It's hard to imagine Alien, one of the most influential science fiction films ever made, without the deft and daring direction of Ridley Scott. In his hands, a relatively simple story about a spaceship crew plagued by a monster became a haunted house thriller among the stars, with incredible design elements and a lived-in dirty space vibe that helped set a new standard for films of its kind. Before Scott came aboard the film, though, another director with a long history in Hollywood was interested.
Horror legend Mick Garris (The Stand, Bag of Bones) recently launched a new podcast in which he interviews fellow filmmakers, and his most recent episode features a chat with Alien producer Walter Hill. According to Hill, before Scott came on board, the production had a bit of trouble getting directors interested, until they got in touch with Robert Aldrich, a prolific genre director who worked steadily from the '50s through the '70s with credits including now-classics like The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
“We had sent the script to I don’t know how many directors and they had all turned in down — except Robert Aldrich,” Hill said. “Robert Aldrich wanted to do the movie and initially it looked like that was going to happen. Aldrich liked the script, saw the potential, wanted to do it. [But] he was still the president of the Directors Guild at the time. He felt he had been gone so much when he was making the movie he did over in Germany, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and that he had to make the movie in the U.S. Fox, for various financial reasons, very much wanted to make the film in England… And then Bob had a movie that came out that didn’t too well [possibly 1977's The Choirboys], so suddenly that opportunity vanished.”
Eventually, impressed with his debut feature The Duellists, producers hired Scott instead, but presumably there's an alternate universe where 1979 moviegoers sat down to watch Robert Aldrich's Alien.
What would that version have looked like? well, this is pure speculation, but think less haunted house in space and more traditional creature feature. Aldrich was a master of the psychological thriller, but I doubt he would've gone quite so realistic with his space travel, I doubt he would've gone as far as things like the Chestburster sequence, and I really doubt we would've gotten all of that H.R. Giger design work. Still, Aldrich's Alien probably would've been a different kind of sci-fi classic. But, still a classic.
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