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Charlize Theron and Damon Lindelof 'Prometheus' Interview


Charlize Theron at the 2011 Comic Con 'Prometheus' Panel in Hall H

Charlize Theron at the 2011 Comic Con 'Prometheus' Panel in Hall H.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If you're not into sci-fi, how about this as a reason to see Prometheus: Charlize Theron says she's naked in it the whole time. That is totally untrue, however it caused many of the journalists gathered for the 20th Century Fox press conference in support of the film's 2011 Comic Con appearance to pause for a moment to reconsider their anticipation of the Ridley Scott film after Theron jokingly offered up that explanation of her character.

Originally conceived of as a prequel to Alien, Prometheus evolved into a different sort of sci-fi film, however writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) wasn't about to break any of director Scott's - or 20th Century Fox's - rules by revealing too much about the story. In the press conference, Lindelof did his best to skirt specifics while still trying to answer questions to the best of his ability. And having Oscar winner Theron alongside him joking about being naked certainly helped him make it through the tricky spots.

Charlize Theron and Damon Lindelof Interview:

What is the world like when this story begins? Where does it start?

Damon Lindelof: "Where do we begin? Well, we begin at the beginning. Ridley [Scott] has been very cryptically obtuse about everything and he’ll probably kill us if we say too much about the movie. Suffice it to say, there are some very big ideas in Prometheus and, therefore, it covers a very vast expanse of time. That’s all we’re willing to say. It’s past, present and future. Is that oblique enough? But, it’s all three."

Charlize Theron: "God, you’re talking like you’re the guy who created Lost. It’s so cryptic. It’s so annoying."

Damon Lindelof: "Yeah, if you were looking for answers, you came to the wrong place."

This began as an Alien prequel, so how did it evolve into something different?

Damon Lindelof: "A gentleman by the name of Jon Spaihts wrote an early draft of the script and, at the time, it was going to be a prequel to Alien. And I think Ridley really wanted to move the movie into more original territory. The idea of a prequel, leading up to the original movies, as opposed to thematically being about something else, but also the opportunity to introduce new characters into the movie, was a big deal. Obviously, in order to get an amazing cast, including an Oscar winner [looking at Charlize], it really had to be driven by the people. So, although the ideas of the movie are very big, we wanted to set it and make it feel like it was an alien in that same universe. Ridley hasn’t directed a science fiction film in 25 years, so now that he’s coming back and doing one last heist, as it were, the bar was very, very high. So, over time, the movie began to become much more original. Although there might be some familiar things from the alien universe, this movie has a heart and mind of its own."

Charlize, can you talk about the character that you’re playing?

Charlize Theron: "No, I can’t. Sorry. I’m just here to be pretty. No. I play this lady called Meredith Vickers. She’s the suit that runs the company that has nickeled and dimed this whole thing together, to fund this mission. Initially, she really was just that. And, Ridley came to me and said, 'Do you want to do this?' I said, 'For me, to work with you is a really difficult decision to make, but I’ll think about it.' No. Obviously, I wanted to work with him, but I felt like the character was just a little one-dimensional. [Damon Lindelof] stepped in, and I got on the phone with him and Ridley, and I threw very loose cannons towards him, with no specific ideas, but just wanting her to be somewhat more layered. I can’t tell you what Damon came up with, but he came up with some good shit! She starts out one thing and ends up another thing. It’s a pretty nice surprised, toward the third act, so I don’t want to ruin that for you, but she really does start out very one-dimensional. The great thing about Ridley is that he shoots everything so layered that you always wonder. There were many days that I showed up and he would do this tiny little thing like throw me in the corner, just lurking. And then, all of a sudden, that became a character trait. I would always be in the corner, lurking over everybody, and not saying anything, but just watching. Then, you realize that it really adds to this enigma of this character and what her agenda really is."

Damon Lindelof: "I remember in the early draft of the script that Vickers was exactly as Charlize just said, and then Ridley called and said, 'I think we might have a shot at getting Charlize Theron to play this part,' and I said, 'Vickers?! We’re going to have to make this worthy of her.' A lot of the writing of the script, particularly for that role, is about making suits so that they’re custom designed for the person who’s ultimately going to be wearing them, as opposed to, 'This is exactly what it is. You’ve got to put it on.' Once we had Charlize, it really completely changed the tenor of the entire movie for the positive. Having seen large sections of it, I’ve never seen her play a part like this before, which is pretty rad."

Charlize Theron: "I’m naked, the entire time."

Damon Lindelof: "That’s true! But, in a very classy way."

How does the name Prometheus fit into the story? Is it related to Greek mythology, or is it the name of a ship?

Damon Lindelof: "We’re not going to talk about specifically how it connects into the movie, other than yes, Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from the Gods because they were keeping it to themselves and they were worried what mankind would do, if we got our little paws on it. So, that theme is a resonating idea – what humans are doing that we probably shouldn’t be doing, in terms of technological innovation and, perhaps, exploration. Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Part of the fun of the movie is understanding exactly why we called it Prometheus. And also, it sounds really pretentious, like Inception, so we were just like, 'Yeah, that makes the movie sound really smart!' It’s so much better then my original title, Explosion. Well, there might be an explosion in the movie."

Is the fire the aliens and are the Greek Gods the space jockeys?

Damon Lindelof: ":Although Ridley has made a lot of comments, over the course of the development of the movie, in terms of how this might tie into the original Alien series, or its relation to the space jockeys, a lot of the fun in going to see the movie is seeing if and how we’re going to try to connect that. But, I don’t think that any of us would have been doing our jobs right, if this movie couldn’t stand on its own. If you’re a fan of the original film, there will be little Easter eggs in there for you to find, but the idea of connecting it in, in an incredibly profound way, would denude its originality a little bit. Maybe there’s a way that it can be both. At least, that was the intention behind it."

You said there are big ideas in the film.

Damon Lindelof: "That was just more pretentious bulls--t."

Charlize Theron: "This is a straightforward comedy."

Damon Lindelof: "I’d say it’s more of a screwball comedy, actually. Let’s be honest, that’s what Ridley does best."

Charlize Theron: "He’s known for that."

Damon Lindelof: "He likes people throwing pies at each other, and all that kind of stuff."

What are some of the ideas that you wanted to explore?

Damon Lindelof: "I think that one of the really interesting ideas that the movie is dealing with is this sense that space exploration, particularly in the future, is going to start to involve this idea that it’s not just about going out there and finding planets, so that we can build colonies, or anything else. There’s also this inherent idea that, the further we go out, perhaps the more we learn about ourselves. And, I think the characters in this movie – some of them at least – are very preoccupied with the idea of, 'Where did we come from? What are our origins? What is our place in the universe? Are we the only sentient beings, or are there others?' That was not really a part of the original Alien movie, where it was just, 'Hey, we’re miners. Oh sh-t, we ended up stepping in this huge pile of very frightening sh-t!' So, although there are elements like that in this movie, and there certainly are scares, the idea of fundamentally and thematically exploring this idea of creation was always a big deal for Ridley."

Charlize, you’ve made a lot of really interesting choices in your career and you’re not typecast. What was it about this character that excited you about taking on this role?

Charlize Theron: "For me, more than thinking of it and compartmentalizing it as a character who does this or is this, it’s always been the only marriage that has lasted, of who I’m working with and what I believe the chemistry of me and that person, and everybody else on the film, can bring and elevate. There’s an instinctive part, when I read something. I read this and I felt like, instinctively, she wasn’t really explored, and that’s fine. Sometimes you do a film and there are characters that are not explored, and you obviously don’t want to hurt a film. But, the more Ridley and I talked about it, the more we realized that, with the big themes of what the story and the film was about, there was a way to explore some of that, in a different way, because Vickers is such a different character. She’s not a believer. She’s not a scientist. She comes with this very frigid, cold, economic mind, and yet there’s something about her that’s questioning and doubting. You think it’s for one reason, and then later you realize that her agenda was actually something completely different, and that really wasn’t explored. You couldn’t explore that through the other characters because they were so different from her. I produce films, so I do come from a place of wanting to make the film better. I really don’t come from a place of, 'If I’m going to play this, I need this.' I just wanted to see the potential through, and if Ridley wanted to do that and Damon wanted to do that, then I was really on board. These are the little moments that happen, that you don’t necessarily see coming. Through her and her characteristics, we really explored a lot of deep sh-t, which was really, really fun. Eventually, in the third act, I get to do some really, really fun stuff."

Charlize, earlier you joked about doing nudity in the film.

Charlize Theron: "I wasn’t joking, gosh! I’m an Academy Award winner. I’m serious."

Damon Lindelof: "Why would we ever joke about something like that?"

How have you gotten to be comfortable with doing nudity?

Charlize Theron: "That’s always so interesting. I don’t know how much of it is where you come from or how you were raised, or how much of it is actually just looking at that as a physical aspect in storytelling. I was a ballerina for 12 years and I changed backstage. Look, it’s not like I f-cking love being naked. I’m totally insecure, like every other woman."

Damon Lindelof: "This press conference is getting so awesome! Just don’t stop. Am I asleep right now?"

Charlize Theron: "When I’m naked, I really like to do push-ups. No. I think I really tackle it like everything else. If you’re going to commit yourself to playing something, you have to be able to understand it. If you can understand it, then you can do it and go balls out with it. But, I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been like, 'This doesn’t feel right.' I wouldn’t do it, if it was that. I like the shock value of it. I think that, if you use it correctly, it’s pretty effective, as long as I’m lit really, really, really well."

Did you have to do anything to get in shape for this role?

Charlize Theron: "I didn’t have to get in shape for this role. I don’t really get to do a lot. I’m the suit, so I have a very fancy office with very expensive chairs, and I boss people around, in my very expensive suit. I didn’t really have that much action. In the third act, I have to do a little bit of running and stuff, which I just did in Iceland. I just came back on Monday. And, I shit you not, I am bruised from head to toe, so maybe I should have gotten in shape for the film. I am so bruised, and Noomi [Rapace] has nothing. She does not have a bruise. She was like, 'Why aren’t we rolling? Why aren’t we running?' I was out of breath and like, 'Oh my god, it hurts!'

Damon Lindelof: " [Noomi] is an animal. Charlize is leaving out the part where all the running is happening with 40 pounds of gear."

Charlize Theron: "And I’m about seven feet taller than [Noomi], and we’re running in sand. I was going to do Mad Max, and then that got a push. I started training for that, for six months, but I’d be lying if I said I was training on this."

Sci-fi is always trying to predict the future. Will you be exploring any of that?

Damon Lindelof: "Obviously, Blade Runner was an incredibly influential movie, in terms of the way that it envisioned what the future was going to look like. I think the amazing thing about what Ridley does, as a director, is to try to ground that in some sort of fundamental reality. He was the first one to really think of how prevalent advertising might be, in the future, and what Los Angeles looks like. What’s cool about this movie is that it doesn’t take place on Earth, in any real significant way, so the way that we’re experiencing the future is really away from Earth. It’s more about what people are like now. What have they gone through? What are the things that they’re thinking of? The idea that we’re basically all going to be the same a hundred years from now, but we might be driven by different ideas, is what’s driving the movie. So, you will probably see some things that prognosticate what the future is going to look like, that maybe you haven’t seen before, but the movie isn’t really interested as much in the gadgetry and the flying cars of it all, as it is in what these people are going to do, what’s driving them and what’s motivating them as humans to even be there, in the first place."

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