Guest Post – From Vision to Film: ALIEN 3

Happy Friday all! It’s been nearly three months since we got a Vision-to-Film post from guest blogger Ted S. Last time we got the story on Superman Returns, and now we’ve got David Fincher’s Alien 3. I’ve been saving this to coincide with his recently-released Facebook movie The Social Network, as well as the upcoming Blu-ray release of the Alien Anthology coming on October 26th. The piece below could also be called the David Fincher story 😀

After the success of James Cameron’s Aliens, 20th Century Fox wanted to bring [the lead character] Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her nemesis back to the big screen by the summer of 1992. First they offered the project to Renny Harlin, but he had wanted to do Die Hard 2. So they brought in Vincent Ward to write and direct the picture instead. Before Ward came on board, there were several versions of the film that were pitched to the studio, in one version it focused entirely on Hicks, Bishop and Newt. The story would tie up loose ends from the preceding film with Newt returning to Earth to live with her grandparents, as well as Hicks and Bishop and a new team of Colonial Marines battling a rival faction of planets who use the Alien as a bio-weapon. Of course the studio didn’t greet light that version, probably because of budget concerns and the fact that Ripley was absent in the story.

In Ward’s version, the story involved a wooded planet and a group of monks who thought they were living in post-apocalyptic dark ages, and had a middle-ages lifestyle. The group refused all kinds of modern technology, and when Ripley and the alien crash-land on Earth they would blame Ripley for the alien attacks. Ripley was to be impregnated by the alien “the old-fashioned way” rather than through a face-hugger, and therefore being impregnated with a human-alien hybrid. According to the storyboards, she would dream of half human-half alien hybrids. Other storyboards included horse-alien and sheep-alien hybrids. Ward left the project after the producers insisted that he change the monks to prisoners and drop the wooded planet idea. In the documentary about this film, which is available on the special Alien Anthology edition released on DVD a few years back, the crew in London actually built sets of wooden planets for the shoot. A month before the shooting date, the studio told the crew to stop working while they look for a new director and rewrite the script.

David Fincher

So in order to make the summer of 1992 release date, Fox and the producers were scrambling to find another director, at one point Walter Hill (one of the producers of the film), was going to take the directing gig himself. But luckily they found the up and coming young director David Fincher. Around this time, Fincher had done mostly music videos, so he was affordable and would practically do whatever the studio tells him. Or so they thought. In the first meeting with the executives, Fincher pitched his own version of the film and said that he wanted to expand from the original script. Rumors been going around for years that Fox actually has Fincher’s version of the film in storage somewhere but refuses to show it to the public. Those rumors turned out to be false because had Fincher actually shot his version, the budget would’ve tripled and the film wouldn’t have made the release date. Also, in the special edition DVD, Fox included the director’s cut of the film which is much better than the theatrical version. They even asked Fincher if he wanted to come back to work on the film before it was released on DVD. He declined the offer since he disowned the film years ago.

Anyways, after Fincher met with the studio people, he thought he was going to make his version of an Alien film. Well, apparently he was in for a big surprise. On the first day of shooting, he wanted to shoot a big sequence, but the producers on the set told him that he couldn’t do that. Fincher had no idea that he was being monitored by the studio from the beginning, they actually hired a guy whose job was to keep an eye on Fincher’s every move and report back daily to the executives. Believe it or not, this guy got credited in the film as an Executive Producer. About a month into shooting, Fincher finally realized that he wouldn’t be able to shoot his version of the movie and that he basically got screwed by the studio. He then left the project before editing began.

Fincher and Sigourney Weaver on the set

The film made its May 1992 release date and earned some money. But considering it had cost around $60 mil to make and it only made about $50 mil back, it was a huge disappointment for Fox. Also, this was the summer of big franchises – Batman Returns made big money, so did Lethal Weapon 3. So I’m sure Fox executives weren’t too happy how the film performed that year. Fincher didn’t do much better himself. After the box office disappointment of Alien 3; his directing career seemed to be pretty much over. He was to blame for the lack success of the film, even though it wasn’t his fault. He was simply here to finish the project that Fox should have cancelled from the beginning.

But then three years later, Fincher made the classic thriller Se7en, and has since directed The Game, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the recent hit The Social Network. Now he’s one of the top directors in the business today, and now currently filming the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As for the Alien franchise, well Fox decided to come out with another sequel, the awful Alien: Resurrection follow by the even more awful Alien vs. Predator films. Currently Ridley Scott is working on the prequel to Alien, this one will take place several years before the event of the first film. Let’s hope Sir Ridley can finally make a good Alien film again, I guess we’ll find out sometime next year.


What do you think of this story and/or Fincher? Are you a big fan of the film?