So the last time we checked in on how things were going with showrunner Noah Hawley's upcoming Earth-set FX on Hulu Alien series, it was November and we were learning that a pilot script was being worked on as well as a series bible that breaks down to 8-10 hours of show narrative. Now, Hawley is back to offer an update on how things are going, including talk of competing corporations, the potential threat of "cyborg enhancements" and "transhuman downloads," and who the true "big bad" is in the series.
Speaking with Esquire in support of his novel Anthem, Hawley revealed that production is going "great" though "going slowly" do to the scope of the project and the themes he's looking to address. "It's going great. It's going slowly, unfortunately, given the scale of it. I've made a certain business out of reinvention," he explained. "'Alien' is a fascinating story because it's not just a monster movie; it's about how we're trapped between the primordial past and the artificial intelligence of our future, where both trying to kill us. It's set on Earth of the future. At this moment, I describe that as Edison versus Westinghouse versus Tesla. Someone's going to monopolize electricity. We just don't know which one it is."
And while an actual alien species may be a major threat, humanity has some major issues of its own to deal with. "In the movies, we have this Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which is clearly also developing artificial intelligence—but what if there are other companies trying to look at immortality in a different way, with cyborg enhancements or transhuman downloads? Which of those technologies is going to win? It's ultimately a classic science fiction question: does humanity deserve to survive," Hawley reveals. In fact, it's a thematic question that fans of the film franchise should be all too familiar with. "As Sigourney Weaver said in that second movie, 'I don't know which species is worse. At least they don't fuck each other over for a percentage.' Even if the show was 60% of the best horror action on the planet, there's still 40% where we have to ask, 'What are we talking about it, beneath it all?' Thematically, it has to be interesting. It's humbling to get to play with the iconography of this world"
In an interview with Vanity Fair from Summer 2021, Hawley offered a production update on the FX on Hulu series as well as some insight into the themes that the series will be taking a deep dive into over the course of its run:
Hawley's Getting Inspiration from The Past: "What's next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher. Those are great monster movies, but they're not just monster movies. They're about humanity trapped between our primordial, parasitic past and our artificial intelligence future—and they're both trying to kill us. Here you have human beings and they can't go forward and they can't go back. So I find that really interesting."
Hawley Offers a Production Update & Making Sure They "Do It Right": "I've written a couple of scripts, the first two scripts, and we're looking to make them next spring. When you get to something with this level of visual effects, there's a lot of preparation that has to go into it. What's been really illuminating is to see that the entire film industry had to take a year off and they are now trying to jam two years of production into one year. So it's very hard to look on the planet earth and see where you might make something in the next six months. Everyone is racing to make up for lost time. So, I figure let that bubble burst a little bit and we'll do it right."
This Not a "Ripley Story" & Things Are Going To Open Up A Bit: "It's not a Ripley story. She's one of the great characters of all time, and I think the story has been told pretty perfectly, and I don't want to mess with it. It's a story that's set on Earth also. The alien stories are always trapped… Trapped in a prison, trapped in a spaceship. I thought it would be interesting to open it up a little bit so that the stakes of 'What happens if you can't contain it?' are more immediate."
Hawley Looks to Continue the Films' "Inequality" Themes: "You know, one of the things that I love about the first movie is how '70s a movie it is, and how it's really this blue collar space-trucker world in which Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton are basically 'Waiting for Godot.' They're like Samuel Beckett characters, ordered to go to a place by a faceless nameless corporation. The second movie is such an '80s movie, but it's still about grunts. Paul Reiser is middle management at best. So, it is the story of the people you send to do the dirty work."
For Hawley, That Means a Focus on the Dangers Human Represent as Well as Aliens: "In mine, you're also going to see the people who are sending them. So you will see what happens when the inequality we're struggling with now isn't resolved. If we as a society can't figure out how to prop each other up and spread the wealth, then what's going to happen to us? There's that great Sigourney Weaver line to Paul Reiser where she says, 'I don't know which species is worse. At least they don't fuck each other over for a percentage.'"