Harry Dean Stanton's Audition

leading from 





When Harry Dean Stanton was first interviewed he said " I don't like horror films or science fiction films."
Ridley Scott replied "well actually I don't either but I think I can make something of this one"
Ridley showed Harry Dean a big brochure with big coloured layouts.
Harry Dean's response was "Have you got enough money to do this film?"
His thought was that one reason he was hired was because he was worried about the money.

Source quotes
  1. The hollywood interview: Let's talk some more about your films. Alien sticks out as the one blockbuster you've been involved in.
    Harry Dean Stanton: Yeah. And that's a really classic movie now. I never liked science fiction movies or monster movies, but that one was very believable. I told Ridley Scott during my interview with him that I didn't like those sorts of films and he said "Well I don't either, actually, but I think I can make something of this one." And he did. (http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02)
  2. AVClub : Do you find that’s the film that most people come up to you and mention as a favorite?
    Harry Dean Stanton: That’s one of them. That and the first Alien, but there are a lot of them: Missouri Breaks; Paris, Texas; Repo Man… 
    AVClub: Speaking of Alien, are you a science-fiction fan? Harry Dean Stanton: No, I’ve never really liked science-fiction films, or horror movies really. AVClub: And yet Alien’s both, and it’s one of your most recognized films.  Harry Dean Stanton: Yeah, and in my audition, I told Ridley Scott that... [Laughs.] I said, “I don’t like sci-fi or horror films.” He said, “I don’t, either, actually, but I think I can make something of this one.” AVClub: And did you end up liking the film? Harry Dean Stanton: Oh, yeah. And I like Ridley too. (http://www.avclub.com/)
  3. Harry Dean Stanton: yeah, when they first interviewed, I said "I don't like horror films, or science fiction films". he said, "well actually I don't either but I think I can make something of this one"
    Marc Maron: (chuckle)
    Harry Dean Stanton: and I say... he showed me this big brochure, all these big coloured layouts
    Marc Maron: uhuh
    Harry Dean Stanton: I said, well, I said, have you guys got enough money to do this film?
    Marc Maron: (chuckle)
    Harry Dean Stanton: That's one reason he hired me, because I was worried about the money
    Marc Maron: That guy, he thought, "He's not going to waste any film!" (WTF with Marc Maron January 14th 2014 (http://youtu.be/a-quSl-SlpQ?t=38m33s) (the rest of the Alien segment of this interview can be found transcribed here )

WTF with Marc Maron
Alien segment from Harry Dean Stanton interview


(38:36)

Marc Maron: And er with Aliens, that was a huge movie

Harry Dean Stanton: yuh

Marc Maron: did you er,

Harry Dean Stanton: that was Ridley Scott

Marc Maron: yeah, did you enjoy working with him

Harry Dean Stanton: oh yeah

Marc Maron: did you, was that the first time you were on a space ship?

Harry Dean Stanton: on a what?

Marc Maron: On a space ship?

Harry Dean Stanton: yuh

Marc Maron : (chuckle)

Harry Dean Stanton: yeah, when I first interviewed... they first interviewed me, I said "I don't like horror films, or science fiction films". he said, "well actually I don't either but I think I can make something of this one"

Marc Maron: (chuckle)

Harry Dean Stanton: and I say... he showed me this big brochure, all these big coloured layouts

Marc Maron: uhuh

Harry Dean Stanton: I said, well, I said, have you guys got enough money to do this film?

Marc Maron: (chuckle)

Harry Dean Stanton: That's one reason he hired me, because I was worried about the money

Marc Maron: That guy, he thought, "He's not going to waste any film!"

Harry Dean Stanton: No

( This interview segment has been used in the Harry Dean Stanton's interview section)

Alan Ladd's The Weekend Read

Leading from
Alan Ladd Jr

a) Alan Ladd's The Weekend Read  
Such were the changes made that Mr Wigan decided that the rewritten script was worthy of going into the Fox "weekend read", a process in which several scripts are read during the weekend by each of Fox's five top  production executives. When a script reaches this stage, a "go" or "no go" decision was usually made at a 9am Monday meeting in Mr Alan Ladd 's office.

b) The Picker
The soft spoken, 41 year old Alan Ladd had reaped both big money ($1.9 million last year) and critical plaudits for his movie gambles. After other studios turned it down, he decided to make "Star Wars," the biggest hit in movie history, which has earned $234 million in film rentals on a $9 million original investment. He also started a trend towards movies with women heroes by making such critically acclaimed and financially successful movies such as "Julia," "The Turning Point" and "An Unmarried Woman"
Garry Wigan

c) The misses
But Alan Ladd has had his fare share of flops; the embarrassing Burt Reynolds musical "At long Last Love"; the ill-fated G-rated family film "The Blue Bird" starring Elizabeth Taylor , and director Robert Altman's bleak drama "Quintet" among others. Still, he was battling average as a picker of hits was good. He thought of himself as a creative "midwife". As a studio head, he needed the ability to size up the potential of a script or idea, then try to assemble the best creative talent for executing the idea and making sure that the project comes off as envisioned.

d) The collective
However, in the Weekend Read, he didn't make the decision all by himself, he relied on the collective instinct of the group, three men and two women. No formal vote would be taken, each member of the group would give his view while he tried to refrain from expressing any firm conclusions that might impede the free flow of the ideas too soon. The process could go on for hours. The script's storyline and main characters were analyzed and debated; possible directors, actors and actresses are discussed

e) Comparison to Psycho  
When Alan received the screenplay and read it, he thought it was an interesting nice horror picture.  Parts of the script reminded Alan Ladd of the fear he felt when he was watching the shower scene in "Psycho," Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, particularly the scene where actress Janet Leigh is stabbed to death by an insane killer taking a shower; the audience feels the terror but never sees the knife plunge into the actress. Mr Ladd believed that movie audiences will respond to the terror of "Alien" the same way that audiences reacted to "Psycho" in 1960. "

f) Final Decision
At the end of the February 1977 meeting, Mr. Ladd made his decision: Fox would make "Alien"- contingent on getting the right director and on a significant reworking of the script.
'What we're buying, " he said, "was a concept - not the words of a highly literate script like 'Julia.' ", The initial decision that eventually led to a $15 million gamble by Fox was made on the basis of what Mr. Ladd calls "a gut instincts." It was based on his intuition and experience.




Jay Kanter, once an agent to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, has worked 
with Laddie since the 1960s–rare Hollywood loyalty which speaks volumes 
to the tremendous character of both legendary figures.
Source quotes
  1. Mr Wigan decided that the rewritten script was worthy of going into the Fox "weekend read," a process in which several scripts are read during the weekend by each of Fox's five top production executives. When a script reaches this stage, a "go" or "no go" decision is usually made at a 9 a.m. Monday meeting in Mr Ladd's office. (The Wall Street Journal)   
  2. Introducing Alan Ladd. The soft spoken, 41 year old Mr Ladd has reaped both big money ($1.9 million last year) and critical plaudits for his movie gambles. After other studios turned it down, Mr Ladd decided to make "Star Wars," the biggest hit in movie history, which has earned $234 million in film rentals on a $9 million original investment. He also started a trend towards movies with women heroes by making such critically acclaimed and financially successful movies such as "Julia," "The Turning Point" and "An Unmarried Woman" (The Wall Street Journal)
  3. But Mr Ladd has had his fare share of flops; the embarrassing Burt Reynolds musical "At long Last Love"; the ill-fated G-rated family film "The Blue Bird" starring Elizabeth Taylor , and director Robert Altman's bleak drama "Quintet" among others. (The Wall Street Journal)
  4.  Still, Mr Ladd's battling average as a picker of hits is good. He doesn't think up movie ideas himself but thinks of himself as a creative "midwife". As a studio head, he needs the ability to size up the potential of a script or idea. Then he tries to assemble the best creative talent for executing the idea and making sure that the project comes off as envisioned. (The Wall Street Journal)
  5. The idea for "Alien" for example, first came to Fox in a script by 39 year old screenwriter named  Dan O'Bannon who was fascinated with science fiction. Gareth Wigan, Fox's vice president for world wide production, turned down O'Bannon's original script because "it was gratuitously violent. (The Wall Street Journal)
  6. Mr Ladd doesn't make the decision all by himself. He relies of the collective instinct of the group" - three men and two women. No formal vote is taken; each member of the group gives his view while Mr. Ladd tries to refrain from expressing any firm conclusions that might impede the free flow of ideas too soon. The process can go on for hours. The script's story line and main characters are analyzed and debated; possible directors, actors and actresses are discussed. (The Wall Street Journal) 
  7. Parts of the script reminded Mr Ladd of the fear he felt while watching the shower scene in "Psycho," Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller. This is the scene where actress Janet Leigh is stabbed to death by an insane killer taking a shower; the audience feels the terror but never sees the knife plunge into the actress. Mr Ladd believes that movie audiences will respond to the terror of "Alien" the same way that audiences reacted to "Psycho" in 1960. "Basic emotions are the same, "he says. "They haven't changed in 50 years." (The Wall Street Journal)
  8. Reflects a Strength. The comparison with "Psycho" reflects one of Ladd's strengths; He is widely regarded in Hollywood when he was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. Mr Ladd says be became "Obsessed" with movies at an early age, going to four or five pictures every weekend and skipping school during the week to see other movies. (The Wall Street Journal)
  9.  At the end of the February 1977 meeting, Mr. Ladd made his decision: Fox would make "Alien"- contingent on getting the right director and on a significant reworking of the script. 'What we're buying, " he says, "was a concept - not the words of a highly literate script like 'Julia.' ", the initial decision that eventually led to a $15 million gamble by Fox was made on the basis of what Mr. Ladd calls "a gut instincts."  (The Wall Street Journal)
  10. "It's based on my intuition and experience. There's no way to put it on a chart or graph or formulate it. The Harvard business school approach doesn't work," says Mr. Ladd, who was a business-administration major at the University of Southern California before he left school in his senior year to become an agent and get married. (The Wall Street Journal) 

Script through the window

leading from:  
Selling the script


Walter Hill

a) Walter Hill is handed the script
Wall street Journal's claimed that Dan O'Bannon handed his script through the window with a
note on it "Please read me", however only the fact that someone handed a script through the window was quite true, but it was by the hand of Mark Haggard who was someone that Walter Hill was prepared to receive a script through the window from.  Walter's office was on the first floor ground floor of Goldwyn Studios, and after lunch one day he was sitting in his chair ruminating with the window open and so Mark a friend of his walked down the alleyway, stopped at the window and said "Walter!" He handed the script through the window and Walter read it.

b) David Giler reads the script
Soon Walter Hill handed the script to his business partner David Giler, and he said to him "I may be out of my mind, the script is terrible but it has one great scene that is worth doing and tell me if I'm nuts".

The following night Walter Hill, as he remembers, was watching Jimmy Carter's acceptance to the Democratic Convention speech on TV and was quite happy to answer the phone when it rang and there was David on the other end of the phone and he wasn't amused.

David said" What are you? You are nuts! This is crazy!"

Walter than said "Have you come to the big scene?"

David replied "Yeah, yeah, yeah, the thing jumps out and is on his face"

Walter then said "That's not it"

David said"What's going to come, I'm already on page 90"

Walter replied "Keep reading"

c) Getting to the Chestburster scene

David went back to reading the script and came to the scene later known as the chestburster scene and he called him back and said "well I see what you mean, No, no, no, I think you're absolutely right, this is terrific."

However the script, 165 pages long was not for David Giler, this own view was that it was a bone skeleton of a story amateurishly written, with the most boring dialogue that one would ever have heard in their life and was really terrible, a pastiche of fifties movies so awful that you couldn't give it away, with no characters, but the central ideas were sound. If they made the film from the script as written, it would have been a remake of "It! The Terror From Beyond Space." Walter Hill had a similar perspective about the script adding also that it had a Jesus Gadzooks quality to it. He thought though that the most obvious thing about it was the need to make a science fiction version of Jaws and that film had come out in 1975 so it was still fresh on the minds of the film world then.


David Giler
As it happened Walter had been a big scifi reader as a kid and one of his favourite films was "The Thing From Another World" but other than that he was open to admitting that he had little background in science fiction and David had no real interest in scifi at all. And in the long run Walter Hill thought that this distance that they had from the world of scifi helped them to write their version of script without being too caught up by their sense of the unreality of the situation regarding such a thing as an alien monster with acid blood. They took what they found to be an implausible situation and do what they could to make it sound real to them selves.

However regarding the original script , Walter felt that it was put together with a lot of low cunning, the real genius of the the Dan O'Bannon/ Ron Shusett story was that they had worked out the details and plot twists for this story of a space monster that could not be killed wthout endangering the astronauts life support system, so how do you destroy this creature, and at the same time, the beast was knocking the members of the crew off one by one, Agatha Christie style and Walter really liked this. But he didn't like the addition of holograms and other material that seemed like the substance of pop culture.  There was a genuflect to pyramidology as well with the alien eggs as the bottom of a pyramid. Once O'Bannon and Shusett's reached Brandywine and they contacted them, they asked O'Bannon not to write anymore, to stay away from pens and pencils altogether and it seemed to them that he didn't mind.
 
d) Heading to the next position
Soon they both shared this with Gordon Carroll the third partner of Brandywine.  Walter was saying about the script to both his partners "If it were done on a sophisticated level, rather than as a lowbudget picture along the lines of The Blob, we'd have a truly extraordinary film"

They phoned Dan and Ron in and Gordon Carrol said to them, "We've read 300 scripts and this is the first one we've all agreed on."

And so they went on to make a six months option deal and Dan had the idea that he would get to be the director of special effects on the picture

They gave the original screenplay to the Fox studio as they had a deal with them and Fox read it and passed on it when it, a reason given was because of its gratuitous violence but Walter Hill's view about this was that it was too much like a low budget movie and well Fox were also notably skeptical about it when they first brought it to them because it was more difficult for studio people to see the value in this sort of thing than in for instance, a story about a housewife with a nervous breakdown, but indeed Giler and Hill wouldn't let it go.


The Ritz Carlton in New York, 
formerly The Navarro Hotel
It was still the Christmas holiday and at the time they were working on numerous other projects at the same time, but David was about to go to Hong Kong with his girlfriend, and before then the two of them worked on the script together and when David did go to Hong Kong, over three days or maybe a week Walter did a spec rewrite of the O'Bannon/Shusett script,  eliminating several scenes of violence and made changes to the dialogue, and then David came back after the holidays and they rewrote it several times. The script was then sent to Fox's Vice President for world wide production, Gareth Wigan with a notiation that Walter would be interested in directing it. Walter thought well of Gareth because he was one of the very few executives that he had ever worked with who was actually very good with script.

At some point along the trail David and Walter did an endless series of polishes of the script and the last couple were done in New York in Walter's room as the Navarro Hotel at 110 Central Park South,(later to become the Ritz Carlton), which was a place popular with bands like The Who, while he was prepping for The Warrior.




Quote Sources
  1. Mr O'Bannon, however, was determined in an unusual ploy, after other studios also turned him down, he passed the script through an open window in the office of a group of veteran writer-directors affiliated with Fox. Attached to the script was a note "Please read this"(The Wall Street Journal)
  2. Walter Hill: The window story as reported in the Wall Street Journal is quite true (Cinefantastique vol 9 #1)
  3. Dan O'Bannon (11:55): Mark Haggard knew Walter Hill, the director of tough guy movies, gave it to Walter Hill, Walter Hill showed it to his partner David Giler, and then they showed it to their third partner, Gordon Carroll. The three of them had just formed their new production company called Brandywine Films. (The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story)
  4.  Walter Hill: David and I had formed a production company with Gordon Carroll -this was about 1975. About six months after we started, I was given a script called Alien by a fellow I knew, (Mark Haggard, interesting guy , a real John Ford expert) who was fronting the script for the two writers. I read it, didn't think much of it, but it did have this one sensational scene -which later we always call "the chestburster".  I should say that The Thing (1951) was one of my favorite films from when I was a kid and this script reminded me of it, but in an extremely crude form. (Film International #12, p21)
  5. Walter Hill: One thing worth remembering is that Dan's screenplay had been making the rounds for quite a while , and no one had bought it. Fox had seen it, and with Dan's original conception of a low-budget picture, they really weren't about to consider it. I originally read the script in the summer of 1976, and I saw qualities in it that the studios hadn't, in terms of the story itself. I presented it to my partners , saying that, if it were done on a sophisticated level, rather than as a low budget picture along the lines of The Blob, we'd have a truly extraordinary film. (Starlog/ July 1979 p93)
  6. Walter Hill: The real genius of the O'Bannon-Ron Shusett story was that they had worked out the details and plot twists for this story of a space monster that could not be killed without endangering the astronauts' own life support system. At the same time, this terrible beast is knocking them off one by one, Agatha Christie style, the stuff of real drama" Starlog/ July 1979 p93)
  7. Hill freely admits having little background in science fiction, though he developed a passion for films of all kinds during his childhood in Long Beach, California. He began to plan for a career in film while a student at Michigan State University. After his graduation, he worked in a number of unrelated fields, including a year spent as an oil field worker and on construction crew, while he completed his first screenplay. The script though never produced, led to his first work on films. As a young screenwriter he worked with such noticables as Sam Peckinpah (The Getaway) and John Huston (The McIntosh Man) before he directed his first film, Hard Times, starring Charles Bronson. It was shortly after the completion of Hard Times that O'Bannon's Alien script first caught his attention (Starlog/ July 1979, p94)
  8. Gordon Carroll (12:16): We had offices at the , at the ten Goldwyn Studios, now Warner Hollywood, and Walter's office was on the first floor ground floor, and after lunch one day he was sitting in his chair ruminating, er, with the window open, and er, a friend of his, er walking down the alleyway, and he stopped and said "Walter!'(The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story)
  9. David Giler (12:39): This guy handed him the script through the window, and er, and , er, he read it! and he, he, er, said, wha'd'you.... "I may be out of my mind", he said, "I think this", he says, but er, I mean, "the script is terrible but it has one great scene in it, read it and tell me what you think.I read it and I thought it was absolutely terrible, and, ha ha ha, and I called him up and I said" what are you, you are nuts, this is crazy. "Have you come to the big scene?"   I said "Yeah, yeah, yeah, the thing jumps out and is on his face. "That's not it "What's going to come. I'm already on page 90? And he said "keep reading And I came to the chestburster and I called him back and I said "well, I see what you mean."(The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story) 
  10. CFQ:Who at Brandywine Productions saw to it that the ALIEN script was given serious consideration at Fox?
    David  Giler:Walter Hill probably had more to do with getting the O'Bannon script launched than anyone. Mark Haggard at Goldwyn Studios asked him to read it, and Walter championed the project from then on. It was a bone skeleton of a story then. Really terrible. Just awful. You couldn't give it away. It was amateurishly written, although the central idea was sound. Basically, it was a pastiche of Fifties movies. We—Walter Hill and I—took it and rewrote it completely, added Ash and the robot subplot. We added the cat, Jones. We also changed the characters around. We fleshed it out, basically. If we had shot the original O'Bannon script, we would have had a remake of IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. (Cinefantastique vol 09 n.01)
  11. David Giler: The first time I saw it, I like to tell this story actually because everybody hears about scripts that came through the window and in this case it literally did come through the window. Walter and I had offices at Goldwyn, what was that called - Goldwyn Studios - now called Warner Hollywood, and Mark, whose last name I can't remember at the moment handed this to me. There was an alley that was right by the Walter desk, handed this script through the window and Walter read it and he said "well, it's crazy, I think we've got, this script is just awful he said, but it's got one great scene that is worth doing. You tell me if I'm nuts."   So I took it home and I read it and I read of course on about page 90, it was this huge giant script, neither one of us was particularly interested in science fiction I have to also point out, and I came and I read it up until about page 95 or something and I called Walter  and I said I think you're absolutely nuts, this is just terrible.  He said "well did you come to the big scene? I said" the thing where the thing jumps on the guy's face?",  he said "no, no that's not it, keep reading. I said "I'm on page 95 now. He said "keep reading".  So I came to the, what we later came to call the chestburster and I got it and I said "No, no, no, I think you're absolutely right, this is terrific. And talk about big grossing movies, this may be the grossest of them all. (Alien Evolution)
  12. Walter Hill: I gave it to David with one of those "I may be crazy, but a good version of this might work" speeches. The next night, I remember I was watching Jimmy Carter giving his acceptance speech to the Democratic Convention, and was quite happy to answer the phone when it rang. It was David, he told me I was crazy, but he had just got as far as the big scene (the chest burster) and it was really something. So basically, off the strength of that, we acquired the rights and kicked it around for a few weeks, trying to figure out what to do with it. Remember, neither of us was a real sci-fi writer or a horror writer, but we were arrogant to think we understood how the genres worked. First we gave the original screenplay to the studio we had a deal with (Fox); they read it and passed (actually it had been previously submitted to them, so technically they passed it twice), but we didn't want to let it go. We believed that if you got rid of a lot of the junk, - they had pyramids on the planetoid, a lot of Von Däniken crap, and a lot of bad dialogue - that what you would have left might be a very good, very primal space survival story. (it was now around Christmas Holidays.) David was going off to Hong Kong with his girlfriend, but before he left we thrashed out pretty good. (Film International #12, p21)
  13. David Giler: It's not a very good script. It had what we saw as writers, potential, It was a whole 165 pages long. The most boring dialogue  you've ever heard in your life - no characters - no nothing. But it had great elements.(Fantastic Films, #12 p60)
  14. Walter Hill: The O'Bannon -Shusett script was, in any kind of literary sense, remarkably unsophisticated. It has not even B-picture merit. That was its problem. Nobody could take it seriously. It wasn't a professional job. It was poorly written. It had a 'Jesus, gadzooks' quality and no real differentiation in characters. But there was no question in my mind that they wanted to do a science fiction version of Jaws (Cinefantastique, vol 9, no 1, p16)
  15. Walter Hill: It was put together with a lot of low cunning. To my mind they had worked out a very interesting problem, how you destroy a creature you can't kill without destroying your own life support system? I thought this a good notion. But the script had a lot of junk in it, like holograms and other current "pop" stuff.  (Cinefantastique, vol 9, no 1, p16)
  16. Walter Hill: There was a genuflect to pyramidology as well with the alien eggs as the bottom of a pyramid. O'Bannon and Shusett presented their draft to us and we asked O'Bannon not to write anymore, to stay away from pens and pencils altogether. He didn't mind. (Cinefantastique, vol 9, no 1, p16)
  17. Dan O'Bannon: They read it, they called us in and Gordon said to us 'We've read 300 scripts and this is the first one we've all agreed on." Okay? Great compliment. And they proceeded to make a deal with us.  And we got into a lot of haggling, there was at least a month of negotiating. Finally we made a deal, an option deal, and they took it to Fox with whom they'd just made some kind of production arrangement for their company. And Fox immediately expressed interest and Brandywine exercised the option which was a real surprise 'cause it was the first time in my life I'd ever had an option exercised. I'd sold many options but I'd always had them revert. I'd never had them fork over the cash on the barrelhead
    Fantastic Film: Typical. Happens all the time
    Dan O'Bannon: What happens?
    Fantastic Films: Options reverting. You realise that probably half of everything that Heinlein has ever written has at one time or another been optioned and with the exception of one story, it's always reverted.
    Dan O'Bannon: Well, this one didn't revert. They'd payed us wham! - landslide! - cash!  It was interesting because it came just in time to pay my medical expenses. I'd been under such stress and other problems plus not taking care of myself, that I came down with a very bad stomach ailment in 1977. I was sick a great deal of that year, I was in and out of hospital  (Fantastic Films s #10, 1979)
  18. Phobos: Have you accepted any offer for Alien?
    O'Bannon: We accepted a six month option from a company called Brandywine. That's Gordon Carroll (producer of Cool Hand Luke and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), and David Giler (writer of The Parallax View, The Blackbird) Their company bought an option on it. They have a contract with Fox, so they're hoping to finance it there. In which case, my participation will be as director of special effects, in addition to the script (Phobos #1, August 1977, p 14)

  19. Writer-director Walter Hill read it, Mr. Hill decided that it was intriguing and contained the germ of a movie but needed rewriting. He dashed off a quick rewrite in three days, eliminating several scenes of violence and changing the dialogue considerably. Then he sent the script to Fox's Mr Wigan, with a notation that he would be interested in directing it. (The Wall Street Journal)
  20. Film International: It sounds like you and David Giler had a good time writing the script.            
    Walter Hill:
    Too much probably. And to tell you the truth, we were kind of left-handing the whole thing. I didn't mean we thought we were above the material, that's the worst sin, and sends you straight to hell. But, we were busy on a lot of other projects and, again, neither of us felt scifi was our natural métier. Although I had been a big sci-fi read when I was a kid, David not at all.  Oddly enough, in the long run, I think that distance helped our script - the feeling we had standing somewhere outside the genre helped get it off centre and made it a different tone. And it gave us the courage to be irreverent. I mean when it's two a.m., and you're writing about a monster with acid for blood, some irreverence is called for; we were taking an implausible situation and trying to make it sound real, and most of the time we pulled it off, I think.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that we may have left-handed the script, but we did work very hard; the Ash death speech we probably wrote twenty times before we got it right. Anyway, David went to Hong Kong, and I sat down and did the spec rewrite of the O'Bannon/Shusett script. It took maybe a week. After the holidays, David got back and then he and I rewrote it several times. We gave it to the studio, and they got on board. Gareth Wigan was the executive on the piece; he's one of the very few executives I've ever worked with who's actually very good with script. David and I then did what seemed like and endless series of polishes. The last couple we did in New York in my room at the Navarro ( now the Ritz Carlton) while I was prepping The Warriors.(Film International #12, p21)
  21. Walter Hill: Fox was also notably skeptical about it when they first brought it too them because it was more difficult for studio people to see the value in this sort of thing than in for instance, a story about a housewife with a nervous breakdown.  After David and I reworked it, they were more able to see the story's merits - enough to invest $10 million in it. (Starlog, July 1979, p94)
  22. The idea for "Alien" for example, first came to Fox in a script by 39 year old screenwriter named  Dan O'Bannon who was fascinated with science fiction. Gareth Wigan, Fox's vice president for world wide production, turned down O'Bannon's original script because "it was gratuitously violent. (The Wall Street Journal)
  23. Alan Ladd (13:17): He brought it to me and I thought it was interesting, a nice horror picture, it's outer. I mean what could sound better? And er, they then completely rewrote the script from top to bottom. (The Beast Within: Starbeast: Developing the story)

Rambaldi's Initial Alien Monster Concept

Leading from:
The Alien creature

First draft storyboard from
Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set
a) The dissatisfaction of Dan O'Bannon
Before Ridley stepped in to have Giger design the alien, we find out fragments of information about a design for the creature by Carlo Rambaldi who later would create the alien mechanised head. The brief references to this only come from interviews with Dan O'Bannon expressing his dissatisfaction with Rambaldi's concept when he was the first man hired by Fox to actually design the creature.




First draft storyboard from
Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set

  1. Dan O'Bannon : I fought a year with Fox to hire Giger. I wrote the script so Giger could design those things. And then they picked up the script and said "Naw, we don't want this guy. When has he even designed a movie?" They wanted someone who was a good solid movie pro. They hired Carlo Rambaldi to design the thing originally. He came up with something that looked like a half molten marshmallow with a bunch of big,  pretty blue eyes. For a year I kept thrusting Giger's work in front of them and they kept saying. "This is some wingding who lives in Europe. What movies has he designed?" Only because Ridley was hired on was Giger hired. He took a liking to Giger's work. Without Giger, I don't think we would have had much of a movie" 
(Science Fiction Film Making in the 1980s, p62, & Starlog #71 )


b) Possible depiction in first draft storyboard. 
First draft  storyboard from
Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set


However in 2010, the pre-Ridley Scott "First draft storyboards" drawn by Ron Cobb and Chris Foss together presented in Alien Anthology blu-ray set, there appear to be depictions of the alien that looks approximately like a multi-eyed marshmallow man, whether this was due to the sketch being so rough that it could look like anything and perhaps was roughly inspired by Ron Cobb's lobster like humanoid or if this is the way Rambaldi's creature could have looked is another question, however in all the other storyboards found in this series, great effort was made to reproduce all the designs correctly.  
First draft  storyboard from
Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set
First draft  storyboard from
Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set












Ridley Scott's Alien Monster

Into The Necronomicon

from

a) Ridley's Dilemma
When Ridley Scott came aboard the Alien project, once he got over the excitement of it all, he faced the problem of what the creature is going to look like, and the problem hangs above like a thundercloud. How do they represent the alien in its various forms, because one had to see the creature at one point or another in the film. So he arrived in Hollywood with this misgiving and ended up going through seven months work of pre-production drawings without finding anything that he really liked.

b) Sifting through various representations
He went through the various traditional representations usual blob and clawed creatures, one like an octopus another like a small dinosaur, the beast with several heads, bulging eyes, and all that sort of stuff even of they had done them well, he would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud, with very few exceptions, he found that movie monsters have a rubbery look and are rarely convincing, so they were all rejected. Ron Cobb was supposed to do the monster, but Giler and the others really didn't like his monster, he was a terrific graphic designer but the monster that he designed looked to Giler like a blob with tentacles, and Rambaldi was brought in to design a monster and that didn't work out so well either.  And so O'Bannon was showing some images from the Dune project to the producers. Giler remembered seeing the train like head on its rail on the Harkonnen palace and they said to O'Bannon. "Jesus, what is that?"

O'Bannon replied "Well that's Giger"

"Who's he? What's that?" they replied

"Oh, this guy's really interesting"

The following day, O'Bannon brought the book to show them.

Interestedly their response was to now ask "What about this guy?"

But what Dan was seeing was their disinterest because Giger wasn't known in the business, and as he tried to show them Giger's work, their responses would be such things as "What's his previous production credits? " and "Who the hell is he, some wing-ding fine artist from Zurich? "

However once David Giler had seen the Necronomicon, he was impressed enough to wonder about finding the director who could put this on the screen




c) Ridley discovers Giger's Necronomicon
While Ridley Scott described it as a meeting, perhaps one might have assumed it took place at 20th Century Fox offices somewhere and Dan had payed a visit, but as Ron Shusett recalled Ridley Scott went to visit Dan and Ron at Ron's run down apartment where it seemed that Dan was still sleeping on the couch with Ron's wife supporting them, and here they were having a meeting. However, according to David Giler, it was when he with the other producers showed the book to Ridley which again seems to place it at the 20th Century Fox offices

One day Ridley came in with a book of paintings by Francis Bacon but suddenly Dan O'Bannon walked in produced a book out of what seemed like out of nowhere, hidden under his coat and presented it as if it were a dirty magazine or post card. It was a copy of the book H R Giger's Necronomicon named after the fabled tome of spells for summoning demons written about by HP Lovecraft in this Cthulhu Mythos books, but filled with Giger's many paintings. To say it was one book might have been an understatement because actually Dan had more than one book with him, he also had Giger's 1971 version of "A Rh+" would have been another one of them and there were also other pieces of artwork that Giger had already done. So the way that Dan and Ron told it, they themselves were the ones pushing the idea of Giger toward's Ridley's attention

With a sort of gleam in his eye, Dan said to him "What do you think of this? "
Ridley started reading through it until he came to this one half page painting and he just stopped and said "Good God, I don't believe it. That's it!."

And so Dan and Ron told him "Giger should design, but Fox won't let us."

And so it was that the studio had turned down the idea of using Giger because his designs were way too extreme, even obscene.

Dan had received the book from Giger who sent him the first one off the press. As far as Dan knew, the text was in German although Giger said that it was French and it was hand bound. Dan was very flattered but he didn't realise until later that the reason Giger had sent him a copy was because he wanted Dan to show it to the producers as he didn't think that they were impressed with his work. 

Ridley Scott, never so certain about anything in his life saw a painting that amazed him of a phallic headed demon a phallic headed demon with a strange umbilical penis, almost nearly falling over with surprise. He thought that he would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be but instead in this book he immediately, found his alien monster.

Ridley said to Dan, "Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun." and on the other hand he thought. "If we can do that, that's it"

Dan O'Bannon lit up like a light bulb, shining like quartz iodine.

And so Ridley pushed for Giger saying to them "He's fucking astounding."

Necronom IV

d) Dan's Other Thoughts
Dan was pleased that Ridley Scott was also impressed with Giger's imagery but on the other hand he also thought". Aw phooey! Giger has some much more grotesque stuff in his repertory. That's just sort of man-shaped." and then he decided "What the heck. Giger will give them something better."  

So Dan decided to keep his mouth shut. Exactly what he would have originally preferred for the adult creature remains a slight mystery.

 Source Quotes
  1. Ridley Scott: When you take on a subject like this, after the initial flush of excitement, the problem of what the hell it's going to look like suddenly starts hanging over you like a thundercloud. How do we do the beast in its various forms? One had to see it at some point or other. So I arrived in Hollywood with this misgiving and ended up going through about seven months worth of preproduction drawings without finding anything I really liked. There was the usual blob and clawed creature and all that sort of stuff, which wouldn't have been right even if we'd done them well. I would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud. (Cinescape vol3 #9 , p20 and Dissecting Aliens)
  2. Ridley Scott : When you take on a subject like this, after the initial flush of excitement, the problem of what the hell it's going to look like suddenly starts hanging over you like a thundercloud. How do we do the beast in its various forms? We had a similar problem wth the alien transmission over what it should sound like. We never did sort that one out, and finally we decided to ditch it rather than have something hokey. But of course we couldn't ditch any aspect of the alien - one had to see it at some point or other. So I arrived in Hollywood with this misgiving and ended up going through about seven months worth of pre-production drawings without finding anything I really liked. There was the usual blob and clawed creature and all that sort of stuff, which wouldn't have been right even if we'd done them well. I would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud. I had visions of screwing around with this for months; but as it happened, it worked out very quickly. Just after I got to Hollywood, Dan O'Bannon came in with a copy of Giger's Necronomicon and said, 'What do you think of this?' I started leafing through it until I came to this one half-page painting, and I just stopped and said "Good God, I don't believe it, that's it!" (Cinefex 1, p37)

  3. Ridley Scott : "I had accepted the script in awareness that the creature would pose enormous problems. With very few exceptions, movie monsters have a very rubbery look and are rarely convincing. The first sketches had been traditional representations. The beast with several heads, bulging eyes, the lot. I rejected them all. Then O'Bannon showed me Giger's Necronomicon. I knew at once, without shadow of a doubt, this was what I wanted(Film Illustrated. v9. n99, Nov 1979, "Duelling with Death, The Alien World of Ridley Scott", p103)  
  4. Ridley Scott: "In the few horror films I've seen, with the exception of maybe one or two, the creatures haven't been terribly good. As soon as you accept a script like this, you begin to worry about what you're going to do with "the man in the rubber suit." So the alien became our first priority. We had t make it totally repulsive and yet scary as hell. I looked at sketches of blobs and octopuses and dinosaurs. They were all awful. We could have gone on that way for months. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel, Shusett and O'Bannon showed me H R Giger's Necronomicon, the book by the Swiss Surrealist. On the bottom half of page 65 I found a painting of a demon with a jutting face and long, extended , phallic shaped head. It was the most frightening thing I've ever seen. I knew immediately that here was our creature. The 1976 painting [ Necronom IV] was the basis for the monster [Cinefantastique Vol 9. # 1, p12]
  5. Ridley Scott : It was kind of rather Egyptian panel of a creature who looked part humanoid but defintely an alien, I was so just knocked out by the whole elegance. It was a very disturbing image. (Alien Saga Documentary)
  6. Ron Shusett: As soon as Ridley saw Giger's work , he said "That's it, that the alien"
    He came to our apartment, our beaten down apartment. Dan lived on my couch, My wife  was supporting us. We showed him, we said "Giger should design, but Fox won't let us."
    (Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD)  
  7. Ridley Scott: Dan O'Bannon came in with a copy of H.R. Giger's Necronomicon and said, 'What do you think of this?' I nearly fell over, I started leafing through it until I came to this one half-page painting and I just stopped and said, 'Good God, 1 don't believe it. That's it.' I'd never been so certain about anything in my life. I thought we would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be. Looking at the painting, I thought, 'If we can do that, that's it.' (Cinescape vol3 #9 , p20-21,and Dissecting Aliens) 
  8.  Scanlon & Gross: Reenter H.R.Giger, Alien was gradually moving toward its shooting schedule and there was still no acceptable monster. One sketch proposal looked sort of like an octopus, another like a small dinosaur. One artist brought in a model that Gordon Carroll says looked like a "Christmas turkey"

    So O'Bannon , remembering those inspirational days on a sofa back in Los Angeles, with Giger always in the back of his mind, paid a visit to Ridley Scott.
    "Dan came in," Scott recalls, " with this book I'd never seen before, opened it up and said, 'What do you think of this?' I looked down and saw this stunning picture.... this remarkable drawing. I think it's one of the best that Giger has ever done. I have never been so sure of something in all my life." What Scott saw was a picture from a Giger collection called Necronomicon, a picture that might well be described as Alien's second cousin. " And I said to Dan, 'Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun.'" (Book of Alien, Scanlon & Gross) 
  9. Ridley Scott: "The biggest problem, of course, was : What's the alien going to look like? I mean, you could screw around for two years trying to come up with something that wasn't at all nobs and bobs and bumps and claws, or like a hug blob you know? When I went into for the first meeting, they had the book there by HR Giger, The Necronomicon. I took one look at it, and I've never been so sure of anything in my life. I was convinced I'd have to had him on the film." (Starlog, September 1979, p21)  
  10. Ridley Scott: In fact O'Bannon walked in one day with Giger's book The Necronomicon hidden under his coat, and produced it like it was a dirty post card saying "What do you think?". He had a sort of a gleam in his eye. (Questar number 5, Nov 79, p22)
  11. Ridley Scott: He brought in a book by the Swiss artist H.R.Giger. It's called Necronomicon. O'Bannon produced this book out of nowhere, like it was a dirty magazine. He wasn't quite sure about it. Didn't know what people would think when he showed it to me. It was a covert operation.

    FF: What was your reaction ?

    Ridley Scott: I nearly fell over. I'd never been so certain about anything in my life. I tell you, I'd thought  we would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be. I thought "If we can build this, that's it." I was stunned, really. I flipped. Literally flipped. And O'Bannon  lit up like a light bulb, shining like quartz iodine (Fantastic Films US#12, GB # 2, p14)
  12. Dan O'Bannon: The book had just been published and Giger sent me the first one off the press. The text was in German and it was hand bound. I was really flattered. I didn't realize until later that the reason he'd sent it to me was because he wanted me to use it on the producers. He didn't think they were sufficiently impressed with his work. I thought the book was brilliant - the man had a real knack for coming up with disturbing imagery. So I was pleased that Ridley liked it. But when he found that thing with a big long penis for a head I kind of thought: "Aw phooey! Giger has some much more grotesque stuff in his repertory. That's just sort of man-shaped." But then I figured 'What the heck. Giger will give them something better.' so I decided to keep my mouth shut. (Cinefex 1 , p37-39)
  13. Dan O'Bannon: I'd been working on the visual for months. I had Chris Foss and Ron Cobb do hundreds of drawings. I didn't think much of their aliens. I was trying to get Fox to hire Giger, who I'd met in Paris. They were like, What's his previous production credits? Who the hell is he, some wing-ding fine artist from Zurich? One day Ridley came in with this book of Francis Bacon paintings - I'm sure Fox would've had the same reaction to him, I handed him some Giger. (Neon, December 1997, p118)
  14. Ron Shusett(11:06): We then showed Ridley, Giger's designs from the sketches, and also his books of his artwork (Alien Legacy: Starbeast, documentary)
  15. Famous Monsters: There seem to be pieces of your previous work used in the designs of Alien.
    Giger: I don't know, I'm not sure. I mean, Dan O'Bannon had my book after he finished the story and just before Ridley Scott got involved in the project.  I gave him my first copy. It was a French edition, hand-bound, and it really was the thing that secured my involvement with the project. As soon as Ridley saw it, he said "That's it! I need this man" (Famous Monsters #158, p29)
  16. Ridley Scott: Artist H.R. Giger helped create the creature. The studio had turned him down because his designs were way too extreme, even obscene. But I said, "He's fucking astounding."(www.hollywoodreporter.com)
  17. Interview:What did you see in him?

    David Giler: Eye for detail. The kind of, we felt that this was a simple enough story and that if you had good enough actors and it was really about how good could somebody make the monster look, the effects look, could they make it believable? By this time we had seen Geiger’s stuff, we’d seen the book The Necronomicon, and I hope that’s the way you pronounce it, and so we wanted somebody that could actually do this. And if you look at The Dualist, I mean the movie’s beautiful but there’s a kind of painstaking attention to detail and inserts and shots that just, and, the stuff that he did, everything looked great and it looked convincing and realistic. And real. So that’s why I thought Ridley would be good for this. (report from interview for Alien Evolution)