Alien: Dan O'Bannon meets Ron Cobb part 2

leading from 


a) Dan's return
A number of months went by, perhaps even a year. Dan have begun working on his first scifi film, called at the time Electric Dutchman, which would ultimately transform into the feature length film Dark Star. Dan tried to read Ron Cobb to get him to design the whole film, but Cobb was unreachable. For weeks his phone would ring without and answer, and then it was disconnected. Soon O'Bannon got an unlisted number for Cobb but it was unvariably answered by one of the girls who were living with him who always told Dan that he was out. It seemed like another year and a half before Dan would track him down, and this would be a point when Ron was in a slump period after doing cartoons.

Dan called him, reconnecting with him from where they left on some years earlier and said "Well I'm a student at USC now and three quarters of the way through a film that I and John Carpenter are putting together, it's science fiction like we discussed. We thought maybe you would like to see it and maybe might have some suggestions. It's a space film and we have to do the effects and I don't have a satisfactory design for the exterior of the space ship. Would you be interested?"

Ron responded "I'd love to. I'll meet you. "




b) Meeting at the House of Pancakes
They met at a House of Pancakes, they sat there , talked about the film project a bit and then  Ron went over and saw all the footage Dan had. Ron was quite amazed.vIt was Dark Star in its formative stages.

Dan told him "Well we just reached the point where we have to design the exterior of the spaceship. Do you have anything thoughts about it?"

Ron replied "Sure I would!

It  didn't look like any student film that Ron had ever seen - it was so elaborate, incredibly ambitious. The only student-like thing about it was that it seemed kind of stilted, overly pompous, the acting was student like

What he saw was footage that Dan had put together, all the live action and some of the interior sets, in the fragmentary form, he was absolutely floored, shocked out competent it was, and was impressed by the sets the most, which Dan was personally responsible for the look of. He could believe it was a student film, but at the same time he was appalled by how primitive the acting was, how student like many of the characters were and how the storyline was a bit derivative and transparent. Meanwhile, it had a strange tension about it that was compelling and a humrous element submerged throughout the film, which he felt could be stronger because the seriousness of it didn't work

Ron kept telling Dan "Dan, I hope you don't take offense but I think it's kind of funny, it's a ridiculous situation."

c) Designing for Dark Star
It appeared that one evening, around 10pm, Dan drove over to Westwood and rousted Ron out of sound sleep.  Ron was hung over from an LSD trip and Dan felt quite guilty, but he had to have those designs.

He took him to somewhere that might have been a House of Pancakes again, but whatever it was, it was some sort of an all-night coffee shop and Dan fed him, getting him to a point where he was half awake. Ron was scribbling away on napkins

In the drawings made a little drawing and it was a little surfboard-shaped Star cruiser with a flat bottom for atmospheric landings with a little re-entry body shuttle nose that would appear in the movie
 
Dan O'Bannon and John Carpenter liked it,  Dan's response was "That's it! Could you draw plans for that?" and wanted three views of it

Ron replied. "Sure, I'd love to"

Dan brought him a pad of yellow graph paper on which Ron began sketching a 3-view plan of the spaceship, and so he went home that night and drew up the plans for it, giving to Dan the next morning, who then had a beautiful model built by Greg Jein who would later become the chief model maker for Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and then it appeared in the film three months later

Plan for the Dark Star by Ron Cobb (source muddycolors.blogspot.co.uk)

source quotes
  1. Ron Cobb: A number of months went by, it might even have been a year. I was in a slump period after doing cartoons. Dan called me and said "well I'm a student at USC now and three quarters of the way through a film that I and John Carpenter are putting together. I'd like you to come and see it. It's a space film and we have to do the effects and I don't have a satisfactory design for the exterior of the space ship. Would you be interested?" I said "I'd love to. I'll meet you. " I met him at a House of Pancakes and we sat there and talked about it a bit and then went  over and saw all the footage he had. I was quite amazed.(Fantastic Films)
  2. Ron Cobb:Many months later he called again. He was then a cinema student at USC and was making Dark Star. He showed me some footage that they made but none of the effects were done and he was stuck with the design of the ship. They wondered if I had any thoughts and I scribbled a design on a napkin. Dan became enthusiastic and asked me to do a three view plan of it which they made a model from.
    Starburst: What did you think of the end result of that film?

    Ron Cobb:When I first saw the footage that Dan had put together, all the live action and some of the interior sets, in the fragmentary form, I was absolutely floored- shocked at how competent it was. Dan personally was responsible for the look of the sets which was part of the film which impressed me the most. I couldn't believe this was a student film., but at the same time I was appalled at how primitive the acting was, how student-like many of the characters were and how the story line was a bit derivative and transparent

    Nonetheless, it had a strange tension about it which was compelling. There was a humorous element submerged throughout the film, which I felt should be stronger. Dan was aware of it because, his ending is hilarious. They shot additional footage which was pure slapstick. It highlighted the humour of the rest and when I saw the film I was delighted. It was much better than I ever thought it could be. I think now it's almost perfect. Whatever it lacks in other areas, it more than makes up for it in this incredible raw directness. It's so real, and it's such an unpretentious film - so clever.  (Starburst #? "Ron Cobb On Alien)
  3. Ron Cobb: That didn't look like any student film I had ever seen - it was so elaborate, incredibly ambitious. The only student-like thing about it was that it seemed kind of stilted, overly pompus. The film was more or less serious - it just didn't work. I kept saying "Dan, I hope you don't take offense but I think it's kind of funny, it's a ridiculous situation." (Fantastic Films)
  4. Ron Cobb:Well, years later, he calls me again and says, "Well, now I'm a cinema student at USC and I'm making a student film and it's science fiction like we discussed, and we thought maybe you would like to see it and maybe might have some suggestions." I said "I'd love to!"(Rocketblast Comicollector 148, p27)
  5. Ron Cobb: So I went over, and , of course, it was Dark Star in its formative stages, and he said, "well we just reached the point where we have to design the exterior of the spaceship. Do you have anything thoughts about it?" I said , "Sure I would!" So I started scribbling out things on napkins at a House of Pancakes somewhere, and I made a little thing and I made that little re-entry body shuttle nose thing that was in the film and Dan said, "That's it! Could you draw plans for that?" and I said, "Sure, I'd love to." I started drawing again, so I went home that night and drew up a plan for it, gave it to Dan the next morning, and he had a beautiful model built, and months later there it was on film. (Rocketblast Comicollector 148, p27)
  6. Years later O'Bannon was making Dark Star with John Carpenter, as their student project at U.S.C.They called Cobb when they needed a design for the spaceship exterior..(Starlog 57)
  7. Ron Cobb: I started scribbling out things on napkins at an all night coffee shop, They liked it, I drew up the plans, and it appeared in the film as a model built by Greg Jein. (Starlog 57) 
  8. Ron Cobb: So, in a way, my re-introduction to films is due to Dan. Later, when Dan was working on Star Wars, he suggested to George Lucas that I be hired to design some additional aliens for the cantina scene, and to produce some of the imagery for the computer screens — the latter being Dan's specific job on the film at that time, (Starlog 57)
  9. JOHN CARPENTER: Ron Cobb was someone Dan O'Bannon contacted. Dan saw his cartoons in the Free Press. He never really did a great deal on the film. He designed some of the things we never used. I think the closest thing that he did was a design of the Dark Star, the ship, which Dan subsequently altered and designed himself. The credit really goes to Dan, but Dark Star was where their friendship began and then they've gone on to make Alien.(http://www.geocities.ws/fixer1977/cobb3.html)
  10. DAN O'BANNON: I was working on my first sci-fi film, John Carpenter's Electric Dutchman, which would ultimately metastastize into the feature-length Dark Star. I tried to reach Cobb to get him to design the whole film, but he was unreachable. For weeks his phone rang without an answer, and then it was disconnected, and then I got his new unlisted number but it was invariably answered by one of the girls who were living with him, who always told me he was out. It was impossible. It took another year and a half to track him down and get him to agree to design us a nice, simple little spaceship for our simple little movie. Finally, one night about ten p.m. Carpenter and I drove over to Westwood and rousted him out of a sound sleep. He was hung over from an LSD trip and I felt kind of guilty, but I had to have those designs. We took him over to an all-night coffee shop and fed him and got him half-way awake, and then he brought out this pad of yellow graph paper on which he had sketched a 3-view plan of our spaceship. It was wonderful! A little surfboard-shaped starcruiser with a flat bottom for atmospheric landings. Very technological looking. Very high class stuff.
    But it was'nt quite finished, and Cobb sat there hunched over a cup of coffee, shivering, and sketched in the rest of the details.
    We took it away and built it to specs, and it eventually became one of the better-known spaceships among the science-fiction underground. An encyclopedic magazine called it "one of the most amazing of all motion-picture spaceships. (http://www.geocities.ws/fixer1977/cobb3.html)

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