your maker and what if he was to com­pletely dis­ap­point you? That’s all I say.’’

Theron shares most of her scenes in the film with Michael Fass­ben­der, who plays the ship’s an­droid. She re­calls spend­ing a lot of time sit­ting around a ta­ble with Fass­ben­der and Scott just chew­ing the fat.

‘‘ We would sit there for eight hours straight and for­get about lunch be­cause we would be so deep in dis­cus­sion about that world and those peo­ple.

‘‘ The three of us just couldn’t stop. Our as­sis­tants would come in and drag us away from the ta­ble. Then we’d be in the car driv­ing for an hour from Pinewood into London and we’d be on our phones like, ‘ Oh, I for­got to say . . . did you . . . what about . . . ’ We just couldn’t stop.’’

She says the cast was like a fam­ily as it nav­i­gated the some­times murky wa­ters of Scott’s sci- fi world.

‘‘ We were all thrown into the deep end and we all helped each other in dif­fer­ent ways to swim in it. In many ways Ri­d­ley said, ‘ Just stay out there a lit­tle longer . . .’

‘‘ It was the first time I was sur­rounded by so many dif­fer­ent kinds of ac­tors – dif­fer­ent in process. That was fas­ci­nat­ing. The cal­i­bre of ac­tors in this is in­cred­i­ble.’’

The film posits that aliens vis­ited Earth thou­sands of years ago. Her char­ac­ter may not be a be­liever, but Theron cer­tainly is.

‘‘ Yeah, there’s some­thing here, around us. I think some of us hu­mans might be . . .’’ she laughs. ‘‘ We’re ex­pect­ing alien heads but what if they look like us? It’s very naive or nar­cis­sis­tic to think we’re the only things alive in the uni­verse. Also it’s been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven that there’s life out­side this planet.’’

Right now, how­ever, there’s more than enough life on this planet to keep Theron busy. Fury Road was due to start shoot­ing yes­ter­day in Namibia.

More mo­men­tously, the 36- year- old be­came a mother in March when she adopted an African- Amer­i­can baby boy named Jack­son.

‘‘ It re­ally took two years of just wait­ing and then one day it’s fi­nally there. It feels ex­actly how it’s sup­posed to feel. I don’t know how to de­scribe it. It just feels right,’’ Theron says.

And, like the rest of us, Theron has an ap­point­ment with a cinema – to fi­nally take the ride that is Prometheus. It could be ex­actly as she re­mem­bers mak­ing it, or it could be com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

‘‘ That’s the world of Ri­d­ley Scott,’’ she says with a grin.

‘‘ I don’t even know if I’m in the movie . . . I’m talk­ing about s h- - and I might not even be in the movie! Lit­er­ally.’’

The truth, as they say, is out there.

Grav­i­tat­ing be­tween outer space, a dream di­rec­tor and Mad

Max take four, Char­l­ize Theron is a woman in de­mand, write Eric

le Duc and Neala John­son

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