HN Entertainment’s Nicholas Whitcomb spoke with creature designer and former ILM artist Carlos Huante in a lengthy and in-depth interview on Friday and we wanted to pick his brain about his early work on both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, starting with Prometheus. He revealed that the original draft of the script was going to focus on an army group and seemingly take cues from Aliens rather than what it eventually mutated into as Ridley Scott already had clear plans to change a lot of things including pivoting from making the xenomorph the focus of the film taking a new creative route instead.
HN: First off, I wanted to know with Prometheus I’ve watched kind of the documentaries on the film and a lot of the discussion about it and it seems like there were a lot of changes with how that film actually came out, so could you kind of talk about the early direction, what did Ridley intend to do with that film?
HUANTE: “When we met, I had a script in my hand and it was not good. It would have been like Aliens, like an Aliens movie it wasn’t Alien it would have been an Aliens film. There was an army group there fighting aliens with all of them getting killed. It was a shoot ’em up bang-bang film with aliens in it. It was really bad but I knew that wasn’t going to be the script and Ridley had just gotten hired, the art department got hired on. I was living up in Northern California at the time. So they flew me down to meet with Ridley for a couple of days. And so I’m in the room with Ridley, I sit down and he starts telling me the story, the new script, and it’s way better. I mean that [previous] script I had read had nothing to do with what he was telling me.”
Carlos then talks about meeting with Ridley Scott and how they decided on moving on from the xenomorph trying to create new creatures to focus on instead leading to the Engineers along with the various off-shoots of the xenomorph with The Deacon aka The Bishop and The Ultramorph (a precursor to the Neomorph in Alien: Covenant). He goes into depth into the early ideas for the Engineers, which would later be revived for the aliens in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and his disappointment with the on-screen versions of his concepts that ultimately deviated from the original ideas he had for those creatures.
HUANTE: “We’re talking in the room and he says to me ‘Hey, you know, this whole facehugger, xenomorph thing as they’re calling it, this is kind of dead isn’t it?…and I’m like looking at him nodding my head ‘Yeah man, it’s dead they’ve ruined it actually..the only film I counted was your’s, the first one’. The second one was fun, but even then, back in the day, I was rolling my eyes thinking that they turned it into an action adventure and I was a teenager. The poster was Ripley holding a big gun…I rolled my eyes even back then. Then I saw the movie and I liked it, it was good, it was really fun and well done, but it wasn’t the first movie. So I told him [Ridley Scott] ‘Look, man, they just ruined it’… So Ridley was like ‘So yeah, we got to do something else I don’t want to really make another Alien movie but I’m going to use it as my canvas to do something else’. While he was talking I was understanding this wasn’t going to be Alien, it would be something else, but it was going to play within that world and it’s going to lead us to the first Alien film, right. And so he was really trying to go away from Alien and create this science fiction story that brushed against the whole Alien storyline, so that’s the way we went at it. This opened up the world to be so fun, “I’m going to run around in circles kind of thing.”
“So we went really far-out, I mean honestly, some of the early ideas for the Engineers as giant whales, this is what Denis Villeneuve riffed-off of for the final alien in Arrival. Ridley riffed-off my idea for War of The Worlds aliens that he kind of brought in. He liked its stance and how odd it was. The Fifield character was supposed to be that thing but they turned it into Freddy Kruger. It was supposed to be this white kind of embryo looking alien creature which would have alluded to the fact that these were young and prehistoric looking versions of the final biomechanical, hard surfaced looking alien. That’s what the whole idea was behind the white and clean look. I wanted them to look as innocent as a Beluga Whale and as beautiful and mesmerizing but to be horrifically violent there was a contrast that was there. But instead, they went with hideous and horrific..yup so he’s a bad guy, well look at him, he’s a bad guy he’s a monster, yes that’s what he looks like. There was no contrast anymore.”
“Even in the first Alien film when you see the alien come up when Bret is looking for the cat and he turns around and you see the head looking pointed-down and then rises up. When I first saw that with absolutely no reference to anything like everyone else does now they grow up knowing all this stuff, we didn’t have that. When I saw that I was 14 and I saw that head rise up and I’m looking at thing ‘What the hell is that? It’s beautiful and horrific at the same time. I didn’t know what the hell I was looking at. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen’. That’s what I was trying to do but make them even more beautiful and more benign looking that they would be albino like a Beluga Whale in the ocean, that vibe. I wanted that for the alien variants but they screwed that up.”
HN: They ended up having the Deacon…
HUANTE: “They screwed that up too. That Deacon is all my idea it wasn’t written in the script I gave them that thing. At first, he was called The Bishop then he was demoted to the Deacon because of the pontiff’s hat shape Ridley called him The Bishop at first but I think because there is a character named Bishop he started calling him the Deacon. So the idea of the Deacon was that it was originally supposed to come out of a man. It wasn’t supposed to come out of an Engineer.”
“When they come out of an Engineer it was supposed to be an Ultramorph, a giant. The Ultramorph is a prehistoric version of the xenomorph.. like a mastodon is to modern day elephants. It would be giant because obviously, it came out of an Engineer. So it would be this super tall albino, biomechanical looking alien and that’s when we’d first see it, the biomechanoid. The Deacon was supposed to come out of a man not unlike what they did in Covenant, but they gave it a sphincter mouth and it lost its spark in my opinion and then the adolescents were running around on all fours like an alien version of meerkats.”
“There were too many hands in the pie after it left me. It was likely that everyone was trying to stick their hands in. Ridley was surrounded by everybody’s opinions and the rules he and I created together got drowned out so they get lost. There was no more connection between anything, everything got thrown out and it was a free-for-all for the design.”