With Alien: Covenant making its bow in UK cinemas May 18, Michael Fassbender has been chatting about the first time he saw Ridley Scott’s Alien and the profound effect it had on him.
“I watch the first film now and the scene with the red blip triggers anxiety in me every time. It seeps into your psyche,” he says. “Ridley Scott understands sophistication, that’s how so much of this franchise is still effective all these years later.”
He remembers the first time he saw Alien. It was a very quiet night, he says. “I don’t know why my parents let me watch it – they wouldn’t let me see other 18-certificate films. This one, though… I think they recognised that there was a sophistication to it. It had a profound effect on me.”
He’s right that people like being scared when watching a movie. It’s the sort of fear that comes with an inherent release valve, namely the ending (or the ability to switch it off). It’s why horror movies and films like the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock played on audiences’ fears to deliver entertainment value.
“There’s a pay-off, there’s adrenaline and, I think, ultimately, that’s what cinema is,” he says drawing on the rollercoaster analogy. “It’s the safest way to be scared sh*tless. You know as well that you’re being played with; someone’s about to pull the trigger the whole time. That’s part of the fun, though. Being scared is a lot of fun.”
There’s a few reasons why Alien scared Fassbender. “It’s the unchartered territory thing. What’s out there… the vastness of it alone could send you crazy.” Of course, something monstrous growing inside you is also crippling in its intensity. That’s “terrifying on a deeper and more profound level. Something parasitic, incubating inside of us, and using us as a host. It triggers our fear element in a very elevated way. The idea of giving birth almost, as well, and the birth killing the host. Humans have a fear of that; our own nature turning against us in some way.”
The full interview appears in this week’s issue of ShortList, out Wednesday May 3 2017