Interview by Fred Godlash

In Space no One can Hear You Read

Alien Vault by Ian Nathan
Alien Vault is an extraordinary book by Empire magazine’s Ian Nathan written with the approval of Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox. Many things have been written about Alien but few have been approached with so much care and adoration toward a film; the book is excellent, full of interviews, artwork, behind the scenes photos and sketches. This is the ultimate tribute to a groundbreaking film that has not been surpassed today. We asked author Ian Nathan some questions about the book and beyond.


As an editor for Empire Magazine and a journalist, did you approach the book as a definitive collection of all materials talked about from the film including stories from previous books, magazines, commentaries, and interviews or do you feel your approach is a tribute to fans who may not be familiar with some of the older content written about Alien?
This is a fair question. It was really a mix of things, firstly I was very concerned going into the book that there might not be anything new to say about a film so loved and well served by DVDs and previous books. What saved me from despair, was the thought that we happily get new biographies on Charles Dickens or Lincoln or Sir Ridley Scott! I wanted to approach the story of Alien as a biography of the film. To encompass not just the remarkable making of story, but a sense of what it was like on set, and a feel for what it is like to watch Alien. Alien is a film that is experienced, and there is something unique in the film's passage from an imaginative B-movie to the sci-fi classic. I wanted to get the nub of that transformation, and those responsible for it. From there it was really about what material served that mission best: I have done extensive interviews myself — Sir Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, cast and crew members, galore — as well as collating pre-existing material dating right back to the film's original release. The only distinction made was in how well it conveyed the story. Naturally, Ridley Scott's voice became very strong, but I hope not dominant. There are wonderful individual journeys: Dan O'Bannon's, H.R. Giger's, Sigourney Weaver's. And, of course, ours as fans. The "definitive” label is a risky one, there were limits placed on how much I could write, deadlines, and the need to build the book around the artwork — I would love the chance to do a full Alien franchise encyclopedia one day (we shall see). But I think, I hope, I served the fans and the film well. It's a tricky business, when you delve deeper into the history there is the pragmatic and complicated business of making the film at its heart. For instance, I wondered how much of the legend of filming the chestburster I wanted to undo? Do you print the truth, or as John Ford would have it, the legend? 

Why do you personally feel this 33 year old film still holds up so well today?
So many things. For one, and I've watched it about 20 times over the last two years, it keeps revealing new things to me. I have come to adore that haunted first 45 minutes, the sense of something truly alien emerging in the universe. I always took it (and this is the point of some debate) that this was the first alien contact for humankind, and the derelict spacecraft, and its terrible cargo, were just beyond our comprehension. It was that mixed with a reality that works against the idea of the genre of science fiction — it feels real, not fanciful! That's why it gets under your skin, this felt like my universe. It also is so damn exciting. And Ridley's eye is better than any CGI you could name. 

What are you working on next? Maybe Aliens?
Hopefully, we'll have to see how the Alien book does (and it is doing very well in the UK). WE've talked about Aliens, and I would so love to do the 'definitive" (whatever that means) story of the Alien 3 story (although, I may have to put David Fincher under hypnosis!).