Alien 3: David Fincher takes up the role of director

leading from
 

 

 

a) Looking for a saviour

With Vincent Ward finally gone, now the studio was in a real jam. 

It had invested somewhere between $5 million and $13 million in scripts, sets, and pay-or-play commitments (after strafing Hollywood in the press for paying its Rambos better than its Ripleys—and knowing that Joe Roth would not make the movie without Sigourney—Weaver was able to negotiate about $4 million, plus a healthy chunk of the back end, then the highest salary paid to an actress). 

Weaver found herself in a state of dispair since they had to start working on this picutre, they had not script, and no director.

On their short list of potential saviors was David Fincher, a video director with a reputation as a hell of a shooter

One could just look at the visual flash of his Madonna videos “Vogue,” “Express Yourself,” and “Oh, Fa- ther”and see that he was something of a movie savant or even use the word "Genius".

He was the son of a Life magazine reporter, he produced a local TV news show while still in high school. As a nineteen-year-old Industrial Light & Magic employee, he shot some of Return of the Jedi. 

His first commercial was the American Cancer Society’s smoking fetus. 

He directed his first video at twenty-one and landed a CAA agent soon after. 

He was a founding member of the ultra-hip Propaganda video house, which four years later was bringing in a $50 million annual gross. 

When Fincher met Sid Ganis the president of Paramount and pitched him one of his complicated ideas, he said to Fincher said to  ‘Fincher, nobody is going to give you $40 million for a first picture.’ 

His response was ‘Sid, I know that. What would I do with a forty-minute movie?’”

 

 
b) Recruiting David Fincher

Hiler and Gill had found out about David Fincher, and although he was an unknown, they had discovered Ridley Scott and James Cameron as virtual unknowns they were well disposed to hiring beginners

They'd asked Greg Pruss who had worked on a screenplay for Fincher for a reference, but he replied "Yeah, I know him. He wouldn’t direct the movie in a million fucking years.

When he found out that Fincher was actually going in for this, he told him "David, you’re fucking nuts. Why are you doing this? Why don’t you direct your own movie?’

Fincher replied ‘I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It could be cool. Don’t you think it could be cool?  

 
 
 
c) Fincher's personal relationship with Alien

Fincher had wanted to do an Alien movie since he was 16. He felt as if he had a relationship to the Dan O'Bannon's side of Alien as well as the Walter Hill side of it, and even the HR Giger side of it. 

He felt as if he near enough know what he would do it. It eas an easy thng to want to get involved with and perhaps too easy as well for many different reasons that were not so good 

The fact would be that he wasn't alloweed to do what he wanted with it and he would decide that it was his own fault. 


 
 
d) Larry Ferguson's big mac of a rewrite
 
When Ferguson turned in his draft, the movie almost fell apart. 
 
Sigourney thought that he had also written Ripley so that she sounded like a very pissed-off gym instructor.
 
She responded "If you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to do it without me. 
 
From what David Fincher could see from reading the script  it was going to be about a woman who had fallen from the stars. 

In the end, she dies, and there are seven of the monks left like, and it seemed too much as if they might as well have been Snow white and the Seven dwarfs.

So this Ripley character was also like Wendy from Peter Pan, who would make up stories and in the end, there were the seven dwarfs, and they put her in a tube and were waiting for Prince Charming to come and wake her up.

That was one ending that they had come up with for the movie.

Fincher recalled that when Joe Rother heard about it, he saidWhat?! What are they doing over there?! What the fuck is going on?!
 
Fox then churned out around $600,000  for Hill and Giler to do an emergency rewrite.
 
 
 
 
e) Meeting with David Fincher

Sigourney Weaver, Walter Hill, David Giler, and the Fox worldwide production president met with Fincher in Los Angeles

Fincher came to the meeting wearing an anti-fur T-shirt which made Sigourney smile. 

Perhaps this event took place before must have seen Ferguson's big mac type script.

Here he went ahead and pitched a story that he came up with on his own that he would compare to a David Lean movie. 

Instead of tough guys in outer space, it was about paedophiles in outer space. 

It was a huge movie, very complicated and political

In this movie, there were three Lance Henriksens running around, the character that would be played by Paul McGann's character was a serial killer, and at the end of the movie, the alien was running around, with three thousand storm troopers on their way.

It was Fincher admitted was massive and strange but he knew that the idea was great.

Their response thought was "My God, this is four fucking hours, it's $150 million."

Fincher could only admit that they were right, but he was so taken with the legacy that it had to be Apocalypse Now.

They gave him the work and so he thought that they were going to let him make the movie
 
 
 
 
f) How do you feel about bald?

About twenty seconds after Fincher had been given the job, Weaver was still a little nervous 

She said to him "Well, Fincher, so how do you see the character of Ripley?"

He replied "How do you feel about ... bald?

In response, she near looked at him, and then looked at Roger and said, "Well, Roger, of course if I make the picture bald, I'll have to make more money."

This made them very nervouse but she meant it as a joke

At that moment, she was willing to follow him anywhere.

 
 
 
g) Larry Ferguson does a script rewrite

With Fincher signed, Larry Ferguson, who co-wrote Beverly Hills Cop II,  was hired to do a four-week emergency rewrite on the script.  His price was about $500,000. 

Ferguson knew he had to bring fresh ideas to the franchise, but he believed that he was experienced enough to know what the studio wanted. 

His philosophy was though that sequels are like Big Macs and If you went into McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac and it came out different, you wouldn’t order it every time.




h) When things began to turn for the worst

Thinking about those three thousand storm troopers he wanted at the end, he was suddenly being told "We can’t do that, we can only have eighteen guys show up at the end."

He responded "Well, they should have some amazing kind of contraption."

They responded "Well, we can’t afford that."

 

  1. David Fincher: The story I told them, that got me the job, was cool. It was a fucking David Lean movie. It wasn’t about tough guys in outer space, it was about pedophiles in outer space. It was a huge movie and it was very complicated and political. There were three Lance Henriksens running around, Paul McGann was a serial killer, and at the end of the movie you had the alien running around and you've got three thousand storm troopers on their way. It was massive and strange and the idea of it was great. I went, ‘They gave me the work, so they’re going to let me make this movie.’ Then it was like, ‘We can’t do that, we can only have eighteen guys show up at the end.’ ‘Well, they should have some amazing kind of contraption.‘Well, we can’t afford that.’ And so at a certain point they cut the fucking balls off the thing.(Empire #80 (Feb 1996)
  2. You're not going to make a fucking Alien movie that has like a bunch of carousels and people selling balloons,” he grins. ‘You’re going to make a fucking Alien movie that takes place in the bowls of some hideous joint. And when you start doing research on serial killers these people don’t prey on senators, they pick off the weak and the stragglers and the runaways and the prostitutes and the people hitchhiking, and people unfortunate enough to be at a 7-Eleven at two o’clock in the morning. It takes place in a very dark world, and so it just seemed like the darkness was more in keeping with making a horror movie. (Empire #80 (Feb 1996)
  3. Pruss quit and a few weeks later, Ward was gone. Now the studio was in a real jam. It had invested somewhere between $5 million and $13 million in scripts, sets, and pay-or-play commitments (after strafing Hollywood in the press for paying its Rambos better than its Ripleys—and knowing that Roth would not make the movie without her—Weaver was able to negotiate about $4 million, plus a healthy chunk of the back end, then the highest salary paid to an actress). “My heart’s like this,” Weaver says, shaking her hands in the air. “I had to start working on this picture, and we had no script, and we had no director, and at best these things can be nightmares.("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  4. On their short list of potential saviors was David Fincher, a video director with a reputation as a hell of a shooter—just look at the visual flash of his Madonna videos “Vogue,” “Express Yourself,” and “Oh, Father”—and something of a movie savant. “Genius” is a word many use. Son of a Life magazine reporter, he produced a local TV news show while still in high school. As a nineteen-year-old Industrial Light & Magic em-ployee, he shot some of Return of the Jedi. His first commercial was the American Cancer Society’s smoking fetus. He directed his first video at twenty-one and landed a CAA agent soon after. He was a founding mem- ber of the ultra-hip Propaganda video house, which four years later was bringing in a $50 million annual gross. And he had moxie to spare—he tells of meeting Sid Ganis when Ganis was the president of Paramount and pitching him a complicated idea. “He said to me, ‘Fincher, nobody is going to give you $40 million for a first picture. And I said, Sid, I know that. What would I do with a forty-minute movie?’("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  5. Initially, Weaver was skeptical. “All I heard about him was, he's very attractive, and all the women he works with fall in love with him,” she says ("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  6. Then Weaver, Hill, Giler, and Fox worldwide production president Roger Birnbaum met with Fincher in Los Angeles. Fincher came to the meeting wearing an anti-fur T-shirt which made Weaver smile. She asked him what kind of a part he had in mind for Ripley. "And he said 'How do you feel about ... bald?" Weaver says. "And I sort of looked at him, and I looked at Roger and said, 'Well, Roger, of course if I make the picture bald, I'll have to make more money.'At that moment, I was willing to follow him anywhere.("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  7. ''It was actually very funny. He had just gotten the job about 20 seconds before and I was still a little nervous. We were sitting around with the Fox executives and producers and I said, `Well, Fincher, so how do you see the character of Ripley?`
    ''Fincher kind of looked at me. He`s a very funny guy and he`s very cute, too. He said, `So, how do you feel about being bald?`
    ''I looked at him and I looked at Roger Birnbaum (president of Fox`s world-wide production) and said, `Well, Roger, of course if I have to shave my head, I`ll have to ask for more money.` Which, of course, made them very nervous. It was a joke,'' she says, quickly. (https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-05-17-9202140311-story.html)
  8. With Fincher signed, Fox hired Larry Ferguson, who co-wrote Beverly Hills Cop II, to do a four-week emergency rewrite on the script. His price: about $500,000. Ferguson knew he had to bring fresh ideas to the fran-chise, but he was experienced enough to know what the studio wanted. “Sequels are like Big Macs” he says. “If you went into McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac and it came out different, you wouldn’t order it every time.("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  9. But Fincher didn’t want a Big Mac. The plot he came up with on his own, before the studio hired Ferguson, left the suits aghast. “They said, 'My God, this is four fucking hours, it's $150 million.' And they were absolutely right.” He laughs. “I was just so taken with the legacy that it had to be . . . Apocalypse Now.” Fincher: In the draft Larry was writing, she was going to be this women who had fallen from the stars. In the end she dies, and there are seven monks.("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  10. Hill & Giler had discovered Ridley Scott and James Cameron when they were virtual unknowns, so they were well disposed to hiring beginners. They asked Pruss, who had worked on a screenplay for Fincher, for a reference. “I said, ‘Yeah, I know him,’” Pruss recalls. “He wouldn’t direct the movie in a million fucking years.” Fincher, it turned out, considers the first Alien one of “the ten perfect movies of all time.” Pruss tried to tell Fincher he was making a mistake. “I said, ‘David, you’re fucking nuts. Why are you doing this? Why don’t you direct your own movie?’” he recalls. “And he said, ‘I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It could be cool. Don’t you think it could be cool? ("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  11. FINCHER : In the draft Larry [Ferguson, Beverly Hills Cop II] was writing, she [Ripley] was going to be this woman who had fallen from the stars. In the end, she dies, and there are seven of the monks left --- seven dwarfs.
    Q :
    You're kidding?
    Fincher: Seriously. I swear to God. She was like . . . what’s her name in Peter Pan? She was like Wendy. And she would make up all these stories. And in the end, there were these seven dwarfs left, and there was this fucking tube they put her in, and they were waiting for Prince Charm- ing to come wake her up. So that was one of the endings we had for this movie. You can imagine what Joe Roth said when he heard this. “What?! What are they doing over there?! What the fuck is going on?!("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  12. When Ferguson turned in his draft, the movie almost fell apart. He had written Ripley so that she sounded like “a very pissed-off gym instructor,” says Weaver. “I said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to do it without me.’” Fox coughed up $600,000 or so for Hill and Giler to do an emergency rewrite. ("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  13. Working in Hill’s office in L.A., the producers quickly scraped the wooden planet and moved the action back to Twohy’s prison. Since Fincher and Weaver were both taken with the religious element, they made the prisoners what Giler calls “your basic militant Christian fun- damentalist millenarian apocalyptic” types. In just three weeks, they had a first draft. The studio liked it. Weaver liked it. But alas, Fincher had a few reservations ("Mother from another planet"  Premiere May 1992)
  14. David Fincher: I wanted to do an Alien movie, I wanted to do one since I was 16. I felt like I had a relationship to the Dan O’Bannon side of it as well as the Walter Hill side of it, as well as the HR Giger side of it. I felt like I kinda knew what I would do with that. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to was my own fault. But, you know, that was a world that I loved that I couldn’t get enough of. So that was an easy thing to want to get involved with, and probably too easy because it was totally fucked up for so many other different reasons. —(https://www.firstshowing.net/2011/exclusive-fincher-explains-reasons-why-he-made-each-of-his-films/)

2 comments:

  1. "Alien 3: David Fincher takes up the role of director" was posted on 5th May 2022

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  2. This imperfect movie is so interesting to me that I wrote a book about the Alien series.

    I still can't get my hands around why they couldn't get on the same page and write something they all wanted to make--REALLy wanted to make, I mean. Because it seems like no one's vision made it to the screen.

    Yet the people involved were not without great talent, so even a half-baked concept inspired something interesting and different.

    I know he won't, but I wish Fincher would explain in detail the movie he thought of making, and had the resources to reshape the material. (The work print is a big improvement on the theatrical cut, but both are decent movies, and in both cases the movie makers TRIED to make something different, not just another shoot-'em-up with reptiles.)

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