During Alien’s post-production Ridley Scott had already set an eye on another science fiction movie: an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. But Scott left the project after the death of his older brother, and was only later roped back into filmmaking with Blade Runner. He explained in interviews at the time that he was hoping to work on a fantasy film next -an offshoot from his eternally stalled Tristan and Isolde movie- but in 1984, the year his long gestating “fairly tale” Legend was being produced, he spoke at length with journalist Danny Peary about Alien – and his ideas about a sequel.
“It certainly should explain what the Alien is and where it comes from,” he told Omni’s Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies in 1984. “That will be tough because it will require dealing with other planets, worlds, civilisations. Because obviously the Alien did come from some sort of civilisation. The Alien was presented, really, as one of the last survivors of Mars – a planet named after the god of war. The Alien may be one of the last descendants of some long-lost self-destructed group of beings.”
Ridley also explained to Cinefantastique that “’in many respects it’ll be more interesting [than the first movie], from a pure science-fiction stand point. We’d get into speculative areas, deal with two civilisations.”
Ridley apparently thought that the first movie had unexplored territory worth looking into. He had been enticed enough by Dan O’Bannon’s ideas regarding the Alien’s civilisation that he demanded that the producers Walter Hill and David Giler rewrite his pyramid -which they deleted in favour of their own device– back into the script. Unfortunately limitations on both time and money saw the pyramid being cut and merged with the derelict spacecraft, and Ridley was certainly affected by its omission: “I would love to have shot [the pyramid],” he said at the time, “but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would have been wonderful in a three-hour version.” Or perhaps a sequel.
He also seemed to regret not expanding on some issues regarding the Alien in the first movie: “There were no speculative scenes or discussions about what the Alien was and all that sort of thing either. I believe that audiences love those, especially if they’re well done. They give the threat much more weight. If they make Alien II, and if I have anything to do with it, the film will certainly have those elements in it. From a certain point of view, Alien II could be more interesting than Alien I.”
FF: Had you ever debated using actors from other cultures [in Alien]?
FF: Japan or Mars.
Scott: I would have loved it, but that’s not what the story was about. I would have loved to take the opportunity to explore the realms of speculative fiction more, but it would have been a digression from the film we were making.
~ Fantastic Films, 1979.
Of course, Ridley was not asked to return. In 1986 Bobbie Wygant asked Aliens producer Gale Anne Hurd if Scott had turned down the opportunity to direct the sequel. “I’m not really sure,” Hurd answered. “I know that he was in post-production on Legend at the time we were in pre-production [on Aliens], so perhaps it was a result of his availability.”
But it turned out that the producers had never approached Ridley at all. “They didn’t ask me!” he told The Hollywood Interview in 2008. “To this day I have no idea why. It hurt my feelings, really, because I thought we did quite a good job on the first one.”
Despite Ridley’s feelings, there was no jealously or animosity between him and the sequel’s director. The two bumped into one another at Pinewood Studies when the movie was being made and, by Cameron’s account, the meeting was friendly. “I was coming out of dallies and he was going in,” he told Fangoria magazine in ’86, “and we spoke for about 10 minutes. We didn’t really talk about Aliens at all; he didn’t seem particularly curious about it, other than the fact it was being done. We just spoke in general terms about shooting in England – it was very polite, there was no depth to it. Basically, it was like, ‘Hello, pleased to meet you.'”
Scott’s feelings also did not influence his thoughts on the sequel: “It’s always a tough job to follow a successful film with a sequel to it,” he is quoted in Aliens: The Illustrated Screenplay, “so what I think James Cameron did was an excellent action picture. It really was amazing what he accomplished. There’s also no question that Cameron made an excellent film with Aliens. It really is an achievement.” In 2012, he stated: “Jim loved Alien, adored it … I would never, ever critique or criticise [Aliens] because I think it was very successful and what he did was really good.”
Brandywine did turn to Scott to direct the third film, but according to Sigourney “he never seemed to be able to get it together.” The first Alien 3 script was written in 1987 – the film was released in 1992. In that time, Scott had directed and released four other movies.