10 Fascinating Facts About The Troubled Production Of Alien 3

It was always going to be tough to match Ridley Scott’s horror masterpiece Alien and James Cameron’s equally amazing action-focused sequel Aliens. Released in 1992, the disappointing Alien 3 saw Sigourney Weaver reprise her role as Ellen Ripley, a space officer turned expert xenomorph hunter who finds herself stranded on an intergalactic prison with little hope of escape. Below are 10 shaven-headed, slimy facts about a film that one reviewer described as “one of the best-looking bad movies I’ve ever seen.”


10. Corporal Hicks was originally going to be the main character

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During early discussions about a second Alien sequel, it was suggested that Michael Biehn’s character Corporal Hicks should be the main character, with Sigourney Weaver‘s only planned involvement being a brief cameo.

At the time Weaver was less keen to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley, with the actress later remembering that she felt the character “was going to become a burden to the story. There are only so many aspects to that character you can do.” Ultimately, she changed her mind.

9. A large number of concepts and scripts were abandoned

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A number of different concepts and scripts for Alien 3 were worked on, and eventually scrapped, including an action-focused two-parter that would have featured “an epic battle with alien warriors mass-produced by expatriated Earthlings.”

A 1987 William Gibson script, which was later adapted into a Dark Horse comic book, was followed by abandoned efforts from both Eric Red and David Twohy. These were in addition to a well-received draft by Vincent Ward, which would have seen Ripley land on a ‘wooden planet’ filled with monks, and was later described by journalist David Hughes as being one of “the greatest sci-fi movies never made.”

8. Sigourney Weaver insisted that no guns feature in the film

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Sigourney Weaver famously tried to convince Aliens director James Cameron to let Ellen Ripley go through the entirety of that film without using a gun, but the director was eventually able to change her mind after taking her to a shooting range.

Weaver didn’t let her no guns policy lie, however, and her status as a co-producer on Alien 3 (in addition to a larger salary) gave her enough clout to insist that the film’s plot should not rely on the use of firearms.

7. Filming began before the script was even finished

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Producers eventually settled on a screenplay for Alien 3 by David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson, although the film’s director David Fincher and author Rex Pickett were also said to have made a number of changes.

Incredibly, despite the many years – and $7 million – spent trying to get the film off the ground, the Alien 3 shoot at Pinewood Studios and Blyth Power Station in Northumberland was forced to start before the script had even been completed.

6. Alien 3’s alien was originally going to be a whippet in a xenomorph costume

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Alien 3’s animal-like version of the series’ deadly xenomorph led to filmmakers going to extreme lengths in their attempts to make a realistic version of the creature, in an age when computer-generated effects weren’t quite up to the task.

David Fincher even suggested that a whippet be dressed in an alien costume, but the end result was so comical that they decided to abandon the idea and use a rod-puppet instead.

5. An alternative ending was filmed but never used

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Producers were concerned that the scripted ending to Alien 3 was too similar to the one in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which had been released into cinemas only the year before.

Charles Dance, who portrayed Doctor Jonathan Clemens, later revealed that their fears led to an alternative ending being shot, but in the end the original scripted scene featuring Ripley leaping to her death was kept.

4. A pilot episode for a tie-in cartoon series was made

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It was planned that the unveiling of a tie-in cartoon series called Operation: Aliens would coincide with the release of Alien 3, but the idea was later abandoned.

A Korean animation studio even completed work on the show’s pilot, but whilst moving footage from the episode has never seen the light of day, a handful of still images did eventually appear online.

3. Michael Biehn got paid almost as much as he did for Aliens despite not appearing in the film

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The face of Michael Biehn’s now-dead character of Corporal Hicks appears briefly at the start of Alien 3, which led the actor to contact 20th Century Fox demanding he be paid for the use of his image.

The studio agreed, and granted Biehn a fee that was almost as much as he had been paid for his substantial role in Aliens.

2. Director David Fincher disowned the film

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Credit: Raffi Asdourian via Wikimedia Commons

Alien 3 director David Fincher would later lament the amount of studio interface he had to navigate whilst shooting the film, claiming that its producers did not trust him to deliver a polished end product.

Fincher later disowned the film entirely, saying in 2009 that “no one hated it more than me, to this day no one hates it more than me,” and his negative experience even caused him to briefly consider his career in Hollywood.

1. James Cameron called the film “a slap in the face”

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Credit: Angela George via Wikimedia Commons

Aliens director James Cameron called the decision to kill off the characters Hicks and Newt “a slap in the face” to both him and fans of the franchise.

Cameron laid the blame at the feet of 20th Century Fox rather than David Fincher, saying that the acclaimed director had been handed “a big mess on a plate.”