Sandy had known of Ridley for some time, was aware of his Bauhaus style furniture company and some of his furniture was in his apartment in London, that he worked at the BBC as an art director and that he was one of the world's most successful directors of commercials
David Giler had seen The Duellists at Cannes that year and talked to Sandy Lieberson who was also there he had been impressed by this low budget movie based on a little known Joseph Conrad short story.
What Giler saw in The Duellists was the fact that the movie was beautiful but there was also a kind of painstaking attention to detail with inserts and shots that impressed him and everything looked great, convincing and realm .
However there was the fact that the Duellists wasn't commercially successful, but still this film was good enough to make him want Ridley for Alien and so he and Lieberson talked about the possibility
The movie's 39-year-old British director, Ridley Scott, had previously directed television commercials.
Gordon Carroll and Walter Hill had also screened the picture and we stunned by his control of the picture, mounting of the film and how extraordinary it was with lots of depths and richness.
The idea was to present Ridley as a candidate.
Sandy then called Alan Ladd, he said to him "Listen, there is a director here, I know him very well, Ridley Scott, he's done one film The Duellist, it looked fantastic, it didn't have any commercial success, got sort of mediocre to bad reviews to a couple of good reviews but I've got an instinct about this guy, I know him and he comes from production design art direction, BBC, commercials"
Within a day, Alan Ladd and the others obtained a print from Paramount Pictures so that they could view "The Duellists." Sandy had it sent along with Ridley's reel.
Alan liked Ridley's camera work and his ability to design and construct sets.
After the screening Alan Ladd said "Fine, we'll take a chance with Ridley Scott, we'll make it with him".
b) Ridley's urge to change directoon
Ridley had been involved in a deal with Paramount where he was about to make his film Tristan And Iseult but it had stalled'
The writer had dropped out and Ridley feared that he wasn't going to see it take flight, saying "I can't see myself doing another nine months without filming, I have to film!"
|Ridley in 1978|
c) The script out of the blue
After what seemed like six weeks after seeing Star Wars, Ridley Scott and Ivor Powell were in the little tiny offices in Ridley's place in Lexington Street in Soho, over about three floors and the script came in out of the blue or rather it came through his English agent called Harry.
Ivor could see that it was science fiction with a title like Alien, he thought that he was the one who would know more about Science Fiction since Ridley was the sort of person to pooh-pooh nearly every science fiction film there was apart from The Day The Earth Stood Still, and of course there was 2001 A Space Odyssey which had been Ridley's personal, and now in 1977, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars.
It was as if the two of them had wrestled over it, as if they were saying "me first", "me first", "me first" but Ridley finaly say "No, I'm going to read it first, it's been offered to me" and these were his his winning words before he went into the other room of their office with two adjoining rooms.
His reading time was considered absolutely sacred and God forbid anyone who disturbed him.
Once he's turned the page of whatever he's reading, he's locked into it and he will read it and Ivor had to sit for near a period of time that would stretch over the years in reports from forty minutes to an hour and a half going by Ridley's memory while he sat in the room next door reading it, screaming out "Oh my god, Oh my god", "Fucking Hell" or "Oh Fuck Me!" as he came to certain bits and Ivor would be saying out "Right. Hurry up Ridley. Give it to me!"
What Ivor thought that he recalled about the script was that it was written in a very visceral manner with moments such as somebody opens the airlock door and revealing the Alien which promptly gets hold of his head rips it off and then scuttles across the ceiling and disappears into some store room.
Obviously as Ridley read it, he loved it and he obviously having his own kind of potential take on it.
It was certainly a script that really hit him between the eyeballs and he thought it was amazing.
d) Ridley reads the script
Version one of the story, (according to a Starlog interview) Ridley had read the Alien script around Christmas 1977 and would come to shelve it due to commitments to another project Tristan and Iseult and would be in Hollywood two weeks after finally saying yes to Alien,
Version two of the story was that he came to read the script one morning and he was off Hollywood within about twenty four hours.
How it is that two different stories could be told like tears apart any ability to work out what happened where and when but the second one seemed to be the one that Ridley would continue to recall, but still Christmas might be a significant in terms of the timeline. Perhaps on might assume that Ridley changed his story to sell the idea of a sudden reaction to the script rather than delay.
Once they got Ridley to agree to direct the film, then Alan Ladd and his group decided that "Alien" didn't need major stars.
The money could be better spent on perfecting special effects and sets than on big salaries.
An $8 million budget was planned, a date to begin filming was set, and Ridley began constructing sets.
Filming would be in London because creation of special effects and sets figured to be cheaper then.
Going back to the much more well known version of the story, by lunch time he had decided that he was going to make it.
At 5pm in London, it was first also first light in California.
He called his agent Harry and then he talked to Sandy Lieberson who originally sent the script.
He said "I want to do this"
The reply was "you do?"
Ridley's response was "Yeah, Absolutely"
e) Ridley's thoughts on the script
What Ridley liked about it was that it was very direct and linear, a nicely structured B movie, absolutely pure, there was no fat, so it was a really lean piece of material.
Having read it in what seemed like forty minutes, he sensed it would play even faster than it read.
He had seen The Exorcist where the big idea was the possession of the body by the devil and that was a first, so Alien was also a bit of a first as well, outrageous in its idea and story, with the possession of a body by something like a massive insect that will lay eggs in you and create other insects, so that was remarkable!
With his background as an illustrator and art student, Ridley had been examining science fiction by reading comic strips such as Metal Hurlant featuring the works of artists such as Jean Giraud also known as Moebius with his illustrator eye.
- Ridley Scott: Almost three years ago, I was shown the reworked Dan O'Bannon script. At the time I was at a standstill with TRISTAN AND ISEULT, an Arthurian tale about knights and sorcery. So I was looking for something. I was immediately attracted to Alien for the same reasons I was attracted to Joseph Conrad's novella, The Duellists. It was so simple, so linear, absolutely pure, an idea with no fat. The script was short and very specific - an unbelievably violent. It took me less than forty five minutes to read. That really impressed me. I sensed that it would play even faster than it read. What little science fiction I'd seen had been too similar. 2001 was my personal revelation and I began to speculate on what else could be done in space. The came Star Wars and Close Encounters of The Third Kind, and I realised the tremendous quality that was possible in making these films stand head and shoulders above the usual quickie space flick or horror movie. I saw something new in Alien. I was attracted to the theory of over-powering industrial influence, the conglomerate mass control, the Big Brother syndrome. Most of all, though, it was the thrilling aspect of the unseen, inescapable force of evil. (Cinefantastique vol 9: issue 1)
- Ivor Powell: I seem to remember it started, Ridley had offices in erm, Lexington street, which is where his sort of commercial operated out of and then er, this was over like three floors, and then one day through the door, courtesy of, he never gets enough credit for it, Sandy Lieberson, who was head of Fox in Europe, and he had seen the Duellists and was an admirer of it and Fox had got this picture that had been in development for quite some time, called Alien, and thought chemistry-wise it would be quite interesting to put that script, which i think at the time sort of pretty full on kind of horror, and to put it with the director who had done the Duellists, you know, it was a slight tussle with it because well, I'm, I can just this, I sort of said, I'm the, I know about science fiction and all that and I'd often showed Ridley these science fiction movies and he'd looked at them and said "what a pile of crap that was", you know all my favourite sort of movies, I think the Day the Earth Stood still he quite liked, erm, and anyway, he, he won the tussle and he went into this office, we had two little sort of adjoining rooms, and erm I remember sort of sitting there thinking, right I want to read that, i want to read it, and I was listening to him reading it, and I hear every now and again,, I hear, "FUCKing Hell!" like that as he, as he was reading it, Oh Fuck Me, and everything like that and I was saying right , hurry up Ridley, give it to me. Anyway this was every time, because the way it was originally written was very kind of visceral, like, er, you know, somebody opens the airlock door and revealing the Alien which promptly gets hold of his head rips it off and then scuttles across the cieling and disappears into some store room and thing, and erm, anyway he, he read it and he loved it and he obviously had his own kind of potential take on it and so we ended up doing, the next movie was The Alien. We knew really there wasn't going to be enough. (Alien Makers 2, documentary)
- Ridley: Someone had seen The Duellists at Cannes which got a prize, at Cannes, and er out of the blue came this offer, I think it must have been about, within about six months actually, and I read the script, and I think within twenty six hours I was standing within Hollywood. I read the script, so I'll do it. They said , you will, I said, yuh, so I was flown out. So I suddenly started to feel the Hollywood machine kicking in. (Direction and Design : The Making of Alien)
- FF: When did you first become aware of Alien?
Fantastic Film: While I was developing Tristan and Iseult, I was receiving tons of screenplays. I always read everything myself. You can't employ a reader. You've got to go through the chore of reading the book, the screenplay, whatever. I read one thing called Alien and I thought "Jesus Christ!" It was so simple, so linear that no one could have spotted it for me. This is why you must read it yourself. I think, honestly, even with a Walter Hill screenplay, the normal director with a TV or theater background would have ditched it. But it hit me between the eyeballs. I thought it was amazing (Fantastic Film #11, p13-14)
- Ridley Scott: Out of the blue this script arrived from some producers that had seen the film, The Duellist in Cannes. So you put that association together, I had made the Duellist and somebody said what about science fiction. So I got the script., it came through my then English agent Tim Corry or was it Harry, I don't know but anyway... I got the script that morning and I read it in 1 hour and 10 minutes flat out. And decided by lunch-time that I was going to make it. First light in California I called them, at 5 o'clock London time to... directly. I forget who I called.. Harry was probably with me and I called Harry and said that I wanted to do do this and he said "You do?" and I said absolutely. The material was very direct, there was no fat, it was a really lean piece of material. And I think its fair to say that it was likely a nicely structured B movie. It was a B movie and I think because I had been examining , you know I started to examine Science Fiction, mainly through comic strip, good comic strip artists like heavy metal, metal Hurlant? the heavy metal comics and because I was an illustrator and you know, art student, I would examine the illustrations carefully and enjoy the illustrations and I figured that I knew what to do with science fiction, so I said yes (Alien Legacy Starbeast)
- Ivor Powell (7:34): And we were in little tiny offices in Ridley's place in Soho, and er, the script came in and as it was science fiction with a title like Alien, I remember that the two of us wrestled with it, so that you know, it was a me first, me first, me first thing, but anyway Ridley won, so I had to sit for an hour and a half while er Ridley sat in the next room reading it, screaming out, Oh my god, Oh my god as he came to certain bits in it, anyway, it was a good fast fantastic read. (Alien Legacy Starbeast)
- Starlog: But at the time, Scott was at work on another
project, a "post-holocaust treatment of the story of Tristan and
Isolde, and had to shelve Alien. He assumed he would not do it at all.
That was November 1977.
"About Christmas time I had quite a problem with the Tristan thing. The writer dropped out. I thought: I've got to do something, got to do a film. So I called up Fox and asked what had happened with the Alien script. They said nothing was happening with it, and I said I'd like to do it. And I was standing here in Los Angeles about two weeks later." (Starlog September 1979)
- Ridley: l read the script and l think within 26 hours l was standing in Hollywood. l said ''l'll do it.'' They said ''You will?'' l said ''Yeah'', so l was flown out. (ALien Quadrilogy Documentary
- 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. (Alien Evolution documentary)
- Ridley Scott: Lo and
behold, six weeks later this script arrived that I’ve just described.
Interviewer: Ivor Powell said he could hear you in the next room reading the script.
Ridley Scott: yeah it was…it was like…and particularly when the…the rhythm…the dynamics were right on the page and I couldn’t really understand how anyone would miss it. Which is think means that a lot of people read things half, you know, you can’t read a script seven minutes, put it down, come back this afternoon, read another 20 minutes, put it down. You can’t do that. My read time is absolutely sacred. God forbid anybody who disturbs me. Once I’ve turned the page, that’s a lock and I’m in for what it takes. Normally it takes, you know, a normal script, 2 hours, 2 and a half hours. But the read is everything and so yeah, undisturbed I read it and I knew I was going to do the film. I said that’s it, I’m doing this movie. So…(as known to be said in the interview for the Alien Evolution documentary)
- Ivor Powell: he just kind of saw the light there, and though that wasn't the seed of Alien, what happened was that after the success of The Duellists , erm, I think he had some fan Sandy Lieberson who was then head of Twentieth Century Fox in England, erm, sort of basically passed him this script that had been going 'round Hollywood with various directors and kind of happened... hadn't happened... and erm.. Ridley and I had a little tussle with the script because it was scifi and I thought well I should read it first, but no, he said "No, I'm going to read it first, it's been offered to me", so anyway, so he shut himself in an office next door, our offices in Lexington Street in Soho, and all I could hear was "Fuck me!" every time he used to get to one of the various scenes in the original script which changed quite a bit, So anyway, and I read it, you know, the rest is history, I mean he, he , he saw it, he saw the, he saw the potential in it and did it his own way and voila, that's my story (Q&A at Genesis Cinema August 23rd 2014)
- Sandy Lieberson: And, erm, I'd known, erm, Ridley Scott for ah, many years and I got to London, he was an art director with the BBC, he had designed furniture, he had it ... at the apartment that I had and he was extremely successful in making TV commercials, erm, and he had made one film which was not, erm, successful and completely forgotten, and so I proposed him to, um, Fox and they took a look at his commercials and based on my information, they decided to go ahead with him as director of the film, um, and the rest is history. (FICVIÑA 2012 · PRESENTACION SANDY LIEBERSON _ PARTE 4, youtube.com)
- Sandy Lieberson: I'd known Ridley Scott for a number of years, er, I knew he
worked at the BBC, he was an art director there and he had a company
that made sort of Bauhaus type furniture. he exhibited some of the
furniture at my apartment in in London and erm and he made a film called
The Duellists, and it wasn't a successful film, they weren't
particularly good reviews but there was something really stunning about
the movie that I liked and so I thought, okay. I got his commercials
reel together. He was one of the most successful commercials directors
in the world
I got the Duellist, and I sent the package to Los Angeles for Alan Ladd and the other executives to see, and surprisingly they said "Okay. Fine, we can do it with Ridley Scott", and so that's the way the film got made. (Sandy Lierberson in Master Class ESPACI J&B, youtube.com)
- David Giler: I saw the Duellists at Cannes and talked to Sandy Lieberson who knew Ridley pretty well and was, Sandy was head of Fox in Europe and we kind of presented him as a candidate (Direction and Design : The Making of Alien, documentary)
- Gordon Carroll: Walter Hill and I went to screen the picture that he had done, and er The Duellists, we were absolutely stunned by his control of the picture, his mounting of the film, it really is an extraordinary film, lots of depths, richness. (Direction and Design : The Making of Alien, documentary)
- Interviewer: How did you find a director?
David Giler: Well, we talked to various people, we talked - I happened to have gone to the Cannes Film Festival that year and that was the year that The Duellists won Best Film or something like that, I can’t remember. And I saw The Duellists at Cannes and Sandy Lieberson who was head of Fox in Europe was also there and we started to talk about Ridley to do this. An idea which took off. (report from interview for Alien Evolution documentary)
- Sandy Lieberson: ... and I called Ladd, I said "Listen, there is a director here, I know him very well, Ridley Scott, he's done one film The Duellist, it looked fantastic," it wasn't... it didn't have any commercial success, got sort of mediocre to bad reviews to a couple of good reviews but I said I've got an instinct about this guy, I know him and he comes from production design art direction, BBC, commercials, etcetera, sent his Duellists out to LA, sent his reel out to LA, got into discussions with his agent and Ladd said Fine, we'll take a chance with Ridley Scott, we'll make it with him, And the rest is the movie, that's the origins of it, that's how it happened actually. (Alien Makers 2, documentary)
- Mr Hill had gone off to direct another movie and wasn't available, other directors also turned Mr Ladd down. The a London based Fox representative remembered how he had been impressed by a low budget film called "The Duellists," based on a little known Joseph Conrad short story. The movie's 39-year-old British director, Ridley Scott, had previously directed television commercials. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Ridley Scott: Then, somebody sent me this script called Alien. I said, wow. I’ll do it. I was the fifth choice. They’d been to people like Robert Altman. How could you offer Robert that movie? He’d be like, this thing comes out of his chest, are you kidding? But I knew what to do. I read it and said, I’ll do it! I’d been in Hollywood 22 hours. They said, ‘do you want to change anything?’ Nope. ‘Do you…?’ Nope. I love it. I love it. I’m in. (http://deadline.com/2015/09/ridley-scott-the-martian-star-wars-2001-alien-blade-runner-prometheus-toronto-film-festival-1201522484/)
- Ridley Scott: And suddenly, out of the blue, came this script called Alien, and I'm still, to this day, baffled about how someone who is at Cannes seeing The Duellists had put two and two together and said, ‘You know what? You might want to meet this guy, because he may be the right one for Alien.’ That’s how it happened.” (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/alien-ridley-scott-reveals-how-iconic-scene-went-wrong-1213109)
- Ridley Scott: My feeling was that you’ve got to get the monster right,. The big idea in The Exorcist was
the possession of the body by the devil. That's a first. And since
then, there's been 19,000 versions of that thing. And so I read Alien as
a bit of a first. It was so outrageous in its idea and story —
possession of a body by a massive insect that will lay eggs in you and
create other insects. It was remarkable. (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/alien-ridley-scott-reveals-how-iconic-scene-went-wrong-1213109)