‘AvP’ Writer Peter Briggs Responds to Paul Anderson!!

Don’t you just love controversy? After I ran my review for Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator, I’ve been receiving email after email regarding my opinions. Many agreed, many wanted my head on a stick- but what really got everyone going was Paul Anderson’s responses to the movie that appeared on the web after an industry screening. Not only did it get fans a little excited and yet confused, it got people who actually worked on the film upset, because they felt it was filled with lies. Well it just so happens that I’m friendly with Peter Briggs, who wrote the first draft of ‘Alien vs Predator’ (read it here) all those years back and he had a lot of interesting stuff to say about the film- you can find it ALL inside per our recent conversations.
Quick note: No one has confirmed the authenticity of Anderson’s comments, although a few people claim to have been there. These are Briggs’ thoughts on the movie and his responses to the comments as they have been posted.

…you’ll also find some very interestig bits on Paul Anderson’s Event Horizon SE DVD below!

Mr. D: What is your relationship with ‘Alien vs Predator’ for anyone who doesn’t know?

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.

Mr. D: So now, obviously, it’ll never happen?

Strangely enough, I was told recently by an exec that Fox might still be interested in doing it, with a bit of reworking. I don’t know about that. I think its thunder’s been totally blown. Now, I’d sooner write a standalone “Alien” or “Predator” movie, personally. In fact, in ’99 — I think – I went into Joel Silver’s and pitched a “Predator” movie set in the 18th Century, but both franchises were in a state of panic-stricken flux then, so….

Here’s a fun anecdote: I wrote “A vs P” originally – oh, God…did you hear that? I actually said “A vs P”. I hate that thing…it’s like “T2” or “LXG”! Anyway, I wrote it on an Amstrad computer, which was about one step above a Univac Room Filler. In ’92 I swapped to an Apple Mac, which I’ve used ever since. And I ended up losing the Amstrad disk, which was some weird, unreadable proprietary brand anyway. It wasn’t until whoever it was transcribed it and pirated it onto the web years later, that I was able to cut-and-paste it into Final Draft and have an electronic copy again. So, thank-you, Internet Leaker, wherever you were!

Oh. And this one’s good; nearly forgot. Back before “Alien 3”, my friend – Finnish film journalist Juhani Nurmi – and I concocted to get H.R. Giger onto the movie, as Juhani knows him quite well, and at that time Renny Harlin was going to be directing it. Maybe we should apologize to Giger, because he wasn’t terribly happy in the end. Anyway, because of the connection with Giger, summer of ’91 I was invited down to Pinewood to meet Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff. They were great, and showed me around the creature shop. Told me all kinds of horror stories about the shoot. So, I was writing “Alien vs Predator” at the time, and told them this. And they looked at me – this funny 25 year old kid they’d never heard of before, and said something to the effect that “well, we can’t see how that could possibly work!” And then, 12 years later, they end up doing the effects on “A vs P”. Small world!

You know, I can’t complain. It started my career as a screenwriter, for which I’ll always be grateful. Although it got weird, being in books like “The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made”.

Mr. D: Have you ever met Paul Anderson?

I’ve never met Paul W.S. Anderson personally, but I did once meet his producing partner Jeremy Bolt at the offices of Anderson’s company, Impact, in London. This would have been late 2000, early 2001, I guess. I thought it was curious at the time that Bolt quizzed me closely about what happened to the “Alien vs Predator” project. I suppose Anderson was hatching his plan to get into Fox at this point.

Mr. D: You’ve seen the movie?

Oh, yeah. Of course. Opening day, here in L.A. After the ongoing nightmare of the Writers Guild arbitration in the few months prior, wild horses wouldn’t have kept me away.

Mr. D: What did you think of it?

What did I…? Uh….um. Well. I’m…I guess you could say I was thankful I saw it for free with the concessionary ticket from the new “Predator” DVD! It wasn’t…well. It wasn’t the best, was it?

Mr. D: What impressed you the most in Anderson’s movie?

That’s…hmm. That’s a pretty hard question to answer! Nice atmospheric title sequence. I’m a movie score completist, so I guess I’ll buy Kloser’s score. Have you heard Shearmur’s “Sky Captain”? Just heard that today. Loved it!

I’m doing an interesting little monster movie, fingers crossed, with Stillking, the Prague-based company who were one of the co-producers on “A vs P” — in fact, I was only over there in Prague a bunch of weeks ago for some location scouting — and I have to say that for the budget of “A vs P”, which I’ve actually heard from a couple of sources is lower than what’s been bandied around, it’s a very fine looking piece of art-direction by those guys. Really decent sets. The icebreaker miniatures were nicely done. The Aliens have never moved better, as well — just wonderful animatronics. That Queen was a fabulous piece of work. I do wish that A.D.I. wouldn’t alter the sculpt of the regular Aliens, though. Giger’s original version? Still the most “realistic” looking of the beasts, to date. Have you ever seen that Takayuki Takeya Japanese model kit of the Alien, with the hyper-elongated head? Man, that thing is so cool. That’s what my creatures would have looked like if I had directed this thing. I’d have gone to extremes.

There was a moment, during that first fight with the Alien and the Predator, where I did get goosebumps and a 13-year flashback. But it was fleeting. And it’s always good to see Henrikson. But I don’t know about “impressed”? Can I plead the Fifth? When I first read the thing was set in Antarctica, after diligently setting the ground rules for the Predators turning up in heatwave conditions in the first two movies…and I won’t mention what I blurted out loud when I read that misjudged “Bullet-time Facehugger” shot in the script.

The thing that most disturbed me, when I read Anderson’s script, was what he’d written on the last page of every one of his drafts: “Lex will return in A-P-A…Alien/Predator: Annihilation”. I thought that was just uber-embarrassing…what is this, a James Bond movie? Maybe he wants to be “King of the Colon Sequels”. “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. “Event Horizon: Knocking At Death’s Door”. I don’t know.

Mr. D: An article in the L.A. Times mentioned the protracted WGA arbitration…what happened?

Did they go into that? Boy. Well. I’ve been through three different Writers Guild arbitrations in the last year, and this one was…well. Odd. They’re generally routine, but this one was unusually unpleasant, and very stressful. For all us other writers. It dragged on for months, through a couple of outcomes. I was in London, Los Angeles, Paris, Prague, and back to Los Angeles, and the thing still hadn’t finished! I don’t know as a Guild member I’m allowed to talk about the actual process…I get the feeling it may have even set a precedent. I got to meet Ron Shusett and Shane Salerno in the flesh, out of the whole debacle, which was lovely. Shane’s such a nice guy. Very decent. And Ron…well. “Alien” was a massive influence on me as a 13 year old kid… it was the only “Certificate X” film — that was the sort of British equivalent to an “R” rating — that I saw illegally, when an uncle took pity on me after I’d harped to my dad for about 4 months to take me. So meeting Ron was a massive fanboy moment. I’m hoping we can go out for a drink together while I’m here in L.A. this time. I’ve really gotta give him a call. Such a gentleman.

I was actually walking into the San Diego Comicon to register on the Thursday morning, only two weeks before the movie actually opened, when I got the phone message from the Guild of the final credit ruling. Ron and Shane and I all phoned each other within minutes. I do believe that Shane, the Thomas Brothers (who created “Predator”), and myself deserved a joint credit on it, not so much for the finished result, which — well. Let’s not talk about THAT, shall we? But for the material that was… let’s say…”sampled”, in the process. And, we were as pleased as punch when Dan and Ron eventually got their credit. But…I don’t know. Really. Having a credit on this thing…?

Mr. D: As the person on the movie with the longest emotional connection to the movie, how did it feel seeing material that wasn’t your own on the screen?

Well, it’s not the first time. “Judge Dredd”, “Freddy vs Jason,” whatever. You sit there in the theater and just grind your teeth in the dark. Even on something like “Hellboy”, where all that material I sat and bashed out on my Powerbook is actually up there for all the world, it’s difficult to get a sense… you sit there with a detached air, going “Mine, mine, Guillermo’s, mine, Guillermo’s…”

Mr. D: So, about “Hellboy”?

Well. I thought Guillermo did a pretty decent job of it. It was nice to see so much of what I wrote in the movie. He was very nice to me at the L.A. premier. I recently recorded an hour or so of documentary footage on the Sony lot for the upcoming second Director’s Cut DVD of “Hellboy”, to talk in detail about what got jettisoned from my early work on that, and what I uniquely created aside from Mike Mignola’s comic books that’s in there. Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered from Javier, the DVD’s producer, that for whatever bizarre reason best known to Sony, it won’t make the cut this time around. It’s a shame, especially as I made a decision early on, for a couple of reasons, that I really didn’t want to do any press on “Hellboy”, and this would have been the one opportunity to set that particular record straight. I had some nifty storyboards made up by a very good friend of mine — John Kelly, who’s an award-winning artist who works on some of the Lucasfilm “Star Wars” books — illustrating a couple of my scenes that were dropped from the movie, like the Nazis arriving on the island at the beginning by Flying Wing. Javier was going to put those on the DVD, but it looks like likely they’ll never see the light of day, now.

One of the nice perks about being involved with “Hellboy”, which is karmic “Alien” synchronicity, is I got to know John Hurt socially. We were having a drink at a bar in London, and he started coughing….and I thought “if he falls on the bar, and grabs at his chest!” [Laughs] John’s great fun.

Mr. D: But, “A vs P”?

I came out of the cinema (from “A vs P”) afterwards, and I felt… I don’t know. Empty. Depressed, actually. I thought: “you know, I’ve been championing this thing for 13 years…and what a sterile letdown. Why did I bother?” It was interesting. I thought about going off and getting very drunk, but just went home and read a book instead. There are some really interesting things in Anderson’s third act of ‘AvP’ that’s up there on the screen, that look suspiciously like stuff in the third act of my first draft, don’t you think?

Mr. D: In an interview in Fangoria magazine, Anderson says he’d read your version, and that it was more like the comic book. Would you comment on that?

Well, inasmuch as I used a few elements from the Randy Stradley comic material — the captive queen, the hoverbikes, and the main female character he created, as a jumping-off point…but my “A vs P” wasn’t an adaptation of the comic book. If you put the two side by side, they were disparately different stories. I mean, look at Anderson’s draft. He’s gone back into the comic-books and quite calculatedly pinched the Predator “Alien Finger Blooding”, for example, from there, which I deliberately didn’t use. Would YOU let someone come near you with something hissing with Alien blood? I sure as hell wouldn’t!

You know, I did read that Fangoria piece. Anderson made a couple of nutty comments in there: that there’d been many drafts at the studio before he came onboard? Uh…no. There was me, and then there was the DeMonaco & Fox draft. And that was it. All this material was presented to the WGA arbitration, so I can tell you that for a fact. I find it a bit curious that after all this, DeMonaco’s now doing an adaptation of the “Driver” videogame for Paul Anderson, though…

Mr. D: Anderson says all the best scenes in ‘AvP’ have been cut?

He did?? Really!? That’s…fairly unbelievable. I’ve got several drafts of his script from over the last year or so, including the last few shooting drafts, and…he said that? What “best scenes”? Pretty much what he wrote in the script’s up there. The only major thing of any consequence I’m flashing on is a daft scene where the Predator strips out the Alien’s brain and plays chicken-claw with it. There’s a peachy coffee table book of the A.D.I. effects work that I picked up at the Comicon, and there’s some pics of that in there. It’s not like Anderson wrote a lot of fight scenes in his thing to begin with. And I don’t think either of the opening scenes were ever filmed? There’s some dialog that’s been trimmed, sure, but…?

Mr. D: Anderson insists if we’d seen the “real film”, it explained away the alien’s growth through the machine the Predators built to accommodate the Queen, pumping her full of accelerative hormones.

Well, that’s…enlightening. I have no idea where he’s getting that from. It’s not mentioned in any line of dialog, or even scene description, in any of his drafts I’ve read. Unfortunately, this particular horse has bolted, so it’s pointless trying to close the stable door now.

You know, I once asked an executive behind Anderson’s “Event Horizon” what the longer cut of that was like, because I actually liked some stuff in it, and he told me flatly there wasn’t one. So, a longer “A vs P” cut? I’d certainly be very curious….

Mr. D: At a recent L.A. industry screening, as mentioned by a poster on our site, Anderson said your draft is “locked down” by Dark Horse. What happened there?

He said that?? That can’t be an actual quote! I don’t know where he gets this stuff. He really said that? That’s crazy! In fact, at the “Hellboy” premier party, Larry Gordon and Mike Richardson — who owns Dark Horse, and I’ve know properly for about 7 years, since I met him on “Hellboy” — we all grabbed a table and had a long riff about “A vs P”, and what it would have been if we’d have been doing it, like we originally planned. And Mike and I talked about this again when I bumped into him at the San Diego Comicon. If that’s an actual quote, Anderson doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In fact, and here’s an irony…such a long period of time went by, that the rights to my material reverted to me…and over the last 18 months, Fox had to re-option them again to legally get the movie done! So, yeah. I can quite categorically state that Fox owns my draft, and I have the paperwork to prove it. “Locked down by Dark Horse”…gimme a break!

You wanna hear a good “A vs P” story? Over an informal lunch about other things in — I think, April — I got asked by one of the “A vs P” execs, who’ll remain blameless, my opinion on the script. I sat and vented for a while, and pointed out a couple of more glaring plot errors that managed to slip by. He kinda narrowed his eyes, and said “Good catch…we should have hired you as a technical advisor”. I won’t tell you what I replied to that. Okay. So. Flash forward a month or so, and I’m in Prague; poking around the big, impressive “Oliver Twist” set that Polanski’s built on the backlot of Barandov studios. Anyway. I come across a shooting board slate, of “A vs P” reshoot dates, and when I ask what they are, I’m told that there’s a bunch of little things: inserts, fixes. Okay, interesting. So. I get back to L.A., and when I get the final shooting draft for the WGA arbitration…whaddya know. A number of the things I’d mentioned aren’t in there anymore. And I’m talking to Shane one day about the reshoots, and he tells me that the exact things I’d mentioned, were things that he’d just been asked to fix! I felt like Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News”: “I say it here: it comes out there”! Wacky, huh?