Ridley Scott Describes The Timeline Of His Alien Prequel

We don't know much about what Ridley Scott is planning to do with his prequel to Alien, the landmark sci-fi horror film he directed in 1979. There has been a lot of speculation that the film would involve the race of creatures from which hails the original film's 'space jockey', that giant skeletal being which fell prey to the xenomorph long before Ripley and her crew arrived on a derelict spaceship. Now Sir Ridley has divulged some ideas about the timeline of the film, which leads to more informed speculation about what we'll see.

Empire spoke to Scott when he was out and about in London to attend the local festival premiere of his daughter's movie Cracks. (Poster and trailer for which we just featured.) Scott threw out some really general statements about the film — they know where it's going, the screenplay is now being written by Jon Spaihts, and then this more specific tidbit:

The prequel will be a while ago. It's very difficult to put a year on Alien, but [for example] if Alien was towards the end of this century, then the prequel story will take place thirty years prior.

How long does it take for a corpse to become as clean-stripped as the  jockey? Depends, I guess, on whether you're looking at it in a mythic or scientific manner. If it's mythic, then probably hundreds of years, which rules out seeing what happened to bring that ship down. If scientific, then thirty years is plenty of time, because LV-426 had an atmosphere in which the body could decay. But then you can get geeky — did it also have the bacteria and other creatures that would be required for decay? Looked pretty barren, so maybe not.

The quote we've all been holding onto to anchor ideas about this prequel is Scott's own, from 2002, where he mentioned interest in "where the alien creatures were first found and explain how they were created." He's also mentioned interest in the space jockey's race. But that may not be where the film is going now. If the timeline is just thirty years prior to Alien, we could be looking at a story featuring Weylan-Yutani's earliest info about and/or encounter with the xenomorph. We may still see how they were created — could this be biotech gone awry, and not natural evolution? We know that Weylan-Yutani is 'the company', but it isn't at that point the only company. (It also isn't spelled with a 'd', which was added to spell Weyland-Yutani in Aliens.)

Now we're just into spitballing and wild assumptions. Seems unlikely that Scott would do too much with the corporate fiction of the later films (in which the company's founder is revealed to be android designer Charles Bishop Weyland) but we could still see a point where Weylan and Yutani are separate companies that have a hand in actively developing the xenomorph, whether from raw material or through cultivation. Because the other thing Scott said to Empire is "it's a brand new box of tricks," whatever that means.