Paul McGann on Alien³

“This guy is a real dick-head. Even the other convicts don’t want to touch him.”
Paul McGann on Golic, Elle magazine, 1992.

On script and story changes: “It’s fairly standard practice on such a big venture that things are going to change. At that point I’d never worked on anything on that scale. But there seemed to be these characters moving around, particularly when Fincher was there, moving around in unison watching him – or, watching us. And the shenanigans and goings on behind the scenes tends to be kept from the actors. But we tended to be well aware of the atmosphere and that the changes were coming down from on high – that said, the atmosphere was good. You know, if there were changes in the strand of the story then we’d get decent warning. But it became apparent after just a couple of weeks that there was a chance that that sequence we just shot may not make it, so we’re going to shoot another version of it. You know, it seemed expensive … I remember I was sent into the dressing room for a lie down, and he [Fincher] came in an hour later, and he said, ‘Listen, drop the accent.’ I’ve watched the picture where in one scene I’m sounding like Charles Manson, or Charles Manson’s British cousin, and then I’m sounding like some fella from Liverpool in a straight jacket. Happy days.”

On David Fincher: “When I first met Fincher, Fincher was incredibly energetic. You know, it was the start of this twelve month process. I remember seeing him twelve months later in Los Angeles towards the end of the thing and he was exhausted, quite naturally. But at that time, meeting him, he was full of beans, full of ideas. Don’t forget, Walter Hill, David Giler – these people were very experienced filmmakers themselves, they were writers. You know any of the changes that were happening was the advice that Fincher was receiving from highly experienced people. His ideas seemed very cinematic, even then he’d be joking and say, ‘Yeah, this is a Hitchcock-ian bit, and here comes John Ford,’ and there were these little nods. And there was a lovely energy, the energy of somebody confident and someone who’s a fan … I thought he did fantastically well, just on a personal level, to hang on to his confidence and his style.

“I was on the thing for five months and was in the picture for five minutes … I just remember he [Fincher] was really, really inspired. He was 26 or something when that movie was made. Later on, in particular, when we’d done the shoot, I remember going out with Ralph Brown, we were taken out to Los Angeles to redo some bits, they made him [Fincher] shoot some more and change bits around, and I’d not seen him for four or five months and he was still having to work on it. And he looked tired then, and disappointed, brow-beaten … [At first] he was confident, he was happy as Larry, he was completely adept, knew the gear, knew the technology, knew film. They say Tarantino has an encyclopaedic knowledge of film – Fincher’s the same. Fincher’s background had been Industrial Light and Magic, he’d been a designer. Technology was his thing. The special effects guys, the crew, loved him. The actors loved him because he was so open. So he deserved more.”
Paul McGann, SFX, 2004.

On Sigourney Weaver: “I liked Sigourney Weaver, she was clever, charming, intelligent. I even liked the impression that she was more, in fact, for theatre in New York and literature than this particular lark. She never said as much but I always got the impression that it was all slightly, not beneath her; movies were okay, but theatre is where it’s at. I liked that. We had some good conversations and she could give as good as she got, as is well known. She palpably had power and control but she never wielded it, she never made you feel uncomfortable. No, she seemed charming, and good to work with. I mean a fine, a fine actor. But, you know, if she didn’t like you, you’d soon find out about it. But then, this was a professional scene, a professional outfit. I kinda liked her. She demanded respect, and she got it.”

On Golic’s subplot: “These changes would come by, the script changes, we’d hear news from the front, and you take it in your stride. I know where my character, Golic, was concerned, there was this whole other subplot, this untold strand of the story, for people who may not have seen it. When we shot the footage, Golic escapes from the sanatorium, from the hospital wing. He breaks out of there, he kills somebody, and he goes to where the monster is incarcerated and manages to free the monster, to appeal to the monster, and to join forces. Y’know, ‘You and me, monster, we could go and kill them all, they all deserve to die,’ kind of scene … They wanted Golic to wig out, strike somebody, and he breaks out of this hospital, runs amok, goes to find the monster, who by this point is trapped, and he’s meant to release this monster, team up with the thing, and go kill Ripley! Fantastic! … Most of that has disappeared. I had friends say, ‘You know, we saw you in one scene and then you kind of disappeared. Nobody knows where you quite disappear to.’ Which … is a bit of a mistake.”

“Golic had a Renfield to Dracula relationship [with the Alien], which I thought was interesting. When Golic goes and lets the Alien out … They cut that out. I cannot remember why they didn’t want that in. I wish I could remember who suggested it should come out. It must have been insisted upon, by the front office. It became a real fight between the office and the cutting room.”
Terry Rawlings, Alien 3 commentary, 2003.

On filming: “You know, the atmosphere was good. We laughed a lot and it was boys own stuff. There were no fee-murs, except for Sigourney. You know, I just remember the atmosphere was very male, which does drive you nuts after three or four months of it. It was like being a kid. But if you can’t generate that kind of vibe, and Fincher understood that absolutely. That’s what makes him a great director, I think. He understands that acting is play, in the end you generate this atmosphere and you eschew the actors out. I’m convinced of it. That’s how it went … I don’t know what the collective noun for producers is, phalanx or a watch, but there seemed to be these characters moving around. Particularly when Fincher was there, moving around the floor in unison watching him, watching us. Fincher tended to keep all the tribulations that was going on upstairs from behind the scenes. He kept it from us. He did confide more, I learned later, in Brian Glover [Superintendent Andrews]. He was closer to Brian, and Brian was lovely and I think he kept Fincher’s morale up as well. For all the bravura and bravado and youth and all the energy in the world … the kind of grief he was getting, just the pressure, I think he did fantastically well just to keep a smile on his face.”

“There are more producers around here [on set] than actors. 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. But movies are in a mess. I am in the only fucking film which is shooting in England. The situation is getting dire with this recession going on. We’re going to be down to one cameraman and one sound crew in this country if we aren’t careful. I do not do a crap movie, knowing it is going to be crap. I work with people and if the people are good, then fine. I thought this would be fantastic. It is fantastic — a fantastic eye-opener to how Hollywood movies operate.”
Paul McGann, EMPIRE magazine.

On Alien 3’s legacy: “I’m glad to see that the opinion of it amongst viewers and just ordinary people, in the last ten years, seems to have grown. Ya know, people’s perception of it with regard to its qualities has actually improved. It’s become a picture which is now viewed as very under-rated. Years later, it’s held up, it’s held up well … In the US, it wasn’t immediately or universally loved and accepted because, I think, of the tone of it. Of the tone that Fincher had insisted on. But look at it! It’s important, this was downbeat. I would contend that it was David Fincher’s style, which was slightly ahead of the game, I’ve got a feeling he’s vindicated. Y’know, shooting in that [grungy] style.”

“[Alien 3] was a weird set up. Walter Hill was one of the producers, and Walter can write, direct – the guy’s an expert. There were filmmakers there. And you thought there might have been some kind of fraternity there. But there ain’t. Everyone just goes and hides. Fincher was the only one who said, ‘I can direct this.’
I said [to Fincher], ‘How has this happened?
He said, ‘There’s been so many arguments between the ten of them they’ve all argued their way out of doing it, and I’m the only man standing. I’m the only one who can do it.’ And he did …
We [the actors] just felt we were in something fresh and new. It’s a better film than people thought it would be. Fincher was always honest with us about the grief he was getting, and he took it on the chin because it was part of the game. Fincher’s got no worries – he’s clever, he’s fantastic company and he’s real.”
Paul McGann, SFX, 2004.

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One response to “Paul McGann on Alien³

  1. Pingback: Alien 3: Assembly Cut redeems a dark and unforgetable nightmare - Sound On Sight

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