Alien: A Sofa in LA

a) Dune Despair  
Ron had been writing Total Recall by himself, he got to the second act and hit a creative stone wall. No one had shown an interest in the script They Bite. After six months of intensive work on Jodorowsky’s Dune movie, the Christmas of 1975 came, Dan and the rest of the people working on the project were allowed to go home for the holiday, actually Dan had been sent back to the states around Christmas to try to find some special VistaVision equipment, and while he was staying with friends, he got a telegram informing him that Dune had been postponed indefinitely, and in response to this information he wept. Since Dan had assumed that the bigger money that came in the making of the movie was to come soon from the Dune project, by then he used up all his living money that was payed up-front, he absolutely broke. Dan arrived in L.A with half of his belongings still in Paris never to be reclaimed and his other belongings still in storage in Lyon in Hollywood from the time he left to go to France. So he had no money, no clothes, no apartment, no car.

b) Moving in 
Now it got to a point where he had no place to stay, it was a desperate situation for Dan and it was up to him to join forces with his friend Ron Shusett. 

He telephoned his friend Ron and said "Ron, I was counting on this movie happening; I was paid my up-front money and I have nothing left. Can I bunk out on your couch while we do ALIEN?"

Ron said "Sure."

Dan continued "Let’s get back to work. We can get that made cheap, and it could become a classic like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE."

Ron took him in and they resumed their relationship. Ron recalled that when Dan walked through the front door of his apartment, he was so low that he had tears in his eyes. 

However Ron stood there and smiled, saying "Dan, we're going to do great things together.

Dan looked at him as if he was crazy and replied "What do you mean? Things couldn't be worse.

Then Ron revealed "The priest told me that my career was about to soar. Lightning is about to strike. Now that I see that you walk through the door, I know that we're going to do something great together.

This didn't make Dan any happier.


c) The Sofa
The situation though was quite a set back, Dan moved into Ron’s two roomed apartment that only had one bedroom. 

Dan spent most of his time sleeping on Ron's couch for a week as a result of his state of black depression and had a bottle of tranquilisers from a clinic, that was his response to the collapse of the Dune project and that his own prospects had gone, and also (so Giger was informed) it took the form of tiresome stomach trouble. 

However Dan was determined to get back to work and this turned into his need to write a script.



IBM model B


d) The Desk & The Typewriter
While Dan was broke, so was Ron, but Ron's wife was supporting them both working from the bedroom and they were living on hot dogs and baked beans. 

At the end of the week, he got off Ron’s sofa and he said to himself “Alright, now I am going to do something to get myself off of Ron’s emergency roles here", so he went to his belongings in storage somewhere in Hollywood and got his traveling typewriter later named as an IBM model B, along with his desk and filing cabinet.

He set everything up in Ron’s front room and told him “Okay, I’m ready to go to work with you”. 

Dan was of course interested in writing a script, they agreed to do something together and so they addressed themselves to finishing Alien. 

They would write it to be made cheaply and Dan continued with his intention in making it a classic in the line of "Night of the Living Dead" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".


e) Total Recall
During his absence Ron attempted to write the first half of Total Recall, but he got stuck, but now Dan was back, Ron showed Dan the work he did and Dan’s response was positive but he told him that it would be very expensive to make because this project of Ron’s was very contained, and this, Ron found, was true, because Total Recall was enormously more expensive even aside from inflation, than Alien was supposed to be.


Photo of Dan O'Bannon from Phobos Magazine #1



Source quotes 
  1. Ron Shusett:"I started to write TOTAL RECALL myself; I got up to the middle of the second act and hit a stone wall. By this time, DUNE was called off. He called me up and said, ‘Ron, I was counting on this movie happening; I was paid my up-front money and I have nothing left. Can I bunk out on your couch while we do ALIEN?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘Let’s get back to work. We can get that made cheap, and it could become a classic like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.’ So he came back and bunked out at my house. My wife was supporting us. We just sat and stared at each other; we couldn’t crack the nut." (source: cinefantastiqueonline.com, September 2008)
  2. Dan O'Bannon: "When Dune fell through I came back to Paris broke, and only survived by living on Ronnie Shusett's sofa. That was in the spring on 1976, and we wrote Alien on his sofa until he and his wife got tired of having me around and threw me out. "(Mediascene #35, p6)
  3. Ron Shusett: "After Jodorowsky's movie had closed down, Dan had spent his living money because he had been making a salary, but because we all know your biggest money comes in the making of the movie, so he was, used up all his living money, dead broke."(3:34, Alien Legacy Starbeast DVD)
  4. Dan O'Bannon:"What a fiasco. That fell through within six months . I wound up staying at Ronnie's house. Ronnie had always aspired to be a producer and I always aspired to be a director. When I walked through his front door, I had tears in my eyes. I had never been lower. He's standing there smiling. 'Dan,' he said ' we're going to do great things together.' I looked at him as if he was crazy. 'What do you mean? Things couldn't be worse.' He told me that he talked to a priest. 'The priest told me that my career was about to soar. Lightning is about to strike. Now that I see that you walk through the door, I know that we're going to do something great together.' I thought that he was nuts, of course. But it turned out to be true." (Future Life#11, July 1979, p28-29)
  5. (i) In the essay"The Film You Will Never See" by Alejandro Jodorowsky,  (Translated from the supplement "DUNE LE FILM QUE VOUS NE VERREZ JAMAIS" in Métal Hurlant 107.)  Alejandro writes "The Dune project changed our life. When it was over, O'Bannon entered a psychiatric hospital. Afterwards, he returned to the fight with rage and wrote twelve scripts which were refused. The thirteenth one was Alien." and also "Spiritual Journey Of Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Creator of "El Topo" by Alejandro Jodorowsky" p130 (ii),  Ian Nathan in his book Alien Vault expands on the claim by saying that Dan was treated in an asylum because of a nervous breakdown, but offers no source. He might have based his statement on what Jodorowsky said. (See the book Alien Vault by Ian Nathan)   
  6. Dan O'Bannon: I was flat broke, I had no car, no apartment,  no money and my stuff is in storage and I threw myself on Ron's mercy. And then I threw myself on his couch. And I lay there. I slept on Ron's sofa for one week in deep depression. And I went to some clinic, I remember I got a bottle of tranquilisers. I just just lay down on Ron's sofa, took a tranq, went to sleep. Lay there for a week I got up off that sofa and I said "well I got to do something now to begin to support myself and get off Ron's sofa. So I discussed it with Ron and what ended up happening was I ended up writing Alien while living with Ron and he ended up writing it with me, which considering he had just gotten married and his wife was living there, it was a one bedroom apartment was an interesting experience. But we didn't quite kill each other, I have proof with that. (report of what O'Bannon said when interviewed for Alien Evolution the documentary)
  7. Diane O'Bannon: Well, Alejandro sees reality on different plane sometimes. So, although Dan was never in a real actual mental hospital, perhaps Alejandro saw him needing one on the astral plane. That's as good a story as I can come up with for this strange rumor he so casually started! Frequently, my dear husband was the only sane person in the room. That was my opinion anyway. (Diane O'Bannon, wife of Dan O'Bannon at The Official Dan O'Bannon Page on 6th July, 2011)
  8. Ivor Powell : The often told story of that was Dan of course working on the Jodorowsky in Paris for a year or two and it all collapsed, and he went, you know he went home, er, with no money and whatever it is, and slept on Ron Shusett's couch. (The Beast Within : Starbeast:  Developing the story documentary,  7:48)
  9. Ron Shusett: After Jodorowsky's movie had closed down, Dan had spent his living money because he had been making a salary, but because we all know your biggest money comes in the making of the movie, so he was, used up all his living money, dead broke. (Alien Legacy Starbeast documentary, 3:34)
  10. Dan O'Bannon : I ended up with no money, no apartment , no car, and all my belongings in storage, no place to stay, one of those desperate situations, and I asked Ron if I could stay with him until I got back on my feet. (Alien Legacy Starbeast documentary, 3:46)
  11. Ron Shusett: .... called me from Paris and said could I stay on your couch, I'm broke , can I move in, and I said yuh, well, then I , then we resumed our relationship (Alien Legacy Starbeast, 5:00)
  12. Dan O'Bannon: "It collapsed so badly, that I ended up in LA, without any money, without and apartment, without a car, with half my belongings back in Paris and the other half in storage." (Book of Alien)
  13. Dan O'Bannon: So, there I was on his sofa, didn't have any prospects at all. It was a terrible situation; I couldn't stay on the sofa indefinitely so I hauled myself up out of black depression and said I was going to do something - I'm going to write a script. (Fantastic Film#10, p9)
  14. Dan O'Bannon: MANY MOONS AGO, I sat down at my old IBM model B typewriter to conjure up a demon. The year was 1976, and I had just returned from Paris, flat broke. I had not money, no apartment, no car, and all my belongings were in storage. Ronnie Shusett was good enough to let me sleep on his sofa, and I set up my tank like model B in his living room. Over the course of all the next three months, I submerged myself into the darkest regions of my own overheated psyche, exploring the essence of fear. I only knew one way off Ronnie's couch, and  that was to make a movie. To accomplish that, I must write a screenplay that was so compelling producers would find it irresistible. But what might that be? My first film, Dark Star, had been a comedy. Now instead of laughing, maybe I could make them scream ("Something perfectly disgusting" by Dan O'Bannon, 2003, Alien Quadrilogy DVD set)
  15. Dan O'Bannon: And so we talked the story out, and I wrote it for a period of three months with continual discussions and me pounding away on the typewriter. My belongings were in storage, but I carted out of storage that desk and that file cabinet and that chair, and stuck it in Ron's front room so I could work. And the traveling typewriter... and I wrote it because I planned to direct it. (Fantastic Film#10, p10)
  16. Dan O'Bannon : It was quite set back, I moved into Ron, moved in on his sofa, slept for a week, that was my depressive response and at the end of the week  I got off Ron's sofa and said, alright, now I'm going to do something and get myself off, off Ron's emergency roles here, and so I went to where my belongings were in storage up at Lyon in Hollywood, and I got my desk and my typewriter, set'em up in Ron's front room (Alien Legacy Starbeast documentary, 5:07)
  17. Dan O'Bannon  And I was in desperation, the only thing I could think to do, I had to sell a script (The Beast Within : Starbeast:  Developing the story 8:02)
  18. He (O'Bannon) retreated to the sofa of a friend, screenwriter Ron Shusett, and didn't leave it for a week. But depressed or not, O'Bannon knew he had to get back to work. He got his files and typewriter out of storage, and he and Shusett went to work on stacks and stacks of partially completed ideas (Book of Alien, Scanlon& Gross) 
  19. H.R.Giger: He tells me that, when the Dune project broke down, he went back to Hollywood, and soon afterwards was very ill. A tiresome stomach trouble. He has lain sick in bed at the home of his friend Ron Shusett, and had still managed to work out the Alien story with his friends help. (Giger's Alien, p8)
  20. Dan O'Bannon: Basically it was a glorious experience , and then it was over. The financial backers pulled out. They sent me back to the States around Christmas of '75, to try to find some special VistaVision equipment, and while I was back here staying with friends, I got a telegram informing me that Dune was postponed indefinitely. And everything fell apart. You see, I had my whole future layed out. I said "Here will be this huge, gigantic production, and I'll make all this money, and I'll be able to go back to Hollywood as some sort of superstar of special effects, and I'll get work, " Whereas, instead, here I was, back in LA, with no job, no apartment, no car, no money, and all my belongings in stoage. In desperation, I immediately went out and joined up forces with a fellow I had known a long time, Ron Shusett, a producer, With him, I wrote a screenplay called Alien, I wrote that the spring after Dune fell through, because I had to do something really fast to salvage my personal situation. (Phobos #1, Summer 1977, p13)
  21. SEE: the part of Ron Shusett transcript from the "Ask Mr Kern" dealing with the discovery of facehugger (Ask Mr Kern show October 27th 2012 Part1 , 17mins in,. http://www.askmrkern.com, )  
  22. Dan O'Bannon: Well, this is it, this is the book I borrowed from Giger in 1975. When Dune fell through, I came back to LA, I brought this book with me, not much else. I didn't know the picture was going to be cancelled, I came back here for Christmas, to see my friends, and I had a phone call, Dune was cancelled, so I lost all my clothes and my luggage and everything but I did have this, and erm, I had to do something with myself so I did Alien, (SEE: Dan O'Bannon on Alien from Moebius Redux)

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