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Was Jack the Ripper Somehow Going To Be In the Original Alien Movie?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: At one point, the script for Alien involved time traveling heroes and villains like Hercules and Jack the Ripper.

One of the most important thing to remember about the development of the classic horror film, Alien, is that the producers of the film, David Giler and Walter Hill, liked the basic idea of the original screenplay for the movie by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, but that was it. That was Hill’s pitch to Giler when they optioned it, “Let’s take this idea that we like and make it into a ‘real’ movie.”

Giler, in particular, has always trashed O’Bannon’s original script, noting back in 1979, that his script “was a bone skeleton of a story then. Really terrible. Just awful. You couldn’t give it away. It was amateurishly written, although the central idea was sound. Basically, it was a pastiche of fifties movies. We -Walter Hill and I- took it and rewrote it completely”

O’Bannon believed that part of the reason why they wanted to rewrite Alien so much was that they were hoping to eventually cut him out of the credit for the film entirely. You know, change things so much that it wasn’t really O’Bannon and Shusett’s story any more in the least bit.

However, O’Bannon and Shusett had a strong ally in Ridley Scott, the director on the movie. When Giler and Hill argued that the sort of extraterrestrial aspect of the place where the alien was found was not “realistic” enough and that the eggs should be found in a sort of army bunker, Scott agreed with O’Bannon and Shusett and the original concept remained…

That said, Giler and Hill had notable changes that made the final film, like the addition of Ash to the story. Their bunker idea, though, was at one point extended to being the setting for the entire film, rather than in the ship in outer space (so more similar to Aliens in setting).

It was while they were going through drafts set in the bunker that Giler and Hill came across one of their more bizarre ideas, according to Ron Shusett, “Another idea they had let’s go really far out there, let’s have the ability to call people from the past to fight the alien. They would call Hercules or and it was ridiculous and everybody was laughing, ok this doesn’t work. They were trying, roping, you always have to see how far you can push the envelope. It got ridiculous when you got Genghis Kahn to fight the alien. So you can see how far apart it got. And then it got closer and like that bunker, but less spectacular. So they tried every level through eight drafts making it more outlandish to make it more realistic, but Ridley kept coming back to the structure we had which was working superbly in every way and they wrote a lot of dialogue that later remained, but structurally only one thing they did remained. And that was a masterpiece of an idea I thought. The second best idea in the whole movie.”

Hercules fighting the aliens sounds kind of amazing, right?

Shusett then described another one of the more outlandish ideas, as they tried to go sort of “out there” with some of their ideas, “their idea was somehow every past villain in history they would have to fight, somehow, Attila the Hun, ah, you know, ah, I can’t even think of some of the classic, ah ah, classic monsters, not monsters, these were more human, famous historical villains, ah, that they would have to challenge at different times, not monsters, but people for, that were Hitler type people, people that were mass murderers, er, or or, some cases maybe a creature, but a creature that you, Jack the Ripper, well that was one of them.”

It really just sounds like another movie at that point, right? And, heck, that might have been their intention. Make it effectively another movie so that they no longer had to credit O’Bannon at all.

In the end, though, they went back to the original basic set up and only O’Bannon and Shusett got credit on the final film, despite Giler and Hill obviously doing a lot of rewrites to the film (including the aforementioned addition of Ash, they also made Ripley into a woman).

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Alien Explorations for the Shusett quotes! And thanks to Strange Shapes for the Giler quote!

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

In the latest Movie Legends Revealed, discover one of the more outlandish possible plot lines for the original Alien film.

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