a) Pitching an Alien TV series for FX TV
Rumours came about the creation of an Alien televisions series around the end of 2018 before news soon came about in 2019 that Noah Hawley pitched the series for FX TV
His idea was that on some level, Alien was the complete opposite of Star Trek, near enough about humanity at its worst
He thought about the time that Sigourney Weaver as Ripley says, ‘I don’t know which species is worse. At least they don’t screw each other over for a percentage.’
So he thought about how the alien life form tended to be in a story about being trapped: trapped in a ship, trapped in a prison, etc.
With that the Alien has this life cycle, where it goes from egg, to chestburster, to xenomorph, and there becomes a certain routine to it.
He thought that it would be interesting if that world could be expanded, especially if it was going to be a ten hour television series.
If there was two hours of action, then there was still going to be eight hours left. At the pitching, he tried to tell them what the show was about.
His idea was to take the alien out of the show, and then find out what was the show about? What are the themes, who are the characters, and what is the human drama? Then the aliens would be dropped back in so that they could say "This is great. Not only is there great human drama, but there’s aliens!’"
What appeared to have happened was that Fox executive Emma Watts was said to have shot down the pitch and it has also been said that Fox head Stacey Snider also was responsible for turning down the idea
- Noah Hawley is one of the most interesting and respected filmmakers
working today. Sure, he didn’t have the best of luck with his debut
feature, “Lucy in the Sky,” but his work on TV is pretty much
second-to-none, as “Fargo” continues to impress. But that doesn’t mean
he just is able to get every project he wants greenlit by studios. In
fact, as discussed in a new Observer interview, he had a pitch for
“Alien” that isn’t likely going to get made, as it will join the ranks
of his unproduced “Star Trek” feature. And as you might expect, Ridley
Scott’s sci-fi/horror franchise is very different than “Star Trek.”
“‘Alien’ is on some level the complete opposite of ‘Stark Trek,’” Hawley explained. “It’s sort of about humanity at its worst. There’s this moment in the second film when Sigourney says, ‘I don’t know which species is worse. At least they don’t screw each other over for a percentage.’ If you look at what Aliens tends to be, it’s usually a trapped story – trapped in a ship, trapped in a prison, etc. And because the Alien has this life cycle to it, where it goes from egg, to chestburster, to xenomorph, there becomes a certain routine to it.”
So, with the “Alien” franchise being so different than “Star Trek,” how did Hawley approach this unique style of sci-fi franchise?
“I thought it would be interesting if you could expand,” he said. “If you’re going to make something for television, you’ve got 10 hours let’s say. Even if you have a lot of action, like two hours, then you’re still going to have eight hours left. So what is the show about? That’s what I tried to talk to them about.”
Hawley continued, “As I did with ‘Legion,’ the exercise is: Let’s take the superhero stuff out of the show and see if it’s still a great show. What’s the show about? Let’s take the Alien out of the show. What’s the show about? What are the themes, who are the characters and what is the human drama? Then we drop the aliens back in and we go, ‘This is great. Not only is there great human drama, but there’s aliens!’”
While an “Alien” series without a xenomorph sounds a bit like “Prometheus” (and we all know how badly most fans responded to that), it’s hard to argue with the guy that not only did an ‘X-Men’ show (“Legion”) without superheroes and was able to make the “Fargo” TV series not only work as a concept but actually become one of the best shows around. So, yes, we should give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a proposed “Alien” series.
The only problem is that it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to happen. Much like “Star Trek” on the big screen, no one really knows what to do with “Alien” right now. Maybe that’s for the best. (https://theplaylist.net/noah-hawley-alien-tv-series-20200925/)
- “Watts has long been known as a very strong executive, and several have said she is about the only one there who has been clued in on the Disney plans. Does she have the clout to prevent Fox film properties from being repurposed as TV projects or as streaming projects on Hulu and Disney+ with low budgets and no back-ends? Sources said that in the recent past she fended off an attempt by [Noah] Hawley and FX to take the Aliens franchise and turn it into a miniseries… She did that before the Disney deal, when it was a whole different ballgame.”(https://bloody-disgusting.com/tv/3552491/legion-creator-noah-hawley-fx-wanted-make-alien-miniseries-fox-shot/)
- Collider: Jumping
into another thing, I heard and I could be wrong about this thing, you
had pitched or had an idea for an Alien series. Um, is that true?
Noah Hawley: That I pitched or had an idea for one. Er, you know, a few years ago, FX asked me if that, if that was a thing, would that be a thing for me, erm and we had a conversation about it but it didn't go very far and obviously it doesn't seem to be a thing, Alien for TV , but you know, it's, I mean it's such a great, it's such a great story, those, those, certainly those original two movies, you know, uh, um, are so iconic, but yeah, I don't know, it's not, it's not on my brain right now(https://youtu.be/oqAqmoLAJTA?t=150 Collider, 11th October 2020)
- Deadline: We’ve known for some time that film chief Stacey Snider won’t be part of the Disney future, even though she has been in her office this week. Watts has long been known as a very strong executive, and several have said she is about the only one there who has been clued in on the Disney plans. Does she have the clout to prevent Fox film properties from being repurposed as TV projects or as streaming projects on Hulu and Disney+ with low budgets and no back-ends? Sources said that in the recent past she fended off an attempt by Hawley and FX to take the Aliens franchise and turn it into a miniseries, and when Searchlight once wanted to do something with The Omen, she held fast because who wants to give up your franchises? She did that before the Disney deal, when it was a whole different ballgame. (https://deadline.com/2019/03/fox-film-disney-paul-feig-universal-fox-layoffs-1202579443/)
Christopher Marc for HN Entertainment: Last year I revealed a possible live-action series set in the Alien universe in the very early development stages and could be heading towards a streaming service. Well, it’s been a couple of months and I have some exclusive updates to share.
There isn’t just one live-action Alien series in the works, but two of them.
According to a source, one of them is said to have Ridley Scott as an executive producer and is going to be for Hulu. I would imagine that his production company Scott Free Productions would be involved as they’ve had previous interests in television projects including Ridley’s current project, an android series titled Raised By Wolves for TNT (which is not Alien related and it’s another thing entirely) that is filming in Cape Town, South Africa.
Details are scarce at the moment but there might be multiple seasons that could tackle different corners/eras of the franchise, not unlike Noah Hawley’s series Fargo.
In theory, I could see them possibly filling gaps in the franchise or crafting brand new stories to tell within the Alien universe. It still seems to be the very early days with these projects and I can’t exactly speak to what they’ll be about at the moment.
The Disney-Fox merger is a couple of months away but that wouldn’t stop from Fox developing their own in-house projects. Disney CEO Bob Iger has also suggested in an earnings call recently that they’re open to Fox continuing mature programming/franchises and we’ve already seen Marvel Television launch four mature animated shows on Hulu with M.O.D.O.K., Hit-Monkey, Tigra & Dazzler, and Howard The Duck. There is a very good chance that we could see more mature projects from the Fox side of things take root at Hulu, like this Alien series from Ridley Scott.
After the less than successful box office run of Alien: Covenant it could be enough reason to pivot to television/streaming for the next little while.
When we have more information to share we will certainly update. (https://hnentertainment.co/exclusive-two-live-action-alien-series-are-in-the-works-and-ridley-scott-is-producing-one-at-hulu/ February 13, 2019)
b) Further Discussions
By the 29th of November, 2020, Noah made it known to the Deadline website that the Alien series wasn't something that he had been having a conversation about in the last few weeks, but he was having conversations from time to time and he wasn't committed, but then again he claimed that wasn't going to be someone surprised to see something like this series make its way onto the screen
- DEADLINE: Are you still involved with the Alien reboot TV series? I understand deals are trying to be done.
HAWLEY: I know that there’s an effort to reshuffle a lot of things post-Disney takeover and it was a conversation that I had a couple years back. And I have not in the last few weeks been having those conversations about it. But I know that like any studio that there’s a great desire to make the most of one’s library so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like that.
DEADLINE: But you’re involved in it?
HAWLEY: Ya know, I have conversations from time to time, but I’m not committed.
DEADLINE: And there isn’t a hard conceit to it yet?HAWLEY: No, I haven’t — nothing is at that stage. (https://www.denofgeek.com/tv/alien-tv-series-xenomorph-to-earth/)
c) A sudden announcement
Disney Investor Day came on Thursday , 10th December 2020
An announcement was made by FX chief John Landgraf as part of the Disney Investor Day presentation
He uttered the words "FX is moving quickly to bring audiences the first television series based on one of the greatest science- fiction horror classics ever made: ‘Alien,' Alien’ will be helmed by ‘Fargo’ and ‘Legion’s’ Noah Hawley stepping into the creator/executive producer chair, and FX is in advanced negotiations with Academy Award winner, Sir Ridley Scott—director of the first ‘Alien’ film and the sequel, ‘Alien: Covenant’—to join the project as an Executive Producer. Set not too far into our future, it’s the first ‘Alien’ story set on Earth—and by blending both the timeless horror of the first ‘Alien’ film with the non-stop action of the second, it’s going to be a scary thrill ride that will blow people back in their seats."
Breaking that down, it meant that Hawley would be set to write and executive produce the series under his 26 Keys banner, with “Alien” mastermind Ridley Scott in advanced talks to executive produce via Scott Free.
FX Productions would produce.
John Landgraf said that FX was moving quickly to bring audiences the first television series based on one of the greatest science-fiction horror classics ever made: 'Alien', and that the series would be helmed by Noah Hawley well known for the 'Fargo' and 'Legion’ series, stepping into the creator/executive producer chair,
Also it was mentioned that FX was in advanced negotiations with Sir Ridley Scott to join the project as an Executive Producer.
It was to be set not too far
into our future, it was to be the first ‘Alien’ story set on Earth and by
blending both the timeless horror of the first ‘Alien’ film with the
non-stop action of the second.
It was going to be a scary thrill ride that will blow people back in their seats.
- Variety: The announcement was made Thursday by FX chief John Landgraf as part
of the Disney Investor Day presentation. Hawley will write and executive
produce the series under his 26 Keys banner, with “Alien” mastermind
Ridley Scott in advanced talks to executive produce via Scott Free. FX
Productions will produce. Per Landgraf, the show is “Set not too far
into our future, it’s the first ‘Alien’ story set on Earth.”
“FX is moving quickly to bring audiences the first television series based on one of the greatest science- fiction horror classics ever made: ‘Alien,'” Landgraf said. “‘Alien’ will be helmed by ‘Fargo’ and ‘Legion’s’ Noah Hawley stepping into the creator/executive producer chair, and FX is in advanced negotiations with Academy Award winner, Sir Ridley Scott—director of the first ‘Alien’ film and the sequel, ‘Alien: Covenant’—to join the project as an Executive Producer. Set not too far into our future, it’s the first ‘Alien’ story set on Earth—and by blending both the timeless horror of the first ‘Alien’ film with the non-stop action of the second, it’s going to be a scary thrill ride that will blow people back in their seats.” (https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/alien-series-noah-hawley-ridley-scott-fx-1234850109/)
d.i) Words on how humanity is trapped
If it should have something to do with the character Ripley, he made it clear that here it would have nothing to do with the character. He had the need to say that She was one of the great characters of all time, and that her story has been told pretty perfectly, so he didn't want to mess with it. Having said that, it was in a podcast from the 14th of June that he revealed have payed money to see Neil Blomkamp's Alien V that so far appeared to change the story of Ripley after Aliens
He has written a could of scripts so far and he was planning to make them in the coming spring. He had seen how illuminating it was to see the entire film industry take a year off and they're not trying to jam two years of production into one year, and this meant that it was hard to plan something that could be made within the next six months. At this point everyone was making up for lost time and so he would let the bubble that had developed burst a little.
d.iii) Aliens on the loose
Now he talked about how it would be a story set on Earth. As he mentioned before, usually the Alien stories were always as it were trapped, as in Alien trapped on a spaceship, or in a prison. He thought that it would be interesting to open the universe of Alien up a little bit so that the stakes of “What happens if you can’t contain it?” are more immediate.
d.iv) A story about inequality
On some level, it would be also a story about inequality.
Something that impressed him about the original movie was how it was really a blue collar space-trucker world in which Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton. To him they were basically like Samuel Beckett characters from Waiting for Godot who were ordered to go to a place by a faceless nameless corporation.
He saw how the sequel Aliens was such an ’80s movie, but still it was about grunts and thought that Paul Reiser as Burke was middle management at best. It was the story of the people who were sent to do the dirty work.
In his series, the viewers were going to see the people who are sending them, and what happens when the inequality we’re struggling with in the world of today wasn’t resolved. So he was asking if we as a society can’t figure out how to prop each other up and spread the wealth, then what’s going to happen to us? This would also echo Ripley's "which species is worst" comment to Burke.
Vanity Fair: What’s next for you? Is there a season five in the works for Fargo?
Noah Hawley: Yeah, I think so. I don’t have it yet. I have pieces that will have to survive. They’re not connected. I think it would be good to create an ending, and deliberately come to something, knowing it’s the last one and see how one might wrap up this anthology. What’s next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher. Those are great monster movies, but they’re not just monster movies. They’re about humanity trapped between our primordial, parasitic past and our artificial intelligence future—and they’re both trying to kill us. Here you have human beings and they can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So I find that really interesting.
Where are you in that process?
Noah Hawley: I’ve written a couple of scripts, the first two scripts, and we’re looking to make them next spring. When you get to something with this level of visual effects, there’s a lot of preparation that has to go into it. What’s been really illuminating is to see that the entire film industry had to take a year off and they are now trying to jam two years of production into one year. So it’s very hard to look on the planet earth and see where you might make something in the next six months. Everyone is racing to make up for lost time. So, I figure let that bubble burst a little bit and we’ll do it right.
Is there anything else you can share about it? Is it part of the Ripley story, or will it be original characters in a different time and place?
Noah Hawley:It’s not a Ripley story. She’s one of the great characters of all time, and I think the story has been told pretty perfectly, and I don’t want to mess with it. It’s a story that’s set on Earth also. The alien stories are always trapped… Trapped in a prison, trapped in a space ship. I thought it would be interesting to open it up a little bit so that the stakes of “What happens if you can’t contain it?” are more immediate.
Vanity Fair: Deadly things that can’t be contained and the whole world at risk? Sounds relevant to the past year.
Noah Hawley: On some level it’s also a story about inequality. You know, one of the things that I love about the first movie is how ’70s a movie it is, and how it’s really this blue collar space-trucker world in which Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton are basically Waiting for Godot. They’re like Samuel Beckett characters, ordered to go to a place by a faceless nameless corporation. The second movie is such an ’80s movie, but it’s still about grunts. Paul Reiser is middle management at best. So, it is the story of the people you send to do the dirty work.
Vanity Fair: How does that relate to your series?
Noah Hawley: In mine, you’re also going to see the people who are sending them. So you will see what happens when the inequality we’re struggling with now isn’t resolved. If we as a society can’t figure out how to prop each other up and spread the wealth, then what’s going to happen to us? There’s that great Sigourney Weaver line to Paul Reiser where she says, “I don’t know which species is worse. At least they don’t fuck each other over for a percentage.”(July 1st 2021 https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/07/alien-tv-series-noah-hawley)
- Pete Hammond: Are you involved in Aliens, bringing that into this kind of format (TV)
Noah Hawley: Yeah, that's a project that that came to me through FX as you know erm in, in the new, new Disney er shakeup. erm where the 'IDP' (?) goes erm and it's something that I was interested in when they, when they told me about it but you know, for better or worse which happens to me, when people say "But what about Aliens?" and I think "oh yeah, that's interesting," and then I think you could do this or you could do that, erm, and erm, so yes, we're still in early stages of of talking about it but erm you know it's it's such a, such a great world and and one of the seminal monsters , you know of film history that that, you know it's been interesting to ro play around with and see what I can do with it
Pete Hammond: Yeah, and when you think of those films and who's been involved, Ridley Scott and James Cameron, and others, You know I can't wait to see what Noah Hawley will do you know having that handed to you and like in a sandbox there over at Disney/Fox or whatever the whole conglomerate it
Noah Hawley: Yeah, you know that for five minutes, Neil Blomkamp was going to make an Alien movie, I would have payed to see that, that would be cool
Pete Hammond: Totally, totally (June 14th 2021 https://deadline.com/video/noah-hawley-fargo-interview-behind-the-lens/)
Meanwhile Noah wanted to described it as Edison versus Westinghouse versus Tesla when it was a question about who was going to monopolize electricity and there was the question about which one it was
So what if there are other companies trying to look at immortality in a different way, with cyborg enhancements or transhuman downloads, and which of those technologies is going to win. This ultimately becomes a classic science fiction about whether humanity deserves to survive.
Landgraf spoke of thinking forwards about the future of the planet in terms of environment, governance, technology and with that the creation and design of a version of the planet in the future
- Esquire: FX's John Landgraf described your upcoming Alien spin-off as “a beast,” and “a really big world-building exercise” for you. What can you tell us about how the world-building exercise is going?
Noah Hawley: It's going great. It's going slowly, unfortunately, given the scale of it. I've made a certain business out of reinvention. Alien is a fascinating story because it's not just a monster movie; it’s about how we're trapped between the primordial past and the artificial intelligence of our future, where both trying to kill us. It’s set on Earth of the future. At this moment, I describe that as Edison versus Westinghouse versus Tesla. Someone’s going to monopolize electricity. We just don't know which one it is.
In the movies, we have this Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which is clearly also developing artificial intelligence—but what if there are other companies trying to look at immortality in a different way, with cyborg enhancements or transhuman downloads? Which of those technologies is going to win? It’s ultimately a classic science fiction question: does humanity deserve to survive? As Sigourney Weaver said in that second movie, “I don't know which species is worse. At least they don't fuck each other over for a percentage.” Even if the show was 60% of the best horror action on the planet, there's still 40% where we have to ask, “What are we talking about it, beneath it all?” Thematically, it has to be interesting. It’s humbling to get to play with the iconography of this world. (https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/books/a38591125/noah-hawley-anthem-alien-fargo-interview/ Noah Hawley Is Venturing Into the Absurd With Anthem, Esquire by )
- As for the Alien storyline, Landgraf expressed a mix of
previously revealed and new thoughts about the project and confirmed the
story will not feature any characters from the franchise’s movie,
including Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).
"Alien takes place before Ripley,” he said. “It’s the first story in the Alien franchise that takes place on Earth. It takes place on our planet, near the end of this century we’re currently in — 70-odd years from now."
“All I can tell you is Ripley won’t be a part of it, and neither will any other characters — other than the alien itself,” he added. “Noah has an incredible ability to both find a way of being faithful and showing fidelity to an original creation, like to the Coen brothers [with Fargo] or to Ridley Scott’s movie and James Cameron’s follow-up Aliens, but also to bring something new that represents both an extension and reinvention of a franchise at the same time. He’s done a masterful job with Alien as he did with Fargo. There are some big surprises in store for the audience."
“I hope they will feel like it’s faithful to the franchise they love but also a brave and original reinvention of that franchise,” he continued. “Setting it on Earth is really interesting. We have to think forward about the future of the planet in terms of the environment, governance, technology and create and design a version of the planet in the future … Noah wants to do that in a distinctive and original way.” (Hollywood Reporter FX Gives New Details on ‘Alien’ TV Series, Teases “Big Surprises” February 17, 2022)
In March it was revealed that Noah uttered a few words to SFX magazine about found that there was a certain amount of creative space for new stories. Of course it's known there's a Weyland-Yutani corporation and there are the alien life forms of the Alien series. But he hoped that his series would answer the question about how humanity has spread through the universe.
- It will be fascinating to see what he brings to his new TV project, a series based on the Alien franchise. It's going well, he says, in part because there's plenty of creative space for new stories. "We know there's a Weyland-Yutani Corporation." he says" We know there are these creatures. You don't really know anything about, y'know, has humanity has spread throughout the universe?" The series, he suggests, may provide some answers. We can probably expect the idea of humanity creating its own AI monsters, too. (SFX Magazine, April 2022 )