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In Ridley Scott’s upcoming science fiction epic, Arthur Max’s equally magnificent sets that bring to life the alien planet include a Pyramid, which contains the Juggernaut, a ship similar to the crashed crescent shaped ship seen in ‘Alien’. Using a series of chambers, corridors and tunnels connecting the larger spaces to each other, and after post-production enhancement, the space is as enormous as the Empire State building. It was so cavernous that some crew lost their bearings.
Outside the British Pinewood Studios, on Pinewood’s backlot, Max and his team built the Prometheus Garage, one of three sets that sit beneath the main body of the ship. The enormous set houses the crew’s vehicles, which the production built from scratch. “We had to create vehicles that could actually be driven on a hostile surface, which is undulating and rocky,” says Max.
“We needed transportation that would be industrial enough to deal with these environments but at the same time give us a futuristic characteristic.” It took eleven weeks to create these robust vehicles, complete with state-of-the-art technology, LED lighting, and padded seats, all presented in a dazzling metallic finish.
After 15 weeks at Pinewood, cast and crew relocated to Iceland to shoot the climactic sequences as well as the prologue. In the town of Hekla, the production captured epic action and thrills – while one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes threatened to erupt. Additional scenes were shot at a spectacular waterfall in Dettifoss.
Facing challenges every bit as demanding as those confronting Max was another of Scott’s frequent collaborators, Academy Award-winning costume designer Janty Yates. “Ridley was adamant about avoiding the puffy, NASA-style spacesuit audiences know so well,” says Yates.
“He loved the linear look so we went with a novel approach to spacesuit design that uses biomedical breakthroughs in skin replacement and materials to create a suit that could believably provide lightweight flexibility and comfort in any extraterrestrial environment. Each costume consisted of the outer spacesuit and a Neoprene under suit, a yoke to which a helmet was attached, and a backpack. Scott mandated a globe-shaped helmet with no blind spots.
Each helmet had nine working video screens, lighting, an oxygen supply run on two fans with battery packs within the backpack. The exterior of the helmet features a fully functioning torch and HD cameras with a transmitter and recorder.
David’s onboard costume conforms to the human apparel, but with fine lines to provide a more linear look. Theron wears a beautiful silk mohair suit in ice silver. “Vickers is the ice queen. It was always our vision to make her look as sculptural as possible,” explains Yates. Keeping the naval simile in mind for Janek, Janty gave Elba a canvas-greased jacket giving the appearance that he’s been at the helm of a ship for many years. Marshall-Green as Holloway exudes a casual comfortable timeless look, in his hoodies, Thai fisherman pants and flip-flops.
The film’s new creatures are the work of Creative Supervisor for Creature Effects and Special Make-Up Effects Neal Scanlan and Prosthetic Supervisor Conor O’Sullivan. “We present the evolution of these nasty bits and pieces of creature evolution in a logical and biological fashion,” says Scott.
Adds Scanlan: “Each stage of a creature’s life cycle has a distinctive purpose. For our xenobiology, we brought in new elements that are not necessarily backward from those in Alien, but are of a similar DNA. Many of Ridley’s references are derived from nature – plants, vegetables, sea creatures and other animals. Nothing is invented.”
Prometheus marks Scott’s first film shot digitally and in 3D, a format whose technical challenges and aesthetic opportunities were embraced by the filmmaker. Scott and director of photography Dariusz Wolski used the technology to enhance the action and thrills in small confined spaces, as well within epic vistas.
In returning to the genre he helped define, Ridley Scott continues to push the boundaries of storytelling, both visually and thematically. As he notes, he’s all about the “everything” – from story structure to casting, from sets and costumes to new ways of telling a story.
And while the renowned filmmaker is scaring the shit out of you, he never loses sight of the big picture. “After you’ve seen ‘Prometheus’,” Scott concludes, “you will have experienced something completely unexpected.”
Image Courtesy of Prometheus