Aliens in­vade Aus­tralia

Ri­d­ley Scott had us in his sights once be­fore. This time he made it

Life & Style Weekend - - SCREEN LIFE - With Seanna Cronin

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

The crew of the Covenant in a scene from the movie Alien: Covenant.

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