Dan O'Bannon, Hollywood scriptwriter behind movies such as Dark Star, Alien, Blue Thunder, Total Recall and Return of the Living Dead, has sadly passed away at the age of 63 after a short illness. He also worked in the special effects field and developed some of the special effects in both Dark Star and Star Wars: A New Hope before turning to full-time scriptwriting in the late 1970s.
It was O'Bannon's disappointment with an alien in Dark Star that was quite blatantly a beach ball that made him decide he wanted to do a film with an alien creature that looked 'real'. Whilst working in Paris on an ultimately unsuccessful version of Dune, he met artist H.R. Giger and was inspired by several of his designs. O'Bannon began developing a script called Star Beast along with scriptwriter Ronald Shusett, who developed the idea of the alien laying eggs in human hosts which then burst out through the chest. The film almost fell through due to the studio's lack of confidence until Star Wars' unprecedented success abruptly changed the studio's mind. Several directors were attached to the project, including Roger Corman, before Ridley Scott was asked to take on the role. O'Bannon pushed for Giger to be made designer, a cause championed by Scott, and they won over 20th Century Fox's reluctance.
The result, released in 1979, was and remains one of the classic science fiction movies, horrific but compelling. It gave birth to a franchise, although O'Bannon did not return for any of the sequels (but was credited on all of them for their use of the aliens and the character of Ripley, whom he co-created). At the time of his death O'Bannon was rumoured to have been in discussions with Ridley Scott for a planned prequel to the original Alien movie, due for release in 2011-12.