Earlier this week a story broke out of the London Film and Comic Con in which Alien franchise star Sigourney Weaver stated that she asked to be killed in Alien3 upon learning of Fox’s intent to make Alien vs Predator.
“Well, yes – because I heard that Fox was gonna do Alien vs Predator. Which really depressed me because I was very proud of the movies,” she explained while also recalling an old James Cameron comparison referring to it “Alien meets the Wolfman.”
Bloody Disgusting has a long relationship with Peter Briggs, who is currently moving ahead with his directorial debut Panzer 88, for producers Gary Kurtz (Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back) and Ivor Powell (Alien, Blade Runner).
The credited co-writer of Hellboy, with Guillermo Del Toro, Briggs was the first writer on Alien vs Predator, having initially developed it as a writing sample.
Briggs caught wind of the Weaver story and felt compelled to respond. Instead of breaking this down, I’m presenting it in full as there’s a lot of backstory that leads into his gripe.
I read in “Entertainment Weekly” this morning (and “Time”, and everywhere else it seems), Sigourney Weaver’s latest salvo at the London Film and Comic-Con yesterday, in her decades-long sniping (July 20th) about the non-Ripley “Alien vs Predator” film franchise I played a passing role in 25 years ago. And once again, I heaved a sigh that she just can’t stop scratching this itch.
To put her laments into context, my version of “Alien vs Predator”, a spec screenplay I wrote in the Summer of 1991, was the very first draft, the very first piece of actual work done on the project for the studio. It was also my first professional sale to 20th Century Fox through producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, with whom I’d go on to work on “Judge Dredd” (another tortuous “Development Hell” story) and as credited co-writer on the “Hellboy” movie in 2004. It’s fair to say that despite my draft remaining unfilmed, “Alien vs Predator” launched my career; high-profile enough to get me mentioned in a slew of magazines (“Starlog”, “Cinefantastique” and even Brit lads’ mag “FHM” among them!) and books like Chris Gore’s “The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made”, and Denny Martin Flynn’s “How Not To Write A Screenplay” (alongside my friend Shane Black’s “Lethal Weapon”.) A decade-and-change later in 2004, I discovered to my astonishment in going over the project’s materials at the Writers’ Guild arbitration for the Paul W.S. Anderson movie at the WGA headquarters on Fairfax, my work was also the only actual complete screenplay Fox had until Paul W.S. Anderson initiated his attempt over a decade later!
To follow the chronology, the Dark Horse “Alien vs Predator” comic title itself, which gave me that initial kick in the backside to write a story mostly different from its inspirational material, ran July to December 1990.
Principal photography on the “Alien 3” movie began one month later in January 1991. Although the (excellent) Rex Pickett rewrite for director David Fincher from this time had Ripley dying, I gather this was also something the prior director Vincent Ward, whom Fincher replaced, had also wanted in his drafts.
I lived in London at the time, and wangled an “Alien 3” set visit at the shoot’s end as guest of Amalgamated Dynamics FX shop owners Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff. With film journalist friend Juhani Nurmi, we’d concocted a crazy notion to introduce “Alien” designer genius H.R. Giger to Finnish director Renny Harlin, who was the attached “Alien 3” director prior to Vincent Ward. Juhani was a longtime friend of both, and made the introduction. Giger would carry on (quite vocally in interviews) through the finished film.
After being shown the Pinewood Creature Shop (production all-but over at this point), Alec, Tom and myself sat around yakking fanboy stuff and discussing the difficult shoot. They said they hadn’t seen “Predator 2” at that juncture, but had heard about Danny Glover seeing the Alien skull cameo in the Predator trophy room scene at the movie’s end. Alec knew I was a struggling writer (developing sci-fi material for the short-lived Paramount UK at the time) and asked what I was working on. Tom arched an eyebrow (neither were aware of the Dark Horse comic) when I said I’d just started writing “Alien vs Predator” as a spec script. “Man, I can’t see how that would happen!” remarked Alec; amusing in retrospect given Amalgamated Dynamics ended up doing outstanding work on both of the “Alien vs Predator” spinoffs.
I finished my “Alien vs Predator” draft late September 1991. It was literally only written as a “get attention” sample, in the hope I’d maybe get a rewrite on some other movie off the back of it. My then-agent (Steve Kenis, the head of the William Morris agency in London) was friendly with producer Larry Gordon, who had a deal with Fox. Steve was coincidentally flying over to the States for meetings. Steve met Larry. They talked. I remember sitting heavily down on the stairs when Steve phoned me from L.A. to tell me Larry bought the script the same day. And then round-after-tortured-round of additional producer in-fighting killed the project dead on that go-around during the next year. (I was told later there was even serious talk about tweaking the project to make it a Schwarzenegger vehicle: Arnie was briefly attached to the pre-Stallone version of “Judge Dredd” I worked on for Tony Scott, so I can only imagine how that would have gone. More recently, the Strause Brothers in interview at the time of their “Requiem” sequel admitted they’d toyed with attempting my more-expensive outer-space,more sci-fi script, but went instead for the different Earthbound story you saw on the screen in 2007.)
Larry Gordon would later tell me “Alien vs Predator” had only been discussed for the first time at Fox literally days before Steve gave him the script in September 1991, which is why I was in the right place at the right time to make my first sale. Maybe they were in a panic about “Alien 3”…I have no idea. And so when I hear Sigourney Weaver recounting her killing off Ripley in “Alien 3” because she’d heard Fox were talking about doing “Alien vs Predator”, despite the fact our project was first spoken about and initiated well over a year (not even counting Vincent Ward’s involvement!) after her movie had gone into active production, I really have to roll my eyes at her claims.
I love “Alien 3”. Well; I didn’t on its theatrical release, but I find the recent extended DVD recut even more watchable than “Aliens”. I’ll also be honest that I’m less-than-wild about the two “Alien vs Predator” movies (particularly “Requiem”, about which less said the better) But I do wish Sigourney Weaver would stop beating on “Alien vs Predator” as her pet piñata in “ruining” the “Alien” franchise, and acknowledge that two standalone “Alien” movies she was actively involved with unfortunately managed that first, all on their own.
I don’t even know if Sigourney Weaver has read the “Alien vs Predator” draft I wrote. She’s never said she has. But, I was a fan obsessive of the “Alien” franchise, Sigourney. Big time. Particularly Ridley’s original, which is still unmatched. And “Alien vs Predator” — as a concept — is still killer, full of potential. Even its critically maligned first cinematic outing made $172,544,654 worldwide, compared to $159,814,498 for “Alien 3” and $161,376,068 for “Resurrection”. Hardly a financial “fail” there, Sigourney.
There’s a terrific “Alien vs Predator” movie still to be made by someone. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Weaver’s comments clearly hit a nerve with Briggs, especially since she’s been dogging the latter Alien films for years. And if Weaver is allowed a platform to shit on the work of others, well, they deserve a chance to respond. No?
What say you?