Ridley’s believe it or not
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,
‘‘ 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
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