a) Challenges in the job market
Peter Briggs was working in film companies as a runner and worked his way up becoming a cameraman, and got his union card.
Peter had been writing scripts for years and he thought to himself "Let's see if I can get some representation, get my career back on track."
Peter printed out copies of his screenplays that he had been writing at the copy shop to take around. He had a list of agents, and so with that he had a couple of rejections from small agencies.
He was living in an apartment in north London at the time and one morning with the usual junk mail were two brown envelopes, one was from ICM and the other from William Morris.
He opened the ICM and it said "Hey, could you give our office a call, we'd like to talk to you about representation," and then he opened the second envelope which said the same same thing. He had gone from getting rejections from small agencies to the biggest agencies in the world wanting to talk to him about representation. He went to ICM and the Irish man there gave a good talk, and then went to William Morris to meet Steve Kenis who was a big brash man from Chicago with a cigar who seemed like an average Hollywood producer out of the 1950s, but he was slightly afraid of him and went for the offer from ICM finding himself spending a year with them.
Paramount created Paramount UK as a company to develop material so perhaps they wouldn't face the problems of a writers strike which was something that starting to happen and that meant they had a way of approaching writers outside of the guild. Peter's agent at ICM put him there and so he developed science fiction material.
He was suggesting William Gibson's stuff, but everything was being rejected. They didn't want to do anything that he came up with.
His boss was a woman named Eileen Maisel, and she didn't seem to understand science fiction material.
He brought her comics like 2000AD which has stories such as Strontium Dog, and these were the things that he grew up with in his childhood that he thought would make good movies. He even brought her Rocketeer but she revealed him that Disney had already gone into production with it. He was a big fan of William Gibson, so he brought in Neuromancer and so on
The crunch came when he suggested Starship Troopers and she responded "Aah, nobody wants to see an old 50s Heinlein crap"
His reply was "Look, it's a fucking classic! Somebody is going to do this"
The next week Tristar bought it from Paul Verhoeven and he had spent the best part of a year at this point working at Paramount.
So he thought that he was spinning his heels at the place going nowhere and he thought to get further on his track "Right, I've got to write myself a decent enough sample to get a re-write or something with Joel Silver, to this this into high gear"
|Megacity Comics in Camden
c.i) Visiting Megacity Comics
One rainy Saturday afternoon in Camden Town in North London, he visited the Megacity comic store named after the vast megalopolis Megacity One featured in the Judge Dredd stories in 2000AD there on the end cap was a comic with the Alien fighting the Predator on the cover.
He looked at it because these were two of his favourite things
|Dark Horse Presents #36, published February 01, 1990 (cover by Chris Warner)
c.ii) Which comic book?
It might well have been a copy of Dark Horse Presents #36 published in February of 1990 .
Looking back at the matter during the Best Movies Never Made podcast in 2021, if it wasn't Dark Horse Present #36, it might have been Dark Horse's Alien
Vs Predator # 0 or even #1
Later in November that year when presented with both of the Dark Horse Presents #36 covers, he was familiar with the Dave Dorman cover but it seemed that he missed them and bought them later on for completists sake
Something to be said about this comic series was that in #34 they had an Aliens story, then in #35 they had a Predator. When #36 came out, the two were suddenly brought together
Outside of the comic book shop it had just started to rain outside.
|The World's End Pub in Camden
c.ii) Running across to World's End pub
He ran across with his plastic bag of comics into The World's End pub was right across from the tube station.
He bought a Guinness and sat down to read Alien vs Predator, and thought "you know, that's pretty good"
Then the issues started to come over the course of the next few months and the more he looked at this, the more he thought "you know, if I was going to write this as a writing sample, it would be the thing that might get me in with Joel Silver say for a rewrite" since Joel Silver was huge at the time.
|A pint of Guinness
Then he wrote his Alien vs Predator script on an Amstrad computer in a
six week period in 1991, finishing in September, to basically get out
of a development grind at Paramount UK, in a desperate hope that he
could use it as a sample to land a rewrite gig with someone like Joel
He wrote it, finished it and it was possibly just as the last comic book in the series came out.
He thought that the comic book was great and faultless, and it showed that Dark Horse put thought into it.
He was also a fan of Phil Norwood's art, who did the original artwork for the comic book.
|Alien vs Predator #0 , Published June 1990. Cover by Mike Mignola
|Alien vs Predator #1, Published July 1990. Cover by Phill Norwood
- Mr. D: What is your relationship with ‘Alien vs Predator’ for anyone who doesn’t know?
Peter Briggs: Okay. As you’re twisting my arm, let’s pull the corpse out of hypersleep and whack it over the head again…! Well, I wrote that first draft in a 6 week period in 1991, basically to get out of a development grind at Paramount UK that was driving me nuts, in the desperate hope that I could use it as a sample to land a rewrite gig with someone like Joel Silver. Weirdly, I sold it overnight instead to 20th Century Fox, and it set the project along its tortured path. If Joe Roth had stayed at Fox, we could have been spared “Alien Resurrection”, and my draft might have happened. Though it would have cost a whole helluva lot more to make than Paul Anderson’s….er, tale. Probably a 100 mill. At least 60-80. (bloody-disgusting.com/ August 29th 2004)
- Peter Briggs: I was there developing science fiction material for Paramount UK. I was suggesting William Gibson's stuff, everything was being rejected, I mean nothing I came up with you know they wanted to do. And the crunch came when I suggested Starship Troopers and was considered Paramount 1950s Heinlein crap. The next week Tristar bought it from Paul Verhoeven and I spent the best part of a year at this point working at Paramount. it was clear it was going nowhere, so one Saturday afternoon, I went, I was in Camden Town making the usual run of all the comic stores that I used to go, and I walked in and there on the end cap was Dark Horse's Alien Vs Predator. This was at Megacity One and I bought it and it just started to rain outside. The World's End pub was right across from the tube station where I ran across with my plastic bag of comics and bought a Guinness and sat down, read Dark Horse's Alien vs Predator and thought, you know, that's pretty good. Then the issues started to come over the course of the next few months and the more I sort of looked at this, the more I thought "you know, if I was going to write this as a writing sample, it would be the thing that might get me in with Joel Silver say for, you know", Joel Silver was huge at the time, again Joel Silver for a rewrite. (Alien Vs Predator Galaxy podcast #130)
- Peter Briggs :Um, so you know, I, I'm trying to do this and I bought these books and Michael House' book (?) you know was really, you know, told you to do a cover letter and how to do this, no internet in those days, so I went down to the copy shop back in the days (00:22:00) I think, are there still copy shops any more, I don't know, erm, and er, and er, and I printed out copies of my screenplays, and and just you know, you should use your shoe leather and I had a list of agents in London and I took them around you know I had a couple of small rejections, some smaller agencies. One day I came down. i was living in a small apartment in North London, came down to get my mail in the morning and it was the usual junk mail and on the carpet were two envelopes, and one was from ICM, erm, and the other was from William Morris and I kind of, I thought , oh, okay, here are the big rejections, and so I opened the ICM one and it said Hey, could you give our office a call, we'd like to talk to you about representation, and I was just like, you know, really gobsmacked, and and I was like "wow, they they like my work" (00:23:00) and I opened the second envelope and that was William Morris and they also said the same thing. And so I suddenly had gone from getting rejections from smaller agencies to the biggest agencies in the world that are wanting to talk to me about representation. So I went and had the meetings and there was an Irish guy, I won't mention his name at ICM erm who talked a good talk and I went to meet the head of William Morris, Steve Kennith who was a big brash, erm, er guy from Chicago with a cigar, he looked like you know an average mid 1950s stereotype Hollywood producer / agent, and erm, and and and I don't know why, because he was like that, I was a little scared really in a way so I went with the guy, I went with the Irish guy and spent a year with him (00:24:00)( didn't really enjoy that experience, erm, but he did put me up for a job working for the newly created Paramount UK. Now at that time there was one of the first of the writers guild strike and erm I suppose what had happened was, Paramount has realised that when the guild goes on strike, that you can't, you're either looking at your backlog of from, that you accrued over the years, erm or your going to have to go to someone outside of the guild, and so they very sadly created this company Paramount UK to develop material and my guy at ICM put me in there and so I was developing er Science fiction material in the UK and my boss a lady called Eileen Maisel erm didn't really know science fiction material and so I was bringing her comics like 2000 A D some of the (00:25:00) things in there, Strontium Dog, and things that I grew up with in my childhood that would make good movies and other things I remember I bought her Rocketeer and she she told me that Disney has already gone into production on that which I didn't know, and they were cyberpunk things you know I was a really big fan of William Gibson at the time, i was bringing in Neuromancer, lots and lots of stuff. They're tipping straw for me was are you doing this when I brought her Starship Troopers and she was like "Aah, nobody wants to see an old 50s Heinlein crap" and and the next week Tristar picked it up for Verhoeven, and I just thought this is going nowhere I am spinning my heels here, erm and and I , a, there was a rainy Saturday afternoon er in Camden Town, North London and I was going to a comic book store named Megacity One, which is named after, if you know your Judge Dredd, is named after the city in the in the Judge Dredd movie (00:26:00) and I came in out of the rain soaking wet and there on the end cap was Alien vs Predator 0, erm and so I like looked at it and it's two of my favourite things and I, if I could backtrack again you know I thought Star Wars and 78 and you guys all saw it in 77 it wasn't released wide in Britain until February 78 January, late January early February, and so I'd been waiting for that movie for seven months, I knew everything about Star Wars, you know, and and and, er and then the same thing happened like a year later, Starburst magazine again which was like the British version of Starlog. Starburst had some very early Ron Cobb illustration from Alien, and I, you know, as I was already crazy about Star Wars, I became crazy about Alien, I knew everything about Alien before that film opened (00:25:00) and I was, god, I was like 14 I think at the time and, and my uncle Eric sneaked me into erm into the cinema because it was what is called an X at the time in, which you know is the equivalent of a eighteen and and you even have you know there's no yeah it's not like in you can get accompaniment, it's like you're eighteen, that's it, there's not, there's not, no adult with you or anything like there, but he snook me into that and I was, I became obsessed with Alien so, erm, you know, my, two of my favourite things are there in that comic, Alien and Predator, and er, and I looked it up, I bought the comic immediately and I walked across to a pub called The Worlds End which is right opposite and I bought a Guinness and I sat down with my my Guinness and I read er, this comic and I thought, hey you know, this is pretty good, what a great idea, er, if and and and the next couple of issues came (00:28:00) out and by this time I sort of at the back of my mind I thought, you know, if I can writer, erm, if I can write an adaption, uh you know, not not as a as a as a script, just as a sample, it might be good enough that you know, might get me into Joel Silver. (Best Movies Never Made #63)
- Peter Briggs: 'Cause I, because I read it, erm, now I mean obviously if you read the comic books and if you read the script, they're kind of, they're two different animals, I mean I'm not ashamed to say I ripped it off erm because I did, but you know I I didn't rip it off in a plagiaristic sense because it was never intended to be a screenplay, this was just intended to be a writing sample to get my foot in the door erm somewhere but what, I just found that the erm, I found that the comic book, erm, I mean, because you know, there was the issue zero that was published in Dark Horse presents which was an anthology book that came out, was it every month or every two months and it had lots of different kind of like little things from, you know a concrete story and there'd be a whatever story you know f-from all all of Dark Horse's other titles and erm, so I can't remember if they they erm, (00:42:00) I can't remember aware of the the issue zero, erm, I must have been, I, I, I'm a little vague tonight, it's thirty year ago, my head is vague on this, erm
Josh Miller: It's a while ago
Peter Briggs: And but but you know the the one that was in Dark Horse presents was like a little stand alone story where the egg pods land on the planet and there's a, there's a hunt through a sort of swampy erm swampy grove and it's it's it's a nice little piece but then the the the actual story itself, the actual original you know, Randy Stradley, erm er, Chris Warner, erm Phil Norwood, erm, Alien vs Predator story starts off with the two guys in a spaceship having a conversation and they're going to Ryushi the planet, erm which has been colonised and it's a desert world and you get there and there's the, there's erm Machiko is her name.(transcription from Best Movies Never Made #63)
- Peter Briggs: I found that the comic book you know there was the issue zero published in Darkhorse presents which was an anthology book that came out every month and it had lots of different kinds of little from all of dark horses other titles and erm so I can't remember if they they I can't remember if I was aware
Josh Miller: Especially after so many movies it was Great that we got I I I know that a lot of people hate Alien3 I do not but I feel initial trilogy or the nice type it's off and it was moved on (00:57:00) ( Best Movies Never Made #63)
Peter Briggs: I always knew I wanted to direct. It's a familiar story -
their aunt wants to direct. So I figured, I'll go to film school and - bang! - be
23 or 24. Didn't happen that way. I dropped out of college because I'd moved
London to move in with a girl. I started working in film companies as a runner,
way up, became a cameraman, got my union card. Problem was, towards the end
1980s, all the studios were closing down over here and it was really tough. As a
there are 3000 guys behind your back vying for the job, and I just thought, "this is
Anyway. I'd been writing scripts for years and I thought, let's see if I can get some representation, get my career back on track. So I sent them off to various agencies, and William Morris and ICM both offered to represent me the same day. As for the scripts, there was a comedy, an adaptation, a couple of original drama things; not very many. And looking back on them, they were disastrous. I think, Jesus Christ, why did anybody want to hire me on the say-so of this? But, somebody must've seen something in them.
So I initially went with ICM - who after a year of representation managed to do bupkiss for me. But, during that time I spent a year with Paramount UK helping develop science-fiction projects. The idea was, I'd develop a bunch of them, and then I'd go away and write one and they'd make it. The problem was, they didn't actually know what they were doing, how to develop the rich vein of genre material. I was throwing them all this William Gibson cyberpunk bait, and they wanted all these creaking science fiction projects that were past their sell-by date the second they were born.
It sort of reached a head when I said we should get STARSHIP TROOPERS. And they said "No, nobody wants to see any of that old Heinlein crap." And I replied heatedly, "Look, it's a f***ing classic! Somebody is going to do this" - and the next week, it was bought up by Tristar for Paul Verhoeven.
That was it, that's when I thought, right, I've got to write myself a decent enough sample to get a re-write or something with Joel Silver, to kick this into high gear.
I looked around and the very first ALIEN VS PREDATOR comic was just about to come out, and I thought - "That's it". And I wrote it. I finished it, I think, just as the last comic came out. The comic's great, you can't fault it. Dark Horse, to their credit, thought about putting it together, and I'm a big fan of Phil Norwood's art, who did the original artwork - great guy, great storyboard artist, the guy's a hero in the field. (Peter Briggs Interview by Andy Diggle 13th August 1996 http://www.alienscollection.com/andydiggle.html)