Q&A- What would you ask writer/director Dan O'Bannon?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael Allred, Apr 25, 2002.

  1. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Well, since I've gotten to know Dan O'Bannon a bit, I thought I might try a question/answer session with him from his fans or just plain admirers of his work in film.
    Dan's always seemed genuinely surprised that he even has fans/admirers so I thought, why not try to connect the two worlds (even if it's through me) and show him that people are in fact interested in him and his work.
    Dan is not yet on the internet so I figure what better way to accomplish this than to compile a list of questions from the folks in the world wide web, pose them to Dan and then post them right here?
    I will only be posting this to Home Theater Forum as I feel this is the most respected forum on the 'net and the movie fans here seem to be the most genuine, respectful around.
    For those unfamiliar of Dan's work, he wrote the original story of "Alien", the screenplays for "Total Recall", "Screamers" and directed "The Return of the Living Dead" and the HP Lovecraft adaptation "The Resurrected" not to mention the various roles he played in "Dark Star", John Carpenter's first film. Check out my O'Bannon biography for more movie credits and details at;
    http://members.tripod.com/~evilbaby/ROTLDobannon.html
    Ok so now's your chance. What would you like to ask Dan O'Bannon? Please post your questions in this thread.
    I'll give it time for a decent amount of questions to build up (I wouldn't wanna bug Dan over 1 or 2.) Let's say the "cut off" date for posting your questions will be: May 5th, 2002.
    Sometime shortly after that, I'll call Dan up and set a time for him to give the answers you seek. Please attempt to put some thought into your questions (in other words, don't ask stuff like "Working with Carpenter must've been COOL huh?) [​IMG]
    I'll check back later.....
     
  2. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    -What was George Romero's reaction to Return of the Living Dead?
    -Has he had much contact with John Carpenter since working on Dark Star? If not, why?
    -Can we please get the answers to those trivia questions from the Dark Star DVD liner notes? [​IMG]
    DJ
     
  3. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    One of the things about ROTLD that has always frightened me was that his zombies actually run, rather than stumble around like Romero's zombies. My question is what made him decide to have his zombies do this? Was it to make them different than Romero's zombies?
     
  4. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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  5. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    I keep hearing some people say that Dan & John Carpenter had a "falling out" of sorts. Is this true and could he set the record straight for us fans?
     
  6. Kevin Leonard

    Kevin Leonard Supporting Actor

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    Regarding Total Recall: did he work from David Cronenberg's original script or did he start from scratch? Did he have any contact at all with Cronenberg? How was his working relationship with Paul Verhoeven?
     
  7. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Before I asked him anything, I'd thank him for writing one of my all-time favorite films (Alien of course!).
    1. How much input did Walter Hill and David Giler have in the Alien screenplay, and why were their contributions uncredited?
    2. Did he expect Lifeforce to become an underground cult hit, and how does he think the movie stands up today?
    3. What does he think of the Alien and Living Dead sequels?
    4. Would he be interested in doing an audio commentary for the eventual DVD release of Dead and Buried? (One truly underrated horror flick!)
    5. Who's the bigger jerk: Roy Scheider (Blue Thunder) or Peter Weller (Screamers)? [​IMG]
    And tell Dan his fans want to know when he's going to get another movie in the pipeline! "Genre filmmakers" (and I mean that as a compliment) who know their stuff are few and far between.
     
  8. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Scott, I can answer you regarding your question on what Dan thinks of the "..Living Dead" sequels. I asked him that same question a little while back.

    He's never seen them.
     
  9. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    Would he be interested in putting together the ultimate Dark Star DVD, with or without Carpenter's involvement?
     
  10. Jerry Ferguson

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    This is really cool. Thanks for this thread. I have 2 questions for him.
    1. Has he had any contact with his college screenplay professor ( I think it's Bill Frick...) I had gotten to meet and talk with him at great length about 11 years ago. See my post at The Dark Star thread.... What a great guy he was. If that's not his name...What the heck is it? My memory is just not what it once was...
    2. Is it just my imagination, or were quite a few "effects" from Dark Star reused in Alien? Some of the sounds and visuals from the opening sequence sure did look rather familiar.
    And please let him know that I am a big fan of his work. I always liked Dark Star and especially since I found out about that little "tidbit" I heard from the other thread. Can Dan confirm that that was true?
    Thanks again for the thread.
     
  11. John CW

    John CW Supporting Actor

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    Woohoo! I'd LOVE to hear all the answers regarding Dark Star, Alien and Total Recall! (Especially the answers to the liner notes on the Dark Star DVD!)
    Does he and Carpenter still speak? What was the "falling out" I heard about?
    Go ask him the questions now Mike! Now! [​IMG]
    Cheers,
    ~ John
    PS - It's Bill Frugge (character) and William Froug (producer of the Twilight Zone)! [​IMG]
     
  12. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I'd just basically like to know what he's up to right now...

    I agree that "Dead and buried" is a great horror film, and I would love to see a DVD of it. Does he know anything about that? A commentary would be cool too.
     
  13. Jerry F

    Jerry F Auditioning

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    Froug! Yes, Thank you! I must be getting old...
     
  14. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Well, it's May 8th, no further questions. I'll *try* to get a hold of Dan this weekend.
     
  15. John CW

    John CW Supporting Actor

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    One last question: What are the cast of Dark Star up to these days and does he keep in touch with them?
    Cheers,
    ~ John
    Also: More Dark Star/Alien trivia would be cool! [​IMG]
     
  16. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Ok I spoke with Dan today. He's in the process of moving so I couldn't ask everything this time but I managed to learn some stuff. Here's the basics.

    1) His relationship with John Carpenter.

    Everything you've heard about them not being friends any more is true. Apparently they were the best of friends for 4 years but as time went by (and not long after "Dark Star" was released) Carpenter decided that he no longer needed a friend or creative partner in Dan. I'm talking complete dismissal. Dan said he's seen it happen a lot in Hollywood. When one member of a team begins to get recognition and success, he dumps his partner behind. That's basically what happened here and considering how awful some of Carpenter's films have been in recent years (COUGHghostsofmarsCOUGH), ol' John could've used Dan's writing skills. Sad but true. Apparently Carpenter has done this kind of thing before.

    2) The "Alien" story/screenplay

    This is the part Dan went into the most detail and let me say it does NOT paint a flattering picture of one Walter Hill. I laughed my ass off after hearing Dan's side, some GREAT insulting one-liners, witty stuff.

    Dan wrote the script and sold it to FOX. Hill and Giler came in and tried to re-write some of it, eventually trying to get Dan's named removed from the script completely. Problem was, their "contributions" were so small they had no chance in getting the Writer's Guild (they decide who gets credit for what) to do it. Ridley Scott found some of Hill/Giler's "writing" to be crap and asked Dan to fix it, lol.

    Now get this. After Dan's name was (rightfully) kept, Hill/Giler were so furious, they tried to find ways to hurt Dan's career. Well, they couldn't fire him since his work was done so they tried going after one of the other producers from the film (I forget his name) that Dan got along with. That didn't work. So what did they do? Fire the secretary of that producer.

    It's almost comical.

    Anyway, Hill kept going on for years about how he was the real writer of the film (I believe his biggest contributions were some name changes like changing Dan's name of the ship "snarf" to the "nostromo". The reasons behind it were rather funny as Hill thought himself to be an intellectual of some kind. "Nostromo" was taken from a novel, of which I forget the title, as if he was saying "See? I got the name from this cool book, get it?") but after a while Dan got fed up with his ridiculous claims and sent his lawyer after him. Wisely, Walter Hill shut his mouth.

    Well, that's all for now.
     
  17. John CW

    John CW Supporting Actor

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    Wow! That's some really great stuff there Mike! Thanks!!

    I'd be great if he could actually take the time to answer all the questions, but this is very interesting non-the-less! (I wonder what Dan thinks of Carpenter's Alien "homage" The Thing?)

    I'd love to read Bannon's original script!

    ~ John
     
  18. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    I wouldn't go as far as to call The Thing an "Alien Homage", it was fairly closely based on a J W Campbell Jr. story from 1938 called Who Goes There? (The film captures the heart & feel of the story both in the nature of the creature & in the paranoia of the men, although the men tended to band together more in the story than in the film and the ending is different).
    It's a shame that that happened between Dan & John and I understand completely how he feels because I went through something kind of similar myself with a friend that I considered to be more a brother than a friend, we were close for thirteen plus years, and he broke it off after he got married because his new wife convinced him that he could not grow with her "as a couple" if he "had friends as close to his heart as his wife" (her words exactly from what I was told by him) so he broke it off with most of his long term friends shortly after the wedding. They were divorced a year later and he has been trying to re-connect with his old friends recently...I'm not sure if I care to (or if I even could) restart a close friendship with someone who so easily dismissed it for such an obviously manipulative woman...of course it's not like women have never broken up close friendships before in human history.[​IMG]
    I would like to hear Carpenter's side of things as well before I cast opinion and start dissing the man.
     
  19. John CW

    John CW Supporting Actor

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    The Thing was definitely an attempt at redoing the "Alien" movie: Group of people trapped on in some sort of complex with an alien running around trying to kill them one-by-one. Incredible similarities when you consider that Dan and John both worked on Dark Star (where Dan claims the idea for Alien came from).
    I don't think you can argue away their similarities though, even if it is based on an old story/film, the producers of that film knew exactly what they were doing financing a film that was very close to a previous mega-hit!
    Anyhow, here's a rough guide to what was actually changed by Walter Hill and David Giler:
    "The O'Bannon script was completed in 1972 and was first called "Star Beast" before O'Bannon changed the title to "Alien"(thank god for that). It was based on one of his unfinished scripts called 'Memory'. The supplementary disk summarizes that all the astronauts were men, their names were Standard, Roby, Melkonis, Broussard, Hunter, and Faust. The name of their ship was the Snark. Although not directly stated, I get the impression that the crew is more of an exploration/research team than the "space truckers" in the movie. As in the film they land on a planet after hearing a distress call and find an alien derelict, but here they only breathing masks are required to leave their ship and go outside onto the planet instead of full pressure suits. On the derelict they find the dead alien pilot, an empty "urn" (facehugger egg) and a triangular-shaped etching scratched into the control board.
    They leave, go back to the ship, then the disk refers to a portion of the script where the crew discovers a pyramidical structure like the scratched image on the derelict.
    This pyramid is where the eggs are kept. The search party goes out, one man goes down into the egg chamber, which is flooded with oxygen. There, before he gets facehugged, he finds a "strange hieroglyphics carved into the walls." The crew realizes later that this is a representation of the alien's life cycle."
    The disk says that everything pretty much happens the way it did in the movie except "the cew spends a lot of time speculating and analyzing." There are three more excerpts from the script, one a dialogue between two crew members discussing the relationship between the pyramind and the derelict and a second where we find out that the alien is turning its victims into new spores. (You may already know that a scene like this one was actually filmed for the movie, but subsequently cut to quicken the film's pace. This excised scene, by the way, is included on the supplementary.) The last excerpt is O'Bannon's description of the full-grown alien as it attacks a crew member:
    "A six-foot monstrosity stands in the opening. Ghastly beyond imagination, squamous, covered with tenticles, it hops down like an over-sized bird and grabs Melkonis in razor-sharp tenticles."
    Ron Cobb and Chris Foss did sketches, paintings and storyboards based on this version of the script also."

    Basically the story is nearly identical apart from a few changes, but the dialogue was changed a LOT (even if it didn't make that much difference to the actual plot!). WH and DG also added the "android" twist.
    Dan's script definitely had more discussion of what the aliens were and where they came from. It was also a lot more technical and paced slower (the "parasite" (aka facehugger) isn't removed until half-way through the original version).
    There are plenty of things the same though: The alien climbing aboard the lifeboat and being sucked out into space is EXACTLY the same. One of the crew members goes into the air shaft with a flame thrower. There's a cat who survives [​IMG] The alien has acid for blood and a scene where they try to remove it from a crew members face to discover it nearly eats through the hull. Every gets killed apart from one lucky person etc.

    VERY similar!
    ~ John
     
  20. Viktor S

    Viktor S Auditioning

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