ALIEN (Dec 28, 1978) “Revised Final” Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler


“Revised Final” Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler, Based on a Story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett

Vintage original film script, 11 x 8 1/2″ (28 x 22 cm.), mimeograph, brad bound, title written on spine, 82 pp. JUST ABOUT FINE.

ALIEN was the second feature film directed by Ridley Scott and — along with Scott’s 1982 BLADE RUNNER — is considered one of the best written and directed, most beautifully designed, and most influential science fiction movies ever made. The film is clearly the product of multiple talented auteurs. In addition to director Scott and creature designer H.R. Giger, the movie bears the stamp of four principal screenwriters.

The film’s original story was by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. O’Bannon had previously co-written the independent feature DARK STAR (1974) with its director John Carpenter, a comic science fiction project with many narrative similarities to ALIEN (scruffy crew aboard a starship forced to deal with an alien and other issues). O’Bannon and Shusett were living together when they conceived and wrote the original ALIEN treatment and would later re-team as screenwriters of Paul Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL (1990), on which Shusett also acted as producer. Among his many other genre projects, O’Bannon was the director/writer of 1985’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Prior to producing and co-writing ALIEN, Walter Hill had established himself as one of Hollywood’s leading screenwriters and action directors. His oft-praised minimalist writing style can be appreciated in the screenplays he wrote for Peckinpah’s THE GETAWAY (1972) and his own THE DRIVER (1978). ALIEN resembles two of the best films Hill wrote and directed, THE WARRIORS (1979) and SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), insofar as it concerns an isolated group in transit, confronting an external menace, and the Hill/Giler drafts of the ALIEN screenplay are textbook examples of Hill’s characteristically spare approach. David Giler was Hill’s co-writer and co-producer on ALIEN and SOUTHERN COMFORT, and the two of them later co-produced the ALIEN sequels as well as cable television’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

Each of the Hill/Giler drafts is prefaced by a quote from W.H. Auden emphasizing the archetypal quality of the narrative:


Science fiction plucks from within us our deepest fears and hopes then shows them to us in rough disguise: the monster and the rocket.


The final “Revised Final” draft is the leanest of all the Hill/Giler drafts, 23 pages shorter than the prior “Revised Final” draft. A prefatory note indicates, “This script reflects dialogue changes added in post production for story clarification… all as written and edited after completion of principal photography on October 21, 1978.”

Where a scene that appeared in earlier drafts has been omitted (e.g., the Dallas/Ripley sex scene), the script simply indicates the scene number next to the word “OUT”.

ALIEN’s “Revised Final” draft has more (and more profane) banter among the crew members. There is more typed communication between Captain Dallas and “Mother,” the ship’s computer (“Question: What are my chances? Response: Does not compute”). A long sequence that appeared in prior drafts of Ripley, Parker and Lambert unsuccessfully attempting to eject the Alien from the starship has been omitted. The sequence of Ash the android attacking Ripley after she discovers what he is up to is preceded by his line, “There is an explanation, you know,” and this is the first draft that describes his “oral” attack on her (“Begins to roll up a magazine. Jams it down her throat”). The final scene of Ripley combating the Alien in the shuttle craft has been streamlined and improved. Here, as in the rest of the screenplay, a reader can’t help admiring the minimalist beauty of Hill/Giler’s scene descriptions:


The burned mass of the Alien drifts slowly away.
Writhing, smoking.
Tumbling into the distance.
Pieces dropping off.
Spray of particles in all directions.
Then smoldering fragments dwindle into infinity.

Ultimately, notwithstanding that ALIEN’s final shooting script was written by Hill and Giler, the Writers Guild of America awarded O’Bannon sole credit for this classic screenplay.

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