Alien Evolution version 1 (first fifteen minutes) (conception)

Mark Kermode: In 1979, Cinema goers were scared out of their skins by a stylish scifi shocker whose publicity warned that in space, no one can hear you scream, pictured somewhere between 2001 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien was an acid burnt antidote to the dewy eyed optimism of Close Encounters and Star Wars. This was future fantasy with razor sharp fangs, a ground breaking genre classic which gave nightmarish form to unspeakable anxieties which witness the birth of a new breed of screen heroine and which would spawn generations of shape shifting sequels far more than a mere fantasy fright fest, Ridley Scott's intelligent chiller would become one of the most talked about scifi films of the century, provoking highbrow intellectual debate and down to earth audience reaction in equal measure as it boldly went where no movie had dared to go before.

According to legend, the seeds of Alien's extra terrestrial were first sewn back in the early 70s when film student Dan O'Bannon collaborated with future horror maestro John Carpenter on the cult scifi movie, Dark Star, the tale of world weary truckers in space which would be hailed by critics as a satirical repost to Kubrick's stately 2001. Denied a co-directorial credit on Dark Star, O'Bannon began nurturing dreams of producing his own scifi movie project, a B-movie romp originally titled Star Beast which drew inspiration from class creature features like "It", "The creature from the black lagoon", "The Thing from another world" along with lesser known cult favorites like Italian maestro Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires"

CONCEPTION

Dan O'Bannon (02:38): There's a life time of movie going and story reading in Alien, and the picture was fresh and had been out a short time, a lot of people speculated just to exactly where I stole it from, with a, most people concluding that, erm, that it was stolen from It, the Terror from Beyond Space, the truth is, it was stolen from everywhere

Ron Shusett (3:03):  The first film that comes to mind is Invasion of the body snatchers by Don Seagle. The pod people. Night of the living dead. It, the creature from beyond space. The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Dan O'Bannon (03:13): The big standard at that point for any type of special effect or space movie was 2001, which was, um, a couple of years old as I recall at that time. But, er, one idea which... I had never seen was the idea of a used future. I basically recast Dark Star as a scary movie instead of a comedy, in line with The Thing, that type of grim tone of a few people trapped in a small technological space, while this really scary something is... is coming at them

Ron Shusett (4:15): We needed something horrific and visceral on a level that would not be, just a leave it as a corny B movie, so we needed something: number one, incredibly spectacular and bizarre.

Dan O'Bannon (4:25) I had the material necessary for the , for the first half of the script, a kind of forbidden planet situation where one of our starships lands of a mysterious planet, gets stranded there, bit by bit becomes involved with some mysterious and threatening organism. Had that over a xxxxxx pretty good, but I really didn't know what to do with the second half

Ron Shusett (4:57): Dan put his finger on the problem he said, I knows what happens, has to happen next, is the creature has to get on the ship in an interesting way. But I have no idea how and if we could solve that, if can't be just it snuck in, then I think the whole movie will unfold, come in to place

I went to sleep and I'm sure it isn't dreaming, it's a... the mind is functioning subconsciously, and in the middle of the night, so I woke up and I said, "Dan I think, i think i have an idea," and he said "what?" and I said "well, uh, the alien, the alien screws one of them" he said, "what are you talking about?"Well jumps in his face and plants the seed in "


Dan O'Bannon (5:42)"As soon as I heard it, I thought, oh well, that, that's it. That was one of the ideas that made it possible to uhm, make this thing worth doing at all. This is a movie about alien interspecies rape, that's it, that's scary, that scaring because it hits all of our buttons, all of our unresolved feelings about sexuality, all of them.

Mark Kermode (6:14) : Although O'Bannon and Shusett had originally envisaged Alien as a low budget fantasy flick in a style favored by independents like Roger Corman, producer Gordon Carroll thought it was bigger than that, believing that the project had the makings of an A-list Hollywood studio picture, Carroll encouraged Brandywine partners David Giler and Walter Hill, director of action hits like "The Warriors", to finesse it into something that Star Wars distributors 20th Century Fox would be willing to make a major investment. Exactly who was responsible for the finished script has become a source of heated controversy, but O'Bannon remained certain that Alien finally got the go ahead simply because it was in the right place at the right time

GESTATION

Dan O'Bannon (6:58): I know why Fox went for it, Fox didn't expect Star Wars to be such a, a runaway hit, but of course, when it was, they wanted to follow through very quickly and the fact of the matter was, that week, that month, there was a paucity of spaceship scripts, f.. er, floating around Fox. Mine was there, it was there, it was on the desk, and um, that's how it got the green light. They were patently baffled by it, but they wanted something out of it for themselves.

David Giler (7:35)Walter read it and he said,"well you'll think I'm going to sound crazy, I think we've got er, this , this script is just awful, " he says "but it's got one great scene in it, that maybe it makes it worth doing, you'll tell me if you think I'm nuts, right.

So I took it home, and er, I read it up until page 95 or something like that, I called Walter, 

I said "this is absolutely nuts, this is terrible!"  

He said well did you come to the big scene, "well" 

I said, "you mean where the thing jumps out on the guy's face". 

He said "no no, that's not it, keep reading.

"I don't want to keep reading, I'm on page 95 now." 

"Keep reading". 

So I came to er, what we came to call the chestburster and I got it , 

I said "No, no, I think you're absolutely right, this is perfect in fact, you know, we're talking about big grossing movies, this could be the grossest movie of all of them."

Dan O'Bannon (8:28): They rewrote a lot of the dialogue, changed the name of the characters, added Ash the android and changed an arbitrary number of details in an arbitrary manner. I got, I got, that's the best I could tell you.

David Giler (8:50) The characters were wooden and the dialogue was bad, so we, uh, optioned the script from O'Bannon and Shusett, and er, er, and fixed, and took it home, fixed it up and, it's kind of a long process.

Dan O'Bannon (9:04): So my script with the, with the surface details all kind of bunged up, and , and, and, and broken and and bent, you know, so that dialogue isn't quite as good and this transition doesn't quite make sense, kind of a, my script, er,  after it's been in a car accident. On the other hand, the whole mood, and tone and feel of the thing has survived essentially unmodified, I mean I remember what I was thinking and feeling when I was writing that thing, and I can see what's on the screen.

Mark Kermode (9:40): With the formerly low "red" B-movie blossoming into a major studio feature, the producers started looking for someone with a unique vision to helm the venture. While O'Bannon himself had once been in the frame as a potential first time director, the attention now fell on Ridley Scott, an English man with a background in graphic design and advertising whose own first feature The Duellists had been acclaimed as rivaling Stanley Kubrick in the style department

David Giler (10:08): We felt that this was a simple enough story, and that if you had a good enough actress in it, if it was really about how g... how good could somebody make the monster look, the effects look, could they make the monster believable

Ivor Powell (10:23): One afternoon the script arrived and I being the scifi fanatic and Ridley, to be honest, not being the scifi fanatic, erm, we had a bit of a wrestling match, with this, er,  with this script which of course inevitably Ridley won.

Ridley Scott  (10:35): On the front cover was Dan O'Bannon, Ron Shusett, and er, I think I sat down on Saturday morning and er, took me about one hour and twenty minutes to read it, and er,  I knew I was going to do it

Ivor Powell (10:50): I then had to sit in the erm, adjacent office and listen to him, basically saying "Fuck Me!" and all that and so I knew, I knew it was interesting

Ridley Scott (11:02): I didn't even take it on board, that erm,  it could be anything but the way I wanted it

David Giler (11:08) : There's a kind of pain staking attention to detail in you know the stuff that he did, everything looked great and looked convincing and realistic, you know, and real, so that's that why er, er I thought Ridley would be good for this

Veronica Cartright (11:22): Ridley is so detail orientated erm, that er, he's, his eyes go to everything that's on the outside, and I think that probably comes from his art directing days and from the days that he did lots of commercials and things

Harry Dean Stanton (11:37): Ridley's got his total act together, everything, dialogue, end crew and technical part. He's, he's a master

Ridley Scott (11:48): Someone has to drive the bus, someone has to have the passion to go "Now, go that way, we gotta do this, we gotta do that" okay, that's the driver, you've got to have that otherwise it will get watered down


Sigourney Weaver, (12:03): You have only to meet Ridley Scott and get him talking before you think, I want to work with this guy, he had er, you know one basic line that he had to say a few times which was "I don't fucking believe it" you know, when he said that, you, you, you know he wanted something that was alive and that was b...  totally believable

Terry Rawlings (12:30): Ridley obviously is loaded with talent, he was loaded with talent before he started it, and he took it to a stage which I am sure they would never believe that would go, they thought it was g... I'm sure they thought they were going to make a little horror film that would pop out and that was it.

Ridley Scott (12:46): You can't cut away, you've got to see it, er, because that's what we're doing, we're doing an R rated movie, it's my job to push it right to the edge

Ivor Powell (12:55): We watched Tobe Hooper's er, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I know that he saw and I think he obviously, I think he got something out of that, and related to that,

Ridley Scott (13:03): I saw that when I was preparing to do Alien and , er, I was sitting in one of these teeny screen rooms in, um, Fox, erm on day, and I looked at this and that and I kept discarding films, you know, no, that's no good, you and then I heard about Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I'd er, I'd, I was also very intimidated by the poster, just, I think was the pig face and the saw, I thought, Gadd, I think it's going to be really tacky, ghastly blood bath of a movie which I was, always, uneasy about looking at, and when I finally saw it, I thought it was an amazing movie, you were uneasy from the first second, as soon as they picked that guy up in the car, it's like scarier than hell

Ron Shusett (13:46) That profoundly scared you to your soul. it should have been just schlock, but the scares were just so horrific.

Ivor Powell (13:51): I think it had a certain, er, documentary reality about it, which really erm, you know, hit home

Ron Shusett (14:00): He would say and he said to me, "I wanted it to be riveting, so commercial, but it's going to look, I guarantee you, like 2001" and I guess they believed him. 

Dan O'Bannon (14:11): They directed through the camera, he didn't want to stand at the side of the set and watch the thing he staged, he wanted to see it through the eyepiece that was filming it. The degree of, of control that he exerted over the visual look of the film was was a revelation to me. He could produce miraculously realistic fix realistically and simply because he understood the, the lighting and the the photography that medium so well.

Mark Kermode (14:50): While Scott's visual artistry would provide the look of the film, the physical form of the alien itself would be defined by another transatlantic trist which would inject Swiss genes into the embryonic process by artist H R Giger

Ridley Scott ( 15:18): The biggest overriding fact was that if you haven't got the old monster, you aint got a movie, okay, if you've got a monster which is okay, you're dead in the water


Ron Shusett ( 15:28): By this time, erm movies had became sort of corny to have the alien monster and what we did was bring it back bigger and brighter, more grandiose and believable and one of the keys was the design, Giger's design.

Ridley Scott ( 15:45):I started to see conventional things on paper, I wanted to go away from that, and the Dan kind of showed me a book "on the other hand, there's this which is kind of odd, I don't know what you're going to think about it"

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