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Roger Christian talks zombies, Prometheus & Battlefield Earth


George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg loved and even envied 'the worst sci-fi movie ever made'. Is there more to Roger Christian's career than meets the eye..?

Roger Christian with the 'Battlefield Earth' ship that later evolved into the one in Spielberg's 'Minority Report'. And friend.

In the fourth of the new Shadowlocked podcasts, we chat with our old friend Roger Christian - Oscar winning inventor of the look of Star Wars and Alien, and subsequently a director in his own right (he also helped out old friend and colleague George Lucas by being 2nd AD on The Phantom Menace).

Battlefield Earth (2000)For the first time in a very long time, and with the perspective of years of hindsight, Christian looks back on the supposed 'box office failure' that he directed in 2000 - Battlefield Earth, starring self-avowed Scientologist John Travolta and based on a sci-fi novel by the founder of the sect, L. Ron Hubbard. You might very well be surprised to hear what the Academy-Award-winning director has to say on the subject, along with the opinions of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg (who plundered Battlefield Earth with permission for Minority Report) and Quentin Tarantino. Sitting at odds among lavish praise for a glittering career is the movie many still cite as 'the worst sci-fi film ever made' - an opinion so ubiquitous as to defy the number of people who actually saw it for themselves.

Additionally Alien art director Christian holds many of the secrets of Ridley Scott's much anticipated Prometheus 'Alien prequel', and he and I did at least get to discuss the recent trailers, the potential of a trilogy that goes off in an unexpected direction, and how Ridley Scott might be reliving the executive-strewn nightmare of 1978 in far happier circumstances, with a great deal more experience and power.

As usual, I'm moaning about the lack of xenomorphs.

Roger Christian and George Lucas in Tunisia during the filming of 'Star Wars' in 1976As if all this wasn't enough food for thought, Roger talks about the now-impending arrival of his Star Wars memoir 'Cinema Alchemist', which, after some years in the wilderness, will be in our hands this year under the expert editorship of John Rinzler, head of literature at the LucasFilm ranch and Skywalker/Lucas Films, and author in his own right of such works as 'The Making Of Star Wars' and current project 'The Making Of Return Of The Jedi'. There are stories and pictures to come in 'Cinema Alchemist' that will delight Star Wars fans worldwide.

Additionally the ever-busy Christian has just finished zombie movie 13 Eerie, and among a slate of financed projects he is also producing a new SF/horror thriller set on a damaged space station rife with deadly threats. Entitled Stranded, casting forays for the film include Amanda Crew, Kevin Dillon, Michael Ironside, Tricia Helfer, Nick Stahl, Brendan Fletcher, Peter Facinelli and Luke Goss.

If you're just here to know Roger's opinions on Prometheus and Battlefield Earth, the easy links are directly below the embedded MP3 player underneath. Scrolling further down, there's a more complete chronological index of the subjects covered in the podcast, so you can go where you will in the hour and ten minutes that it was my pleasure to pass with Roger yesterday evening. But there's a lot going on between the lines, so I recommend that you sit back and listen to the tales of a true sci-fi master, instead of zapping too much. But it's your choice!

Here's Roger and I. And don't forget that you can subscribe to the Shadowlocked podcast via links in the banner on the right, and make sure you don't miss the next one...

Slide along to:

Talking Prometheus (00.52.44)

The long and strange story of Battlefield Earth - and (among other things) what it has to do with Spielberg's Minority Report (00.58.54)


Finishing zombie movie '13 Eerie' with ';Saw' sound-mixer Kevin Elliot - 00.00.35
Using Brian Jones' (Rolling Stones) $300,000 wooden Gibson guitar in soundtrack - 00.00.52
The two musical periods of John Carpenter - 00.01.27
'Resident Evil'/'Silent Hill' producer Don Carmody praises gore, blood and atavism of '13 Eerie'  - 00.02 01
About the zombies in '13 Eerie' - 00.02.22
Latest on another zombie horror, 'Oktoberfeast' - 00.02.25
Horror on a space station in 'Stranded' - 00.03.00
Retrofitting the $1 'Defying Gravity' space-station set - 00.04.00 / 00.09.53
About 'Stranded'; casting and shooting in May 2012 - 00.04.49
Some spoilers about 'Stranded' (ongoing) - 00.05.50
'Bottle' episodes/movies and the benefits of claustrophobia - 00.06.32
'Stranded' monster taps 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Thing' - 'incubus creature/prosthetics' (ongoing subject)..? - 00.06.47
Gilliam's 'Tideland' DP Mark DeBrescu, who did '13 Eerie', on board for 'Stranded' - 00.11.43
Potential cast for 'Stranded': Amanda Crew, Kevin Dillon, Michael Ironside, Tricia Helfer, Nick Stahl, Brendan Fletcher, Peter Facinelli, Luke Goss   - 00.12.55
CGI in 'Stranded' - 00.15.20
Praising Emmerson Ziffle's prosthetics - 00.15.23
'Running' zombies and Roger's consultation with Paul Anderson on a 'Resident' Evil set - 00.16.38
'13 Eerie' zombies more '28 Days Later' than 'Dawn Of The Dead'..? 00.17.07
'Cinema Alchemist', edited by John Rinzler, currently also editing 'The Making Of Return Of The Jedi' - 00.18.35
'The Star Wars Blueprints' - 00.19.40
Back to Cinema Alchemist/progress - 00.20.37
Roger gets ripped off! - 00.22.09
Accounting the 4 months in Mexico with George Lucas, John Barry, Les Dilley and Gary Kurtz in pre-production on 'Star Wars' - 00.23.09
Recreating the original light-sabre - 00.23.48
R2D2 meets Jesus Of Nazareth - synchronicity for Roger..? - 00.25.34
Roger takes Terry Gilliam to Aunt Beru's homestead - 00.25.54
Roger crucified! 00.28.47
Progress on 'Cinema Alchemist' + a competition for an original frame from 'Star Wars' - 00.27.00
Progress on getting 'Black Angel' back into the public eye - 00.30.10
George Lucas imitates 'Black Angel' step-printing in 'The Empire Strikes Back' - 00.32.47
Roger escapes tea-making drudgery on 'Oliver!' - 00.34.24
Terry Gilliam, Ridley Scott, Roger Christian - who invented the down-at-heel backlit style Scott is now famous for? - 00.35.40
George Lucas and Monty Python - 00.38.00
Remembering Ralph McQuarrie - 00.39.35
Timelines for upcoming films, books, etc - 00.43.37
Roger's reaction to conversion of 'The Phantom Menace' - 00.44.58
Can the most iconic 'Star Wars' shot ever be converted to 3D without ruining it?- 00.45.17
3D equivalent to the advent of sound in movies..? - 00.46.24
The future of 48fps movies - 00.49.49
Why ILM groaned when George Lucas abandoned celluloid- 00.50.43
Roger's theory that 'game'-style VFX may kill technically photorealistic 'film-style' VFX - 00.51.40
Roger discusses the Prometheus trailers - 00.52.44
Living down 'Battlefield Earth', Rupert Murdoch's pre-release war against the movie and more - 00.58.59
Spielberg's sequestering of 'Battlefield Earth' for 'Minority Report' - 01.09.25

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