'Alien' Director Challenges Actors Like a Xenomorph, Star Says

How will people on interplanetary space missions feel and act? Locked inside claustrophobic spaceships for months and years with no escape, future space explorers will have to be the toughest of the tough and exceptionally easygoing. They will have to be prepared to face out-of-this-world challenges, such as encounters with giant, scorpion-like xenomorphs.

Space.com asked the cast of Ridley Scott's new sci-fi horror film "Alien: Covenant" how they prepared to play such superhumans in distress.

Billy Crudup, who portrays Christopher Oram, the second-in-command of the Covenant space vessel, suggested that for an actor, working with a legend such as Ridley Scott (the man behind the original 1979 "Alien" movie) is by itself intimidating enough. ['Alien' Horror: 9 Terrifying Extraterrestrials from the 'Alien' Movies]

Ridley Scott directs a scene from his new film, "Alien: Covenant," opening in the U.S. on May 19. (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

"The exercise trying to make this movie, working with Ridley and a cast like this and people who are really at the top of their game, it's testing your own ability to live up to your expectations for yourself," Crudup told Space.com. "It's not quite like facing the alien, but we kind of relish opportunities when we get the chance to be somebody more extraordinary than we usually are."

"Alien: Covenant's" leading lady, Katherine Waterston, admitted that she relied more on her imagination than on studying astronaut psychology when developing the character of Daniels, a bereaved terraforming expert forced by the circumstances to become a resourceful alien-buster.

"You are always doing something that has not been your human experience," said Waterston, who jumped into "Alien: Covenant" straight from filming the J.K. Rowling fantasy film "Fantastic Beasts."

"Both films kind of required me to tap into the childlike playfulness to just not be distracted by my own sense of reality, to escape into the fantasy," Waterston said.

Michael Fassbender — who stars in a dual role as the disrespectful android David (known to "Alien" fans from the 2012 movie "Prometheus") and David's upgraded version, Walter — cited the late singer David Bowie and former Olympic diver Greg Louganis as major inspirations for his style of acting.

"With David, I had an idea where he was going to go based on what we have developed in 'Prometheus,'" said Fassbender. "Then I had to work out Walter, and the hints were in the script. The human characteristics of David disturbed people, so they developed the following models with fewer complications. He didn't have his own personal motifs, because he was simply an analytic processing machine, so I kept him quite blank."

Danny McBride, who plays the Covenant's pilot, Tennessee, said the actors were most concerned about ordinary audiences being able to relate to such superhuman characters.

"You want people to be frightened by this film, so you want them to be able to imagine themselves in such situations," McBride told Space.com. "You want the characters to be relatable, and you are finding the human elements. That's really important because then you put these characters in these crazy situations, but you can identify with them because maybe you are going through the same thing that they are."

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Tereza Pultarova
Senior Writer

Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master's in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's in Journalism and Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Prague's Charles University. She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a range of publications including Live Science, Space.com, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.