Damon Lindelof

The end of Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus is just the beginning of a new story. As Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) flies up into space it’s obvious that the prequel (of sorts) to Alien has more ground to cover. Some of the film’s questions were answered by the time the credits rolled, but many were not. The unresolved story points became a topic in criticisms levied at the film.

Further answers seem likely to come in the form of a sequel. While Prometheus wasn’t the gargantuan blockbuster many thought it would be, the director, screenwriter, and star all confirmed a follow-up has long been discussed and is currently in-development. That’s where things have sat for the past few months.

Now a report says Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox are “freaking out” trying to figure out how to continue the franchise. They’re reportedly ”taking pitches from basically anyone who can crack the story,” and blame for the problems is placed squarely on the shoulders of screenwriter Damon Lindelof. The report says Lindelof came on board, altered Jon Spaihts‘ original script from a one-shot to a trilogy and then abandoned the franchise to work on Star Trek Into Darkness and Tomorrowland.

I asked Lindelof about this accusation on Twitter, and he responded with a long e-mail. You can read that below, along with a few other thoughts.

Bloody Disgusting has the initial story, which is crucial to understanding Lindelof’s response:

Lindelof transformed Prometheus into a “trilogy”, thus stripping the first film’s conclusion of any meaning and setting Ridley and Fox up for disaster. This disaster was perpetuated when Lindelof announced he wouldn’t be penning the sequel. So, in short, the guy who convinced the filmmakers to make a trilogy, left them in the dust…

Sources close to the sequel have told Bloody Disgusting that the studio and Scott are literally “freaking out” over how to continue the story of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), and are taking pitches from basically anyone who can crack the story. While a sequel is nearly inevitable, it definitely puts it in flux, and in a state of jeopardy.

In lieu of that, Lindelof and I exchanged a few tweets:

Then Lindelof sent me this:

Hey, man!

While I’m happy to maintain my ongoing role as internets whipping boy (well, not happy, but at least resigned) this is a weird attack piece, even for someone who should be used to it by now.

The unglamorous truth is this:

During the creative process of Prometheus, all involved (that includes Fox and Ridley) had a strong desire for this film to launch off in its own way so that by the end, it would not connect directly to the original ALIEN, but instead run parallel to it. This is something that I talked about many, many times in the press burst around the release of the movie. As you probably remember, there was a lot of interest as to whether Prometheus was a “prequel” — the answer was, “Yes. Sort of. But if there was a sequel to Prometheus, it would not be ALIEN.”

Taking the strong foundation that Jon Spaihts had already written, I worked on the script to this end — and yes, during that process, Ridley did occasionally riff on what he felt might happen next as Shaw and David’s Head ventured off of LV-223 in search of wherever The Engineers had come from.

After the movie came out and discussions began about a possible sequel, I was already neck deep in writing and producing TOMORROWLAND with Brad Bird. I have found, unfortunately, that if I take on too many projects at one time, there is a higher probability of those projects sucking. And contrary to popular belief, I do not want anything I work on to suck. I really don’t. I care about these stories deeply — not just as a writer, but as a fan. It might not always feel that way to the audience, but I swear to God it is true. It also so happens that Ridley was about to embark on directing his next movie, THE COUNSELOR, and had another one, CHILD 44 lined up right behind it. The conclusion was obvious — In the best interest of the franchise, it was best to take myself out of the running before I had to suffer the embarrassment of potentially not even being offered it.

And that it is the complete (if not somewhat boring) truth.

As to whether Ridley and Fox are “freaking out” about me not working on a sequel, well that’s news to me. I retain awesome relationships with both. More importantly, the idea that there aren’t many, MANY writers out there capable of taking the reins is sort of ridiculous. I did not map out a trilogy and then walk when the going got tough. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know me and doesn’t know the truth.

The process of working on Prometheus with Ridley was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Love or hate the result of that work, I don’t regret having done it for a second.

Bloody Disgusting was very clever in tagging their story with the sentiment that denials were going to come. This would seem to throw shade on me denying the veracity of the story simply by anticipating that I would.

But denying the story I am.

As I said, I will take all the abuse in the world for the things I have done, but I refuse to take it for the things I have not.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Your Pal,

Damon

After the initial report went up (and as we were conversing with Lindelof) Bloody Disgusting updated their original post with quotes from Spaiths, confirming he and Ridley Scott had discussed making Prometheus a trilogy before Lindelof came on board. Here’s a sample:

 I did have a plan for multiple films and the conversations I had with Ridley was [sic] about a new franchise, from the beginning. We talked about a possible trilogy, or a duology, but more often as a trilogy. And I did have pretty broad notions as to how we were going to get from this world to the original Alien – the baton pass, closing the circle, if you will.

This story, from October 2012, also confirms that Scott had some pretty specific ideas of where the story would go after Prometheus. Not to mention almost everything Lindelof says above is corroborated in this piece from December 2012.

So where does all that leave the rumor of Scott and the Fox people freaking out? Well, it takes some blame off Lindelof, who might have changed where the story went, but is surely not the only person responsible for leaving Prometheus open-ended. It doesn’t totally alleviate him of responsibility, but any problems in development of the sequel have very little to do with him.

It’s also important to note that we’re in a time where studios think about sequels every single day. Sometimes that means a film leaves too many questions open, or maybe it means they’re forced to created a story where there isn’t one. In the case of Prometheus, it seems there’s a bit of both. They wanted a franchise, and getting to Alien too quickly would ruin that.

Add to that the hundreds of millions of potential dollars hanging in the balance  and any executive or director would be well within their bounds to either freak out or ask for pitches from various different screenwriters. That second fact does seem to be happening, though. In addition to the Bloody Disgusting post, Badass Digest says ”Fox has been taking many, many meetings with screenwriters, and that screenwriters have been pretty much bringing in their own pitches, not working within an established frame.”

So here’s what we know. Fox is working on a Prometheus sequel. It’s not as far along as we’ve heard it might be, but the potential problems with the project aren’t a direct result of Lindelof leaving the franchise. In fact, he welcomes other writers building on his and Jon Spaihts’ work.

What are your thoughts on this? Who is to blame? Do you feel Lindelof is a scapegoat? And, most importantly, what would you want from a sequel to Prometheus?

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