Tag Archives: David Fincher

1992 Fan Response to Alien³

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Alien 3 may as well have been dead on arrival. Despite encouraging box office results outside of the US, the film received a lashing not only from professional critics but from fans as well, precipitating a particularly nasty brand of bad feeling that continues to this day. The subsequent articles and documentaries covering its troubled production often feel like an autopsy, as the film’s crew and cast try to deduce which of the film’s various wounds finally killed it.

Starlog issues #182-184 were deluged with letters from fans who felt let down and outright insulted by the film. The magazine had maintained secrecy over the film’s plot and many readers went into the theater not knowing what they were in for.

Passionate letters ensued, pretty much all of which appeared under the telling header: ‘Alienated’.

Issue 182 (September 1992)

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There was only one letter of complaint in this issue, though the fanpage comic strips were already beginning to mock the decision-making processes of Fox executives.

…Watching sequels is an experience that constantly changes – there are sequels that work (Aliens), the sequels that don’t (Robocop 2), and the ones that fall somewhere in the middle, ambitious attempts at improving on the concepts of their predecessors but lacking a certain something that makes them ultimately unsatisfying. Such is the case with Alien 3, a misconceived and often choppy third installment. Director David Fincher starts off the movie well, using unusual camera angles and stunning production design to establish the set-up of the picture, with Ripley crashlanding on a prison planet filled with rapists, murderers and other assorted stock characters who have become involved in their own religious cult. This leads to numerous undeveloped subplots (one needless scene of ‘sexual tension’, ties with religion never fully established) most likely attributed to the film’s well-reported script rewrites.

After 30 minutes of sequences that both provide plot for this film and a funeral for the dead characters left over from Aliens, Alien 3 goes very wrong very quickly. Fincher goes from a lengthy introduction to the prison and one particular character (Charles Dance) to Dance’s demise to lots of running around in the dark with flashlights attempting to destroy the Alien in the prison’s furnace. In the middle of all of this is a laughable subplot with Ripley becoming ‘pregnant’ with the next Queen Alien, leading to one unforgettable, unintentionally funny sequence with Sigourney Weaver going down into the prison’s basement to get killed by the Alien, spouting out lines like ‘Come on!!… after all, I’m one of the family.’ This brings up numerous logistical problems inconsistent with the other Alien films. How can Ripley get infected  by the Alien and still be able to live for such a long period of time, especially when the dog in the movie gets infected and dies from its Alien in a matter of hours?

There’s no need to go on, for the movie has other problems that have nothing to do with the previous picture. Fincher seems to have gone from point A to point B to point D — there’s no pacing in this picture at all, and no character development of any of the prisoners, which is a big problem in that the final chase scene depends on the audience’s knowledge of who all these convicts are. The audience that I saw the movie with thought the final climatic scene, with the prisoners running from the Alien trying to cut it off, was much more enjoyable for unintended laughs rather than suspense. And those well-reported six seconds of added FX at the end really improved the picture overall — couldn’t the producers have used that money for the script, which is a muddled mess of a hundred ideas from countless writers who worked on this picture?

One interesting problem is the editing — an early NY Times piece running time for the movie was 135 minutes, yet the final cut was under two hours. There was scenes talked about (Weaver’s sex scene, the bugs running through her hair) and scenes from the trailer (a prisoner walking outside the colony during daylight) that weren’t in the movie — all of which adds up to pre-release cutting. But whatever material was cut couldn’t save one factor in Alien 3, which is suspense, or in this case, lack of it. Fincher’s music-video style (complete with occasionally rock-synthesised music by Elliot Goldenthal) sure is flashy, but it doesn’t deliver the scares. The whole project seems to have been misguided and tired, for the Alien in this picture seems to have been inspired by the rip-offs of the Alien movies and not by its actual predecessors. And that’s the bottom line of Alien 3. Another sequel that not only doesn’t measure up to its predecessors, but fails in its own right to deliver the kind of surprise that a film like this so desperately needs.
Andy Dursin,
Glocester, RI.

Issue 183 (October 1992)

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The next issue saw a deluge of reader mail, with Alien 3 occupying the entirety of the letters pages – all four of them.

Common complaints included the swift killing of Aliens’ surviving characters, the bleak tone, the splatterhouse approach to gore, plot holes and retcons -some perceived, some legitimate-, the underdeveloped characters, and even David Fincher’s direction.

…I just saw Alien 3, and I would like to say that I was deeply saddened and very disappointed. I love SF because it is an escape from everyday troubles. There is enough pain and misery in this world. Why put it on film? Movies should be entertaining and at least leave you with the hope that the characters you have grown to love through the years don’t end up dead in a horrible fashion.

The scenes that troubled me the most in the film were Newt’s autopsy, Hicks’ death and Bishop’s sad remains joking with Ripley and then begging her to unplug him. And finally, Ripley’s death. I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me, but it did,  and I think it will affect many people. As a true SF fan, I was saddened by such a hard and sobering view of life in the last of the Alien trilogy.
Mark A. Kaufman,
Address Withheld.

…I could not believe my eyes! After watching the first two minutes, I was so mad I almost stood up and walked out of the theater. How could they take the amazing story of Aliens and destroy it? Right now, I’m just pretending I never saw the movie, and Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop are still in hypersleep on their way to Earth, instead of all dead!!!

It is so infuriating that the surviving cast from Aliens, who fought against unstoppable creatures and won, who escaped death in their darkest hour, who, by the exceptional direction of James Cameron, were living, breathing characters, are just plain dead! What a useless excuse for a plotline! Kill off Newt, Hicks and Bishop, just like that. And impregnate Ripley with a Queen Alien. Perfect. How much worse could the movie’s plot be? Not much. I’m sure James Cameron is laughing right now, laughing at the fact his movie is a thousand times better than Alien 3. The only thing I kind of liked about Alien 3 was the Alien P.O.V. shots. But even that has a plot hole right through it, as Aliens don’t have eyes! They use a type of radar sense!

And what a horrible way for Ripley to die. An Alien Queen bursts from her chest before she hits molten steel; hey, do I hear T2 bells chiming? What a complete rip-off of Terminator 2′s end sequence: Main character dies in orange-glowing molten steel. Give me a break!
Godfrey C. Pflugbeil
Toronto, Canada.

Alien 3 was a good movie, but at the same time, disappointing.  It just didn’t measure up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors. In Alien and Aliens, the Aliens attacked and killed their victims (when not using them as hosts) with lethal speed, inner jaw parts swiftly ending the doomed humans’ suffering. In Alien 3 however, the Alien often ‘chews’ on its prey while they’re still alive and screaming, rather than striking and ending their lives quickly. This is not because it is not strong enough to do so, because it kills Clemens and a few of the prisoners quickly, as in the previous films. But overall, most of Alien 3′s characters die kicking and hollering as the Alien eats them alive. Dillon was killed near the movie’s end, yelling at the creature to fight harder and asking it if that was ‘as hard as you can bite’. I suspect this was a cheap ploy thrown in by the filmmakers to add to the film’s horror. Actually, it detracts from the slick, deadly charisma surrounding the Alien.

Finally, the idea of the prisoners outrunning the Alien (when they use themselves as bait to lure the creature into the piston tunnel near the movie’s end) is ridiculous. As fast as that Alien moved, the convicts wouldn’t have a chance.

There were other minor problems, such as the Alien surviving the barrage of molten lead, and the evident fakery of the Alien Queen bursting from Ripley’s chest, but overall I enjoyed the movie the second time I watched it, my initial disappointment out of the way. There were some fantastic scenes as well, most notably the Alien chestburster’s birth from the dog, the prisoner falling into the gigantic fan and Clemens’ death. I also found Dillon, Charles S. Dutton’s character, to be intriguing and extremely well done. Sigourney Weaver, as usual, turns in a formidable performance as Ripley and first-time director David Fincher does a good job, creating a very dark and at times, genuinely scary feature debut.

Unfortunately, these good points do not prevent Alien 3 from joining the likes of Predator 2 and Robocop 2 as sequels unworthy of following their predecessors.
Matt Nunan,
Myrtle Point, OR.

Never have I seen a more thoroughly offensive motion picture than Alien 3. Not only is it fraught with glaring inconsistencies with the first two films, but we are deluged with endless scenes of screamed profanity and relentless gore that completely redefine ‘gratuitous’. While its predecessors left its audience with a creepy fascination that stayed with you long after leaving the theater, Alien 3 merely lingers like a bad virus.

Utterly missing is any of Ridley Scott’s meticulous craftmanship. Nor are we treated to anything resembling James Cameron’s  carefully orchestrated rollercoaster rides. What is dumped on us though are annoying confusing intercuts with inaudibly soft dialogue juxtaposed against a cacophony of yelling prisoners, thundering sound effects and loud music. We are carelessly thrown around this sludge-infested planet by David Fincher’s dizzying, awkward camera work, and splattered with bottomless buckets of blood. The close-ups of hypodermic needles puncturing skin, the ridiculously drawn-out autopsy scene, the sickening throes of an inmate’s beloved dog and the relentless series of gruesome murders overwhelmed even the teenage gore freaks which populated our audience.

Bad direction, however, might have been overlooked, since Fincher is completely inexperienced in filmmaking; but what is utterly inexcusable is the script! Character development was so badly lacking that only a pitiful few of the 20-odd people were given any individual personalities of their own (the rest were just a crowd of bald Brits); but just when a bit of insight was revealed about someone, he would be ripped to shreds and lose his meager importance anyway. Clever dialogue was jettisoned in favor of shouted vulgarities (and these guys were supposed to comprise a fundamental Christian cult?) And lest we forget Ripley herself…

She knew (or strongly suspected) her old nemesis was roaming about  the prison, but how did she react? By simply parking her bottom in the doctor’s office, afraid to tell him for fear of being labelled crazy? Come on, now! Is this the gal who ran through the Nostromo’s corridors and blew the monster out of an airlock? The same feisty lady who charged an armoured personel carrier through walls of metal to rescue Marines from an onslaught of creatures? The same beloved heroine who became a walking armoury to save one little girl from the clutches of a beast? No. This ‘new’ Ripley is a stranger.

No new insights on teh Aliens themselves were revealed to us, either. Instead, our scriptwriters convieneintly ignored what had been established in the earlier stories and went their own way. Since when did facehuggers leave marks on their victims?  And while there was seemingly one aboard the Sulaco, two impregnations resulted: Ripley’s and the dog’s; yet it had been concluded before that there could only be one per creature.

Also, Ripley apparently hosted an Alien for days on end while in other victims, this incubation period was considerably  shorter. Perhaps this was attributed to her infestation’s being a larval queen, but once more, no explanation was offered.

And how dare they kill off the gutsiest heroine in film history! They’ve earned the wrath of legions of loyal fans everywhere,. Ripley deserved much beter than to die an agonising death, and we don’t want to have to remember her this way. She is a survivor.

I have yet to meet anyone who liked this film, and I’ve already spoken with dozens of people. We are all thoroughly disgusted with it. Since the 20th Century Fox executives had a guranteed hit with another Alien movie, it seems they just didn’t bother with a good script or a capable director.

But the news is quickly getting around. Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of advertising a good film: conversely, it can send the box-office receipts plummeting on a bad flick such as this one. I nly hope word gets out fast enough.
B. F. Simon,
Address Withheld.

Issue 184 (November 1992)

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People were still not ready to move on: this issue’s front page header read ‘Why Readers Despised Alien 3’, which was, again, the main focus of the letters pages, and the letters themselves appeared under the rather exhausted tag ‘Still Alienated, Alas’.

…I have been a fan of Starlog since issue #1. Since Starlog covers my type of movie, I thought that this would be a good place to express an opinion. Since Alien, Ripley has been a survivor and a heroine. In Alien 3, they at least let her keep her heroine part of her persona. This is not true of Newt.

In Aliens, Newt is definitely a survivor, since she was able to stay alive for weeks against the bad guys. To just kill her off in the new movie makes it B quality. It reminded me of Friday the 13th movies where the heroine would survive the whole movie just to be killed off in the first few minutes of the next. I realise that the actress who played Newt, Carrie Henn, has probably grown up quite a bit, but this could have been dealt with by just placing the timeline up a few years. If Alien 3 had followed Alien, I could have accepted it as a fair sequel. Newt, in my opinion, made Aliens what it was – a fantastic movie with a great story.

Alien 3 is just one of those bad dreams Ripley had in hypersleep. Newt and Hicks are still alive and having a wonderful life. I think we all could have lived just fine without Alien 3.
Gregory Young,
Las Vegas.

Alien 3 is one of the worst pieces of trash I have ever seen. As a fan of the previous two Alien outings, I was downright offended by this insult to Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s visions and the blatant attempt on behalf of the film’s producers to capitalise on the success of the Alien series without any decent attempt to make a decent third chapter. There are so many things wrong with Alien 3 (what’s the deal with the raised 3 anyway? Is it supposed to be Alien Three or Alien Cubed?) that it could be shown in filmmaking 101 classes across the world as an example of how not to make a movie.

The screenplay is a garbled mess. However, this is no surprise, considering it went through 27 writers. I also didn’t like how Hicks and Newt were cheaply killed off at the film’s beginning. In Aliens, people grew to care about these two characters, and Ripley’s reaction to their deaths was dramatically unsatisfying. The rest of the movie’s plot is simply a weak repeat of the first movie. One by one, the characters are systematically stalked with surprisingly little suspense and only one extended action sequence.

Regarding music video director David Fincher, I have to question the intelligence in the decision to hire an unknown, first-time director to helm a $50 million-plus motion picture that is a sequel to two of the most popular films ever made. Fincher doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how to direct a feature film. His use of low-angle shots, extreme close-ups, and cross-cutting may work fine in music videos, but these techniques lost their impact very fast on screen. In addition Fincher doesn’t seem to support the theory of starting scenes off with an establishing shot. I was very confused as to what was happening and where things were taking place. Fincher is also ignorant of another basic filmmaking technique: how to build suspense. I knew exactly when the Alien would strike and was never scared or surprised.

The music by Elliot Goldenthal is also no improvement over the scores by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It is not only dull,  but at times completely innapropriate — namely in the scene where an attempted rape is made on Ripley and rock music is played in the background. Making a third sequel would be a mistake if it opted instead to repeat the formula of of the first two movies without adding anything new, as this one did.
Adam Kargan
Scottsdale, AZ.

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… Now let’s talk about Alien 3. I liked the story and the FX. The majority of the acting was solid especially Charles Dutton, who stole every scene he was in, including those with the mutant alien. I think that Charles Dance as the doc was killed off way too early. I mean, come on — we just find out about his character’s history, and one half-second later, the Alien breaks his arm, then yanks and rips the man’s head off his shoulders. Ripley discovered the Alien wouldn’t kill her because of her being impregnated, but why doesn’t the Alien kill the guy screaming his head off on the bed? And why didn’t Ripley figure out that the Alien was trying to protect the Queen inside her by offing the good doctor? Count the seconds from when the doctor injects Ripley with that ‘solution’ and how fast the Alien jumps down to the floor. Yes, no, maybe so?

[…]

While I liked the FX, I didn’t care for the endless P.O.V. shots. The old sneak-up gag has been a cliche, and as for the running Alien P.O.V. shots, I almost half-expected Bruce Campbell to come running out with a chainsaw for a hand from Evil Dead II.
Darren J. Seeley,
Address Withheld.

I’m a SF fan and I don’t mind a little dab of horror, but I’ve think I’ve ever seen so much unnecessary gore  in one film. And what the other Alien films left to the imagination, this one didn’t. The audience was even subjected to seeing the gory death of a dog! Was the autopsy scene with Newt really necessary? In a way, this movie is an imitation of the first one: one Alien against a bunch of people in a dark, desolate place. Of course, the prison was much bigger than the Nostromo, but it didn’t seem like it. The ending expressed the futility of the whole series. Everything Ripley tried to avoid happened anyway. She was impregnated thus signalling inevitable death and everybody died. This movie is a virtual opposite of Aliens. Where Aliens was hopeful, Alien 3 is just downright depressing.

I was very excited and open-minded about the film, thinking it would be a true sequel to Aliens, thanks to the false advertising (‘the bitch is back’). They should have had the courage to advertise the movie more for what it really was. The previews made it look a lot like Aliens. They even used the music from Aliens in the trailer. Michael Biehn, who played Hicks, was right when he said that they would never be able to top Aliens.
Eric Wemmer,
Miami, FL.

I would like to direct my comments towards the rotten Alien 3 story. From what I understand, there was a lot of money spent on this flop. My question is, where did it go?

Where James Cameron was meticulous in his sequel, matching every little detail, David Fincher’s effort doesn’t even bother. Anyone notice how different the hypersleep chambers were? They looked more like the original ones on the Nostromo. So, I guess we’re to believe that they just magically changed from Sulaco-type chambers to the Nostromo-type. Also, in Aliens, the lettering of Sulaco was in black. It was white in Alien 3. Who’s going to tell us that the Aliens Queen pulled out her magic paintbrush and repainted it? Fincher must think we’re stupid.

And what about the Alien 3 xenomorph? How did it get so stupid? These are very intelligent creatures. So intelligent that this one knew Ripley had a Queen inside her. But it wasn’t smart enough to trap the prisoners for hosts. Nor did it have sense enough to cocoon Ripley and wait for the queen to emerge. If it was one of Cameron’s Aliens, it would have waited and then attacked. Anyone remember that Ripley said, ‘They don’t kill you’?

They were worried that Alien 3 would be a tired rehash of the previous films, yet they didn’t mind copying dozens of other horror movies. If I wanted to see Jason or Freddy, then I’ll go see their movies. But when I go to an Alien movie, I expect to see something more creative than a monster running around killing anything that moves. I would have preferred a rehash to Aliens than to sit through that ‘slasher in space’ garbage.

To Sigourney Weaver: Your acting was terrific, but why did you accept this role? You had this ‘creative input’, but what did you do with it? Looks like you did (as Private Hudson would say) ‘zippo’. You could have at least relented to get a decent story that would have done justice to Ripley. I guess if you give a person $5.5 million, she’ll do anything, right?
Greg George,
Babson Park, FL.

 

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Mother From Another Planet

“I wanted to do an Alien movie,” David Fincher explained in 2011. “I wanted to do one since I was 16. I felt like I had a relationship to the Dan O’Bannon side of it as well as the Walter Hill side of it, as well as the HR Giger side of it. I felt like I kinda knew what I would do with that. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to was my own fault. But, you know, that was a world that I loved that I couldn’t get enough of. So that was an easy thing to want to get involved with, and probably too easy because it was totally fucked up for so many other different reasons.”

Of his directorial debut, acclaimed director David Fincher summarised to The Digital Bits: “[Alien 3] was flawed from its inception and it was certainly flawed -actually, pretty fucked up- well before we started shooting. So there you go.” The following article is from an 1992 issue of Premiere magazine (vol 5, no 9, May 1992) and is interspersed with Fincher’s reminiscences from other interviews over the years following the film’s release.

David Fincher, a 27-year-old first time director, was determined to fulfil his creative vision on Alien 3 despite intense efforts to hold him back.

“Push some smoke up,” says David Fincher, “Push it up!” “Stand by!” says the first assistant director through a megaphone. The crew train hoses and funnels on a silvery monster that looks like the offspring of a giant praying mantis and the Antichrist. It takes a few minutes for the crew to get the steam and smoke up to full inferno. “Here we go! More fog!” cries Fincher.

The camera dollies in. The camera operator, lying on his belly, ducks under a flat pipe and curves around to shoot the alien through a scrim of chain link. The Alien whips its head from side to side and starts to howl. In the movie, this moment will come a few minutes before the climax, when the indomitable Lt. Ellen Ripley and a team of religious-fanatic convicts dump a vat of molten lead on its head.

Yesterday they shot the scene ten times, using black paint for lead – 10,000 gallons of it over and over on the head of some poor guy in a rubber suit. “Cut!” says Fincher, drawing a finger across his throat. The crew immediately starts to wet down the set for another shot.

It’s December 1991, and they are shooting Alien 3 on a soundstage on the Twentieth Century Fox lot. Principle photography began almost a year ago in London, but when shooting went 23 days over schedule and untold millions over budget, Fox pulled the plug and ordered the filmmakers home. Originally scheduled to debut in the summer of 1991, then put off till Christmas, the movie is now aimed at Memorial Day 1992.

“[Alien] just seemed so real to me. I was aware of being told things about people and story through the art direction rather than exposition. I always thought Ridley was brilliant and I never appreciated how brilliant he was until I tried to make this movie. Actually he came down to the set once when we were setting fire to something. In he walked with his silk suit and one of his big Cuban cigars, looking fabulous. 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.”
~ David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

For months Hollywood has been rife with Alien 3 rumours: that it’s a disaster, that it cost upwards of $60 million, that preview screenings were horrible, that Fox chairman Joe Roth hated it, that it really needed 6 weeks of reshoots and another $15 million and then maybe it would work. There is another side too – that it’s visually brilliant, daring, a work of art from an extraordinary young director.

If nothing else, the movie is certainly extraordinary for the choice of its director. David Fincher is probably the only 27-year-old first-time filmmaker ever hired to direct a $50 million movie (Fox’s official number, give or take a few million.) Add to that the first director was let go while sets were being built, that the line producer was fired just before the start date, that the script wasn’t finished until two weeks into shooting, and you have a young man with his hands extremely full. As one of his friends puts it, “He was right out of Naval Academy School, and he got put at the helm of the Titanic”.

“It was a baptism by fire. I was very naive … I’d always had this naive idea that everybody wants to make movies as good as they can be, which is stupid … I’d always thought, ‘Well, surely you don’t want to have the Twentieth Century Fox logo over a shitty movie.’
And they were like, ‘Well, as long as it opens.’
So I learned then just to be a belligerent asshole, which was really: ‘You have to get what you need to get out of it.’ You have to fight for things you believe in, and you have to be smart about how you position it so that you don’t just become white noise. On that movie, I was the guy who was constantly the voice of, ‘We need to do this better, we need to do this, this doesn’t make sense.’ And pretty soon, it was like in Peanuts: ‘WOP WOP WOP WOP WOP!’
They’d go, ‘He’s doing that again, he’s frothing at the mouth, he seems so passionate.’ They didn’t care.”
~ David Fincher, The Guardian interview, 2009.

Today is the seventh day of reshoots –“Not reshoots,” Fincher corrects, a bit sharply, “stuff we didn’t get before”– and they have been working on this one five-second shot since 7:30AM. It’s now 4:30 in the afternoon, and they are two hours behind. Fincher is dressed in jeans and sneakers, with a grey baseball cap and a trim beard. He is calm, ironic, and exceptionally self-possessed, with some sly humour of Bill Murray. When a crew member makes an adjustment and tells Fincher he thinks it’s good enough. Fincher calmly demurs: “This movie isn’t made for people who see a movie one time, it’s a movie for people who’re going to see it five times.”

Fox executive Michael London whispers, “That’s where a lot of the friction comes. David wants it to be perfect every second.” He quickly adds, “Which is what he’s paid to do.” It comes out only a tiny bit grudging.

Now Fincher is trying to fix a new problem – the Alien is shaking its head so much that the steam doesn’t seem to be coming off its body. “You know what it is,” he says, “As long as it’s straight up and down, it’s all right, but when he picks up that left knee….” And he wants to make a lighting change. When someone asks what the change is, London shrugs: “I’m sure it’s infinitesimal.” We seem to be heading straight to the door marked CREATIVE DIFFERENCES.

It takes another hour before they’re ready to shoot again. “Bring up the steam,” says the AD through his megaphone, “here we go. Everybody man their stations. On your marks.” They shoot it. “Let’s do it again, right away,” says Fincher. “Steam up,” says the AD. “Get the lead on … and … ACTION!” “Cut.”

Fincher orders more changes and dashes over to the editing room. As he walks, he talks about how tough the shoot has been and how he’s fighting to keep the film bleak. Although he’s often described as arrogant, he seems merely direct. But he occasionally drops a remark that would make a studio executive with millions of dollars on the line a tad nervous: “I’m not making this movie for 50 million people,” he says, “I’m making it for 8 people, my friends, people who know the cameras and lighting.” That works out to a budget of just over $6 million per friend.

“Oh it was just hellish. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It would be stupid for me to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into. It has taken me five years to decide on a first film and I always held out for something like this. The lesson to be learned is that you can’t take on an enterprise of this size and scope if you don’t have a movie like The Terminator or Jaws behind you. Because when everybody’s wringing their handkerchiefs and sweating and puking blood over the money, it’s very nice to be able to say, ‘This is the guy who directed the biggest grossing movie of all time, sit down, shut up and feel lucky that you’ve got him.’ It’s another thing when you are there and you’re going, ‘Trust me, this is really what I believe in,’ and they turn round and say, ‘Well, who the hell is this guy?’
There are people, who shall remain nameless, that I was bumping into as I was trying to put [Alien 3] together who put the whole experience into a really interesting perspective. They would say, “Look, you could have somebody piss against the wall for two hours and call it Alien 3 and it would still do 30 million dollars worth of business.” That’s the impetus to make these movies, you can’t keep the people away.”
~ David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

Back on the set, Fincher has another go at the scene. “This shot is about five times more complicated than when we started out,” London says. The studio was expecting just 2 simple shots of the writhing Alien, but Fincher has added dripping water, foreground pipes, and extra steam. Fox executive vice president Tom Jacobson and senior vice president Jon Landau have joined London and all three executives are looking over Fincher’s shoulder. “Action, action, action!” cries the AD. The steam guys blast the Alien with thunderclap bursts of smoke. “Let’s go again while we’ve got steam!” the AD calls. “Save the steam,” Fincher says calmly. “Play it back for me.” He watches the playback intently. Finally he nods, satisfied. It’s 6:30, eleven hours after first call. He’s got his five seconds of film, his way, and it looks great.

Fincher: So what do you want to know about my movie?
Q: How you got involved, the production process, what happened in London. All that staff.
Fincher: Well, it’s weird, because when I got involved, it was, we have a movie to make. How do we solve these problems? How do we get this movie made? I’d love to just take the 50 million bucks and just fuckin’ start over again.
Q: That’s worth talking about. Maybe we can save some young director …
Fincher: What would you say? There’s no way a first-time director can make a $50 million movie in this town with the fuckin’ recession on the eve of the millennium, you know, with the panic that exists in this business right now. There’s no way. You can’t do it, because in the end, if you can’t say, “I made Jaws, trust me,” why should they trust you? One time, [producer] David Giler, incredibly aggressive and pissed off on a conference call with Fox, said, “Why are you listening to him for, he’s a shoe salesman!”
Q: Meaning your Nike commercial.
Fincher: Exactly. And it’s perfectly valid. What do I know? I’m a shoe salesman.

The son of a Life magazine reporter, Fincher produced a local TV news show while still in high school. As a nineteen-year-old Industrial Light & Magic employee, he shot some of Return of the Jedi. He was a founding member of the ultrahip Propaganda video house, which four years later was bringing in a $50 million annual gross. And he had moxie to spare – he tells of meeting Sid Ganis when Ganis was the president of Paramount and pitching him a complicated idea. “He said to me, ‘Fincher, nobody is going to give you $40 million for a first picture.’ And I said, ‘Sid, I know that. What would I do with a 40-minute movie?’”

David Fincher: I’d been doing commercials and videos for eight or 10 years before anybody gave me a shot at making a movie. And I wish they hadn’t.
The Guardian: The film we can’t mention?
DF: Yeah, let’s not.
TG: But there’s this fantastic quote that I found, where you said of Alien 3 that, “a lot of people hated Alien 3, but no one hated it more than I did.”
DF: I had to work on it for two years, 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.
TG: Have you grown to like it since then, Alien 3?
DF: God, no!

Hill & Giler had discovered Ridley Scott and James Cameron when they were virtual unknowns, so they were well disposed to hiring beginners. They asked Pruss, who had worked on a screenplay for Fincher, for a reference. “I said, ‘Yeah, I know him,’” Pruss recalls. “He wouldn’t direct the movie in a million fucking years.”

Fincher, it turned out, considers the first Alien one of “the ten perfect movies of all time.” Pruss tried to tell Fincher he was making a mistake. “I said, ‘David, you’re fucking nuts. Why are you doing this? Why don’t you direct your own movie?’ ” he recalls. “And he said, ‘I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It could be cool. Don’t you think it could be cool?’

Q: So you’ve been depressed?
Fincher: I don’t know. It’s just … I don’t get any sleep any more. At a certain point, I just start waking up. Wake up at two, three, four on the hour.
Q: Thinking of things you could have done differently?
Fincher: Why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that, how do I fucking leave the country without you knowing.
Q: I can’t imagine what it’s like, having spent a year of your life-
Fincher: Two years, my friend, two years.

With Fincher signed, Fox hired Larry Ferguson to do a four-week emergency rewrite on the script. The plot Fincher came up with on his own, prior to the hiring of Ferguson, left the suits aghast. “They said, ‘My God, this is four fucking hours, it’s $150 million.’ And they were absolutely right.” He laughs. “I was just so taken with the legacy that it had to be Apocalypse Now.”

Fincher: In the draft Larry was writing, she was going to be this women who had fallen from the stars. In the end she dies, and there are seven monks left – seven dwarfs.
Q: You’re kidding.
Fincher: Seriously. I swear to God. She was like … what’s her name in Peter Pan? She was like Wendy. And she would make up all these stories. And in the end, there were these seven dwarfs left, and there was this fucking tube they put her in, and they were waiting for Prince Charming to come wake her up. So that was one of the endings we had for this movie. You can imagine what Joe Roth said when he heard this. “What?! What are they doing over there?! What the fuck is going on?!”

When Ferguson turned in his draft, the movie almost fell apart. Fox coughed up $600,000 or so for Hill & Giler to do an emergency rewrite. The producers scraped Ward’s wooden planet and moved the action back to Twohy’s prison setting. Since both Fincher and Weaver were taken with the religious element of Ward’s story, they made the prisoners what Giler terms as “your basic militant Christian fundamentalist millenarian apocalyptic” types. In just three weeks they had a first draft. The studio liked it, Weaver liked it. But alas, Fincher had a few reservations.

The start date was pushed back to January 14 1991, and for the next 2 months, Hill, Giler, Fincher and the studio fought over the script, budget, the sets – even as more sets were being constructed. Hill calls the period “brutal, a real battle royale.”

In a tense meeting between Fincher, Michael London, Tom Jacobson and line producer, Ezra Swerdlow, Fox cut the shooting schedule down from 93 days to just 70. Fincher would only get 25 SFX shots (less than half what Aliens had.) The filmmakers ended up working eighteen-hour days and six-day weeks, just to try and met the stop date. At one point, when an explosion effect backfired, five crewmembers got burned, one badly enough to go to hospital.

“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. I think the film is really good, though, what he did. It was a very specific vision that Fox wanted him to do. It was not his take on it, which I think made it more complicated for him. It made a difficult film that much more difficult. I thought Fincher was amazing.”
~ Sigourney Weaver, ShockTilYouDrop interview, 2010.

Once more last minute fight cost Fincher the goodwill of his producer-writers. Over the Christmas holidays, Hill & Giler were going to take a ten-day vacation, and a writer named Rex Pickett was hired for one more bit of rewriting. Fincher took Pickett out to dinner and told him all the problems he was having with the script. “I said, ‘Am I crazy? Am I totally insane?’ ” Fincher recalls. “And he said ‘No, this makes sense. Maybe you’re just not communicating it well.’”

It all blew up when Pickett wrote a memo savaging Hill & Giler’s script. Giler read the memo and exploded. “I was pissed, absolutely furious,” says Giler. Hill said the thrust of the memo was “that we were fools not to recognise the merit of the ideas the director had.” Although Pickett’s rewrite was thrown out [he wouldn’t comment], the irate producers left London and never came back. Says Hill, “they hired another writer behind our backs, 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?” The blow-up rocked the London set. “It was electrifying news,” says one of the crew. “It basically stopped the production.” Then shooting began, and things got worse.

Q: I heard Landau and you were at each other’s throats.
Fincher: We have had amazing, amazing bouts, with screaming and spitting, cat-scratching, the whole thing. It’s his job to control costs and my job to get the shots. It was a bloodbath – a constructive bloodbath.
Q: So did he pound you?
Fincher: It’s all a random and bloody blur. Ask Muhammad Ali, “How much do you remember?” I can’t really form the words because I’m so brain-damaged.
Q: So did he actually try and call “cut”?
Fincher: No, he tried to fucking wrap before we’d shoot stuff.
Q: Like at the end of the day, call “Wrap”?
Fincher: Yeah, like, “Okay, it’s 6pm and we need to get out of here.”
Q: So what would you say?
Fincher: “There’s no point in trying to force it before it’s done. It’s a guy in a rubber suit. If it looks like a guy in a rubber suit, we’re fucked.”
Q: And you’d say it in that calm tone of voice?
Fincher: Absolutely. Constantly. That’s one of my most irritating qualities.

On the first day of shooting, Weaver was lying naked on a table, covered only by a sheet. She was wearing a contact lens to make her eye look bloody, leaving her almost blind. Fincher called over the production’s bug wrangler, who was carrying a cup full of … lice. “David said, ‘just sprinkle a few bugs on her forehead,’” says Weaver. “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.”

But the lice turned out to be cute baby crickets, and from there things went relatively smoothly. As the script had not be finished, they began with the dialogue sequences, saving the action scenes for later. Fincher won Weaver back completely a few weeks later when they shot the autopsy scene. “To me it’s the most emotionally charged scene because you are doing something absolutely despicable to the person that you love more than anybody in the world, and I was terrified because that scene was so important to me,” says Weaver. “If David had been insensitive, it would have been a nightmare. But he was great, incredibly sweet and supportive. You do find out what people are like when you shoot. He’s not only brilliant but also a very good guy.”

Line producer Swerdlow, was also impressed with Fincher. “A lot of directors just tell you what they want the end product to look like, but not how to get there,” he says, adding that “David is a world-class visual-effects expert and seems to understand lighting very scientifically.”

Fincher was particularly happy to be working with Jordan Cronenweth, the cinematographer of Blade Runner and one of his all time heroes. “When Cronenweth works, it’s like he’s playing 3-D chess and the rest of us are playing Chinese checkers,” says Fincher. “The tonal range is amazing. It’s like Ansel Adams.” But Cronenweth worked slowly (in part because of the language barrier, according to Fincher) and Fox began pressurising Fincher to let him go. “I think they felt the two of us were in cahoots,” says Fincher. Finally, after yet another transatlantic phone call, Fincher reluctantly fired his hero.

With a new cinematographer, things picked up. They even had some fun – Weaver says that as far as laughs on the set go, this was her favourite Alien. But when they started to shoot the big action scenes late in February, things started slowing down again. The pace was brutal – days typically started at 7AM and continued until 1AM the following day. Fincher was supervising four units and spending his nights and Sundays working on script changes. “Thank God he’s young,” says Weaver.

By this time, Swerdlow was becoming convinced that the original proposed 93 day shoot was correct. “Fox wasn’t thrilled to hear it,” he says. The exchange rate had shifted against the dollar, and shooting in London was getting more expensive by the day. Often, Swerdlow and Fincher would get on the phone together to argue with the home office.

But the biggest and longest running fight was over the ending. Hill & Giler (who continued to consult long-distance on the movie after Fox threw in another hundred grand or so) wanted a clear-cut, good guys/bad guys ending. The argument reached a climax in early February during the “shoe salesman” conference call. Hill and Giler left Birnbaum’s office with Fox on their side – or so they thought. But the next day, Giler says, “we had a kind of extraordinary meeting, where Roger basically said, ‘You guys are sophisticated writers, you’ve conned us to your point of view with the force of you ideas and logic, but basically we want to go with Fincher’s idea.’”

Birnbaum says he doesn’t remember the incident quite that way, “David [Giler] and Walter [Hill] wanted the scene to go one way, and they made all the sense in the world. But when Fincher came up with his point of view, it made sense to us too. So I said, ‘If both arguments hold water, I’m going to go with the guy who’s shooting.’” That was the last straw for Hill & Giler, who then severed all contact with the production.

“What was ironic was that Fox chose David Fincher, who was so talented, and from the second he got the job they undermined him by not giving him what he was asking for. For me it was a real education in how not to make a movie.”
~ Sigourney Weaver, Total Film, 2006.

“I mean again there were about six months on that movie where things were really exciting and we were going to do all of this different stuff and then the studio took over and that is sort of where things took a nose dive. It was like things were mandated, like blueprints for sets were cut in half and they just said, ‘this is the half of the set you get.’ It all comes down to the script. That’s the thing you fight over the hardest and the longest and fight for first … I mean we had a lot of really great stuff. Jake Scott [the son of Ridley Scott] did some amazing designs for a bunch of stuff that I brought to London and flipped everybody out with. They were like, ‘This guy’s bringing in his own set design.’ But there was a lot of really interesting stuff and we just never got to explore it, because we were chasing a start date.”
~ David Fincher, AICN Interview, 2007

As shooting continued into May, Fincher passed the targeted stop date. When production went about 10 days over, Jon Landau showed up and took over from Swerdlow. “I wasn’t totally unhappy with it, because the stakes were getting very high,” says Swerdlow. But Weaver was incensed. “Jon came over with instructions to cut this, slash that, and there was an inference that David was this enfant terrible going mad. It was very contemptuous of the effort we were putting in to come in and say this isn’t necessary and that’s not necessary,” Weaver says.

By now they were shooting the climatic scenes – the same scenes they would partly reshoot a year later. The work was enormously complicated. “You’re talking about a creature that is ten effects guys, and the fucking steam effects is, like, twenty guys,” says Fincher, “and to just turn the steam on took ten minutes, and we’ve got five or six cameras rolling, and you rehearse the whole thing, and a Louma crane is up on a fucking 25-foot platform, and it got to go through these chains, and the chains have to be in the right place. That kind of choreography takes time.”

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And Fincher was meticulous about getting the effects he wanted. “Jon couldn’t push David as a director,” says Swerdlow. “He could push crews, but the shot itself had to be the shot David wanted. If something was wrong in the art direction or the mechanical effects, Fincher would wait, and that was something you couldn’t push him on. You just couldn’t.” After watching for two weeks, with the film still unfinished, Landau pulled the Alien 3 plug. The sets were put in storage and the filmmakers ordered home. Weaver tried to use her clout and called Joe Roth directly, but it was too late. “In the end,” she says, “it came to a showdown between the director’s vision and a dwindling amount of cold, hard cash.”

Roth says he couldn’t be sure that Fincher wasn’t wasting film on unnecessary effects. “Its really hard to tell on Science Fiction,” he says. “Fincher had shot a long time before he came back, and I felt it was important to see the movie at that point and reconstruct what needed to be finished.” Besides, Birnbaum adds, Fincher’s background was in commercials, and commercial directors tend to shoot and shoot. Fox had already spent upwards of $40 million. “The artists want to make a piece of art, and I have to take every piece of art and put a price tag on it,” he says. Ironically, Fincher had shot 93 days – just as was originally predicted.

Q: What did you do when they pulled the plug?
Fincher: As upset as I was, I was so exhausted, I was glad to get back on the plane. We were told they were going to hold the sets until Joe Roth could take a look at the picture, but they decided it was more cost effective to cut the film and see exactly what was needed – what’s laughingly known as the surgical strike. So we assembled it –and it was like two hours and seventeen minutes– and we showed it to them. It was quite a sobering experience.
Q: I saw a list of your reshoots that was seven pages long.
Fincher: No, no. You must have seen the wish list …
Q: So to this day there’s still a dispute over how to handle the ending?
Fincher: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In my most depressed moments, people say, “You know, they didn’t know how they wanted to end Casablanca.” Hopefully this is Casablanca.

A few weeks after returning to LA, Fincher showed his rough assemblage to Hill & Giler, who came back to the project in post-production. “Everybody could see there were problems,” says Hill. Roth says his notes were basis first-screening notes – “too long, could be better paced, needs to be more like a traditional horror film.”

For the next year, Fincher laboured in the editing room. He made about $250,000 for Alien 3, not much more than a DGA minimum. Fox ultimately decided to keep him in LA and to cut down his “wish list” from almost six weeks to a mere eight days (at a cost of about $2.5 million extra.) Weaver remembers his response when the studio started pressuring him to bolster the horror side of the film. “He said to them, ‘We all sat there and decided to make a china cup, a beautiful, delicate china cup. You can’t tell me we should have made a beer mug.’”

But as the film approached final cut, people’s spirits started to pick up. Weaver and Fox and even Hill & Giler started praising the film. “It really stands on its own as a brilliant Alien picture, very unusual and very provocative,” says Weaver, who is not given to hype. And it’s clear just from the script that what Hill & Giler wrote and what Fox agreed to do is a very ambitious movie with a stark brooding quality that smells of art – brilliant or failed, it will certainly not be your average monster movie. Fox was even happy enough to kick in more money for Fincher to shoot one of his pet scenes – the birth of a baby Alien. “There’s no question we’ve had our dark hours,” says London, “but in the end, Fincher’s vision and his talent are all up there on the screen. David doesn’t see it this way, but I think all the battling actually helped it get there.” None of this seemed to make Fincher much happier, though. He just saw the things he could have done, the things he could still do.

“Here we go!” cries the AD. “Steam! Steam!” A raging orange fog sweeps through the set, a tangle of chains and pipes that looks like the intestines of some martial god. The floor is gleaming wet, the puddle contained by an artificial lake bed of plastic edged by one-by-twos. This is the last day of reshoots – at least that’s what they’re saying now – and they’re shooting the climax of the movie.

“I walked naively into this spinning propeller of Hollywood [with Alien 3] … There’s nothing worse than hearing somebody say, ‘Oh, you made that movie? I thought that movie sucked,’ and you have to agree with them, you know?”
~ David Fincher, AICN interview, 2007.

“Faster with the smoke,” Fincher calls out. He’s happy with his shots and tells the AD to order all of them printed. “Get that fucking tail out of there,” he tells the Alien effects guy, Alec Gillis. “it looks like a fucking coat hanger.” He’s in a good mood today. He’s wearing the Spielberg uniform again. When the take is over, he ribs Gillis. “I’ll take out one of your thumbs next time that happens.” Gillis ribs back: “Yeah? I’ll have to take it out of my ass.”

The suits are still around in force. Later, Fincher starts setting up an odd shot – on the other side of the soundstage, he’s placed pipes on the floor. The Alien is “climbing” the horizontal pipes while a camera shoots it’s reflection in a huge mirror propped up at the end of them, making it appear that the alien is climbing vertically. “David wanted to build a whole set,” says London, “We said no; then he got creative.” Tom Jacobson comes to take a look over Fincher’s shoulder. He tells him it’s a great shot. “It’s all done with mirrors,” Fincher says dryly.

Jacobson asks another question. Maybe he’s just making conversation. “The planet,” he says, “is that being done in camera?” Fincher shrugs, “we didn’t plan it that way. We haven’t found the right planet. We have location scouts out.”

By John H. Richardson, 1991.

“If we failed to do one thing in this film, and we failed to do many things, it was to take people out of their everyday lives. It’s not a scary scare movie but a queasy scare movie and I think people resent that. Actually, my dentist, as he was drilling my teeth, was giving me his thesis on the things wrong with this film and he said, ‘When you go out of this movie you haven’t gotten away from Aids, you haven’t gotten away from race riots, you haven’t gotten away from fear of other cultures.’ We tried to make a movie about now and I just think in terms of the world box office we may have chosen wrong … 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.”
~ David Fincher, The Independent, 1992.

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Finding Fincher

After the disastrous production of Alien 3, director David Fincher distanced himself from the film before outright condemning it and removing it from his official filmography. He then went on to build his reputation on films such as Seven and Fight Club, and the subject of Alien 3 has been nigh-on taboo ever since. For the Alien Quadrilogy boxset, DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika (who would later craft the Alien Anthology and Prometheus releases) tried to convince Fincher to participate in a new cut of Alien 3. Fincher seemed to consider the idea, before refusing. Charles was left to piece together an assembly cut of Alien 3 using Fincher’s old notes and memos from the shoot. Here, originally from The Digital Bits’ coverage of the Quadrilogy, are de Lauzirika’s attempts to contact Fincher and assemble the new cut.

“Obviously, the big person who’s MIA [from the Quadrilogy] is David Fincher. That pains me, 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. That said, I don’t feel like it’s for me to single-handedly rescue this film – not that I could, even though I wanted to. That’s not what I’m going to do. But as a fan of Fincher and his work, I felt like I wanted to really try to show what his original vision was for this film – to show people what he wanted to do, and to preserve that for all time. But, without Fincher involved, that’s not necessarily going to happen. We’re going to show you what he was working on, and show you some of the alternate ideas he was working on. We’re going to show you the footage he shot and later abandoned – you’re gonna see all that stuff. But it’s not going to have that extra level of authorship that it would’ve had, if Fincher been a part of this project. There are very few directors out there who do commentary better than David Fincher. As a fan, I would just love to have him do a commentary for this, as much as I know he would’ve hated to do it. This, of all of his films, is the one that most needs his voice in terms of what went wrong… and what went right, perhaps. I know the overwhelming majority of his thoughts will be negative, but that’s interesting. It’s a cautionary tale for young filmmakers out there. People, who want to follow in Fincher’s footsteps, want to know why his first feature film went wrong. It would be fantastic to see what he had to say about that.

We’ve gotten people to talk about it [Alien 3] in the new interviews we’ve done, but I’m not sure we’ve gotten one hundred percent honesty from everyone. Again, it was an incredibly difficult project. Most people either don’t want to talk about it, or they want to forget about it, or they have forgotten about it, or they want to whitewash the whole thing. We’ve only had a couple of interviews that I would really consider brutally honest. But my final cut of the documentary, which did go into some interesting detail and was initially approved by Fox, eventually scared the hell out of some Fox executives and lawyers. So they went and made several cuts without my participation, most of which made absolutely no sense to anyone working on the disc. I’ve actually taken my name off of the documentary because of it. I’ve disowned it and it’s truly a shame because the primary reason I signed on for this project was to create an in-depth documentary on Alien 3. So for those people who are expecting this DVD to really be the tell-all – all the dirt you’ve always wanted to hear about Alien 3, it’s not going to be that. It’s not going to be Hearts of Darkness for Alien 3. But it was that … before, much like the film itself, studio politics ruined it. I wrote a very long letter to Fincher, explaining exactly what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I was very passionate about it. I basically said, ‘I’ll do anything, just please be a part of this.’ I’ve never actually spoken with him directly, but I was told by his people that my letter at least got him to consider it, and they said they’d entertain the idea. So that’s when we really dug in and started looking for material. Eventually, we found this long lost, one hundred and fifty minute cut of the film. So we sent it over to his office.

The thing you have to understand is, Fincher was circling around three different projects for his next film at the time. Of the four directors, he’s probably the closest to actually going into production on something, so his schedule is tight. Plus, it was a very negative experience for him. This film was hell for him. So to come back and talk about it must be painful. If you look at his filmography on the Panic Room DVD, Alien 3 isn’t even on there, so he’s obviously disowned the project. All these things kind of combined into a very polite reply from his office: ‘No, he won’t participate, but good luck. You’re free to do whatever you want, you just can’t call it a director’s cut.’

I’d like to think my letter had some effect, but frankly, it may just be that he didn’t care. But I wanted him to know that even if he didn’t care, I would care. I would try to do the best I could – to put his work in the best light I could. Now, I don’t know that we’ve done that. I think that what we have done is to capture a snapshot of the film in the state it was in before it really got interfered with in post production – before it got taken out of Fincher’s hands. I don’t know if it’s an actual quote, but I seem to remember at one point hearing Fincher say something to the effect that, ‘The only way to do a director’s cut of Alien 3 is to burn the negative and start over.’ I know he mentioned once that, during the L.A. riots in ’92, when some of the fires and vandalism was getting pretty close to one of the labs where the negative for Alien 3 was stored, he kept hoping that it would get burned to the ground. What you’re seeing [in the assembly cut] is a reconstruction of the direction the film was going. After this point, it started getting cut down and cut down, and then there were re-shoots. So this is the first cut of the film after development hell and after production hell, but before post production hell. As such, it’s a very unusual piece of work. When you see this cut, you’ll really understand how Alien 3 ended up the way it did, because the film was literally being rewritten as they were shooting. And it shows. The film really feels cobbled together. It doesn’t make for a very entertaining experience, but it’s fascinating, if you’re a fan of the film, to be able to see how it got so badly screwed up.

Among the things we dug up early on were various drafts of the script, the shooting script and what’s called the lined script, which what the script supervisor actually had on set and was using to make notes about which takes were going to be used. We also found some alternate cuts of certain sequences that were in these boxes, to use as reference to see how things had evolved and where they had come from. We went through all the storyboards, all the call sheets we could find. Basically, we took advantage of anything we could use to get a sense of how things were coming together and what the plan was for the way things would be put together.

That said, we really had to be careful, because we’re not the filmmakers. The one thing I was always adamant about was that we’re not in the business of revisionism. We’re not going to make a cut that we think is a better cut. We’re not going to tinker and play and have fun with someone else’s movie. All we’re going to do is to take it as close as we can to what we’ve ascertained, via all the documents we have and the research we’ve done, is the original vision of Alien 3 before all the interference occurred in post. I don’t know if we’re a hundred percent in line with that, but it’s not because we didn’t try. It’s because we didn’t have Fincher’s guidance, or we don’t have the materials to do it more accurately. That’s been particularly an issue with the effects shots that were abandoned back in the day before they could be finished.

The first big sequence involves Ripley crashing on Fiorina in the EEV. Clemens finds the EEV floating off-shore, and Ripley’s washed up on the beach. That’s a sequence that was alluded to in the early trailers for the film, which show Clemens walking around on the surface. You get to see him carrying Ripley into the facility. All that is the first big chunk. Then there are a couple of subplots that were pretty much gutted from the theatrical version, the biggest one involving the prisoner Golic. He basically ends up worshiping the Alien, calling it ‘The Dragon.’ He’s a very simple-minded person, who starts killing his fellow prisoners so he can get closer to the Alien.

I get the sense that this is the stuff Fincher was really interested in, because there’s a difference in the direction and the direction of the performance. It’s much different than just seeing a guy in a monster suit chasing a bunch of bald guys around in the dark, you know? It’s not typical of what you’d normally expect to see in a film like this. It would be the equivalent of watching Alien, and following Brett around for a day – it’s an interesting little off-shoot, but the rest of the story doesn’t rely on its inclusion.

There are also some more moments of Clemens and his relationship with Ripley. Then there’s an extended action sequence that was heavily abridged in the theatrical version, in which Ripley comes up with a plan to scare the Alien into a toxic waste dump. In the final version of the film, they try to do this, but they fail and the place blows up. Several of the prisoners end up getting killed, and the Alien gets away. In this version, they actually capture the Alien. For all intents and purposes, the Alien is defeated and the prisoners go on about their business waiting for the transport to arrive and take Ripley away. Then, re-entering the story is Golic, who escapes and frees the Alien, which leads to a whole set of other problems. It’s mostly Golic’s story that’s being restored. The character was played by Paul McGann. He must have been crushed when he saw the final version of the film. He had such an interesting role. He was still in the final cut, but like ninety percent of his work was cut.

The ox caravan that carries the EEV off the beach and into the facility – originally, one of the oxen was impregnated by a ‘super facehugger’, which is also a creature you don’t see in the theatrical cut. A super facehugger is basically a normal face hugger, but with extra armor, because it’s carrying the seed for a queen Alien. It’s only been seen in a few photos. I think Cinefex magazine had some shots of it. You only see it in a long shot in the new cut, but it’s there. That leads to the funeral scene for Hicks and Newt. In the final cut, it’s basically a montage between the funeral and the dog giving birth to a ‘dog burster’. In this cut, we cut to this dead ox instead of the dog, and what Fincher nicknamed a ‘Bambi burster’ emerges. It’s basically the same idea, just with a different animal. And it really doesn’t make much sense when you think about it, because the ox is dead, so how is the alien gestating in the body of a dead animal? That’s probably one of the reasons why it was cut. Also, there are more dog lovers out there than ox lovers, so seeing the dog go  through this pain instead is more emotionally powerful.

My editor, David Crowther, had just finished his rough cut restoration of the special edition version of Alien 3, and we were planning to have a private screening of the cut that evening – myself, David and a few other people from the office. Given that it’s a two and a half hour cut, we figured we should get dinner. Most of the guys wanted pizza, but I wanted a burrito, so I drove over to this Mexican place near our office called Poquito Mas.

So I’m standing there in line, ordering my ahi burrito, when out of the corner of my eye, I see something that sets off alarms in the back of my head. I look over, and there’s David Fincher, sitting there with someone else eating his dinner. Immediately, I seized up like I’d just seen Jesus. And I’m thinking, what do I do? Do I interrupt him? Do I introduce myself? Do I invite him to check out the screening of the film with us?

I immediately call back to the office on my cell phone, and I’m telling the guys, ‘Fincher’s here at Poquito Mas! What do I do?’ In those moments, for some reason, I totally geek out. Do I dare talk to him about this film he obviously hates so much? Of course, the guys all said, ‘You’ve got to get him. You’ve got to go talk with him.’ Naturally, as I get off the phone and I’m about to do just that… Fincher gets in his car drives off.

I didn’t really feel bad about missing the opportunity, because he seemed to be having a pretty intense discussion. It didn’t seem like he was in a very approachable mood. And I figured, what could be worse than going up to him when he’s in a bad mood and saying, ‘Hey, do you want to come and see the long cut of Alien 3?’

Then, about a week later, Fincher actually called my office. Mark Romanek [who directed One Hour Photo – another DVD Lauzirika produced] had talked to him about me, and put in the good word… which, coming from Romanek, is a major deal to me. I mean, I worship both of these guys. Mark gave Fincher my number, which was incredibly nice of Mark to do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the office when Fincher called. But he left this really cryptic voicemail: ‘Yeah, Mark Romanek told me to call you about Alien 3…’ and about halfway through the message, he just kind of drifted off. It was almost like he lost the heart to even talk about Alien 3 right then in the middle of this message he was leaving me. We played phone tag for a while and never actually spoke directly. So I’ve saved this voicemail. For a while, I was toying with the idea of putting it on the DVD as an Easter egg until my better judgment kicked in. I doubt Fox’s lawyers would have cleared it anyway.

So those are my two brief non-encounters with Fincher on this project.”

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