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Script to Pieces: William Gibson’s Alien 3

Alien 3 H.R. Giger Design

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

There were several attempts to crack the code of Alien 3 before David Fincher eventually directed his mostly maligned version—which I actually think is great. We’ve already taken a look at Eric Red’s attempt at the script, but Gibson’s was the first. Written in 1987, Gibson’s script picked up directly after the events of Aliens and took the action into a high-functioning Utopia, which is an interesting concept.

One of the most interesting things about this version of the script is that it totally inverts people’s major issue with the Alien 3 we actually got. In this version, Hicks and Newt are alive and well and are given a great deal to do, but due to complications with her cryo-pod, Ripley is forced into a coma. It’s interesting to kind of force fans to question whether or not we would rather have had Hicks or Newt in the movie, or if we would rather have had Ripley.


There are some really cool moments in this version of Alien 3, though. Hicks has a great showdown with a Queen Alien. There’s also an Alien virus that, when people come into contact with it, transforms them into a Xenomorph. I really like that idea and think it would have introduced a neat new element to the franchise. It would have been a very appropriate new level of body horror for a series that thrives within that sub-genre.

William Gibson wrote two drafts, the second of which significantly scaled down the action to make it more do-able within the studio’s—still impressively sized—budget. During the time he was involved with the story, 20th Century Fox was recruiting Renny Harlin to direct. Harlin had just come off of his first mainstream feature with the enormously successful A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

While both Gibson and Harlin are incredibly intriguing picks for an Alien movie, it’s a little insane to even try to fathom what a film with both of them attached would have looked like.

alien-3-showdownThis script has gained a following on the Internet, with many people considering it to be infinitely better than the produced Alien 3 because of the fact that it retains Hicks and Newt, as well as the fact that it sticks much closer to the action/horror tone of the second movie.

The producers, however, were largely unsatisfied and kept asking for rewrites, which Gibson didn’t really have the time for, citing other commitments. He was asked to make one more rewrite with Harlin, but declined, and that was when he left the project.

After Gibson’s departure, it was Harlin who suggested that the studio take a look at Eric Red and bring him in to write a draft. Red’s script is very different from Gibson’s, but retains certain elements. Once again, it’s much closer in tone to the second movie than the eventual finished feature would be. It also retains the idea of the Xenomorphs besieging an idyllic space commune. Instead of a giant, hi-tech mall, this script focuses its invasion on a Bio-Dome ecosystem that’s set up to basically look like classic small-town America.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this is that while Red’s script never wound up making it to the screen, that central concept of a small town besieged by aliens did eventually make it into Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

alien-3-xenomorphAfter Red’s departure, writer David Twohy was the first to conceive the notion of setting the film on a prison planet, though his take was just as different from the finished Alien 3 as the other two. His script centered around experimentation on the Xenomorphs and did not feature the return of Ellen Ripley—an idea that the producers hated, as they considered Ripley to be the “centerpiece of the franchise.”

Harlin eventually left the project, feeling that the producers did not want to invest in a new idea and wanted to stick too closely to the style of Aliens. Eventually, David Fincher came onboard and—after a lengthy and troubled production—delivered Alien 3, which was widely blasted for being too different.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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