Charles de Lauzirika is an acclaimed behind-the-scenes documentarian and Blu-ray/DVD
producer, whose work includes the Alien Quadrilogy/Anthology box sets, the
extras on Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition, and, most recently, The
Furious Gods, the nearly four-hour making-of doc for the Prometheus 3D Blu-ray: 4-Disc Collector's Edition. His narrative feature film
debut, Crave—starring Josh Lawson, Emma Lung, and Ron Perlman—is also currently
playing the festival circuit. Blu-ray.com staff reviewer Casey Broadwater recently had a chance
to chat with de Lauzirika about the Prometheus bonus materials, the current state of
supplementary content, and the sexy Michael Fassbender:
It's a pleasure talking with you. I'm a huge Twin Peaks nerd, so your Gold Box set
was like manna from heaven for me.
Well, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
But let's talk about Prometheus. You've had a long history with Scott Free
Productions and Ridley Scott. Can you explain a bit about how you got to know him, and how
you came to work on the Alien Anthology and Prometheus supplements?
You have about three hours to go through that story? (Laughs) I started as an intern for Scott
Free when I was in USC film school—which meant lots of menial tasks—and then eventually I
got promoted to script reader. I was reading scripts for Tony Scott, then for Ridley Scott, and it
just evolved over time, from reading to doing story notes for them. And then, I was the only
DVD geek in the office around '97 and '98—when DVD started to launch—and I basically
encouraged Ridley to get involved, as I'd heard the first Alien box set was in the works.
I thought he should get in on it, and he did. In doing so, he put me in charge of his DVD
productions, and away I went. That was fourteen years ago.
Personally, I loved Prometheus, and saw it twice in theaters, but when it comes to the Blu-
ray release—and I don't think I'm alone here—I'll admit I was actually more excited to see the
special features than to watch the film itself again. I'm sure you're aware that lots of fans await
this behind-the-scenes material with bated breath. What's your approach to "giving the people
what they want," so to speak?
Well, it's easy because, since I'm a fan, all I need to do is make a disc that I'd be happy with,
and that should hopefully sort everybody out, I'd think. In working on the Alien
Anthology, and before that, the Alien Quadrilogy set, of the four films, the one that
was lacking the most behind-the-scenes footage, of course, was Alien, because it simply
wasn't covered as well as the later films. There's precious few minutes of behind-the-scenes on
Alien, and I've always had this fantasy of "oh, if only I had a time machine and I could
go back to 1978 and '79 and document it the way we document movies today."
And then, imagine my surprise when Ridley decides he's going to make a new movie in the
Alien universe. And I would have the chance to basically do that with a new film. So I
did. I mean, I shot the hell out of it. I think I shot over a year before production with Vanessa
White, my other camera operator. We shot entirely through the shoot, and then I continued on
through post-production and even after the release a bit. When you see the
Prometheus disc, it's basically what I would've done had I been around to
shoot behind-the-scenes on Alien.
You pretty much had full access to the sets, then, for the duration of the shoot?
Definitely. The cast and crew were very supportive and we really got to cover so many different
facets of the film—every little detail that I think fans would truly enjoy. I'm sure some of the
people on the crew might've rolled their eyes at the level of detail and kind of nerdiness that we
were going for, but I felt it was important to at least capture it because, well, once it's gone it's
gone forever. We really tried to shoot every possible thing we could.
How big of a crew were you yourself working with?
In the early days, pre-production, it was just me shooting by myself. Then, during the shoot, I
had Vanessa White, so basically whenever I wasn't on set, she would shoot for me. We also shot
interviews during production, so we had three or four guys from London come in and we'd shoot
these interviews at Pinewood on the green screen stage. Into post, it was me again, shooting
stuff solo, and then I hired crews around the world—I can't be everywhere at once!—to go down
to Weta, in New Zealand, a few in Sydney, and the scoring sessions in London. At that point, it's
kind of like "all hands on deck," because I'm also back in LA editing with my team. It starts
small, ends big, and then it's over, but we always hope it turns out okay.
Regarding the editing, at nearly four hours—and more including the Enhancement Pods—
The Furious Gods is truly epic in scope. What was the process like of choosing what to
include and what to leave out? How much total footage did you have?
I believe there's about seven or so terabytes of footage, which is (laughs) a lot, to put it
simply. Sculpting that much material into something that's interesting and coherent is tough,
but on the other hand, the interviews with the cast and crew tend to provide me with the
narrative spine for everything. They are the storytellers. I ask informed questions, but I let
them run with it. When you have those voices laying down the groundwork, it's easier to go
into the behind-the-scenes and find footage that's relative to what they're talking about. Rarely
do we have behind-the-scenes footage without a story behind it. I might have footage that
didn't make it into The Furious Gods or the Enhancement Pods, but there's nothing to
back it up in terms of context. And the Enhancement Pods are great because they provide us
with ways of presenting material that didn't quite fit into the general making-of. Those are the
little back-alleys in this world that I really enjoy. Because, you already get a three-hour-and-
forty minute doc that's pretty epic on its own, but when you get into an hour and fifteen
minutes of even more little things, as a fan, I'm glad we have those on the disc.
Was there anything you wish you could've included but couldn't for various reasons?
I would've loved to have interviewed H.R. Giger. We were certainly into serious discussions on
He does show up briefly.
Yeah, I'm glad we got him in the documentary; at least he's a presence there. I shot that
footage of him and Ridley working together. There was a last minute scramble to get Giger's
approval to include it, and I'm glad we did. It would've been nice to sit him down and do a
proper interview, but at least he's in there in some form. But beyond that, I've gotta be honest,
I think we got pretty much everything. There are always little things, and down the road, if
there's a 10th or 20th anniversary release, and there's ever a need to go in and add more stuff,
there's plenty. But by the same token, we didn't hold anything back. What you have is what we
intended to include.
Were you involved at all with putting the deleted scenes together?
On the older films, Blade Runner, for instance, I was handed the dailies and then I cut
those together with my editors. That's where we have free reign, unless there's a cut existing.
In the case of Blade Runner, there wasn't, so we basically had the power—which is very
addictive!—to take Ridley's dailies and cut them in a way that I thought made sense. In the
case of Prometheus, we have Pietro Scalia, the editor, who has already cut together
these scenes in one form or another, and at some point, those scenes have appeared in rough
cuts of the film. Pietro goes through his bins and picks out the deleted scenes that he feels are
the most coherent. We'll talk about it, and then we'll run those by Ridley, who will approve
them. So, what you're seeing is basically the approved list of deleted scenes from Ridley and
Pietro, and I just try to be the advocate to say, you know, "the fans really want to see these,
can we please include them?"
More generally, when it comes to Blu-ray, how do you approach the format as opposed to
your previous work doing supplements for DVD? Beyond more storage space and high definition,
is there anything you can do with the format that you couldn't before?
There is, but I've gotta be honest and say that, for me, it all boils down to the story. What's the
human story behind it all? Even back in the DVD days, we kept trying to find new, interactive
ways of presenting the material—whether it was multi-angle or seamless branching or whatever
—but with Blu-ray, it's the same thing, just slightly different technology. I just focus on the
story, and that's why I've been able to keep whatever level of quality, good or bad, that I've
maintained; I ask, "What have these people gone through to be able to tell their story? Is there
a vision? How do they achieve it? And what challenges did they face?" When you go from that
point of view, it doesn't really matter how that story is delivered, so long as you deliver that
story. And that's going to be my mantra until I stop doing this, basically.
Where do you see supplementary content going as the studios are really starting to push
streaming options, which don't usually include special features?
Maybe I'm naive, but I feel like there will always be a need for behind-the-scenes coverage for
these films. As we're already seeing with second-screen apps and other downloadable content, it
will go on and on, it'll just change slightly in how people access it. That doesn't really change
my job, as I'm just focused on what's interesting and what people would be compelled
to watch. Especially because we've seen a million other making-ofs, so what's different this
time? That's what I focus on. In terms of how it's delivered, that's a conversation I
have with the studio each time—especially on the newer films—we have these conversations
and always try to find the best way forward. But ultimately, it's the story for me.
Speaking of story, I'm looking forward to seeing your debut narrative feature,
Crave. I know it's played a few festivals and gotten great coverage; any idea if we'll see
a Blu-ray release sometime in the future?
Oh, I sure hope so. I probably shouldn't say too much, but we're close to a distribution deal—
which is exciting—and we have a few more festivals to go. People have asked me if I'll apply the
same level of supplemental detail to Crave as I have to other filmmakers, and to be
honest, I kind of want to just hand it off to somebody else, because I feel like I'm too close to it
and I'd like to have an objective voice. My assistant shot every single day on Crave, so
we've got a lot of footage, and thirty minutes of deleted scenes, so there's a lot to show if we
were to do a Blu-ray. But by the same token, because it's a smaller film and because it's my
first, I'd love for it to have a moment to breathe before we start deconstructing it to the nth
degree, you know? I would love for it to have a life and for people to appreciate it as a movie
before we start explaining every tiny little detail. But in the event, we do have material, so
hopefully someone else can come in and makes sense of it all, (laughs) because I'm not sure I
can. But thank you for asking that, because I'm really proud of it and I'm really encouraged by
the response. I'm looking forward to the last few festivals here as we move into a distribution
Last question, and I swear I'm asking this one for my wife: Is Michael Fassbender as sexy
and charismatic in real life as he comes across on screen?
(Laughs) I can't really speak to the first part, but the second part, yes, he's incredibly
charismatic and he's super cool. It was interesting because on day one of Prometheus'
production, it was Michael, and we show that in Furious Gods—we show the very first
shot on the very first day of him roaming the halls of the Prometheus. He's a formidable actor,
an actor that we're all wowed by, and on day one I'm trying to gauge how close I can get. I
know how close I can get to Ridley, and I know how close I can get to other people, but with the
actors, you always try to find your way. Michael was nothing but amazing—sweet and kind and
accessible. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I think he's a fantastic actor and
certainly one of the high points of the film. But, uh, yes...(laughs)...I hear he's an attractive
fellow to many people.
Well, thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.
Charles de Lauzirika's work on 'Blade Runner' produced the best making of documentary I've seen. I look forward to seeing more of his work. I wish IMDB was better about telling you what disc to find each of his features on, it's not always apparent.