Withholding the fact that, 35 years ago, director Ridley Scott provided the benchmark for all future science-fiction horror films with 1978′s Alien, the audience was left with questions. The biggest of these was the corpse of an alien space pilot that failed to safely transport its cargo, setting the stage for the catastrophes that ensued… and not just the studio version of Alien 3. For over 30 years, we’ve learned all about Ellen Ripley, The Weyland Corporation, Xenomorphs, their hive, and their queen, but who was this other being that set everything in motion? Where was it going? What were these eggs for? Apparently Scott was asking himself these very same questions, which ultimately inspired a new trilogy of films revolving around the answers to those questions. The role of the engineer in Prometheus (2012) demanded big shoes to fill it, both literally and figuratively. Standing at seven foot one, Ian Whyte was no stranger to portraying larger-than-life characters. The Welsh actor has portrayed predators in both Alien Vs. Predator films, was a double for Maxime Olympe in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as a white walker and Ser Gregor Clegane in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Whyte was kind enough to discuss his experiences in Prometheus with Rue Morgue at the Weekend of Horrors convention at the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen, Germany.
How did you get the part of the Engineer in Prometheus?
A good friend of mine, [prosthetic supervisor] Conor O’ Sullivan, asked me if I would do some initial makeup tests for the engineer character. It kind of mushroomed from there. We did a few tests and, one rainy Sunday afternoon, I was invited to Pinewood Studios to do a camera test where I met Ridley Scott. Then I went through a formal audition. Ironically, the scene that I auditioned for with the casting director was the only scene in the film that I didn’t do, which was the ‘sacrifice’ scene right at the beginning of the film.
What was it like working with Ridley Scott?
It was an incredible experience. The man is a genius, an artist and a gentleman. He was very focused on the exact minutia of everything. Every aspect of the film is very much his vision.
What was your favourite moment in Prometheus?
Definitely the ‘Awakening’ scene, where I awaken from the sarcophagus, meet the humans, and kill them all.
What do you think the overall message of Prometheus was?
Prometheus was a film that was meant to be enjoyed by the audience. Take away the subtext, the subplots. Whatever you want to believe: whether it’s ultimate Creationism, or Darwinism, it doesn’t really matter. The movie was made to be enjoyed.
What was the Engineer suit like?
The suit was an absolute work of art. It was an honour and a privilege [to wear it], because this was a character that incubated inside Ridley Scott’s head for 35 years, ever since Alien. I’m a huge fan of the art and the technology that goes into films like Prometheus, as well as the stuff that happens in the background. A lot of my very good friends are makeup artists, and a lot of good friends were the makeup artists on Prometheus. You know, when an artist makes a work of art they do it once. These guys had to replicate this makeup day after day after day. It really was a work of art. When you see it on film you don’t really get a sense of the depth of the finish. There were multiple layers of paint – all different designs in the costume. When you got really close to it, you could see all these different layers, and iridescent designs. It was just a real pleasure to play the character.
Do you own any memorabilia that you’re proud of?
No. Everyone always asks me if I keep the costumes. To be honest, they make terrible souvenirs because they’re made of latex and foam rubber. On the inside they’re absorbing sweat the whole day, and on the outside they’re gonna get covered in slime and blood and dirt and dust and all sorts of other stuff. Also the actual prosthetic – the stuff that’s glued to my skin – is destroyed as soon as it comes off. So they really make terrible souvenirs, just happy memories.
What’s the strangest thing anyone’s ever asked you to sign?
Body parts. I don’t like signing body parts.