ALIEN (May 1978) Revised Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler


Revised Draft by Walter Hill and David Giler, Based on a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, Story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

Los Angeles: Brandywine Productions, 1978. Vintage original film script, 11 x 8 1/2″ (28 x 22 cm.), mimeograph, brad bound, plain wrappers with die-cut window showing title, 114 pp., with the name “Helene’s” (?) on title page, and a few crossings out in ink on one page, brad bound, title written on spine, 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.


This script is fifteen pages longer than the earlier 2/78 draft. Unlike that preceding draft, its shots are numbered. The sequence in which the crew lands on and explores the planetoid — where they eventually discover the derelict spaceship and alien eggs — is considerably more elaborate than in the prior draft. There’s more bickering and complaining from the crew. Creature effects are described in more detail.

This is the first draft to contain the scene where Brett is apparently killed by the Alien while alone looking for Jones the cat (A scene deleted from the 1979 release but included in these drafts and the later Director’s Cut indicates that he and Dallas were, in fact, cocooned by the Alien for later consumption).

The conflict between Ripley and Science Officer Ash (who is, unbeknownst to the crew, an android) has been sharpened:



You mean to tell me all our technology is powerless against a god-damn beast?


When Ripley and the remaining crew realize that Ash is a robot working for “the Company” against their interests, there is a violent fight that ends with Ash incapacitated and beheaded. As in the prior draft, the crew reactivates Ash’s detached head to ask for advice, but in this draft there is more sardonic humor in his warnings and taunts: 



If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you are a man my son.


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