Selling the script
Selling the script
a) Shopped Around
Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett took the script around and people read it, they had a number of deals offered, most of them were not quite good enough to make the movie although they were all very attractive.
Kaleidoscope, a New York based company that produced featurettes and trailer and would later co-producer The Amityville Horror made serious overtures to O'Bannon and Shusett but as soon as they sent them a contract, they got obnoxious changing their offer and O'Bannon and Shusette decided not to do business with them
c) American International Pictures
Shusett showed the project to Louis Arkoff, son of Sam Arkoff the president of American International Pictures (AIP) and later became an independent producer. However Louis then a vice president with AIP, rejected "Alien" saying to Dan and Rod that AIP had, over the years, produced many science-fiction films, but the market for science Fiction had dried up.
d) Unnamed Other Independent Producers
At another point in their attempt to sell the script, Shusett and O'Bannon could have sold out their entire interest in the project for about $35,000 each to other independent producers - a lot of money to two struggling writers. But they held on.
e) Roger Corman's New World Pictures
A more acceptable deal came came when Arnold Orgolini, had been negotiating with the two and
Roger Corman's company New World Pictures offered them a hundred thousand dollars to make the picture and Dan could direct, but by Dan's estimation, it could not be made for that sum of money. Although budgeted at $700,000 , O'Bannon thought that it could be made for four hundred thousand dollars or a little less. His reasons were that for a hundred thousand, they couldn't afford to build the sets and there was the question of how to raise the rest of the money.
f) Mark Haggard Over the Road
From various impressions from Ron Shusett's recollections, a picture of the event came to the surface when the Alien script made the initial leap to the studio. Before they had a chance to sign the contract with Roger Corman, Dan and Ron were walking down the street and Dan saw someone from film school named Mark Haggard that he knew and said "I want to ditch this guy. He's always telling me he can make money to make movies , but he never has yet. Ever since I did Dark Star a few years ago he keep saying..... "Twenty guys all put up money" and they put up nada."
So they ran across the alley but Mark saw Dan and called out.
Mark said "Dan, Dan! I heard you got this great script, can I read it? I'll tell you what you have."
Dan and Ron responded: ‘Sure, everybody else is reading it.’
Ron's view about this was that they were too stupid to think that anyone would rip it off because they themselves didn’t think it was good enough or that they would never rip it off in a way that would equal what they did with it and there was the other side to it that they always went for feedback from whoever they could within the film industry. It would also be fun to see Mark's reaction since they weren't begging for money from him as they were about to sign a deal with Roger Corman.
And so they went away and Dan said "see I told you, he'll come back and say "here's the money and there's interest and everybody loves it so far. "
g) Mark Haggard's offer
However Mark called that night or perhaps the next day: "It's great, I've got an offer. I can get you money immediately."
So Dan and Ron looked at each other and their response was "Oh look, we can't, we can't wait, we don't want to blow the deal with Corman, ah it's got to be a limited time."
But Mark replied, ‘I can get it made at a studio.’
They really didn't want to blow their deal with Roger Corman, and that was certain, so they said, ‘We can’t sit around tying this up, waiting on the studios.’
Ron and Dan would give him two weeks to get the deal done but Mark responded ‘No, twenty-four hours – that’s all I need. I’ll only go to one place. Let’s draw up a piece of paper and figure out what I get if I get you the money – my position and what my fee is.’ They agreed. Ron typed up the paper based on what they had said
Mark says "you sign, I'll sign and then fill in the blank. And that's the only place I need to go"
And so they signed and Mark filled in 20th Century Fox, Brandy Wine Productions,
They negotiated a deal where Mark would get a $15,000 fee, he also received a credit as an executive producer and, and two points in the movie.
Mark also talked to him about his contacts, David Giler and Walter Hill saying: "There are two hot writers, but they can’t write science-fiction. They’ve got the confidence of Alan Ladd, Jr. They’re partnered with a producer who’s one an Oscar, Gordon Carroll, who produce COOL HAND LUKE. They want to do the dark side of STAR WARS. They’ve read fifty scripts, and they can’t write one themselves because they don’t know how to do science-fiction, although they’re both successful writers. "
- Dan O'Bannon: So we wrote Alien and got good responses. Took it around and people read it. We had a number of deals offered, most of them not quite good enough to make the movie, but all of them very attractive. For example, the most immediately seductive of those unacceptable deals was... Roger Corman offered us a hundred thousand to make the picture and I could direct it. Unfortunately the picture could not be made for one hundred thousand. It could be made for four hundred thousand, or maybe a little less. But it could not be made for one hundred thousand, period. We couldn't afford to build the sets. It's that kind of thing... it's tantalizing, though you know what I mean? It's always a little... the cup, the grail, the carrot, whatever it is, it's always a little bit beyond your fingertips. (Phobos #1, Summer 1977, p14)
- Dan O'Bannon: (11:53) A friend of ours named Mark Haggard, ended up with a copy of it in his hands, he used to be an independant writer/director. (The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story)
- Ron Shusett (11:31): Mark said" Can I read this great script, I'll tell you what you have." I said "Sure" you know, and we gave him the script and he, you know, and he, let's just wait a few days and then we'll close our deal with Corman. Well, he calls us the same night, "It's great, I've got an offer. I can get you money. I can get you money immediately." So we looked at each other, and we, and we said "Oh look, we can't, we can't wait, we don't want to blow the deal with Corman, ah it's got to be a limited time." "Two weeks, gimme two weeks."(The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story)
- Ron Shusett : And we ran across an old film school buddy, I think again, graduated a year or two earlier, named Mark Haggard, and he saw this guy and he said "oh, I want to avoid him, let's go through the alley, he's always trying to get money to make movies from me and he's never yet put me in touch with a guy. Ever since I did Dark Star a few years ago he keep saying..... Twenty guys all put up money and they put up nada." So we ran across the street to avoid him and he caught us. That's how Alien got made big budget. He caught us, he said "Dan, Dan, I heard you got a great new script." By this time the title had come in - it was all Dan's idea, Alien.( material from Alien Evolutions interview)
- Dan O'Bannon: A friend of Ron Shusett took the script to Walter Hill and he liked it ("Kill By Mouth" p118 , Neon (UK). December 97)
- Ron Shusett: In any case , Mark said "I heard you had a great new script, can I read it? " And Dan had warned me and he goes, oh yeah, because we're untypical, because we always went for feedback. Dan and I had a theory opposite to most writers, we'll show anybody our script and get feedback because usually if they try to copy it, they might not do it as good, and it's hard enough to get a movie made and if it's better it'll get made. So we had no fear, we would share with our people, we wanted feedback, our peers, other people
we respect in the industry such as any foothold we might have, so we
were flashing around, we said, "sure you can read it".
And we went away and he said "see I told you, " he'll come back and say "here's the money and there's interest and everybody loves it so far. "
But we had already, now we don't need it, we've got the money but it will be fun to see his reaction.
S , have the money, have the money.
So we said, "we have the money to make it as a B movie, we didn't want to discourage you, but we have money. "
He said "oh, I have money to make this A movie, AA movie, big budget".
And he said "well, what is it you want?"
So we negotiated a deal, okay here's what I want, and he wanted to be associate producer and we decided to pay $15000 first and one point, one percent of the profits.
He said "ok, if you can get, he said studio movie, major studio. He said yeah we'll do that. So he said ok, "I'll come over your house", I'm typing up what we just said, I'm gonna leave a blank space and we said, "well, look, we're signing a contract with Corman if you don't get this in a week or two. He said "I don't need a week or two, oh yeah, week or two's fine, but I know in one day let's go an make it right now". So he comes over his house and says all this stuff and blank to (?????) and a blank space, he says, "you sign, I'll sign and then fill in the blank. And that's the only place I need to go". And so we signed it and he fills in 20th Century Fox, Brandy Wine productions. ( material from Alien Evolutions interview)
- Ron Shusett: Before we could sign the contract with Roger Corman, Dan and I were walking down the street, and he saw a guy from film school named Mark Haggard. Dan said, ‘I want to ditch this guy. He’s always telling me he can make money to make movies, but he never has yet.’ We ran across the alley, but he called, ‘Dan, Dan! I hear you got this great script! Can I read it?’ We said, ‘Sure, everybody else is reading it.’ We were too stupid to think anyone would rip it off because we didn’t think it was good enough. He called the next day: ‘I got the money to make it.’ We said we had the money to make it with Roger Corman. He said, ‘I can get it made at a studio.’ We said, ‘We can’t sit around tying this up, waiting on the studios.’ He said, ‘No, twenty-four hours – that’s all I need. I’ll only go to one place. Let’s draw up a piece of paper and figure out what I get if I get you the money – my position and what my fee is.’ We said okay. As I recall, he got a $15,000 fee, an associate producer credit, and two points in the movie. He said, ‘There are two hot writers, but they can’t write science-fiction. They’ve got the confidence of [Fox executive] Alan Ladd, Jr. They’re partnered with a producer who’s one an Oscar, Gordon Carroll, who produce COOL HAND LUKE. They want to do the dark side of STAR WARS. They’ve read fifty scripts, and they can’t write one themselves because they don’t know how to do science-fiction, although they’re both successful writers." (Cinefantastique, September 2009)
- Dan O'Bannon: It was taken to Brandywine Productions by a fellow named Mark Haggard. Ronnie Shusett made a finders arrangement with him. A finders arrangement means that if he puts it in contact with somebody who finances a movie, he gets a cetain agreed-upon sum. Haggard knew Walter Hill, and he took it to Walter's company, Brandywine, which was Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll and David Giler (Fantastic Film #10, p10)
- Like so many film projects, "Alien" bounced around a few studios and producers. It almost didn't get made by 20th Century Fox. An early, half-completed version of the script was rejected by Fox. It got new life at the studio when it was re-submitted by Brandywine, then a production company tied to Fox. Its partners were David Giler, Walter Hill and Gordon Caroll. Hill and Giler reworked the screenplay somewhat. Oddly, and much to the annoyance of its original authors, copies of early rewrites of "Alien" were spotted on agents' and executives' desks without the names of Ron Shusett and Dan O'Bannon. Arbitration by the Writers Guild of America followed production of the film. The guild decided that Giler and Hill deserved no credit for the final screenplay. The final screenplay credits read screenplay by O'Bannon , story by O'Bannon and Shusett. Meanwhile, between the time that Fox first saw "Alien" and agreed to make the movie, the project was "shopped around." O'Bannon said that Kaleidoscope, a New York based company that produces featurettes and trailers (and later co-produced "The Amityville Horror") made serious overtures to him and Shusett. "They they got obnoxious, changed their offer when they sent us a contract, so we decided not to do business with them," O'Bannon said. Arnold Orgolini ("Meteor") had been negotiating with O'Bannon and Shusett, the two said. Roger Corman and New World Pictures, which produces many low-budget movies and has given first breaks to numerous young film makers, made an offer, Shusett and O'Bannon said. Corman wanted to partially finance the film (then budgeted at $700,000) and was prepared to let O'Bannon direct it. Problem was that the two had to find the find the rest of the money. Shusett remembers showing the project to Louis Arkoff, son of Sam Arkoff. Sam Arkoff then was the president of American International Pictures (AIP) and now is an independent producer. Shusett remembered that the younger Arkoff, then a vice president with AIP, rejected "Alien" saying that AIP had, over the years, produced many science-fiction films. The market for science fiction had dried up, Arkoff told Shusett and O'Bannon. At one time, Shusett said, he and O'Bannon could have sold out their entire interest in the project for about $35,000 each to other independent producers - a lot of money to two struggling writers. But they held on. After all, they wanted a piece of "Alien". They had confidence it would be a profitable movie. (Los Angeles Times, April 27th, 1980, p4 "The stages of Alien")