Alien 3 is the best example of development hell that the Alien series has to offer. Millions of dollars were spent on pre-production, directors, sets, and scriptwriters before a final script had been approved. Initially, Renny Harlinwas attached to direct, and worked on the film for over a year. However, he asked to be released after not being pleased with the script. Soon afterwards,Vincent Ward started working on the film, and also wrote a script. He left the production. Finally, David Fincher became attached to direct, making Alien 3 his directorial debut.
The list of Scriptwriters for the film is long, and includes 11 different scripts with 10 different scriptwriters. After the success of ALIENS, there was an immediate start on scripting a third Alien film. William Gibson was the first candidate, after having gained famed from writing the cyberpunk classic ‘Neuromancer.’ His script called for Ripley, Newt and Hicks to survive the trip back to Earth. The first draft was rejected, and Gibson declined further involvement due to other commitments.
Eric Red was then brought on board. The director attached to the project at the time, Renny Harlin, suggested that Red write the film. Red did wrote another story, which included the Sulaco and a a new commando unit, that gets wiped out when it boards Ripley’s ship. The company and the military had hopes to use the Alien for their own advantage. Producers Walter Hill and David Giler disliked the script, and he was ousted from proudction. As Eric Red states “Another major problem was they didn’t want Sigourney back, so I had to go through a whole series of new characters”
The next person attached to write was David Twohy who rewrote and reworked Gibson’s Alien 3 script and changed the setting to that of a prison planet. While Twohy and Giler both liked the script, with addition of new director Vincent Ward the script was turned down.
With that script tossed, Vincent Ward provided his own ideas, including having the film set on a wooden planet with monks as the main characters. Preproduction on the film included making sets with this script and conceptual art. John Fasano assisted Ward in creating this script version. The first draft was finished in early 1990, and envisioned having Ripley back in charge on this relgiously infused themed film. Film company Fox liked the script, but Giler and Hill had other plans for the film at this time. As Giler said “The picture would have had a great look, but it didn’t make sense.”
Unfortunately, Fasano and Ward had a falling out, when Fasano did leave production, Greg Pruss entered to write a new script. His plan called for killing off Ripley. However, the producers disagreed, and decided to boot him from production. Pruss is, however, credited as a conceptual artist for the film under the name of Gregory Pruss. The producers then asked for John Fasanoto come back and write another draft, but this did not work out. After this episode, Ward finally left production on the film. David Fincher was just 28 when he was asked to direct, making Alien 3 his first feature film, after a strong history in music videos. Larry Ferguson was now working on Fasano’s previous draft, and although he was soon released from production, his contributions to the story were confirmed when his name was added to the screenplay credits of the film.
“…Back in New York, [Walter] Hill saw “The Navigator : An Odyssey Across Time”, a stunning but esoteric art film by an obscure New Zealand director named Vincent Ward. But Ward said he didn’t like [David] Twohy’s script. No problem, said Fox. “So I hopped on an airplane,” says Ward, “and during the flight, I had an idea that was totally different: Sigourney would land in a community of monks in outer space and not be accepted by them.” The monks would live on a wooden planet that looked like something out of Hieronymus Bosch, with furnaces and windmills — and no weapons…
Fincher :In the draft Larry [Ferguson, Beverly Hills Cop II] was writing, she [Ripley] was going to be this woman who had fallen from the stars. In the end, she dies, and there are seven of the monks left — seven dwarfs.
- You’re kidding?
Fincher : Seriously. I swear to God. She was like…what’s her name in Peter Pan? She was like Wendy. And she would make up these stories. And in the end, there were these seven dwarfs left, and there was this fucking tube they put her in, and they were waiting for Prince Charming to come wake her up. So that was one of the endings we had for this movie. You can imagine what Joe Roth said when he heard this. “What?! What are they doing over there?! What the fuck is going on?!”
PREMIERE magazine, May 1992
Walter Hill and David Giler continued to refine the script, as the monastery setting was ousted and the prison planet concept was re-introduced. (Hill’s and Giler’s draft at this time is dated (December 18th, 1990). Fincher introduced Rex Pickett into the mix, and cleaned up some of the previous writing. Due to differences between himself and the producers, Pickett was quickly removed, but not without adding some scenes to the film.