ALIEN (Jun 1978) “Revised Final” Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler
“Revised Final” Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler Based on a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon Story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.
Vintage original film script, 11 x 8 1/2″ (28 x 22 cm.), mimeograph, brad bound, 105 pp., small tear near middle edge of front cover, brad bound, title written on spine, NEAR FINE or better.
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.“
Ten pages shorter than the previous 5/78 draft. Shots are broken down even further than in the prior draft, e.g., shot nos. 2-A, 2-B, 2-C. (Thankfully, the shot numbering makes it easier to compare these drafts.)
The reason for the crew’s initial landing on the alien planetoid has been changed from a prior draft, where it was because “we’re losing nitrogen.” In this draft, it’s because another ship reportedly crashed on the planetoid.
Can we land on it?
The other ship did.
That’s what I mean.
This draft includes some new business with Ash the android finding a fossilized alien skeleton on his video scan of the planetoid, which he conceals from the others (thus letting the viewer know earlier than in prior drafts that Ash is working against the interests of the human crew).
There is slightly more descriptive detail, e.g.,
Hands begin to open it with a laser cutter.
The helmet separates easily.
The two halves part…
A scene in a prior draft, immediately preceding the chestburster scene, in which the crew talk about the difficulties of plotting a course home has been omitted. The scene in which Captain Dallas encounters the Alien in an airshaft is described in more elaborate detail. Likewise, more time is given over to Ripley’s last search for Jones the cat… “Here kitty.”
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