As part of my ongoing Q & A series on "Alien: Ore" (2019), what follows is part three of the three-part interview between actress Tara Pratt and myself. New interview segments post every Friday at 2 p.m., EST.
In case you missed them, read part one, and part two!
In case you missed them, read part one, and part two!
Getting the Role (cont.)
Nick: Would "Hanks" have been your first choice; or, if given the option, would you have played a miner, instead?
Tara: Once I had the chance to read for Hanks I knew I wanted to be her so badly! [She] would still be my first choice, but a miner would've been badass, too (and then I would’ve gotten to shoot in the mine)!
Tara Pratt as Hanks, getting camera-ready (courtesy of Greg Massie).
Nick: Did you have to do any special training for the role, physical or otherwise (maybe watching some old corporate training videos, for example)?
Tara: I have a pretty decent regimen already that's good for my strength so I just kept up with that, and paid special attention to my posture for the weeks leading up to the shoot. Androids of my model have no excuse for slouching! [editor's note: Michael Fassbender was inspired by Olympic swimmer Greg Louganis when preparing to play David, in Prometheus (2012).]
Nick: Once you knew you had the job, did you consume any horror/sci-fi media (movies or books) to help you get into character? For example, did you find yourself studying the robotic body language of Ian Holm to replicate his signature twitches?
Tara: Yup, exactly! I watched his characterization specifically because I thought his model and motivations were closest to those of Hanks; she wasn't as immediately violent and fatal as he turned out to be, but I thought they would've shared similarities in terms of the change that comes over them when carrying out Company mandates.
Nick: Were you perhaps influenced by the replicants from Blade Runner (1982), another Ridley Scott movie?
Tara: I know I’m going to lose readers when I say this, but I've actually never seen Blade Runner! Weirdly enough, I did see the sequel with Ryan Gosling. I didn't take cues from his characterization, [even though] his approach was really interesting.
More human than human, Ryan Gosling as "Joe," from Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
Being on Set
Nick: How did it feel being on-set, in an Alien movie?
Tara: It was one of the best experiences of my LIFE! The tone on any set is always set by the director and flows outward, and Kailey and Sam created such a welcoming atmosphere; they were focused and they had a very clear vision of what they wanted, but they always had time to field questions and check in with the cast and crew to see how everyone was doing. So on that level it was just pure joy.
And then there was the excitement of getting to be a part of the franchise. I honestly had no idea how "big" it would be, and what the project might mean for the careers of all of us involved. I knew for me this was an experience I would cherish for the rest of my life, so I enjoyed every minute of it.
Nick: Even though your character is never in the mine, did you have any opportunities to go on set, and see what the others were up to?
Tara: It's funny you mention it, because the scenes in the mine were shot the weekend before mine, but I wanted so badly to just hang out while they shot. So I contacted our producer, Victoria, and asked if I could tag along to the mines, and she graciously offered to get in touch with folks to arrange rides, etc.
But after thinking about it, I realized I didn't want to be a burden. I thought there wouldn't be a ton of room in the mines, and I know from being on a few indie shoots that having to accommodate even one more person that doesn't need to be there is just another hassle for everyone. Even though I know I'm pretty low-maintenance, I knew Victoria and Kailey and Sam—even peripherally—would be thinking where to sit me down, when to feed me, where to "park" me to get me out of the way. I just didn't want to be another worry on their massive to-do lists.
So long story short, I missed out on the mine shoot, but I think it was for the best!
The cast and crew, inside the mines (courtesy of Suzanne Friesen).
Tara: Not at all, actually. I grew up in Alberta, so I suppose our equivalent would have been school trips to Drumheller to see the Royal Tyrrell museum! I’ve lived here in British Columbia. for going on thirteen years now, and I think I've only heard about the mines once or twice in passing—like, literally, as I’d be passing in a car!
Britannia Mines, from outside (courtesy of Greg Massie).
Nick: How did you inspire yourself to look "surprised" whenever characters on your (ostensibly blank) monitor were being killed?
Tara: [That] scene is a great example of movie-making magic: You're right, I was staring at a blank screen.
Nick: Did they play scary sounds in your headset to startle you, or did you improvise your responses?
Tara: I was being cued by a Spear voice—I couldn't see her in the dark... I think it was Sam—with a list of gory atrocities that [Hanks] would've been looking at. And I loved seeing how that scene was edited, because the sound designer and mixers incorporated some really horrible sound effects to coincide with the timing of my reactions, it looks so cool!
Nick: Early on, your character is more friendly and grows colder and more detached, as the story progresses. Did the Spears direct you on how to manage your subterfuge?
Tara: The Spears and I had great discussions about that, about how Hanks "feels" about carrying out the Company orders that she knew could end up killing the crew.
Nick: Did you have any say in how overt or subtle your treachery was going to be, on-screen, before the xenomorph starts killing people?
Tara: I took my cue from [the Spear sisters'] writing. [In] the script there are actually stage directions like, "Panic fills Hanks' eyes" after Lorraine hits the button to stop the elevator's ascent. I think we all agreed that Hanks grew colder out of necessity because she was largely in "submissive robot mode" by the end, which doesn't allow room for warmth:
The face of chagrin.
Nick: From your point of view, how difficult was the shoot, itself? Were there any accidents on set, any funny incidents?
Tara: You know, I hate to make it sound boring but the gag reel on our shoot day would be pretty short! Aside from my headset occasionally "malfunctioning" and coming apart (or the phone randomly detaching from its temporary fixture on the wall in my desk space), everything ran really smoothly.
The Ending (spoilers)
Nick: Was it ever discussed that you might overpower and kill the foreman, when he tried to return?
Tara: Actually no! But that would've been an interesting scene, and a whole other obstacle we'd have to consider (in terms of how far Hanks will go to carry out orders). I'm not sure that Hanks would kill the foreman if she didn't have to. I think she'd just restrain him if possible.
Nick: Who do you think wins, the xeno or the miners?
Tara: I gotta say, I don't see the miners emerging. I agree with Ash on this one: "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."
Ash: die-hard sardonic.
Nick: Androids are often decapitated, or ripped apart, in the franchise. Assuming the story continued into a franchise—and the humans killed the xeno and attacked Hanks, afterward—how would you feel about doing a post-decapitation scene, where your character continues to speak after being dismembered?
Tara: Ooh, that would be so cool! I wondered about that, watching Ian Holm [try to] speak through all of that milky goo he had to spit up—it just drenched his entire head! I wonder how he felt about doing that scene, but I would absolutely go for it. (That [scene] is also a whole other master class in acting because he’s in full-on "robot mode," abandoning the pretense of being human...)
Nick: On that note, do you have a favorite android death in the franchise? If you could choose your own "death" for Hanks, what would it be? [editor's note: I put "death" in quotes, because androids in the franchise are notoriously hard to kill; even if decapitated, Hanks would still not die, in the traditional sense.]
Tara: My favorite "pseudo-death" was Bishop, [who] didn't really die as you point out. He's being thanked [for] saving Ripley and Newt, when—OH, MY GOD! Suddenly something is coming out of his chest, and up he goes into the air, hanging at the end of an alien queen tail—
This is only the tip of something much, much worse.
—I think if I could choose Hanks' death, I'd want her to go out trying to make up for her betrayal (to distract and fight an alien while a human got away, for example).
Nick: Given a chance to explain your actions, what would you say to the survivors (assuming you could improvise your lines, like Rutger Hauer did, in Blade Runner)? Would Hanks admire the monster like Ash did, or love it like David does; or, would she been indifferent to it, or have some other kind of reaction we haven't yet seen from androids, in the franchise?
Tara: I think first there would be an explanation—something like, "I was programmed to watch for the creature, but I didn't account for the possibility of sacrificing you to ensure its survival," etc. I would actually like to see Hanks try to turn things around and suggest the miners stick it to the Company in the way that she couldn't because she's incapable of defying them. It would be an interesting development to have her say, "I've grown fond of you in my own way, and based on the behavior of your species versus the other organism I'd rather see you live, so good luck!"
Nick: How happy are you with the final product? Did it turn out better than you expected? In hindsight, would you do anything different?
Tara: I was absolutely blown away by the final cut—largely because I was subconsciously taking in all of the details (that you pointed out in your video analysis), [which] the Spears incorporated as an homage to Alien (1979). I didn’t get to see things like the photographic beauty of the mines or the eggs, or Christian's movements that would inform how the xenomorph would move—anything that happened in the mines. Seeing these for the first time, and in the way that the Spears' envisioned, was absolutely breathtaking!
I [actually] waited to watch the film in its entirety. [The] sisters hosted a screening. [The] day "Ore" was released online, I saw it on a big-ish screen [with the cast and crew]. Celebrating with all [these] amazing people [who] were just as excited seeing their hard work come to life—it was like seeing all of my professional dreams come true. ["Alien: Ore"] looked even more beautiful than I imagined it would be. I wouldn't have done anything differently.
Will Hanks return (courtesy of Greg Massie)?
Nick: Given your experiences with "Alien: Ore," would you return for a feature-length sequel, if that were an option?
Tara: Let's put it this way: I would pay them to let me be a part of it!
This concludes the interview. If you liked it, check out all my interviews on "Alien: Ore." For even more details on "Alien: Ore," watch my lengthy analysis.
Many thanks to Fox for allowing these interviews; to the interview subjects; and to Kailey and Sam for being so friendly, enthusiastic and helpful!
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