How Alien: Covenant Pulled Off Those Amazing Twin Michael Fassbender Scenes,
Warning: mild spoilers ahead for Alien: Covenant. Read ahead at your own risk!
The Alien films have never shied away from innovation. From the late H.R. Giger’s iconic design for the Xenomorph to the special effects pioneered by filmmakers like Ridley Scott and James Cameron, the sci-fi horror series consistently manages to break new ground and try new things. In that regard, Alien: Covenant is no different. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender about how they managed to get Fassbender in two places at once to simultaneously portray opposing androids Walter and David in the new film. Incredibly enough, they admitted that they pulled it off because of a handy digital camera that could duplicate the actor in real time. Ridley Scott explained:
It’s a computer attached to a camera which tracks, the computer memorizes everything to the frame. There’s no wobble on the edge of frame, so you match on match matrixes. So you shoot everything one way. That’s in the memory. Flip around do it the same way again you and blend them in a digital mélange.
Michael Fassbender’s two android characters, David and Walter, share quite a bit of screen time in Alien: Covenant, which means Ridley Scott needed the technology to make the shots work. Having an actor portray multiple roles in a movie is a storytelling technique that has existed as long as the medium has existed, but technology has finally reached the point where a filmmaker can rely less on body doubles and makeup for a more realistic and complex shot. All Ridley Scott had to do was shoot a scene with Fassbender as Walter opposite a body double, then reverse the scene and shoot it again with the actor switching into his David role.
I think I speak for anyone who has seen Alien: Covenant when I admit that I want to see this technique used in future Alien movies. Michael Fassbender’s David has arguably begun to rival Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley as the real face of the franchise, and the way the actor plays off of himself is legitimately fascinating and enthralling to watch. Ridley Scott clearly struck gold with this particular casting choice, and more Fassbender is never a bad thing.
That said, the process of shooting those sequences proved no less technical for Michael Fassbender himself. The actor chimed during our chat to explain the importance of precision to keep the shots coherent, saying:
So for the actors, and Tom was my double, it just meant that we had to be very precise with the blocking and where we were holding the flute, and all of those sorts of details.
Check out more of my chat with Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender from the Alien: Covenant press day below:
Alien: Covenant opens in theaters today. For more information related to the rest of this year’s biggest film debuts, make sure to check out our 2017 movie premiere guide and keep yourself up to date on all of the latest and greatest theatrical releases.
Alien: Covenant is chock full of some awesome camera tricks, but the way in which Ridley Scott managed to get Michael Fassbender in two places at once — on numerous occasions — is truly fascinating.