Prometheus (2012): Characters–Two Strong Females–. Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron

The film features an inspired ensemble of multi-cultural and relatable characters, each with distinctive personalities.

Two Strong Females

Its two strong female leads, portrayed by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron, point to a hallmark of many of Scott’s other films, including Thelma and Louise and Alien.

Noomi Rapace

Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist filled with faith and hope, but who transforms into a warrior when faced with the danger she encounters at her destination; Charlize Theron’s Vickers is a “suit” representing the interests of the mega-corporation funding the journey to a distant, foreboding world.

Says Rapace: “I really credit Ridley for creating such a long and illustrious line of strong female protagonists. It’s an honor for me to continue this tradition in Prometheus.”

Rapace’s powerful and unsettling performance in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in the trilogy of films based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, had captured worldwide attention – including Scott’s. “Noomi combines a rare intelligence and physicality,” says the filmmaker. “She owned that part in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was so powerful that when Noomi and I met, I expected a tough, hardened individual; instead, Noomi was lovely, kind and smart. It was a terrific mix that would serve her well playing Shaw.”

A call from Ridley Scott is a career defining moment for any actor, including Rapace. “After the meeting with Ridley, I thought even if I don’t end up working with him on Prometheus, I’m happy because I’ve had this hour with him.” It turned out that Shaw would be spending much more time than that with Scott, who cast her after a screen test he shot with director of photography Dariusz Wolski, ASC. “We used a Panavision storage room which production designer Arthur Max had dressed to give it an industrial, creepy vibe, and Noomi just killed it,” says Ellenberg. “We were all blown away by her ferocity, power, and screen presence.”

Charlize Theron

A very different kind of power is demonstrated by Meredith Vickers, a Weyland Industries executive who is onboard the Prometheus to represent the corporation’s mysterious interests.

When Charlize Theron accepted the role, Vickers took on intriguing new dimensions. Says Lindelof: “Charlize and I worked together to create a more layered character. Vickers is someone the audience will love to hate, but there are moments when we see her vulnerability and begin to understand how and why she became so mercenary and hardened. This makes her a much more interesting counterpoint to Shaw.”

Theron was drawn to the opportunity to explore the film’s epic themes from a perspective at odds with the rest of the crew’s. “For Vickers, this epic, two-year journey to another world has been boiled down to economics. She has a bottom-line kind of thinking,” says the actress.

But as with so much else about the mission, there are deeper layers and mysteries to Vickers’ ultimate goals. “She’s an enigma, and the mystery surrounding her was something I really liked,” says Theron. “Vickers is pragmatic, and desperately wants to control the situation. She fights everything that everyone else is there to do, and it becomes evident that she has either an alternative agenda or that she is hiding something.”

Michael Fassbender

Vickers’ cold efficiency might be characterized as machine-like, but another crewmember, David, portrayed by Michael Fassbender, is, literally, a machine–an android creation of the corporation. While David possesses extraordinary intelligence and other capabilities, his principal tasks on the Prometheus, says Scott, are servile. “He’s basically the ship’s housekeeper, keeping an eye on everything while the human crew is in suspended animation [necessitated by the two-year journey].”

David is far more “human” than one might expect of a synthetic person. Lindelof explains: “David is programmed to help the human crewmembers, but he thinks the mission, in and of itself, is ridiculous because he’s in the company of his creators – humans – and he’s completely and totally unimpressed with them. I was driven by the idea of having him articulate his disdain in ways that his programming would allow.”

The combination of David’s intellect and menial directives makes for some of the film’s most unexpected moments of humor. When we meet David, he’s like a child in a playground – but his playground is the Prometheus. “While the rest of the crew is suspended animation, David is enjoying himself, tinkering with the ship’s many technical wonders,” says Fassbender.

And like a child, David enjoys watching the same movie over and over again. His cinema touchstone is David Lean’s epic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia; David, like Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence, is in many ways an idealized construct of a man. Further, says Lindelof, “Lawrence was a stranger in a strange land. He fancied himself a liberator – and all these things are a part of David.”

Additionally, David’s views on the human crew are somewhat child-like. “He is jealous and arrogant because he realizes that his knowledge is all-encompassing and therefore he is superior to the humans,” says Fassbender. “David wants to be acknowledged and praised for his brilliance, yet nobody gives him the time of day. They don’t accept David and that upsets him. And like a child, David can be very bold in the decisions he makes.”

Idris Elba
Janek, the captain of the Prometheus, is described by Scott as an “old sea dog”–an officer in the classic tradition, and an alpha male whose primary mission is to protect the ship and its crew. His ambitions and vocation provide a sharp contrast to the heady goals of Shaw and Holloway and the venal corporate interests of Vickers.

British actor Idris Elba, who portrays Janek, reunites with Scott, with whom he collaborated on the director’s award-winning American Gangster. Elba’s formidable presence and performance in that film left a strong impression on Scott, as did the actor’s searing work as drug overlord Stringer Bell in the series The Wire and as a complicated police officer in Luther.

Elba describes Janek as “a longshoreman and a sailor. It’s his life and the crew is his responsibility. Ultimately, he makes a huge decision that sums him up as a man.”

Logan Marshall-Green takes on the role of Holloway, who is Shaw’s partner, both personally and professionally, in a quest for answers to some of humanity’s most important questions. Like Shaw, Holloway has a thirst for answers, but he thinks the end of their search will yield very different results from those Shaw expects.

“Shaw is the heart of the search; Holloway is the guts,” adds Marshall-Green. “I think Holloway is searching for answers to these huge questions because he’s always pushing the envelope. He goes to the extreme in everything he does, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse of the team. I think what drives him is the thrill of the search.”

Guy Pearce
Finally, there is Peter Weyland, an immensely wealthy visionary and the head of the mega-corporation Weyland Industries, which is funding the mission. Weyland, portrayed by Guy Pearce, is introduced via a hologram as an aged figure, now deceased, who welcomes the members of the Prometheus crew upon their arrival at their destination. His agenda is mysterious, but a man with his resources and vision must have had something game-changing in mind.