Alien 3 screenwriter David Giler guides us on the terrifying journey from script to screen. Why was there a third Alien movie? What were all the re-writes? How many endings were shot? In the movies, nobody can hear you scream...By Stewart Jamison.
In the space of thirteen years, David Giler -- along with Walter Hill and Gordon Carrol -- has been the driving force behind three generations of Alien films. Born 49 years ago, Giler, following in the footsteps of his father, has had a high;y distinguished career in motion pictures and television, both as a writer and producer. His many credits include Southern Comfort (with Walter Hill) and Steven Spielberg's Money Pitt (which he also co-produced). In 1978, Giler, with Hill and Carroll, produced Ridley Scott's Alien, and some 8 years later the trio took a back seat as co-producers while James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd unleashed Aliens. Over the past six years, Giler and his associates have been in charge of producing, writing, hiring -- and firing -- Alien 3.
Starburst: So, David, why did you make Alien 3?
David Giler: Well the impetus for the third one was that the second one was so successful that, in the opinion of 20th Century Fox, people wanted to see more.
SB: When did you start work on Alien 3?
DG: We started to work on this one in 1986 straight after Aliens, so it's been a long struggle. It takes time to get these things right, it was a very slow process.
SB: There were a lot of rumours about directors. Were Ridley Scott or James Cameron ever considered?
DG: We did talk to Ridley about it briefly. See we initially had in mind to do 3 and 4 together and Ridley was going to do one of those, but finally, we could never really get together on it, because of the time and schedule and all the rest of that stuff. As for James, well he was already involved with T2.
SB: Your first choice was Renny Harlin, then Vincent Ward. What happened to Renny, and how did you choose Ward?
DG: Renny was going to do the movie, but because there is such a large responsibility attached to an Alien film he decided against it and I think he went on to do Die Hard 2; while Vincent came about because both myself and Walter [Hill] had seen The Navigator [which was directed by Ward], which we both admired. So we fixed a meeting with him, and when he came over he had this rather interesting notion about how to do the movie, which we all liked. That's really how it came about, but sadly, for his own reasons, and possibly for the same responsibility factor, Vincent decided against directing it.
SB: Harlin and Ward seemed ideal choices, but David Fincher was a surprise, to say the least, considering he had only directed videos and commercials...
DG: Yeah, but remember James Cameron when we first approached him to do Aliens had only done Piranha 2, and I suggested to him at the time not to tell anyone he had done it. While Ridley had only made the Duelist before Alien, which wasn't really a qualification for the movie. So in his case, it was really looking at all he had done, which had included all of his commercials.
SB: But Fincher still seemed a large gamble.
DG: Everyone's a gamble. I mean Fincher had a shot a mile of film, and with David, it was very similar to Ridley, in that we reviewed all of his previous work -- and remember, Fincher's background had been in special effects. He had worked for Industrial Light and Magic for four years as a matte painter, and to do these kind of movies you really have that kind of specific knowledge and willingness to pay attention to these kind of details. There are a lot of directors who rarely have that, or want6 to have it.
SB: Were you impressed by him?
DG: Yeah I was impressed. He was great.
SB: Yourself and Walter Hill had to do various re-writes in a short period of time. Do you think that the audience will know enough about the convicts on Fury 161?
DG: Well I can't answer that from the audience's point of view...But from a personal point of view, I think there's enough in the script to indicate who these people are. It's a sort of tradition of the genre, in that we felt we had enough going into the script, that people would understand it well enough that we didn't have to dwell on it.
SB: There were no weapons in this movie. Why was that?
DG: Well we felt that James [Cameron] had done guns so well that we didn't want to continue that theme, and also Vincent [Ward] had come up with this great idea. I mean, at the end of the movie there are a few Pulse Rifles, but we mostly wanted this to be a gun-free picture.
SB: What about the shaven heads, was that a creative decision?
DG: It was a story point really, which Fincher came up with. Lice on the planet, lice in the hair; so we shaved everybody's head.
SB: And there was quite a lot of humour in this one.
DG: These things need jokes because it's so heavy it needs some relief. We actually wrote a lot more than finally come through and remember the two previous movies had quite a bit of humour thrown in.
SB: From the audience's point of view I think the main talking point will be the killing off of Hicks and Newt. How could you and Walter be so callous?
DG: Don't give me that [smiles]. You wanted to see Newt surrounded by child molesters and rapists. From the point of view of writing it, the idea was that we finally wanted Ripley alone in this situation, and it's like the difference, I guess, between Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. We really just wanted her to be surrounded in this awful place with these prisoners, and we felt it would diffuse the situation if we brought in any others.
SB: There has been a lot of rumours about the different endings which have been shot because of the similarity to Terminator 2 what happened when you found out about the T2 ending?
DG: When we got wind of this, we were just about to start and we heard about T2, and of course this problem. So we smuggled a copy of this script and read it and we said, "My god it is the same!"
SB: So how close were the endings?
DG: Well, the original draft had Ripley taking a swan dive into the furnace -- and that would be that. So it was almost the same.
SB: Did you panic?
DG: No, not really. We did come up with some new finales, but then we thought, "Well, the creature is inside her, and if we finish with what we felt were the two most powerful images of all three movies, which are the chestburster and Ripley, that that would not be compared with any other movie". So we ended up shooting that version of it for a variety of reasons on good Friday, which was about 3 weeks before the release date.
SB: Did you have to kill Ripley off?
DG: Gimme a break, Stewart! First Newt and Hicks -- and now Ripley! [laughs] Well, if you look at the story there's no way she can live. Once she's got the Alien inside her the only real option she has is to sacrifice herself. Suddenly to have her cheer up and go home would look ridiculous, but in the end, I think we came up with an excellent picture.
SB: Will there be an Alien 4?
DG: I knew you were going to ask me that [smiles]. Let's just see how this one does first...