Announced without fanfare on his personal Instagram account earlier this month, the news that writer-director Neill Blomkamp has been working on a secret reboot of the Alien franchise—and would make that movie his follow-up to March’s Chappie—sent ripples of excitement through fanboy circles. On first blush, it seems like a no-brainer for a sci-fi phenom whose debut feature District 9 landed a best picture Oscar nomination in 2010.
Viewed another way, however, Alien 5 also represents a curious about-face for the South African filmmaker, who burst into Hollywood consciousness with plans to direct a $125 million adaptation of the video game Halo produced by Peter Jackson. But that project fell apart during pre-production thanks to creative differences with its intended distributor 20th Century Fox. And Blomkamp has harbored ambivalence toward Hollywood ever since, passing up opportunities to get onboard other studio franchises in the past to develop his own unique projects.
Exhibit A: the director’s third film, Chappie, which arrives in theaters March 6. Following a police robot outfitted with artificial intelligence that allows it to think, feel and assimilate knowledge—not to mention single-handedly perpetrate a crime wave at the bidding of a pair of small-time gangsters who kidnap it—the thriller uses a machine to make certain piquant observations about man’s essential nature. Blomkamp spoke with EW about Chappie for a story that will hit print next week. But we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fit in a few questions about the hows and whys of his upcoming take on Alien—even if Blomkamp stopped short of providing any kind of in-depth reveal about characters or plotting.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did you arrive at wanting to do this Alien movie? And did it have anything to do with having Sigourney Weaver play a supporting part in Chappie?
NEILL BLOMKAMP: It did have to do with having Sigourney on Chappie. It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to one day be a part of. Those first two [Alien] films are probably my favorite films ever made. I didn’t know if it would ever happen. I just always wanted to participate in it if I was able to.
Over the years, I came up with a story for a film in that universe that I wanted to make. And then when I talked to her about her experience making those films and what she thought about Ripley and everything else, it informed and changed the film I wanted to make into something different.
It just sort of stuck with me. A year later, when post-production was winding down on Chappie, I started fleshing out the idea for a film that would contain Sigourney. Fox never knew. I just worked on it when I could. Before I knew it, I had this really awesome film with a lot of artwork and a lot of backstory. And then I didn’t know whether I was going to make it or not. So I just kind of sat on it for a while.
You mean, you showed your treatment to Fox and they sat on it?
No, Fox was keen from the moment I showed it to them. They didn’t even know I was working on it. I just wanted to make sure that—any big studio film, I want to know that it’s the right choice for me. So I just kind of sat on it for a while.
I would imagine after the Halo experience, you’d be wary of joining a big franchise like that. Plus, it seems like you personally get frustrated with the whole Hollywood studio system. So something like this could have the potential to really aggravate you.
Yeah, but it feels cool now. So far, Fox seems really, really cool. So I’m really excited. The movie itself is so wicked.
So do you have script? A treatment? How far along is it?
Mmm, I can’t say! I can’t get into it too much.
In terms of the writing, was that concurrent to shooting Chappie in 2013?
No, that was way later. It was in post-production on Chappie, the second half of 2014.
Anything else we can say about this? Presumably, it takes place after the events in Prometheus.
No, no. I want to keep it on hyper-lockdown. It’s early yet. It’s Chappie time.