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Longtime Alien franchise writer-producer David Giler dies at 77

By Josh Weiss
David Giler Alien

David Giler, a veteran Hollywood producer known for his involvement with the long-running Alien franchise at 20th Century Fox, has passed away at the age of 77. According to a spokesman for his production company, Brandywine Productions, the writer-producer died at his home in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, Dec. 19 after a battle with cancer.

Along with Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll, Giler co-founded Brandywine in the early 1960s. The company has been involved with every single Alien project to date, including the 1979 original directed by Ridley Scott, all the way up to Scott's Alien: Covenant in 2017. Giler and Hill also did an uncredited rewrite on Dan O'Bannon's screenplay for the first movie (added to the National Film Registry in 2002) and received story credit on 1986's Aliens, whose script was solely penned by director James Cameron. The two producers would receive direct screenplay credit for the notorious third entry (directed by a young David Fincher and released in 1992). In addition, Brandywine had a hand in the two Alien vs. Predator movies (inspired by the Dark Horse comics and a small tease in Predator 2) released in 2004 and 2007, respectively.

"Our great friend David Giler 'stepped high, wide, and plentiful.’ He lived life and died on his own terms — more than perhaps anyone we are likely to encounter," Brandywine president Bobby Woods said in an exclusive statement to SYFY WIRE. "It would be unseemly to ask for more than that. It is left for us to carry that spirit forward. In lieu of flowers, it is my opinion that David would prefer you lifted a martini to absent friends."

The producer's longtime friends, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, added: “David was The World’s Guest. He was truly one of a kind and we will miss him dearly.”

Walter Hill and David Giler

“If you knew David, you knew he was special,” Hill said in a statement. “The magic of his personality is hard to describe: funny, angry, extremely knowledgeable, extremely well read; it was my privilege to write and produce with him, and more importantly, to have his close and deep friendship for nearly 50 years.”

During an interview with Cinefantastique, Giler remarked, "Alien is to Star Wars what The Rolling Stones are to The Beatles; it's a nasty Star Wars. We see it as a suspense-horror film." He added that much of the film's success rested on the iconic Xenomorph and Space Jockey designs created by H.R. Giger. "We received an extra $2.5 million from 20th Century Fox on the basis of his storyboard ideas alone. That's how important he was to this project. His designs for the Derelict ship and the Alien was based on flesh, bone and machine – as if machinery were organic and could grow. It's what he calls biomechanics," the producer explained.

Giler began his Hollywood career as a script writer for TV shows such as The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. In 1974, he helped pen the screenplay for The Parallax View, the second installment in Alan J. Pakula's famed "Paranoia" trilogy. Starring Warren Beatty as investigative journalist Joe Frady, the conspiracy thriller is an exemplar of the films produced in the post-Watergate/Vietnam era — films that reflected the American public's distrust of the federal government. 

Giler's uncredited story contributions to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) may be the reason why the characters of Jillian and Barry (played by Melinda Dillon and Cary Guffey respectively) bear the surname of "Guiler" in the Steven Spielberg classic. 

While he'd be forever associated with the Alien series after 1979, Giler also served as a producer on genre efforts like Tales from the CryptPerversions of Science, and 2002's Ritual. He was never an actor by trade, but made a brief appearance as an extra in 1982's Poltergeist.

Over the summer, Brandywine reached out to a select few outlets, SYFY WIRE included, to share the title page of a 50-page treatment for a fifth Alien movie written by Giler and Hill. At the time, the producers were lobbying for Sigourney Weaver to reprise the role of Ellen Ripley, a character she hasn't played in live-action since 1997's Alien: Resurrection. While Alien V currently remains in limbo, Disney (which now owns Fox) confirmed that Legion and Fargo creator Noah Hawley will move forward with a Hulu TV series based on the cinematic franchise.

Giler is survived by his sister, Kendall Giler.