John Logan writes Alien Covenant

 
leading from

 
 
 
 
 
a) Seeing Alien
 
John Logan first saw Alien in New Jersey when it came out in the cinema 1979, when he was seventeen. 

He didn’t know much about the film when he saw it that first time, except that it was science fiction, and the poster didn’t reveal much to him. 

But it was a cause célèbre when it was released, and it turned out to be a great movie-going experience for him. 

What he responded to in Alien was seeing real people, the crew members in the film, put into a provocative situation, and it was the drama of this that he found extremely terrifying. 

It was as if  there were real people who were dealing with this evolving, terrifying threat, this alien creature, and they had to find a way to survive. 

So he thought that Ridley directed the film like a master surgeon. 

  1. David Grove: How would you describe your relationship, your history, with the Alien film series?
    John Logan: I first saw Alien in New Jersey in 1979, when I was seventeen. I didn’t know much about the film when I saw it that first time, except that it was science fiction, and the poster didn’t reveal much to me. But it was a cause célèbre when it was released, and it turned out to be a great movie-going experience for me. What I responded to in Alien was seeing real people, the crew members in the film, put into a provocative situation, and it was the drama of this that I found extremely terrifying. You had real people who were dealing with this evolving, terrifying threat, this alien creature, and they had to find a way to survive. Ridley directed the film like a master surgeon. (https://www.ihorror.com/alien-covenant-john-logan/)




 
 
 
 
b) Coming Aboard
 
John Logan had worked before on Gladiator with Ridley, and over the years, they kept trying to find something else to work on but nothing was quite right

Ridley was in the midst of doing the sequel to Prometheus and he asked John Logan about how he felt about Alien.

In their discussions Logan was able to tell him, “You know, that was a hell of a scary movie. 
 
Since Logan loved the Alien franchise, especially the original movie, Ridley asked him to come aboard.

Dante Harper had already written a script which Logan thought was fantastic, so he came in and worked on it for a year and a half and through production.  

  1. John Logan: We had such a good time on Gladiator. We’ve been friends since then and we’ve tried to find things to do,  (Total Film, May or June 2016?))
  2. John Logan: I’m completely fresh to it, but I love Alien."  (Total Film, May or June 2016?))
  3. Creative Screenwriting: First, can you talk about how you got involved with Alien: Covenant? You were one of the writers on Gladiator, so you had worked with Ridley Scott before. John Logan: Gladiator was such a great experience, and over the years Ridley and I kept trying to find something else to work on. But nothing was quite right. He was in the midst of doing the sequel to Prometheus, and he asked me how I felt about Alien. And he asked me to come on board because I love the Alien franchise, especially the original movie. There was already a fantastic script by Dante Harper. So  I came in and worked on it for the last year and a half and through production. (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)
  4. Creative Screenwriting:  You’ve no stranger to franchise films, having written Star Trek and James Bond movies. What’s the biggest challenge with finding something new in a project that is part of a long-running franchise?

    John Logan: You have to be true to those parts of the story or those characters that excite or move you. Every writer will approach a story with a particular viewpoint. If you hand a James Bond novel to Eric Roth you’ll get one screenplay, to Bill Condon you’ll get another, and to me you’ll get a different one. There are different things that speak to an individual writer.
    With Alien: Covenant, I just really wanted to write something that had the feel of the original Alien, because seeing that movie was one of the great events of my youth. It was so overpowering in terms of what it communicated to me and its implications, that when I started talking to Ridley about what became Alien: Covenant, I said, “You know, that was a hell of a scary movie.
    I wanted to write a horror movie because the Grand Guignol elements of Alien are so profound. We tried to recapture that with Alien: Covenant, while also trying to pay homage to the deeper implications of Prometheus. In terms of tone, pace, and how we chose to play this particular symphony, we wanted to create a really frightening movie.. (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)


 
 

 
c) The Covenant

The Covenant isn’t on a military mission, or a mining mission, unlike the Nostromo in Alien or the Sulaco in Aliens.

This vessel was a colonial ship,  they’ve left earth, and they’ve set out on a colonization mission.

They’re trying to make a new home on this new planet, which has the feel and look of dark grandeur.

One reason that Logan had for naming the ship The Covenant is because when the Pilgrims came over to America on the Mayflower, they signed a covenant which was a social pact. 

This crew has a very unique bond because it’s made up of couples – romantic couples, married couples, gay couples, straight couples – so already they’re invested in this shared social mission. 

He also picked the title Covenant, inspired by the name of the brig in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped.

Within the first fifteen seconds of her experience in this movie, Daniels loses her husband. 

She’s dealing with catastrophic loss from her first moment of the movie. 

She’s set on a very shaky emotional foundation, and one of the joys for me in developing the character with Ridley Scott along with Katherine Waterston who played the character was finding the way in which she steps up to her heroism. 

  1. Creative Screenwriting: Speaking of the original Alien, Ripley is one of the great movie heroes of all time, and Daniels fills a similar role in Alien: Covenant. What makes Daniels different from Ripley to you? 
    John Logan: One of the great things to celebrate about this franchise is that it was promoting female heroes long before it was popular. The Alien franchise has always embraced the idea of strong feminist iconography and heroism. Obviously that was something Prometheus did with Shaw, and that we’re delighted to do with Daniels.But Daniels is her own unique beast. One of the major differences between Alien: Covenant and all the other movies in the cycle is that the people on this ship are not soldiers or mercenaries – they’re colonists going to found a new world. One of the reasons why I named the ship Covenant is because when the Pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower they signed a covenant – a social pact. This crew has a very unique bond because it’s made up of couples – romantic couples, married couples, gay couples, straight couples – so already they’re invested in this shared social mission. Within the first fifteen seconds of her experience in this movie, Daniels loses her husband. So she’s dealing with catastrophic loss from her first moment of the movie. She’s set on a very shaky emotional foundation, and one of the joys for me in developing the character with Ridley and Katherine Waterston was finding the way in which she steps up to her heroism. (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)
  2. David Grove: How would you describe the relationship between Alien: Covenant and Alien?
    John Logan: We’re taking a firm step toward Alien with this film. There are little Easter eggs in this film that relate to the 1979 film. I picked the title Covenant, inspired by the name of the brig in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped. The word refers to a pact between two people, a solemn agreement between two parties or rulers.
    David Grove: How would you describe the Covenant’s mission in the film?
    John Logan: The Covenant isn’t on a military mission, or a mining mission, unlike Alien and Aliens. It’s a colonial ship, and they’ve left earth, and they’ve set out on a colonization mission. They’re trying to make a new home on this new planet, which has the feel and look of dark grandeur.(Total Film, May or June 2016?))


 
 
 
 

 
d) David and Walter

For Logan, the selfish joy of writing this movie was writing the David and Walter scenes, because these were two highly interesting characters who have so many connections. 

In connection with this, he found it very exciting to play with the doppelganger myth because it is so prevalent in literature and fiction.

The differences between David and Walter are profound.

David was Peter Weyland’s first successful android creation, and indeed Alien: Covenant begins with the birth of David.

Logan thought that  someday when someone puts all the Alien movies in chronological order, the very first thing that the viewer would see was the awakening of David.

He was a very well-formed android, and Peter Weyland instilled him with curiosity, creativity, and eccentricities, which are all so aptly demonstrated in Prometheus

They wanted to  posit was that David made people uneasy because he was a little too human, and a little too ambitious.

Mankind appears to want slaves to behave like slaves and machines to act like machines.

So future iterations of the model were less interesting, they tried to make them less idiosyncratic, with less sense of achievement.

Thus what they have Walter, who seems like a scaled-down version of David.

That’s the great provocation that David sort of tosses in Walter’s face.

David’s great temptation to him as a great provocation to toss in Walter’s face was “Be more than your programming. You could be as exalted as you choose to be. You have the elements of free will and choice.

  1. Creative Screenwriting: Another pair of characters I want to ask you about are the androids David and Walter. The characters are very similar on the surface, and are even played by the same actor, but have radically different motivations. In your mind, what makes them different?

    John Logan: For me, the selfish joy of writing this movie was writing the David and Walter scenes, because we have two highly interesting characters who have so many connections. It was very exciting to play with the doppelganger myth because it is so prevalent in literature and fiction.
    The differences between them are profound. David was Peter Weyland’s first successful android creation, and indeed Alien: Covenant begins with the birth of David. Someday when someone puts all the Alien movies in chronological order, the very first thing you will see is the awakening of David. He was a very well-formed android, and Peter Weyland instilled him with curiosity, creativity, and eccentricities, which are all so aptly demonstrated in Prometheus. We continue that in Alien: Covenant.
    What we posit is that David made people uneasy because he was a little too human, and a little too ambitious. We want our slaves to behave like slaves and machines to act like machines. So future iterations of the model were less interesting – they tried to make them less idiosyncratic, with less sense of achievement.
    Thus we have Walter, who seems like a scaled-down version of David. David’s great temptation to him is, “Be more than your programming. You could be as exalted as you choose to be. You have the elements of free will and choice.”
    That’s the great provocation that David sort of tosses in Walter’s face.
    It was fantastically entertaining writing those scenes, and knowing that I was writing both of them for Michael Fassbender made it more delicious for me. (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)

 
 
 

 
 
e) The origins of the perfect Organism

One of the things that Ridley and Logan talked about when they started writing this movie was that they wanted it to be the origin story of the Alien monster itself. 
 
The great mystery that surrounds that "perfect organism" was so tantalizing. 
 
They thought that to begin to get into that story would be very interesting.
 
The story would contain the origins of the Alien but somehow David was the person who created them, which if you think about the Alien movies and the endless questions that people might want to ask, was a rather strange direction to go.

Logan thought that the direction the story would go picked up on a very strong seed from Prometheus.

The film was a deeply philosophical movie asking essential questions with such questions as  "Where do we come from? " and "Who created us? "

These were also theological and spiritual questions and so he believed the great challenge of the original Alien. 

Looking at the original Alien, the big question seemed to be to him to ask is What is life?

This is a life form that evolved in some way. 

It’s a symbiotic life form, but it’s not. 

It’s sort of a crab monster, but it’s not. 

It’s neither male nor female, and it’s neither mechanical nor biological. 

It’s some weird combination of all of these. 

Tropes relating to Frankenstein came into it.

What is it to create life? 

What is your responsibility to that life? 

What is your sense of satisfaction when that life satisfies you? 

What is your sense of disappointment when it disappoints you?

Logan had spent some time studying Mary Shelley when he worked on the Penny Dreadful TV series which seemed to be very useful for examining those tropes.


  1. John Logan: If you’re doing an Alien movie, and telling the story of the Alien monster, you’re going to have, at some point, a face-hugger and a chest-burster-that’s the biology and creation of a xenomorph. (Total Film, May or June 2016?)) 
  1. Creative Screenwriting: There’s a Victor Frankenstein aspect to the film, and you’ve worked with the Frankenstein characters before in Penny Dreadful.

    John Logan: One of the things that Ridley and I talked about when we started writing this movie was that we wanted it to be the origin story of the Alien monster itself. The great mystery that surrounds that perfect organism is so tantalizing. We thought that to begin to get into that story would be very interesting.
    Gradually, the tropes of Victor Frankenstein came into it. What is it to create life? What is your responsibility to that life? What is your sense of satisfaction when that life satisfies you? What is your sense of disappointment when it disappoints you?
    Certainly, all the time I spent with Mary Shelley while working on Penny Dreadful was very useful in examining those tropes.
    (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)
  2. Creative Screenwriting: And you also mention Mary Shelley’s husband with his poem “Ozymandias.”
    John Logan: Yes, of course! I take wicked satisfaction that this is the only major Hollywood movie where a plot point actually revolves around who wrote the poem “Ozymandias[Laughs](https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
f) Religion
 
Prometheus picks up that seed, but in Alien: Covenant they wanted to be much more direct about it and make the spiritual element about religion and believing in God.
 
So Oram's character had a great motivation as he moves through the story.

It is not too hard to believe that even in the present day, much less the future, a man of faith would be less respected in the world of science, and so he found himself in conflict with the ultra-scientific and realistic David, which is what Ridley and Logan wanted

See also Alien: Covenant : Billy Crudup

  1. Creative Screenwriting: Talking about the philosophical issues that make this series so interesting, in the film Oram remarks that he isn’t fully trusted by the other colonists because he trusts faith over science. Can you talk about that aspect of his character?
    John Logan:This picks up on a very strong seed from Prometheus. To me, Prometheus is a deeply philosophical movie asking essential questions: Where do we come from? Who created us? These are also theological and spiritual questions.        
    Also, I believe that is the great challenge of the original Alien. This is a life form that evolved in some way. It’s a symbiotic life form, but it’s not. It’s sort of a crab monster, but it’s not. It’s neither male nor female, and it’s neither mechanical nor biological. It’s some weird combination of all of these. If you look at the original Alien, to me the big question to ask is, “What is life?
            Prometheus picks up that seed, but in Alien: Covenant we wanted to be much more direct about it and make the spiritual element about religion and believing in God.
            It is not too hard to believe that even in the present day, much less the future, a man of faith would be less respected in the world of science. It just gave great motivation for Oram’s character as he moves through the story, and it also puts him in conflict with the ultra-scientific and realistic David, which is what we wanted.
    (https://creativescreenwriting.com/alien-covenant/)

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  1. "John Logan writes Alien Covenant" was posted on 29th December 2020

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