The LA Times' Hero Complex festival has been taking place over the weekend, at which Ridley Scott turned up to screen Blade Runner and Alien, and do some Q&A business. Oddly, Hero Complex haven't blogged the results so far, so the news comes from the quick-off-the-mark Collider that Sir Ridley has confirmed the Space Jockey angle for the new Alien prequels, as well as teasing some further details.
This is no great surprise, as it's been largely assumed since the project was announced that the elephantine, crashed, calcified creature glimpsed in the first Alien was a likely subject for attention. Scott says he was always "amazed that nobody explored the back story of the 'Space Jockey' in the sequels", and that he always wondered about it.*
On the question of the project being a pair of films, Scott explains that the timeline takes place long before the first movie, so there's plenty of space for new history. He also says that, "Once you learn how the Jockey encountered the aliens, you’ll also want to learn about how he got there..." Does that mean the films' chronologies will be backwards? A prequel, followed by a prequel to the prequel? Our heads hurt.
Finally, Scott reveals a wealth of knowledge on the practicalities of terraforming (taking mankind to the stars!), and says the new films have involved "a lot of underwater research". So what does that mean? An ocean planet origin for the jockeys? Extended sequences like the rather good one in the flooded kitchen in Alien: Resurrection?
More questions than answers then: clearly the slow-drip of Alien intel will continue for a long time to come. John Spaihts has written the screenplays, and the current due date for part one is late 2012.
*Mark Verheiden's 1990s comics (the adventures of Newt and Hicks after Aliens, before Alien 3 arrived and killed them off) did just this, suggesting that the Jockeys are badass warriors who intend to enslave humanity once they've finished with the Xenomorphs.