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Alien 3: The Lost Tale Of The Wooden Planet
We investigate Vincent Ward's Alien movie that never was...
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Ellis illustrates a prospective Alien attack in the planet's communal toilets.
Ellis illustrates a prospective Alien attack in the planet's communal toilets.

Ward, somewhat surprised to find himself at the helm of a major studio picture with funds to make his bold vision real, set about assembling his script. He, in his own words, "didn't want to be putting in the hard yards" on the screenplay, and expressed a desire to hire Blade Runner's David Webb Peoples, or even veteran scripter Robert Bolt (Lawrence Of Arabia, Ryan's Daughter). Fox put him together with John Fasano, whose background was in comic books and who was hired, laughs Ward, because Walter Hill said he was "very fast" and "will do what I tell him". (Although, claims Twohy, nobody told him. He was still beavering away on his prison-colony version when he got a call from an LA Times reporter who asked, "What's this about competing drafts of Alien III?" On confronting Fox, Twohy was told, as he recalled to Premiere, "'You got it all wrong. [Ward is] not writing Alien III, he's writing Alien 4...'" Smelling a rat, Twohy finished the job as soon as he could and stormed off.)

Meanwhile, things weren't working out with Fasano - he was making the characters too "stereotypical", according to Ward. So Greg Pruss was brought on, and started working on a story treatment. Ward hired production designer Norman Reynolds, who had previously worked on The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and moved to London to oversee the building of the sets there on Pinewood's colossal 007 soundstage.

As a studio we set out to make a release date, not a movie.
Jon Landau
Reynolds was impressed with Ward. "I liked him immediately," he tells Empire. "He was very enthusiastic; he had lots of ideas." Many of them, it would seem, inspired by his childhood. "We looked at some images he was really excited about: the fires of hell, all that sort of stuff. It seemed a really interesting way to go with Alien."

Further story elements were fleshed out: the Alien, it was decided, would meet its end in a glass factory, where mirrors, which light the satellite's interior via reflected sunlight, are made. It would be plunged into a huge vat of molten glass, only to leap out and be doused in cold water, which would shatter the creature. Meanwhile, the wheatfields would burn spectacularly.

But what would happen to Ripley? Ward had her impregnated by the Alien, but planned to save her via a kind of 'exorcism' delivered by the monk John, whereby he 'pushes' the would-be chestburster out of her body. "The thing blows out of her mouth and is sucked into him," says Ward. "He then sacrifices himself, walking slowly into the wheatfields, which are on fire." However, Weaver had other ideas. "'I wanna die! End the series - I don't wanna make any more of them!'" Ward remembers her exclaiming. While he preferred his own vision, he was happy to rejig the climax in such a way that the figure walking slowly, nobly into the flaming wheatfields was Ripley herself - "A Sigourney flamb!" Ward laughs.

The production was a few months in. The script wasn't finished, but Ward and Reynolds at least were working on the film in earnest. Sets were being built. "We were doing it in a serious way," says Reynolds. "It was happening." Then, about three months into pre-production, Rupert Murdoch announced the release date: Easter 1990. It was like dropping the whole project into a pressure cooker. Everything suddenly changed. As production executive Jon Landau has since astutely put it: "As a studio we set out to make a release date, and not make a movie."

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