Aliens invade Australia
Ridley Scott had us in his sights once before. This time he made it
THE contrast between the glorious Sydney sunshine and the ethereal gloom of an Alien set couldn’t be more marked. Inside it is all mist, dripping water and the odd human body part within a tightly confined passageway: a tableau of nightmarish beauty, and yet another example of how Australia has risen to the challenge presented by Ridley Scott’s exotic universe.
The great man can be seen surveying his twisted set with satisfaction.
“I had never shot here before,” says Scott brightly, “and I have to say Sydney has been spectacular. Fox Studios are very efficient. What I would call the technical talent, the artisan and carpentry, the plasterwork, everything has been spectacular.”
By tradition, the Alien series has been made in London (Shepperton or Pinewood Studios), with only Alien: Resurrection (1997) having broken the chain by being shot on the Fox back lot in Los Angeles.
However, benefiting from local tax rebates designed to encourage large-scale productions to cross to the far side of the world, Alien: Covenant began its journey at Fox Studios Australia, in the shadow of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Producer Mark Huffam explains that he and Scott had been looking to shoot Scott’s previous film, The Martian, here in 2014. However, unco-operative local weather systems decided to bring rain to the desert for the first time in 10 years.
“So the desert turned entirely green,” he says, and they were forced to relocate to Budapest and Jordan.
When Michael Fassbender’s busy schedule opened up – he returns as the synthetic human David from Prometheus – their immediate thought was Australia.
“What is wonderful,” adds Scott, “is that I live less than eight minutes’ drive from the studios. It takes at least an hour by car to get to any London studio.”
The Australian influence is not only behind the camera. Alien: Covenant has offered some local actors the opportunity to reveal their talents on a bigger stage.
In the film, the crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet, discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dangerous world.
Aussie actors Tess Haubrich, Alexander England, Uli Latukefu and Nathaniel Dean play four members of the Covenant’s military division who accompany the scientists down to the planet surface, drawn by a mysterious beacon.
With echoes of the gung-ho marines of Aliens, they are the latest in a long line of potential sacrificial lambs to the altar of Scott’s violent visions.
“The sets are amazing, amazing,” says a delighted Haubrich. “This feels like a big movie. There are so many people working on it. I’m only like a small fish, but it has been such a great experience.”
Haubrich plays Private Rosenthal, the only female private on the ship, whom she describes as brave but emotional.
“She’s one of the boys, but still very feminine,” she says.
All of the actors playing military personnel were assigned to boot camp in Sydney before the shoot to instil the necessary skills and encourage a bit of bonding.
With an ex-SAS officer calling the shots, they were put through a gruelling training regimen of circuit training and weights, as well as loading, firing and dismantling the guns they would be using.
“Boot camp, as much as it was about learning not to hold your gun backwards or stick your magazine in the wrong end, was about building this sense of camaraderie and teamwork,” says England, who plays Private Ankor.
“And I think that informs our stories in that we are this unit and we are tight. We have seen a bit of action.”
Alien: Covenant opens on Thursday.
The crew of the Covenant in a scene from the movie Alien: Covenant.