“Ripples in the water” | Alien³ (1992)

According to the diary of actor Ralph Brown, who played the role of Aaron in the film Alien³, there was a message carved into a wall at London’s Pinewood studios. It purported to list the six stages of film production, as follows:

  1. Wild enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic
  4. Search for the Guilty
  5. Punish the Innocent
  6. Reward the Non-Involved[i]

‘I’d been doing commercials and videos for eight or 10 years before anybody gave me a shot at making a movie,’ said David Fincher. ‘And I wish they hadn’t.’[ii]

David Fincher in 2017 is a very different director to the David Fincher in 1992. Today he is an immensely well-regarded auteur with a string of exceptional thrillers to his name. Many of them are among my favourite films, including Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). His films look astounding, and it is no surprise to learn that he cut his teeth directing glossy music videos for Madonna and George Michael. Back in 1992, however, 20th Century Fox released his debut feature: the science fiction sequel Alien³. The film was widely reviled by critics and audiences. For most viewers it became an immediate poster child for bad sequels. It was that sort of movie that cineastes and enthusiasts could point to when they wanted to illustrate Hollywood’s constant hunger for money-making franchise properties regardless of their quality.

Peek behind the curtain of the making of the film and one discovers a textbook example of how not to make one. Literally millions of dollars were wasted in development costs. Sets were constructed and a teaser trailer released into theatres before the script was complete. The script was in fact never completed during the shoot. There was unprecedented interference by studio-appointed producers, and all-out war in the editing suite. From the perspective of those who made it, the audience reaction was probably the least important part of the entire process – it was a miracle that Alien³ made it to cinemas at all.

‘I had to work on it for two years,’ said Fincher, ‘got fired off it three times and I had to fight for every single thing. No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.’[iii]

The irony is that, once you negotiate your way through the severely compromised final edit and its narrative gaps and inconsistencies, Alien³ is an outstanding motion picture. It’s bolder and more provocative than a Hollywood sequel is supposed to be. It boasts an excellent cast who give great performances. It subverts audience expectations in the best of ways and actually dares to challenge the viewer. David Fincher may have made his reputation on Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, but Alien³ is as critical a part of his creative development as those other, more popular, films.

The Alien franchise commenced back in 1979, and despite initial interest from 20th Century Fox in producing a sequel it took seven years for the second film to reach the screens. When James Cameron’s Aliens grossed more than $180 million worldwide, executives at Fox were keen to avoid unnecessary delays for the second time. Development commenced in late 1986 on a third Alien film, with David Giler, Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll – who had produced the original – placed in charge of preparing the new sequel.

The first director approached regarding a third Alien film was understandably Ridley Scott, who had directed the 1979 original. While interested in the potential of a sequel Scott was unavailable, having already signed on to direct the thriller Black Rain (1989) for Paramount Pictures.

In 1987 Giler met with science fiction author William Gibson, who agreed to develop a story treatment and screenplay. Gibson said: ‘David Giler asked me to write the screenplay. He read Neuromancer while vacationing in Thailand, and that caught his attention.’[iv]

Gibson was given a general creative brief for his screenplay: the space marine ship Sulaco arrives at a Soviet-style enemy space station, where a fresh alien outbreak would put its crew in mortal peril. ‘They suggested the Marxist space empire,’ recalled Gibson, ‘and I happily elaborated on that. In spite of its almost instant archaism, I found it fun. I couldn’t recall a single piece of Cold War space opera in which the other guys were commies.’[v]

At the time Sigourney Weaver, who had played the lead role of Ellen Ripley in Alien and Aliens, did not express a strong interest in returning for a third film. Gibson was instructed to base his screenplay around two key supporting characters from Aliens: Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen). At the time the loss of Weaver was not seen as an insurmountable problem by 20th Century Fox: both Alien features had attracted a predominantly male audience, and it was felt by some that a male protagonist might even boost its popularity.

William Gibson’s first draft was delivered in December 1987, having been rushed to completion to avoid an upcoming writers’ strike. It featured the Sulaco being sent off-course by a navigational error into an area of space controlled by the ‘Union of Progressive Peoples’. With Ripley, Hicks and Bishop all still in cryo-sleep, UPP soldiers invade the Sulaco and discover an alien egg left behind by the alien queen during Aliens. One soldier is attacked by a ‘face-hugger’ alien, and the deadly spread of the alien menace begins all over again. Gibson’s screenplay involved rival genetic engineering efforts by both the UPP and the Weyland-Yutani corporation, culminating in an all-new marines-versus-aliens battle onboard a large space station and shopping mall.

A second draft by Gibson was delivered in early 1988. This draft reduced the amount of action in the screenplay and pushed Alien III (as it was then known) towards the horror approach of the original film.

With Ridley Scott unavailable to direct Gibson’s screenplay the producers approached the up-and-coming Finnish director Renny Harlin, whose films Born American and Prison had attracted the attention of the Hollywood studios. At the time he was approached Harlin was busy directing the horror sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master for New Line Cinema.

Harlin said ‘when the idea of Alien 3 came to me I felt that it was an incredible honour. I felt like Ridley Scott had made a masterpiece with Alien. Jim Cameron had made a masterpiece with Aliens. And I felt, okay if I can take it to another level, then maybe I have a chance of making a masterpiece as well. And so I eagerly took the challenge, and I had offices on the Fox lot and I felt very excited. But then, as we were developing the script, opinions between the studio and I were completely different. They basically wanted to make a movie that was just like Aliens – same kind of guns, just a different place.’[vi]

Renny Harlin was happy to rework the existing screenplay with William Gibson to get it closer to the sort of film he had in mind, but Gibson took the opportunity to withdraw from the project. He had novels to write, and was already fielding offers to adapt his short stories “Johnny Mnemonic” and “Burning Chrome” for other production companies. Years later Gibson would note one similarity between his screenplay and the Alien film that eventually hit the screen. ‘In my draft, this woman has a bar code on the back of her hand. In the shooting script, one of the guys has a shaved head and a bar code on the back of his head. I’ll always privately think that was my piece of Alien 3.[vii]

Harlin proposed an Alien sequel that would take the viewer to the planet where the creatures originated, and finally explain their origin and purpose. Harlin said: ‘So basically my pitch to the studio was, let’s look at aliens like ants. They are ants, and somewhere is the anthill. And now we’re going to travel to the anthill to find out, really, what are they all about? And who knows? Maybe they’re not really evil to begin with. Maybe it’s just a mechanism of survival that they are demonstrating. It would be really interesting – and obviously you’d have an action-packed thriller – but it would be really interesting to me to go to their origins and make this alien origin story.’[viii]

When that approach was rejected by Giler and Hill, Harlin suggested a film where the aliens invaded Earth itself. He pitched the film with the image of aliens moving through a cornfield towards a farmhouse. The concept was rejected on the grounds that science fiction audiences would prefer to see films set in space rather than on Earth.

By the end of 1988 it was clear that no third Alien film was going to made it into cinemas until late 1989 at the earliest – more than three years after Aliens had been released. Facing growing pressure from Fox, the producers hired a second screenwriter to produce a new script as soon as possible. The writer hired was Eric Red, whose screenplays for The Hitcher (1986) and Near Dark (1987) had given him a solid reputation within the industry.

Red’s screenplay was delivered in February 1989. The script focused on a space station whose interior was styled like a 1950s farming community. A wounded veteran named Sam Smith stumbled upon a secret scientific experiment to cross-breed aliens with various animals, all in the hopes of creating a new biological weapon. The script climaxed with twenty aliens fusing into one giant amorphous monster to terrorise the community’s survivors. ‘I don’t even look at it as my script,’ said Red. ‘The piece of junk was a product of a few weeks of intense, hysterical story conferences with the studio to rush to get the picture into production and it turned out completely awful.’[ix]

David Twohy was hired as the project’s third writer, and given William Gibson’s second draft as a starting point to develop a storyline. At the time Twohy had only two produced screenplays to his name: Critters 2: The Main Course (1988) and Warlock (1989). He would subsequently write or co-write the screenplays to The Fugitive (1993), Waterworld (1995) and G.I. Jane (1997) as well as writing and directing the three Riddick films between 2000 and 2013.

With the Cold War winding down it seemed likely that Gibson’s Soviet-style UPP would soon be outdated. To replace it, Twohy introduced the concept of a ship full of convicted criminals. While Giler and Hill were happy to pull the project back towards the tone and style of the first two Alien films, Renny Harlin was unimpressed. He argued that a spaceship packed with violent murderers and rapists gave the audience no characters for whom to barrack. He was also unhappy with the push back towards the kind of military action he specifically wanted to avoid.

With some regret Harlin resigned as director. He was immediately picked up by Fox to direct the comedy The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990), as well as one of their other in-development sequels, Die Hard 2 (1990).

While Twohy undertook rewrites on his prison ship screenplay, the production hit a fresh obstacle in the shape of new 20th Century Fox studio president Joe Roth. While Roth was keen to see the studio continue developing an Aliens sequel he was unwilling to continue without Sigourney Weaver as the star. ‘Sigourney Weaver is the centrepiece of the series,’ he explained. ‘She’s really the only female warrior we have in our movie mythology.’[x]

Since she last played Ellen Ripley, Weaver had received three separate Academy Award nominations: Best Actress for Aliens and Gorillas in the Mist, and Best Supporting Actress for Working Girl. To a large extent she had always approached her career from the point of view of a serious actor and not a glamorous film star. It seemed unlikely that at a point when her career was advancing considerably in that direction Weaver would agree to perform for a third time as Ripley.

Furthermore Weaver had been frustrated when what she felt were key scenes relating to Ripley’s character in Aliens had been excised from the final cut. In particular a scene of Ripley grieving for her dead daughter – who had died of old age while Ripley floated for decades in cryo-sleep – had been removed. She had also found the sequel’s reliance on gun violence troubling. While Weaver agreed to meet with her old producers to discuss Alien III, she was not particularly interested in returning. ‘I guess that’s why I didn’t want to make another one, partially,’ she later said, ‘because it’s such a fight. I’m doing it for my reasons, the studio’s doing it for their reasons. And sometimes they hardly intersect.’[xi]

Weaver was ultimately tempted back to the Alien universe with a substantial pay cheque, a share of the film’s gross box office revenue, a co-producer credit and – most significantly – creative input into the film’s screenplay.

The search for a director to replace Renny Harlin continued. At one stage David Giler met with British author and director Clive Barker, although Barker was not keen on directing a science fiction picture. Australian director Philip Noyce was briefly considered, after his 1989 thriller Deal Calm had attracted Hollywood’s attention.

The producers subsequently settled upon the New Zealander filmmaker Vincent Ward. In 1988 Ward had directed a surreal medieval fantasy film titled The Navigator, which Walter Hill saw at a festival screening. Hill liked Ward’s distinctive, dream-like aesthetic, and felt that it could help generate a distinctive and original Alien picture.

Ward was disinterested in the idea of simply copying Ridley Scott and James Cameron, but when assured he could develop his own vision for the film he agreed to sign on. He immediately started developing ideas. He returned to the producers with the idea of a space station with a metal shell and a wooden interior, in which a community of monks had built a massive cathedral named Arcaeon. It is into this esoteric world of religious faith and low technology that Ellen Ripley’s escape capsule crash-lands, bringing with it an alien face-hugger. While it would be expected that the alien would be an entirely new and unknown phenomenon to the monks, the film would reveal that humans had encountered the creatures far back in their ancient past – and medieval records of them would show how the aliens had terrorised human settlements in the Middle Ages.

To translate Ward’s ideas into a coherent screenplay, the producers hired writer John Fasano. Fasano said: ‘In our story we didn’t have Christians or Muslims or Jews. We had these pre-Industrial Revolution Luddites, with the irony being that this wooden “planet” they lived on was really hi-tech, an old spaceship sheathed in wood. The characters just didn’t want to admit that.’[xii]

One person particularly surprised by John Fasano’s hiring was David Twohy, who was still working on his penal colony screenplay. Twohy recalled that ‘a reporter called me up while I was busy writing Alien 3, and asked me “What’s this I hear about competing drafts of Alien 3?” I said I’d never heard of such a thing. By (Writers) Guild law, a studio has to inform the screenwriter if another screenwriter is also working on the same project, and I hadn’t gotten any such call. So I said, “That’s not right, that doesn’t sound right to me, I have a good relationship with Fox.” Then I heard it again, from someone else. So I called an executive at Fox and asked them. They were so disingenuous, the only thing they could say was, “No no, that’s not true at all. You’re writing Alien 3, these other writers are writing Alien 4.” I asked how that was possible, if they didn’t know what I was writing in Alien 3. I told them to fuck off and threw the script back in their faces. It was very scandalous at the time, but I handled it in such a way that I can hold my head high fifteen years later.’[xiii]

Twohy did eventually return to his original concept of a convict fighting monsters on a desolate planet: he wrote and directed Pitch Black (2000) for Universal Pictures.

The Ward/Fasano draft introduced several new variations on the alien species, including a chameleon-like alien that could change the texture of its skin – wood in one scene, wheat in another – and a ‘head-burster’, a self-explanatory variation on the classic chest-burster. The script also included a climactic scene in which Ripley, who had been impregnated by a face-hugger, had the resulting alien embryo forced out of her by a monk making chest compressions.

Three months into pre-production 20th Century Fox announced a release date of Easter 1991, giving Ward little time to prepare. He immediately travelled to London to supervise the design and construction of the film’s cavernous sets. He stopped in Zurich on his way to meet with artist H.R. Giger – who had designed the original alien creature and spacecraft for Ridley Scott’s original. Despite offering Ward several ideas on how to visualise different aspects of the movie, Giger was not contacted by Ward again.

When Fox executives found John Fasano’s first draft unsatisfactory, they hired an additional writer named Greg Press to rework it. Following the completion of Press’ draft, which pulled the screenplay far away from many of Vincent Ward’s original concepts, John Fasano was re-hired to pull it back towards Ward’s vision.

The longer Ward worked on his version of the film, the more both his producers and the executives at Fox balked at his concepts. While his proposed imagery was visually arresting, it jarred with the worn-down mechanical aesthetic of the two previous films. The decision was made to keep his storyline as intact as possible – Ripley crash-lands into a community of isolationist men, Hicks and Newt die in the crash, the alien breaks out in a place where the people have no weapons with which to defend themselves – but to dump as much of his medieval, wood-panelled aesthetic as possible.

Ward was summoned into the office of a leading Fox executive and informed that his wooden planet concept was unviable, and that the film needed to be shifted much more closely to the tone and content of Aliens. ‘It was a weird situation to find myself in,’ said Ward. ‘I’m one of those people who like to see things through. I don’t mind compromising if it will improve the story. But you’re dealing with people where it’s not known as a “film” – it’s called a “franchise”. So you don’t want your Kentucky Fried Chicken or your McDonalds to look different. You gotta have the same coloured walls, and the doors in the right place… there’s only so much you can say, really. It just comes down to creative differences.’[xiv]

Ward had no interest in developing a cookie-cutter instalment of a Hollywood franchise, and resigned from the production. His departure threw the already troubled production into chaos. Sets were already half-constructed at London’s Pinewood Studios.

‘Ward’s concept,’ said Weaver, ‘was a very original and an arresting one as far as I was concerned. But for various reasons he left the production. Frankly, I think he never really wanted to make an Alien picture in the first place. There’s a big Alien responsibility aside from just telling the story. Perhaps he didn’t think he was up to the demands, I don’t know.’[xv]

Without a director and with a screenplay in flux, Alien 3 was re-scheduled first for late Summer 1991, and then to some undetermined time in November or December.

It was at this time that Roger Birnbaum, Fox’s President of Production, had been looking for the appropriate film project for up-and-coming director David Fincher.

Fincher entered the industry as a visual effects worker at Industrial Light & Magic – he worked on Return of the Jedi – before establishing an acclaimed career directing high-budget television commercials and music videos. He was looking for the chance to direct a feature film, and Birnbaum suspected that Alien3 would be an appropriate fit. Birnbaum arranged a lunch meeting between Fincher and Giler, Hill and Carroll. Fincher said: ‘I certainly had an idea of what I thought a sequel should be or what I thought a movie should be. I felt that I had a body of work that people could look at and kind of go, “Well, here’s what to expect from this guy.”’[xvi] Based on that meeting the producers agreed to offer Fincher the director’s chair.

While Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward had been picked by the producers, Fincher came as the studio’s choice. It is perhaps for this reason that the producers did not get along well with their new director. Giler seemed particularly unkind, openly referring to Fincher in one meeting as a ‘shoe salesman’ – a dismissive reference to Fincher’s highly successful advertisements for Nike.[xvii]

While Vincent Ward and John Fasano’s screenplay remained on the table, Fincher was unwilling to direct it without significant changes. ‘I didn’t feel Ward’s ideas made sense in terms of the previous movies,’ he said. ‘Some of them were really interesting, but to send that much teak into outer space never made sense to me.’[xviii]Ultimately much of the story structure of Ward’s film was retained, but the prison colony aspects of David Twohy’s screenplay were inserted in the place of Ward’s space monks – albeit with elements of their religion still remaining.

It was Fincher’s idea to shave all of the prisoners’ heads to give the characters a stark, brutal feel. This was argued away in the screenplay as being due to a lice infestation. Fincher was also intent on having Ripley shave her head as well. As losing her hair would make it close to impossible for Sigourney Weaver to work after the shoot until it grew back, a significant bonus payment was added to her salary – with a penalty due if she was needed to re-shave it for reshoots.

Yet another writer, Larry Ferguson, was hired to collaborate with David Fincher and re-work the screenplay into a more commercially viable draft. When the Fox executives received the revised script, they were unhappy with the changes. David Giler and Walter Hill were contracted to do a second rewrite based on studio feedback. ‘There was a start date,’ recalled Walter Hill, ‘the script was announced to be a mess (it was) – it had been run through about five writers up to then; sets were being built, actors being hired – the usual circus of expensive incompetence. The studio and Sigourney asked us to put on our firemen suits, so David and I went to London and started writing.’[xix]

At around the same time David Fincher was put in contact with Rex Pickett, a screenwriter and ex-husband to director Barbara Schock. Schock had been contracted to work as second unit director to Vincent Ward on Alien3. When the Giler/Hill rewrite was sent to Fincher, the director was unimpressed. He paid for Pickett to fly to London, where set construction was nearly complete, to undertake a secret rewrite of the Giler/Hill draft for submission back to Fox. ‘Fincher liked what I did,’ said Pickett, ‘and finally revealed his hand to Fox. They were, at first, nonplussed, because I was a nobody writer, and this was a big, big movie. But they hired me. So, anyway, it was the holidays, and Fincher and I hunkered down and wrote and rewrote and rewrote until he had what he wanted. Fox approved my script and it was sent to all the departments.’[xx]

When Giler and Hill learned of the Pickett draft they were incensed. Walter Hill described the memo as suggesting ‘we were fools not to recognise the merit of the ideas the director had.’ [xxi] Giler and Hill quit the production in protest: angry with Fincher, angry with Pickett, and furious at the Fox executives who had supported Pickett’s rewrite. ‘They hired another writer behind our backs,’ said Hill, ‘they were being in our opinion very unrealistic about certain economic realities, and our conception of what a producer is had already been nullified. If they weren’t going to do anything we were telling them to do then what was the point in being there?’[xxii]

Their resignation provoked Sigourney Weaver, who felt they had a better understanding of the Ripley character than anybody else, to lure them back using a script approval clause in her contract. One condition of Giler and Hill’s return was that Fox would recall and dump the Pickett draft completely.

By the time Fincher signed on to direct the film, several years of development and false starts had already cost 20th Century Fox $13 million. Not one frame had been shot. ‘When I got to England,’ said Fincher, ‘I went to the stage to see if there were any useable sets – and I found that the gothic columns built for Vincent Ward had just been ripped down and thrown away. So I was trying to get sets started in construction that would be multi-purpose since we didn’t know where the story was going.’[xxiii]

The revised screenplay was still being written as Fincher worked furiously on pre-production. By the time the film started shooting, only 40 pages of the final screenplay had been locked down. Within weeks even those pages were being rewritten.

‘We felt we were working in handcuffs,’ said Hill, ‘writing to sets that were already built, plot moves that were committed to that we didn’t agree with. Then there were differences of opinion with Fincher, Sigourney, and the studio. We did our best and went home.’[xxiv]

Alien³ commenced production on 14 January 1991.

David Fincher estimated the film would take 93 days to shoot. Fox executives Michael London and Tom Jacobson, along with line producer Ezra Swerdlow, insisted that the schedule be cut to 70 days. Despite Fincher’s protestations that the film could not be completed in that time frame, he was ordered to move ahead and begin shooting.

Shortly into production the exchange rate between the American dollar and the British pound started to shift. Suddenly the London shoot, selected to reduce the production budget, was instead making the film more expensive to make. Fincher was immediately pressured to shoot the film faster, and cut out as many scenes as he could. Every creative decision he made was second-guessed over its potential cost.

Sigourney Weaver said: ‘Every day we’d shoot all day and, at midnight, David would have to get on the phone and defend shooting the next day’s work. You shouldn’t hire someone like Fincher unless you’re going to let them go. So I think it was very difficult for him. Really, it was difficult for everybody.’[xxv]

As Fincher’s shoot progressed it attracted an expanding number of visitors. Fox’s executive vice-president Tom Jacobson. Senior vice-president Jon Landau. President of production Roger Birnbaum. All of them with more authority over the production than its own director, and all of them actively giving their own opinions on how scenes should be shot, which takes were suitable, and when to move on from shooting one scene to the next.

A 1992 article in Premiere magazine related a set visit to see David Fincher direct the Los Angeles shoot. It mentioned the tension on the set, as well as Fincher’s dogged insistence on getting the perfect shot for each scene. It also noted no less than three senior 20th Century Fox executives physically on the set monitoring the film’s progress. ‘There are more producers around here than actors,’ said actor Paul McGann. “I wondered who the hell they were at first. It’s like having an extra fucking audience for every scene. You can’t get a clear picture of who wants what, it gets changed as we go along. I don’t know what they’re doing here. Rewriting some of the script? Getting in the way? Fuck knows.’[xxvi]

The constant rewrites and arguments with studio representatives, combined with Fincher’s perfectionist nature, caused enormous delays. Actor Phil Davis said: ‘Our band of convicts were called in to Pinewood studios every shooting day, about whether we were likely to get on camera or not, we went mad with boredom, there were card schools, chess clubs, scrabble competitions. The atmosphere on set was fractious and unpleasant, a lot of money was at stake and Fincher was making it up as he went along, story changes, script changes, every day.’[xxvii]

Co-star Charles S. Dutton later said: ‘It was a rather tough shoot because it was David Fincher’s first movie and there were all kinds of problems, not necessarily from his point of view but from the studio’s point of view. They didn’t seem to get along is what I can recall. It’s been a while now and then at the time Pinewood was in dire need of rehabbing but they’ve since brought it back to its glory days. In 1990/91 it was a dump.’[xxviii]

While the film was shooting, 20th Century Fox continued to distribute a teaser trailer than suggested the Aliens were going to come to Earth, rather than the story actually being shot at the time. ‘It had nothing to do with the movie that we were making,’ said Fincher, ‘and they were like, “It doesn’t matter. That’s what we do: we get the exhibitors all jacked up.”’[xxix]

‘I had that conversation with Roger Birnbaum, who said to me, “I can release a 15-minute black screen and call it Alien³ and do 15 million in the opening weekend.’[xxx]

At one stage the Pinewood shoot was visited by Ridley Scott. Fincher said: ‘Ridley asked how it was going and I said, “Really bad.” And he said “It never goes well… this is not the way to make movies, make sure you make a little film where you have some control whilst they’re beating you up.”’[xxxi]

With the production spiralling out of control, with budget overruns and a runaway shooting schedule, 20th Century Fox took the rare step of halting production completely and sending the entire cast and crew home. David Fincher was summarily fired as director. The sets in Pinewood were disassembled and stored in warehouses. Sigourney Weaver desperately attempted to intervene on Fincher’s behalf, including personally calling Joe Roth to beg for more time, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Once the existing footage was viewed in Los Angeles, it became clear that there was insufficient footage to form a coherent narrative: if the film was to ever be released, a significant reshoot would be required. Fincher was re-hired to put together a rough edit and submit a list of required scenes to the studio. According to Fincher, by the time Alien³ was completed 20th Century Fox had fired him as director three times.

David Fincher set about assembling his rough edit alongside editor Terry Rawlings – who edited the original Alien in 1979. Rawlings said: ‘So when we got it all together and looked at it, he said “What do you think?”, so I said “Well, we need, say A, B, C, D and E; we want these things done”. So then they have all these meetings… you have a round table meeting with the head of the studio, and all these so-called “creative people”, and they say, because to start up a production costs a lot of money, so they say, “Well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do then. We’ll do A, C and E, and that’ll make everything fine”. I said “Well we need everything, we need more than that”, but “no, that’s what we’re going to do”.’[xxxii]

David Fincher begged Fox for an additional six weeks of shooting. They authorised him to shoot for just eight days.

The stored set elements were freighted by ship to Los Angeles, reassembled on the 20th Century Fox lot, and the relevant cast and crew were flown to the USA to continue shooting the film. The release date was shifted back once more from Christmas 1991 to mid-1992.

Bringing the relevant cast members from London to Los Angeles for reshoots was a relatively simple matter, one covered by their contracts when they were first hired for the shoot. When it came to Sigourney Weaver it was a different matter: by re-shaving her head, she activated the penalty payment due to her from 20th Century Fox.

Once the reshoot was complete, it was back to the editing room with Terry Rawlings. ‘Then I get that in,’ he said, ‘and we look at the film, have another couple of meetings, and they say, “Seems to me you need B and D”…exactly what we said! So they start up again and do those, and we get it together, and they say “Well, it doesn’t seem to work”, and all that sort of business, and we need to cut it down, and lose this and lose that, and they started cutting everything away from it.’[xxxiii]

After a second, shorter reshoot Fincher was able to prepare a loose edit for the studio to inspect and to showcase in test screenings to sample audiences. Fincher’s original assembly edit ran for 144 minutes, much too long for 20th Century Fox’s liking. Following negative test screenings the film was re-edited without Fincher’s participation to a more cinema-friendly 114 minutes. The greatest casualty among the edits was the character of Golic: in the theatrical release Paul McGann was all but completely removed from the film.

‘Oh God, if you could only read the original story,’ said Fincher. ‘It just makes me weep. It was difficult for me to meet Paul McGann because I was such a big fan. What happened was a test screening audience of 18-year-old kids in Long Beach, California decided that they weren’t interested in what happened to Golic. They weren’t interested in what he gave the movie.’[xxxiv]

The film’s orchestral score was composed by Elliot Goldenthal.

His mournful, operatic score was markedly different from those created for the preceding films by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. ‘I didn’t listen to the first two,’ said Goldenthal. ‘The approach to Alien3 was that, we knew everybody was probably going to die. In film there usually is a chase at the end. But now, 90 per cent of the movie we have people running from things, so it was almost one hour and 25 minutes of chase music. I had to find ways to make it unusual and different.’[xxxv]

Goldenthal orchestrated the score with a combination of classical instruments, electronic percussion and a few specific instruments. ‘We had an instrument called a steel cello,’ he explained, ‘which is actually a piece of steel like a string, bowed with a bass bow and it goes [makes growling, low-pitched monster noises] “Grrrroooww! Grrooowww!”’[xxxvi] For another section of the score, Goldenthal ordered his entire trombone section to sing into their instruments as they played.

Final work on the film’s sound mixing was completed just as the Los Angeles riots of 1992 broke out. David Fincher, stuck in Malibu, was unable to attend the final day of mixing, which was completed by Terry Rawlings just before the riots reached the sound studio. ‘I was like “We’ll finish this reel!”,’ recalled Rawlings, ‘and then you sort of ran the gauntlet to get out.’[xxxvii]

By the time Alien3 was released to cinemas, David Fincher had abandoned the film entirely and did not consider it representative of the film that he had worked so hard to complete. ‘I had never been devalued or lied to or treated so badly,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t used to adults lying to me.’[xxxviii]

A month after the film’s release David Fincher told one journalist: ‘You know, if I make 10 shitty movies, I’ll deserve the flak and if I go on to make 10 great ones, this’ll probably be looked upon as my first bungled masterpiece.’[xxxix]

Fincher has, of course, gone on to direct Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. At the time of writing he may be one film short of his aforementioned 10, but based on its own extraordinary merits combined with the near-impossible circumstances of its creation a ‘bungled masterpiece’ seems as appropriate a description of Alien3 as any.

Years after the fact Walter Hill remarked: ‘I think a lot of the ideas of the third one are actually the most interesting in the series, but the whole thing didn’t quite come off. And certainly some of that is our fault.’[xl]

Running through Alien3 in order to better explore the film’s strengths and weakness – and the specific manner in which key scenes were produced – is a slightly difficult task due to the existence of two versions of the film. The first, a theatrical cut that was released to theatres in 1992, excised much of David Fincher’s intended film and significantly curtails the narrative. A subsequent ‘assembly edit’, compiled for home video without Fincher’s participation but based on his post-production notes, was released in 2003. It is my very strong opinion that, one scene aside which I will cover shortly, the assembly edit forms a superior version of the film to the theatrical cut. Key differences between the version will be noted, but the storyline detailed below is that of the assembly edit.

The film opens on a beautiful touch: the 20th Century Fox fanfare runs as usual, until on the second-to-last beat it simply slides off and down into a deep, miserable, prolonged note. We never get to that final note. It has an oddly bewildering, ominous effect. From the get-go the tone of the film is perfectly clear: bad things are happening.

Alien3 begins with an alien face-hugger – a survivor from Aliens – causing a fire in the Sulaco, the colonial marines vessel that took Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop to safety at the end of Aliens. Emergency protocols see the ship automatically transfer the life support pods to an emergency escape vehicle (EEV) and eject that vehicle towards the closest planet. That planet, Fiorina “Fury” 161, turns out to host an all-male maximum security penal colony.

In the crash landing both Hicks and Newt are killed. The android Bishop is damaged beyond repair. Ellen Ripley is the only survivor. Her unconscious body is retrieved from the EEV by inmates of the colony.

The film’s opening scenes were rewritten three times during production, as Fincher and Fox executives continued to fight over how the first few minutes would play out for the audience.

The EEV’s crash-landing into the ocean was shot from a beach in Newcastle, England. A nearby colliery had left the beach black with pollution, a look that matched the inhospitable surface of Fiorina 161 perfectly. The crash was the only part of the film not shot at Pinewood. A model of the EEV itself would be composited into the shot during post-production. To simulate its impact on the ocean three hundred pounds of dynamite were detonated just below the surface of the water.

One of the prisoners on Fury 161, Thomas, searches the EEV wreckage for survivors – his pet dog in tow. Thomas was played by Christopher Fairbank, best known to British audiences for his performance as Albert Moxey in the popular and long-running series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. He had also appeared in the films Batman (1989) and Hamlet (1990).

Ripley wakes in the prison infirmary. The chief medical officer, a man named Clemens, breaks the tragic news to her: her companions are dead, and she is for the time being trapped on an all-male colony of convicted murderers and rapists.

The infirmary scene was the first completed for the film, with Sigourney Weaver’s face made-up to indicate cuts and bruises and with a contact lens making one eye appear badly bloodshot. The size of the lens, which covered the entire visible eye rather than simply the iris and pupil, was intensely uncomfortable to wear. Weaver recalled: ‘David said, “just sprinkle a few bugs on her forehead,” and my eyes are open and I’m talking, and all these bugs drop down on my face. They went into my ears and my eyes, and I – who pride myself on having worked with gorillas and everything and being a good trooper – I went nuts. You realise what it’s like to be naked and blind and have bugs thrown in your face? It was the worst beginning with a director I could imagine.’[xli]

Ripley, fearful that an alien may have caused the fire on the Sulaco or be incubating inside one of the corpses, demands that Clemens conducts an autopsy of Newt’s body.

The death of Hicks and Newts, two immensely popular characters from Aliens, is likely the most divisive element of Alien3. To a large extent it spits in the face of viewers who liked those characters and had assumed they would have happy endings after the closing credits had rolled. In Newt’s case it seems actively cruel, not only killing an innocent child but defiling her body with a provocatively shot and edited autopsy. The visual imagery of the scene is not graphic. The sound effects most certainly are.

There is, however, a method to the film’s madness. On a purely practical note, bringing back Carrie Henn as Newt was always going to be near-impossible since the five-year gap between films would have left her unrealistically aged in the second film. More importantly, killing both Hicks and Newt dislocates Ripley’s emotional state entirely. Not only must she grieve the loved ones who have died, she is left alone on an unfamiliar planet with a population of dangerous, visually interchangeable convicts. Since Ripley feels so isolated and traumatised, so too does the audience. It is a powerful way to kick-start the film’s overwhelming mournful tone. From its opening moments Alien3 is a film about endings, death and loss.

Sigourney Weaver was defensive of the choice to kill Newt, telling one journalist: ‘Don’t tell me you wanted Newt on this planet with child molesters, sex offenders and rapists?! As Newt’s guardian, I preferred her dead rather than suffer the variety of awful things she could have been subjected to.’[xlii]

To create Newt’s dead body, Woodruff and Gillis referenced a five year-old silicone cast of actress Carrie Henn that had been made during production on Aliens. The stand-in corpses for Newt, Hicks and Bishop were the first practical effects that Woodruff and Gillis worked on for the film, as by the time they arrived at Pinewood the screenplay not in a suitable condition for them to have any other work to do. The extra time allotted to developing the dead bodies enabled the artists to make them disturbingly realistic.

Hick’s body is only seen very briefly. A computer display does show the face of actor Michael Biehn, who played Hicks in Aliens. Biehn learned quite late during Alien3’s post-production that his image had been used without permission. He objected via his agent, and Fox ultimately paid him a fee to license his face for the relevant shot: it was more money than he had been paid for his entire performance in Aliens.

Clemens was played by Charles Dance. A former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Dance’s first major screen role was that of Guy Perron in Granada Television’s prestigious television miniseries The Jewel in the Crown. In 1990 he starred in NBC’s miniseries adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

Dance said: ‘I remember walking on this huge set at Pinewood Studios and Fincher comes up and fires off his shot list for the day. Here’s this guy young enough to be my son who knew all the crew’s jobs, all the shots he wanted, and where he was going to make the cuts in the film, and I thought, “My God, this guy is going to go far.”’[xliii]

Clemens is a critical character for Alien3, partly because he explains the set-up and background of Fiorina 161 but more importantly because he is the only fully likeable character than Ripley meets. While Ripley acts as the audience’s point-of-view, Clemens is the one to whom the viewer can latch onto and actively care about.

During the autopsy, Clemens is assisted by a prisoner named Kevin, played by Phil Davis. Prior to his casting Davis was likely best known for playing Chalky in the 1979 film Quadrophenia. ‘It’s always a frustration playing a small part in a big budget American film,’ he explained, ‘it’s rarely fun. I had spent several months doing a fringe theatre production in London, it was a great success but there was no money. I needed to earn some dosh and Alien3 coming along was perfect in that respect so it would be churlish to complain.’[xliv]

Ripley’s presence in the colony is not appreciated, either by the dour Superintendent Andrews or by the religious convicts whom he supervises.

The idea of the convicts taking on some millenarian variant of Christianity was a hang-over from Vincent Ward’s screenplay. Indeed the entire storyline of the film hews closely to what Ward and Fasano has original proposed, simply stripped of its more religious and mythological aspects. The idea of the convicts was taken from David Twohy’s screenplay. When fused together the two concepts take on an additional frisson: it is an oddly contradictory set-up. These men are rapists and murderers, yet all – to one extent or another – worship a God of penitence and peace.

Superintendent Harold Andrews (his first name is never given on-screen) was played by the Sheffield-born actor Brian Glover. Before turning to acting, Glover had been both a professional wrestler and an English and French teacher. Through a mutual friendship with screenwriter Barry Hines, Glover was offered the comic role of physical education teacher Mr Sugden in Ken Loach’s Kes (1969). From there Glover moved on to a lengthy career in film, television and theatre, including a stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company and a recurring role in the television comedy Porridge. Glover gives a fantastic performance in this film; I would argue one of the strongest of his career. Andrews is an immediately memorable character, from his harsh demeanour to his headmasterly tone of voice and his ever-present squash ball, which he squishes impulsively in one hand like a nervous tic.

During production on Alien3 Glover told one journalist: ‘I’ve done about 50 films and TV dramas, and they’re paying me more on this than the rest put together. Good job they have, too, ‘cause I don’t think it will ever be finished.’[xlv]

Andrews’ second-in-command is Francis Aaron, nicknamed “85” by the prisoners on account of his limited IQ. He was played by Ralph Brown, best known for playing the drug dealer Danny in Bruce Robinson’s comedy Withnail and I (1987). He had also appeared in other British films including Buster (1988) and Scandal (1989).

When Brown successfully auditioned for the film, David Fincher offered him a range of different roles to play. He zeroed in on Aaron, liking the concept of the character in the screenplay he had been given to read. At that point Aaron was a reserved corporate type, effectively an upper class character trapped in a grimy working-class environment. Rewrites a few weeks into the shoot spontaneously transformed the character into the dense comedic figure he is in the final film. Brown was upset with the changes, and requested a meeting with writer/producer Walter Hill to complain. The advice of Brown’s agent, according to Brown: ‘Don’t rock the boat, keep your head below the parapet, wear a tie and vote conservative (remember, this is 1991).  Above all, he advises, Do Not Upset Walter Hill, writer and producer of the film.  There are major Hollywood politics going on and I’m simply caught in the crossfire, my character being one pawn among many in a power game between the Giler/Hill axis and the Fincher/Fox camp.’[xlvi]

While Brown did meet with Hill, his character was not changed back.

With the autopsy complete, Ripley insists that Newt and Hicks’ bodies are cremated. While a funeral service is performed at the facility’s metal foundry, in another corner of the colony an alien is born.

The original plan for the alien’s birth was for it to burst from an ox. The idea of a non-human host for the alien embryo was a factor in multiple versions of the Alien3 screenplay going all the way back to Eric Red. It was seen as a chance to create an entirely new style of alien creature that would distinguish it from the other two films. Early scenes in the film would show the prisoners using large oxen to drag the EEV from the ocean. One of the animals would, unseen by the convicts, be attacked by a face-hugger that had hid itself onboard the EEV.

A prop ox was built for roughly $60,000, from which an alien head would burst in a fountain of blood. While the scenes were shot and completed, David Fincher was unhappy with the result. He decided to reshoot the scene, and replace the ox with a Rottweiler. When he went to have the new scenes produced, however, Fox’s executive producers refused to allow the additional expense. The film was initially edited together without an alien birth at all. When a test screening revealed that audiences were confused as to how the adult alien came to be on Fiorina 161, the executives grudgingly allowed for a two-day reshoot to incorporate the dog into the film. This shoot was undertaken in March 1992, just two months before Alien3 opened in cinemas.

As a part of the cuts and changes made for the assembly edit, the original ox birth was used in place of the dog birth. While fascinating to watch, the original scenes are visibly less effective and dramatic than the ones employed in the reshoot. The assembly edit is a superior version of Alien3 in every aspect bar this one.

The new-born alien, nicknamed the ‘Bambi’ alien, was achieved through use of a cable-controlled puppet. Its stumbling, weak movements were intended to reflect a new-born animal. Alec Gillis recalled that ‘Fincher wanted the women in the audience to go “aww” when it first tries to stand up, and the next time you see it, it’s spitting acid.’[xlvii] Gillis and Woodruff coated the puppet in the thickening agent methylcellulose to give it a disgusting slime-covered appearance.

Due to the lateness of the ‘dogburster’ shoot, the puppet used was the same one used for the adolescent alien in a later scene. It was hardly seen in that later sequence, so its re-use here was not seen as a significant problem.

At one earlier stage Gillis and Woodruff explored using a small dog in a chest-burster costume to create the effect. ‘The whippet looked great,’ admitted Woodruff, ‘but it wouldn’t perform on set. We couldn’t even get it to trot down the hall, which was all it had to do!’[xlviii]

Entirely unaware of the alien’s birth, Ripley is left to wait for a rescue ship from the Weyland Yutani corporation. She is the only woman in a prison full of violent criminals who have collectively taken a vow of celibacy. It is suffice to say that tensions over her arrival are high. Pretty much the only prisoner willing to talk to Ripley is Leonard Dillon, a de facto leader among the group.

Dillon was played by Charles S. Dutton. As a young man Dutton was convicted of manslaughter for killing a man in a street fight. While Dutton maintained he had acted in self-defence, he was nonetheless sentenced to seven years in prison. Shortly after his release he was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon and sentenced to an additional three years. During his second stint in prison Dutton found a passion for theatre and acting, and went on to not only complete high school but undertake a Bachelor degree complete his Masters at the Yale School of Drama.

Dutton’s 1984 Broadway debut in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom earned him a Tony Award nomination, and in 1988 he starred opposite Jack Lemmon and Kevin Spacey in the television miniseries The Murder of Mary Phagan. By the time he was cast in Alien3 Dutton was starring as garbage collector Roc Emerson in the Fox television series Roc.

One of the other prisoners who jumps off the screen from his first appearance is David, played by Pete Postlethwaite, simply because Postlethwaite – a relative unknown at the time he appeared in Alien3 – went on to become one of the most highly regarded and feted British actors of his generation.

After early appearances in British film and television, Postlethwaite gained his first major success starring in Terence Davies’ 1988 drama Distant Voices, Still Lives. Following a high-profile role as Captain Beams in Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans (1992), his career skyrocketed following his Oscar-nominated performance in Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father (1993). Subsequent roles included the Sharpe TV films (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Dragonheart, Romeo + Juliet (both 1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Amistad (1998) and Inception (2010). Steven Spielberg – who directed Postlethwaite in both The Lost World and Amistad – famously described him as ‘the best actor in the world’.[xlix] He died in early 2011 due to pancreatic cancer.

Thomas is cleaning a massive vent shaft somewhere in the facility when he noticed a strange burned hole on the floor. When he investigates, the adolescent alien lashes out and scars his face. Thomas stumbles backwards in agony, falls into the large vent fan and is effectively shredded.

The alien demonstrates a previously unseen ability here: to spit acid at its prey. Prosthetic make-up was applied to Christopher Fairbank to reveal the skin of his face melting away. Due to the rapid editing of the scene, however, the acid spitting is not made entirely clear and the make-up – which was reportedly very graphic – is not visible at all.

While cleaning the shaft, Thomas sings Zager and Evans’ hit song “In the Year 2525” – a small science fiction-themed in-joke.

During Thomas’ death, Ripley and Clemens have been having sex, Ripley having taken the opportunity of a moment’s peace to give herself some relief. It is a very adult moment, in a mature sense, reflecting the ongoing and seemingly endless trauma that the character has suffered. It also builds on the film’s strongest relationship: calling the closeness between Ripley and Clemens a romance would over-sell its nature, but it is a bond that helps to settle the viewer into the film.

Three prisoners – Boggs, Rains and Golic – walk the long journey down one of the colony’s labyrinthine corridors, relighting candles along their way. Something up ahead keeps blowing the candles out, and so they advance to investigate. It is the full-grown alien: Boggs and Rains are brutally slaughtered, while a terrified Golic is showered in blood and abandoned by the creature.

Golic was played by Paul McGann. At the time McGann was best known for his lead performances in Withnail and I (opposite Ralph Brown) and The Monocled Mutineer. Four years after the release of Alien3 he was cast as the Doctor in the BBC/Fox co-produced relaunch of Doctor Who. Despite the made-for-television film not receiving a pick-up for an ongoing series, McGann has perhaps unfairly remained famously attached to the role ever since.

Boggs and Rains were played respectively by Leon Herbert and Christopher John Fields. Leon Herbert had previously performed on British television – notably as Polish Joe in the acclaimed drama The Paradise Club – and had made a brief appearance in Batman (1989) as a news reporter. Prior to Alien3 Fields had appeared in minor roles in It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Jacob’s Ladder, with Rains representing his highest-profile role to that point. He subsequently played small parts and guest appearances in a variety of films and TV productions, including several more for David Fincher: The Game, Fight Club and Zodiac.

In the assembly edit of the film McGann’s performance is slightly inconsistent: after several weeks of shooting the studio demanded that his accent be changed from his initial take to a generically British one. No time was given to reshoot his earlier scenes.

Golic is a fascinating character. He is a deranged convicted murderer with an oddly childlike personality, and by the end of the film has assaulted one prisoner and violently stabbed another to death. To a large extent he helps to form one of the film’s main themes: the alien, for all of the carnage and terror it causes, is just an animal. Human beings are the ones capable of evil.

This approach – to highlight the human failings over the alien menace – was intentional. ‘The first thing that we decided,’ said Fincher, ‘was that the alien wasn’t going to be the main focus. It’s like The Bridge on the River Kwai. The bridge is one of the things you have to deal with, that’s not what the movie is about. The idea was not to make a whiz bang, shoot-em-up. But to deal with this character.’[l]

The character in this case is Ellen Ripley. By the time the film begins she has seen her crewmates violently killed, witnessed a terrifying monster, barely escaped with her life, overslept via cryosleep her own daughter’s death from old age, seen the monster come back in mass quantities, seen another group of people get killed, and once again barely escaped. Within the first five minutes of this third film all of her friends, including a ten year-old girl, have been killed in an escape pod crash. All that is left is Ripley and yet another monster.

It is not in and of itself impressive to kill most of the surviving cast of Aliens; that is simply a means to an end. The cleverness comes in recognising that Ripley’s story and the alien’s are permanently intertwined, and to kill one of them off once and for all necessitates Ripley’s ultimate self-sacrifice. There is a reason for the mournful orchestral score, the huge cathedral-like ceilings and the generally miserable, depressing aesthetic: Alien3 is, for all intents and purposes, a funeral in movie form. Fox could extend the franchise if they wanted to, and of course they did, but Alien3 very firmly closes Ripley’s story.

That is genuinely bold filmmaking, and it rarely gets acknowledged. It is no wonder that the executives at Fox were so troubled by the film: their chosen director and his crew’s approach to extending their lucrative franchise was to end it.

While the alien creature was not the focus of the film, it was certainly its key highlight. The original alien had been designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, however for Aliens it had been re-imagined slightly by American designer Stan Winston. For the third film the producers were keen to bring the design closer to Giger’s original. To that end, in July 1990 Gordon Carroll negotiated for Giger to join the then-titled Alien III and provide new and updated designs for the face-hugger, the juvenile alien and a fully developed adult.

‘I worked like crazy on it,’ said Giger. ‘I had special ideas to make it more interesting. I designed a new creature, which was much more elegant and beastly, compared to my original. It was a four-legged alien, more like a lethal feline – a panther or something.’[li]

Unknown to Giger, design responsibilities for the new alien had already been passed on to Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff. Giger continued to fax design concepts and sketches to the production, despite those suggestions going unanswered. Gillis and Woodruff, unaware that Giger had assumed he was the film’s key designer, simply took his submissions as enthusiastic advice from a supportive creator. Throughout this period Giger was also in conflict with 20th Century Fox over his contract. He had been promised an identical contract to the one he had signed on the original Alien, whereas Fox continued to push for a standard work-for-hire agreement. By the time Giger received the contract he had originally been promised, Alien3’s design process was essentially over.

Giger’s troubles continued when Alien3 was finally completed. The design credit specified in his contract with Fox, which included reference to his work designing the original creature for Alien, was not included in the film’s publicity. Furthermore, when Alien3opened in cinemas Giger lacked an on-screen credit at all.

Gillis and Woodruff’s final design for the alien echoed Giger’s intentions in making it a four-legged, much more animalistic creature. Its tail was significantly longer, while its colourings were shifted from the original blue-black to a mixture of browns – better to camouflage it against the generally brown, dirty tones of the Fury 161 sets.

The ridges running along the alien’s head, added by Stan Winston for Aliens, were removed. The alien design also did away with the long, rounded spines that ran along the creature’s back in the previous two films. As the new alien was intended to run along on all fours, Gillis and Woodruff found that the spines interfered too much with the creature’s ability to turn its head. Woodruff ultimately played the alien himself in key close-ups while wearing a special constructed skin-tight suit.

For scenes where the alien would undertake specific tasks such as running along ceilings, a three-and-a-half foot long puppet was created. This puppet was hand-operated, enabling it to be applied in a more versatile way during the shoot. It required up to four puppeteers to animate, depending on the activity required. Puppet supervisor Laine Liska said: ‘One of the advantages of doing it with puppetry is that we were able to create lots of versions in the same set-up, where with CGI and stop-motion you’re more restricted to a single finished product. We sometimes did as many as 60-70 takes of a single scene, with Fincher directing the puppet just like it was an actor.’[lii]

In Ridley Scott’s original Alien the creature was generally shot in close-ups, to avoid showing the entire costume in a single shot and thus destroying the illusion of it as a terrifying, mysterious creature. To replicate the effect in Aliens James Cameron showcased his creatures in swarms. With several aliens in one shot all scrambling towards the camera it became difficult to see where one of them ended and then next began.

For Alien3 the creature’s appearance was obscured not by darkness or numbers but by speed: it would run faster than any previous version and with its orange-brown colouring would blend in to the rusted, industrial pipes and tunnels of the Fiorina 161 prison facility. David Fincher’s description to his design team was simple: he wanted ‘a freight train with teeth’.[liii]

To determine whether or not an alien did somehow travel down to Fury 161 in the escape pod, Ripley goes looking for the remains of the android Bishop – who has been unceremoniously dumped in an outdoor garbage dump. The dump was built indoors, using the real-life concrete walls and metal pylons of the famed ‘007 Stage’ at Pinewood.

A head and partial torso of Bishop had been constructed for the film, but due to the humidity of the steam and simulated rainfall on set it deteriorated rapidly as the scene was shot. When the time came to shoot the subsequent indoor scene of Ripley re-activating and talking to Bishop, only the shots of Ripley were made in London. Reverse shots of Bishop utilised a new animatronic puppet constructed during post-production.

While attempting to leave the garbage dump, Ripley is ambushed by three prisoners who attempt to rape her. Their assault is prevent just in time by Dillon, who urges Ripley to leave while beating her assailants with a metal pipe.

Lance Henriksen – who had played Bishop in Aliens – returned to provide the voice of the damaged android. While negotiating to return to the role, Henriksen found the size of his role fluctuating considerably from one version of the screenplay to another. ‘There were five scripts done,’ he said, ‘I would be written in, then writing out. In one, Bishop was an enormous character. So I never knew.’[liv] As the script was re-written, a second role was developed for Henriksen: the nameless Weyland Yutani representative who arrives at the film’s climax to negotiate with Ripley.

Henriksen returned to the role after receiving a personal plea from producer Walter Hill. Despite only appearing in two scenes, the troubled production schedule saw Henriksen work on the film for three weeks.

‘David’s so young and bright,’ said Henriksen, of David Fincher. ‘He’s very articulate about what he wants in a performance. He really directed me. He cares about the visuals too, but it’s really the performance he cares about.’[lv]

Golic is found in the mess hall, soaked in blood and raving about a ‘dragon’. Given his violent criminal past, it is assumed he murdered Boggs and Rains. He is taken to the infirmary in restraints. Ripley is the only person to believe him.

Ripley goes to Andrews to convince him to prepare a defence against the alien, but he steadfastly refuses to believe her claims. Ripley is also shocked to discover that the prison contains no firearms or weapons of any kind.

The lack of guns in the film was the result of Sigourney Weaver’s creative input into the screenplay. An anti-gun advocate in real life, she had been uncomfortable with the level of gun violence in Aliens and was keen to see the sequel shift back to the more horrific, less militaristic tones of the original film. That sentiment had been taken onboard when Vincent Ward and John Fasano developed their screenplay, and that in turn influenced the development of the final film.

The removal of guns from the narrative was met with derision from fans of Aliens once Alien3 was released to cinemas. Those viewers, keen for a second action-oriented picture, were being specifically denied the exact sort of movie they wanted to see. After the deaths of Newt, Hicks and Bishop, it seemed like yet another frustration in a deeply frustrating film.

To my mind the absence of guns in the film is a narrative necessity given the story being told: one alien against armed soldiers would not last long. It is only through strength in numbers that they prove such an overpowering threat in Aliens. In line with Weaver’s intentions, Alien3 does make a partial return to the intimate, claustrophobic horror of Ridley Scott’s original. I think it does so to its benefit.

Back in the infirmary, Clemens assesses Ripley’s health. She is still feeling unwell after her crash in the EEV. He finally confides in her his reason for staying on Fury 161 – he was once a prisoner himself, after killing a patient while high on morphine. Just as he is administering a medication to Ripley, the alien bursts into the infirmary via a ceiling vent and murders him in front of Ripley and Golic. It then crawls across the floor to a terrified Ripley and hisses, its face an inch from hers, before escaping back through the vent with Clemens’ body in tow.

Clemens’ death was deliberately inserted to echo to death of Kane (John Hurt) in the original Alien. It takes a likeable, readily identifiable character and forcibly yanks them out of the narrative. It sets the audience off balance, and pushes the story into a new, much more terrifying phase.

The moment where the alien moves right up to Ripley’s face is far and away the most iconic of the entire film. It was used extensively while the film was being advertised, not just in the theatrical trailer but also as a widely distributed publicity photograph. I have always been fascinated by such moments in popular film, those which resonate with viewers to such a degree as to become the most immediately identifiable image of those works. In Alien it is almost certainly the sight of an alien bursting out of Kane’s chest. In Aliens it is Ripley’s famous ‘Get away from her you bitch’ arrival during the climax. It is arguable that the alien and Ripley in profile in Alien3 is the last great iconic moment of the franchise. One could claim Alien Resurrection has a contender in the image of the cloned Ripley sinking into a writhing mass of aliens, but to me it feels something of a stretch.

Andrews attempts to calm the prisoners is interrupted by a panicked Ripley, who bursts in to warn them of the alien threat. While Andrews barks at Ripley to be quiet, the alien lunges down from an overhead vent and drags him out of view in a fountain of blood. The prisoners scatter in terror, Andrews’ squash ball goes bouncing across the ground and – after a particularly well-time pause – a prisoner named Morse speaks for the entire audience with an exasperated ‘fuck!!’ Even in the face of tragedy, trauma and misery, Alien3 finds plenty of spaces to be funny. It is, rather perversely, possibly the funniest Alien movie of the entire franchise. It is packed with unexpected and small moments of comedy, generally involving the prisoners.

The humour continues with the sight of the prisoner Jude, in the scene immediately following, gingerly mopping up Andrews’ blood with one eye on the vent above.

The death of Andrews and Clemens, and Aaron’s general incapacity to exert any kind of authority, leaves Ripley as de facto leader of the prisoners. With Dillon’s support she proposes they find a way to trap the alien before it can kill anybody else. There is a storage chamber used for toxic chemicals that could easily hold the alien inside, but the trick will be how to get it inside.

A prisoner named Frank suggests pouring quinitricetyline – a highly flammable waste product – into the vents and igniting it to flush the alien out of hiding. While the plan is enacted, Frank himself is attacked by the creature and drops a flare into the waste – causing a massive explosion in the process.

Frank was played by Carl Chase. Chase had previously appeared in the TV series Brookside (1983-84), Fairly Secret Army (1986) and The Monocled Mutineer (1986, opposite Paul McGann), as well as the films Cry Freedom (1987) and Batman (1989).

While shooting the fire sequence the effects team found that the heat in the studio was so great that the slime applied to the alien suit was evaporating faster than it could be shot, necessitating constant re-application from one take to the next. More seriously, one shot involving an explosion caused a backdraft of fire on the set. Five crew members were burned – one seriously so – and were immediately rushed to hospital.

In the assembly edit a prisoner named “Junior” – one of the three men who attempted to rape Ripley – baits the alien into the waste container, enabling Ripley to seal it inside. In the theatrical edit, with this sequence absent, “Junior” simply disappears from the film like several other characters.

“Junior” was played by Holt McCallany. He had previously appeared in the films Creepshow 2 (1987) and Casualties of War (1989) before joining the Alien3 cast. He subsequently appeared in supporting roles in a raft of films including Amateur (1994), Jade (1995), The Peacemaker (1997) and Fight Club (1999). In 2017 he was cast in a leading role in David Fincher’s Netflix drama Mindhunter. ‘I’ll always have a very soft spot in my heart and tremendous respect and admiration for David,’ he said. ‘I think it’s pretty clear that he’s one of the best filmmakers of his generation, and I think he’ll probably be remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He’s also a wonderful guy.’[lvi]

In the theatrical cut of the film, the alien is never contained and Ripley and the prisoners simply re-group to develop another plan. In the assembly edit, the alien is freed from the waste container by Golic, who knocks Morse unconscious and then slits the throat of the prisoner Arthur (who was left to guard the container overnight). Golic then enters the container in a religious fervour – only to be slaughtered by the alien for his troubles.

Arthur was played by Deobia Oparei, a British actor and playwright. While Alien3 was his first film role, he would subsequently appear in Moulin Rouge (2000), Doom (2005), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and Dredd (2012).

The survivors gather together to formulate a new plan. Some – including Aaron – want to wait for a rescue ship to arrive from the Weyland Yutani corporation. Others – led by Ripley – want to destroy the alien before the corporate representatives arrive. Ultimately a scheme is hatched to use the prisoners as bait to lure the alien into the colony’s massive lead foundry, and once it is contained with the moulding chamber to bury it in molten metal.

In the theatrical edit this scene arrives in a remarkably abrupt fashion, leaving no time whatsoever for the characters to cope with the deaths that occurred during their capture attempt. In the assembly edit, of course, that attempt was actually successful – and Golic’s freeing of the alien makes this a more logical and more desperate scene.

Since waking on Fury 161 Ripley has been suffering ongoing symptoms of some illness: a sore throat, body pains and so on. In a quiet moment she creeps back to the Sulaco escape pod to use its medical apparatus. Aaron finds her there, and under her instruction uses the equipment to scan her torso. There is an alien embryo growing inside her – not just a standard creature but a queen. A tearful Ripley realises that – whatever happens from there – she is shortly going to die. It is a beautifully staged and directed scene, giving the film not only a moment of calm before the climax but also one last chance at a hard, vicious tragedy for Ellen Ripley. There is nothing left for her character to do now but end.

‘The irony was never lost on me,’ said Weaver. ‘Ripley had a daughter and she lost her. Newt was her surrogate daughter and she lost her too. Now she carries a third “daughter” within her and it costs her her life.’[lvii]

The queen embryo in the torso scan was another puppet constructed by Gillis and Woodruff’s effects team. It was shot inside an anatomically correct mock-up of Ripley’s body, with four separate sections overlaid in-camera and then transferred to videotape. ‘The embryo was made out of translucent urethane,’ said Woodruff, ‘and lit from behind it gave it a glow that revealed the creature’s nervous system, including its beating heart. We took the chestburster’s design and worked backwards, accentuating the head while making the arms and legs smaller.’[lviii]

Ripley heads out alone into the bowels of the complex, hoping that she will encounter the alien and be killed. She does find it, hiding among the pipes and cables, but it pointedly refuses to attack her. During the recording of these scene, which included walls and pipes crawling with small crickets to simulate the lice infestation mentioned earlier in the film, Tom Woodruff found a number of the insects managed to crawl inside his alien suit – making it a particularly uncomfortable day’s shoot.

Ripley then seeks out Dillon, and pleads with him to kill her. The alien will not do it, as it instinctively knows there is a queen growing inside her chest. Dillon refuses, but promises to kill her once she helps him destroy the alien once and for all.

The alien sensing the queen inside Ripley is all that remains of an entire story thread originally included in the film. As initially conceived, two face-hugger aliens were involved in the story. One, a standard creature as seen in the previous films, would implant an embryo into the ox (subsequently the dog). Another, which would implant the queen embryo into Ripley, was an all-new and much large creature with spines running along its limbs and with webbing between them. While a super face-hugger was designed and constructed, it did not make the theatrical edit of the film. Its absence makes the film’s later scenes slightly confusing, as the audience had not been properly informed that there were two face-huggers involved. It is left to the viewer to assume a second one implanted the queen in Ripley at some point before her crash-landing on Fiorina 161.

The theory behind the two face-huggers was that when a queen alien was born it would require defending until it had grown to adulthood. As such any newborn queen would be accompanied by a normal alien drone that would protect it. This story angle is evident in the final film via the one alien’s inaction when confronted by Ripley, but it is never properly articulated.

Another scene scripted for late in the film, but ultimately never shot, would have seen Dillon and Morse entering the prison’s main assembly hall to discover that the alien has transformed it into a massive nest. It has been gathering the dead bodies of prisoners and somehow transforming them into alien eggs. Meanwhile Superintendent Andrews is revealed to be still alive, and cocooned into the nest wall.

A similar scene was shot by Ridley Scott for Alien, but cut from his theatrical edit. That scene saw Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) slowly being transformed into an egg. The original intention was to demonstrate how the aliens could reproduce without a queen present, but it was cut when David Fincher reconsidered how he wanted to alien to behave – to simply kill the humans like an ordinary predator.

The prisoners commence their plan to draw the alien into foundry. It is essentially a fairly simple but foolhardy plan: entice the alien to chase them down the foundry’s labyrinthine passages, locking doors shut behind them as they go. In theory it will eventually funnel the alien into the moulding chamber. In practice, it forms the climactic bloodbath of the film. The alien makes quick work of the surviving prisoners. Troy is killed first, then David, then William. The characters are effectively dropping like flies.

Troy was played by an actor named Paul Brennen. William was played by Clive Mantle, best known for his portrayal of Little John in the British fantasy series Robin of Sherwood (1984-86). He subsequently played the popular role of Dr Mike Barratt in the BBC dramas Casualty and Holby City.

To create the point-of-view shots where the alien is sprinting down the various tunnels of the foundry, one-third scale models were constructed of the tunnels with a lightweight camera then tracked at high speed through them. For scenes where the alien would chase after the prisoners at high speed, a motion controlled camera rig duplicated the movements of the camera on set with one recording a puppet alien against a green screen.

Morse rounds a corner and collides with another prisoner named Gregor. In a panic they lash out at one another before realising their mistake and laughing together. It is a wonderful moment of relief from the tension of the scene; a moment ended immediately as the alien sneaks up and bites Gregor in the neck. Gregor was played by Peter Guinness, a well-regarded theatre actor who had also appeared in the television miniseries Smiley’s People (1982) and the Michael Mann film The Keep (1983).

There is a similar comedic moment elsewhere during the chase. A prisoner named Jude again rounds a corner, holding a pair of scissors as his only weapon, only to get slapped in the head by an irate Morse for carrying them the wrong way around. Shortly afterwards Jude too his dead, chased down a corridor by the alien. Jude was played by Vincenzo Nicoli, whose career has been dominated by British television productions including Wish Me Luck (1988) – in which he starred – as well as The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Boon, Dempsey and Makepeace and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. In 2008 he played one of Gotham’s numerous crime bosses in Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight.

The alien soon wises up to the plan, and resists the few remaining prisoners’ attempts to capture it. To coax the alien back into the moulding chamber, Ripley grabs it by the tail and physically tries to wrestle it into place. The tail was a cable-controlled puppet, requiring three special effects workers to operate it. It was supervised by Stephen Norrington, who would subsequently shift to directing with the films Blade (1998) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).

Ripley is successful, but it leaves her trapped in the chamber with Dillon and the alien. Dillon sacrifices his life trying to hold the alien down while Ripley climbs the foundry walls to escape. Once she is free, Morse – the only remaining prisoner – pulls a level and floods the chamber with lead.

Meanwhile Aaron, who refused to participate in the foundry mission, has greeted Weyland Yutani officers at the colony entrance. There is a slightly amusing sight of two armoured guards, bulked up with padded clothing and holding control poles as they are about to wrestle down a runaway dog. It’s a small touch, but a funny one: the very definition of bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Back at the foundry the alien leaps out from the bubbling lead and scrambles to gain a handhold on the chains hanging above it. It thrashes about furiously as the molten metal burns into its skin. For medium shots of the alien shaking its head to remove the lead, a costumed performer was drenched in black paint.

Morse and Ripley open the water sprinklers above. The water rains down on the alien, causing the lead to contract and crack, ultimately causing the creature to explode from the pressure. A close-up of the alien’s skull cracking was the only fully computer-generated shot in the entire film.

With the alien dead, all that is left is for Ripley to die before the queen embryo can burst. Before she can take a dive into the colony’s main furnace, she is interrupted by Weyland Yutani’s representative – the spitting image of Bishop. He begs her to come with him so that the queen may be surgically removed. It is a high tension scene, and before long Bishop II’s trigger-happy guards have shot Morse in the legs. Aaron hits Bishop with a wrench, thinking he is an android. The badly injured Bishop turns out to be very human, clutching at his ear which is almost torn off the side of his head. Feeling the queen move inside her chest, Ripley steps backwards off the platform and into the fire below.

The Fury 161 facility is closed down. Morse, the only survivor, is taken away under guard. The last thing the viewers see is the Sulaco EEV, abandoned in the garbage yard. The last thing to be heard is Ripley’s final log entry from Alien: ‘This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.’

Alien3 ends in the only manner that is really available to it: with death. The alien menace, which survived from Alien to Aliens to here, is finally closed off. There are no more aliens or eggs. Ellen Ripley did not survive. Of the three films the only survivors are a maximum security prisoner and the Nostromo’s cat Jones.

Implanting Ripley with an alien embryo had been part of the screenplay since Vincent Ward was working on the film, but the character’s death was pushed to the studio by Weaver and Fincher. Weaver said: ‘Vincent Ward had this ending where Ripley choked up the foetus, got back into a space vessel and went away. I thought that was ridiculous and there was something very depressing about her heading off in a shuttle again.’[lix]

Fincher explained: ‘Once we decided we were going to kill Ripley off we had a lot of fights and discussions about building to that moment and I always said you can’t work backwards from the idea of Ripley sacrificing her life. Certainly in terms of the American audience you can’t because that’s still seen in American culture as a sign of weakness, as the easy way out. It isn’t looked on as taking responsibility; it’s looked on as shirking responsibility. I said “We’ve got to force her to this last decision.”’[lx] In Ripley’s final moments, it is her distrust of ‘the company’ – the Weyland Yutani corporation – that forces her hand. They lied to the crew of the Nostromo, they lied to the marines on the Sulaco and the colonists on LV-426, and she has every reason to believe they are lying to her at the end. It is the company that stands as the ultimate villain of the Alien trilogy; the aliens are in the end just animals.

Late in production it was discovered that James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day featured a near-identical climactic moment, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character sacrificed itself in a vat of molten steel. To differentiate their own climax from Cameron’s, the Alien³ team had their own sequence re-shot to include the infant alien queen bursting out of Ripley’s chest in mid-air, and Ripley holding it as she fell. The new sequence was shot days before Alien³ premiered in American cinemas.

Sigourney Weaver was already working on her next film project and completely unable to have her head shaved for a third time. A skullcap was developed for her to wear for the relevant shots, one that incorporated individually pressed hairs into its surface to simulate the stubble of Ripley’s hair.

Another last-minute change in the revised climax involved Bishop II. In the original edit he was last seen bludgeoned to death by Aaron. The reshoot saw him stagger back to his feet with a horrifying head wound, complete with a half-severed ear and oozing blood. The shots were included to clarify that the character was indeed human – test screenings had reported confusion over whether or not the character was another robot like the original Bishop. The new shots, however, were perceived as too graphic by the studio producers, and were cut back. In the theatrical cut at least the uncertainty remained.

Alien3 was released in the cinemas in the USA on 22 May 1992. It opened second in the box office charts, behind Richard Donner’s sequel Lethal Weapon 3. American audiences did not warm to the film, and by the time it exited theatres it had grossed just $55.4 million. It found far greater success internationally, particularly in Europe, and by the end of its worldwide release it had grossed a total of $159.7 million. In real terms that made it the highest-grossing Alien film to date, but with inflation in mind it immediately slipped to third.

Critical reaction ranged from dismissive to hostile, and the general outlook on the film by reviewers and audiences alike was generally unkind. Not only was the studio-mandated theatrical cut somewhat confusing and disjointed, at the end of the day it simply told a story that audiences – buoyed by the tense action of Aliens – did not want to see. Five years later 20th Century Fox attempted to revive the franchise with Alien Resurrection, but audiences were disinterested. Even accounting for inflation Resurrection remains the least successful Alien film of the series (although the spin-off Aliens vs Predator: Requiem did ultimately gross even less).

11 years after its release Alien3 received an unexpected second chance, thanks to the exploding success of DVD video. Thanks to canny marketing, DVDs were being treated by the market more like CDs than VHS tapes, and a growing culture of film collecting was leaving Hollywood’s studios flush with cash to develop lucrative special and collectors editions of their more popular films and franchises.

In 2003 20th Century Fox released a DVD boxed set of the entire Alien series, rather awkwardly titled Alien Quadrilogy. DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika was placed in charge of assembling the new boxed set, which would provide definitive versions of each of the four Alien features as well as an extensive range of special features and documentary material.

Both Ridley Scott and James Cameron had previously supervised extended editions of Alien and Aliens respectively, and a small amount of additional footage had been added to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection to provide some modest form of special edition. The holy grail for Lauzirika was an extended version of Alien3, returning the film to a form somewhat closer to David Fincher’s original intent.

Fincher firmly refused to participate in the project in any way, including not only a re-edit of his film but also any of the interviews or audio commentaries. ‘That pains me,’ said Lauzirika, ‘because the whole reason I took on this project was to put his work in its best light, and to try to salvage as much as I could from the wreckage that the film ended up being.’[lxi] While declining to work on a director’s cut, Fincher did give Lauzirika permission to put together an extended edit of his own – provided it was not in any way referred to as a ‘director’s cut’.

Lauzirika appointed editor David Crowther to oversee this extended edition, based on both a 150-minute rough cut of the film (known as the ‘assembly edit’) by Fincher and Rawlings as well as Fincher’s own original notes made during the original post-production period. While removing some select shots and scenes, the new version added another 37 minutes of footage. The storyline was clarified, and character arcs – particular one for Golic – were expanded and fleshed-out.

Production on the new edit hit a hurdle when it was found that clean audio for several of the inserted sequences had not been retained in 20th Century Fox’s archives. Despite the poorer sound quality these scenes remained in the assembly edit. When the edit was remastered for high definition in 2010, Fox paid for several members of the cast – including Charles Dance, Charles S. Dutton and Lance Henriksen – to re-record their dialogue for those key scenes.

A casualty of the Quadrilogy set was a full-length documentary on the making of Alien3. When Lauzirika completed it, 20th Century Fox’s legal department objected to how the studio was portrayed by several of the interviewees. The revised and cut-down documentary so offended Lauzirika that he removed his name from the credits; it was one final piece of studio interference on Alien3.

I have always adored Alien3. I saw it as a teenager when it was first released to Australian cinemas, and was entranced by its remarkably bleak tone, its grimy mise-en-scène and the stunning bold choices that it dared to make. Hollywood trains us to expect sequels to be safe. We are led to think we are going to get more of the same: the same beats, the same emotional tones, and in some cases pretty much exactly the same storylines.

The original Alien trilogy, to bring in James Cameron’s Aliens for some well-deserved praise of its own, succeeds in part because it refuses to play by Hollywood’s standard rules. The first sequel up-ends expectations by replacing a horror film with a Vietnam War-tinged action story. The second sequel up-ends expectations again with its radically dark take and refusal to give its audience a simple happy ending.

To my mind it remains the most visually beautiful film of the series. The low camera angles that dominate the photograph give every set a vaulted, cathedral-like quality. Goldenthal’s score seems like a series of sweeping elegies. The cast is tremendous, although given that they appear so similar at first – all angry English men with shaved heads – it takes a couple of viewings to really appreciate the different nuances of each character. This is a film that rewards multiple viewings.

Most bravely of all, it is a sequel that dares to do the one thing no sequel is ever intended to do: it ends. Since 1992 there have been another five Alien-related films: Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection, two Alien vs Predator spin-offs, and Ridley Scott’s prequels Prometheus and Alien Covenant. They are all unnecessary. Without them, Alien is a tremendous achievement in science fiction filmmaking. Add them on, and it all collapses into yet another money-hungry studio franchise.

The creation of the assembly edit has aided the film’s reputation enormously, since in its initial form it was always a hopelessly compromised work. With the narrative expanded and clarified, the film as envisaged by Fincher has a much better opportunity to flourish. I do not think it is a coincidence that the reputation and popularity of Alien3 has only increased since it was first released.

It seems appropriate to give David Fincher the final word, since he was so aggressively denied it at the time. He said: ‘We failed to give people the broad, safe entertainment that, in the United States at least, they seem to want. They want to go to the cinema and get away from it all. We tried to bring it down to right here and now, to make a movie about 1990. If we had just gone out and done a shoot-em-up we would have cheapened the thing in the long run. Instead we did something weird and fucked up out there. I just think in terms of the world box-office we may have chosen wrong.’[lxii]

[i] Ralph Brown, “Alien 3 – paranoia in Pinewood”, Magic Menagerie, 16 October 2016.

[ii] Mark Salisbury, “David Fincher”, The Guardian, 19 January 2009.

[iii] Mark Salisbury, “David Fincher”, The Guardian, 19 January 2009.

[iv] Frank Garcia, “William Gibson writes Alien III”, Starlog #128, March 1988.

[v] William Gibson, “Alien 3 again”, William Gibson Blog, 1 September 2003.

[vi] Luke Savage, “Renny Harlin interview: 12 Rounds, Die Hard, and the Alien 3 that never was”, Den of Geek, 27 May 2009.

[vii] John H. Richardson, “Mother from another planet”, Premiere, Vol 5 No 9, May 1992.

[viii] William Bibbiani, “Interview: Renny Harlin on 5 Days of War”, Crave Online, 17 August 2011.

[ix] John Fallon, “Eric Red in the ‘90s”, JoBlo (http://www.joblo.com/arrow/interview34-2.htm)

[x] James Kaplan, “Last in Space”, Entertainment Weekly, 29 May 1992.

[xi] James Kaplan, “Last in Space”, Entertainment Weekly, 29 May 1992.

[xii] Paul Rowlands, “John Fasano on writing Aline 3”, Money into Light, 15 March 2015.

[xiii] Adam Stovall, “David Twohy is a hard working man”, Creative Screenwriting, 24 September 2013.

[xiv] Dan Jolin, “Alien 3: the lost tale of the wooden planet”, Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/features/alien-3-tale-of-the-wooden-planet/)

[xv] Alan Jones, “Sigourney”, Film Review, September 1992.

[xvi] Stephan Littger, ed., The Director’s Cut: Picturing Hollywood in the 21st Century. Continuum, New York, 2006.

[xvii] Robbie Collin, “David Fincher interview: ‘Nobody wants to be charmed by someone who might have hacked up his wife’”, The Telegraph, 2 October 2014.

[xviii] Bill Norton, “Zealots and xenomorphs”, Cinefex, May 1992.

[xix] Patrick McGilligan, “Interview with Walter Hill” Film International Vol 12 No 6, 2004.

[xx] Daphne Charette, “Creative courage: an interview with Rex Pickett”, The Screenplayers: Writing Tomorrow’s Films (http://www.screenplayers.net/rexpickett.html)

[xxi] John H. Richardson, “Mother from another planet”, Premiere, Vol 5 No 9, May 1992.

[xxii] John H. Richardson, “Mother from another planet”, Premiere, Vol 5 No 9, May 1992.

[xxiii] Bill Norton, “Zealots and xenomorphs”, Cinefex, May 1992.

[xxiv] Patrick McGilligan, ed. Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2006.

[xxv] Silas Lesnick, “Interview: Sigourney Weaver on the Alien Anthology”, Shock Till You Drop, 16 October 2010.

[xxvi] Garth Pearce, “Alien 3: set visit to a troubled prequel”, Empire. (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1102)

[xxvii] Owen Quinn, “The big interview: Phil Davis”, Following the Nerd, 16 March 2013.

[xxviii] Fred Topel, “A stark reminder: Charles S. Dutton in Least Among Saints and Alien 3”, Crave Online, 11 October 2012.

[xxix] Stephan Littger, ed., The Director’s Cut: Picturing Hollywood in the 21st Century. Continuum, New York, 2006.

[xxx] Stephan Littger, ed., The Director’s Cut: Picturing Hollywood in the 21st Century. Continuum, New York, 2006.

[xxxi] Mark Burman, “A real horror show: the filming of Alien 3 was a nightmare for its director David Fincher”, The Independent, 20 August 1992.

[xxxii] Ben Simon, “A conversation with Terry Rawlings”, Animated Views, 22 May 2015.

[xxxiii] Ben Simon, “A conversation with Terry Rawlings”, Animated Views, 22 May 2015.

[xxxiv] Greg Moss, “Alien 3 – Fincher talks!”, Mossfilm, 13 October 2012.

[xxxv] Peter Simons, “Interview with Elliot Goldenthal”, Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Reviews, 1 May 2013.

[xxxvi] Ian Grey, “Dark knights of composing”, Fangoria 144, July 1995.

[xxxvii] Ben Simon, “A conversation with Terry Rawlings”, Animated Views, 22 May 2015.

[xxxviii] Amy Taubin, “Amy Taubin talks to the director”, Sight & Sound, January 1996.

[xxxix] Mark Burman, “A real horror show: the filming of Alien 3 was a nightmare for its director David Fincher”, The Independent, 20 August 1992.

[xl] Patrick McGilligan, ed. Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2006.

[xli] John H. Richardson, “Mother from another planet”, Premiere, Vol 5 No 9, May 1992.

[xlii] Alan Jones, “Sigourney”, Film Review, September 1992.

[xliii] Gregory Wakeman, “What went wrong with Alien 3 according to Tywin Lannister”, Cinemablend (http://www.cinemablend.com/new/What-Went-Wrong-With-Alien-3-According-Tywin-Lannister-68286.html)

[xliv] Owen Quinn, “The big interview: Phil Davis”, Following the Nerd, 16 March 2013.

[xlv] Garth Pearce, “Alien 3: set visit to a troubled prequel”, Empire. (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1102)

[xlvi] Ralph Brown, “Alien 3 – paranoia in Pinewood”, Magic Menagerie, 16 October 2016.

[xlvii] Ron Magid, “Beasty Boys”, Entertainment Weekly, 29 May 1992.

[xlviii] Daniel Schweiger, “The many mutations of Alien 3”, Fangoria 114, July 1992.

[xlix] Phil Hogan, “Pete’s progress”, The Guardian, 1 October 2000.

[l] Greg Moss, “Alien 3 – Fincher talks!”, Mossfilm, 13 October 2012.

[li] Les Paul Robley, “Alienated”, Imagi-Movies, Spring 1994.

[lii] Tim Prokop, “Alien 3 effects”, Imagi-Movies, Spring 1994.

[liii] Ron Magid, “Beasty Boys”, Entertainment Weekly, 29 May 1992.

[liv] Ian Spelling, “Man of many parts”, Starlog 180, July 1992.

[lv] Ian Spelling, “Man of many parts”, Starlog 180, July 1992.

[lvi] Matt Barone, “Lights Out star Holt McCallany talks boxing, authenticity, and David Fincher”, Complex, 21 January 2011.

[lvii] Alan Jones, “Sigourney”, Film Review, September 1992.

[lviii] Daniel Schweiger, “The many mutations of Alien 3”, Fangoria 114, July 1992.

[lix] Alan Jones, “Sigourney”, Film Review, September 1992.

[lx] Greg Moss, “Alien 3 – Fincher talks!”, Mossfilm, 13 October 2012.

[lxi] Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan, The Digital Bits: Insider’s Guide to DVD, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.

[lxii] Greg Moss, “Alien 3 – Fincher talks!”, Mossfilm, 13 October 2012.

2 thoughts on ““Ripples in the water” | Alien³ (1992)

  1. WEll written piece, which i totally agree with. im a fan of Alien3. i think taking into account what the cast and crew had to deal with from Fox’s end, the movie turned out great. to think what it could have been without the interference of Fox, and given more time to Film.

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