After LOST, Lindelof Finds Purpose in COWBOYS, PROMETHEUS

Lindelof on COWBOYS & ALIENS, PROMETHEUS

 

Lost may have gone off the air more than a year ago, but Damon Lindelof didn't waste any time flash forwarding to the future.

The prolific writer-producer scored plum writing gigs on two big-budget science fiction projects: Cowboys and Aliens for Jon Favreau and Prometheus for Ridley Scott. A third, the sequel to Star Trek, remains in the gestation phase.

During an interview at Comic Con International: San Diego, Lindelof revealed his thoughts on a number of topics. One of the most interesting observations he made was discussing how much he enjoyed being “only” a screenwriter on a project. Considering his greatest success - Lost - came while he served as co-Overlord of The Island, it was surprising to hear Lindelof talk about how much he enjoyed being at the service of someone else’s vision.

“It’s been all pro on Prometheus, no pun intended, since the word pro is in Prometheus,” Lindelof said about serving as screenwriter on Scott’s mysterious project, which had a prominent role in San Diego and stars Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender.

“There’s a huge relief when you are helping someone else realize their (artistic goal). It’s Ridley Scott, one of the most talented directors alive. It’s a complete absence of stress. You just want to please him. “

Lindelof points out that the hardest part about making movies – and being in charge -- is generating vision.

“After working on Lost for six years and being over this safety net, it was so great for me to segue out, and, not to reduce my role to a hired gun, but in a lot of ways, this job was about listening to the kind of movie [Ridley] wanted to make. “

Cowboys and Aliens, another of his ‘just a writer’ jobs, world premiered at Comic-Con, and hits theaters everywhere Friday July 28, 2011. And while the title is rather self-explanatory, Lindelof said actually drafting the screenplay posed some unique problems.

Lindelof says mashups by design should be impossibly hard to pull off. “Certain genres (like Westerns) are so well-defined, they really shouldn’t be able to be mashed up with another one without a lot of thought put into it.”

The challenge of bringing Cowboys and Aliens to the screen, according to Lindelof, was always about figuring out, “is it a sci-fi movie that takes place in the Old West, or is it a western that has aliens in it?”

“I feel that, especially when Favreau came in, but certainly something that Steven and Ron [Spielberg and Howard, both producers on the movie] were both in agreement about,” Lindelof said, “was that it should be a western. With aliens in it.”

Don’t expect Lindelof to start churning out other genre collisions anytime soon.

“If I could think of one, I probably would be writing it,” Lindelof said when asked if he had another mashup like Cowboys and Aliens in mind. “The key is to not do a mashup for mashup’s sake.”

Working with a dream team like the one assembled for Cowboys and Aliens was an obvious lure for Lindelof, as was the fact that he had a chance to work with directors – Scott and Spielberg – and actors – Harrison Ford – who made such an impact on him as a kid. His appreciation of his opportunities is refreshing.

“The way I feel is…I’m writing fan fiction. It’s just fan fiction that’s getting made,” he said. “It’s a lot like music. The blues informed rock and roll. I’m like a DJ who has access to a lot of amazing vinyl that I love. And I can just spin it in ways and overlap it so that it sounds like new music sometimes. I’m going to try and evoke those things and say, “well, what if we made a Star Trek movie but it felt like Star Wars?”

Lindelof said this while wearing a Star Wars Fan Club t-shirt he said he’s had since he was a kid (it still fits him now, only a tad bit tighter). But what about another franchise that captivated him as a youngster?

Something you need to understand about Lindelof: He clearly worships at the altar of Sir Ridley.

He mentions how crucial Alien and Blade Runner were toward the formation of his love of cinema, as they were to so many other film geeks of the same generation. As a kid, he saw Alien and Blade Runner and felt they inhabited the same universe. To his young eyes, The Nostromo was off in space on a mission while the Replicant uprising was happening back on Earth.

It wasn’t until several years later, Lindelof explained, when someone pointed out that Scott directed both films, that he realized why he felt that way.

image from Prometheus

This leads Lindelof to hint that Prometheus may be part of the Alien universe. I say ‘may’ because Lindelof's time safeguarding the secrets of the Island from prying media eyes has made him an expert on teasing and deflection. He talks alot about what Prometheus is without actually confirming it does, indeed, line up with the mythology of the previous Alien movies. Then he offers up this gem.

“It’s going to line up with those [first two Alien films],” Lindelof said, “so in a lot of ways, Prometheus is the Blade Runner and Alien mashup I always wanted to see.”

Lindelof was the last writer to work on the Prometheus script. He acknowledges that because of Lost, he had a more pronounced involvement in the movie than other screenwriters would have had. But he laughs off the notion that the combo of the director of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator with one of the co-creators of Lost could be viewed as a Geek Dream Team.

“That’s very kind of you to say, but in that team-up, I feel like I’m the Invisible Girl and Ridley is the Thing, in terms of our respective power sets.”

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