Alien³ Could Have Been A Bizarro Take On Disney

One doesn't need to dig too deeply to find stories about the myriad production troubles during the filming of David Fincher's 1992 debut film "Alien³." The whole saga could fill up a book, but in brief, the movie was rewritten multiple times during filming, each time with drastic changes to the settings and the characters. This went far beyond the rounds of rewriting that studio films typically go through. One draft set the movie on Earth, another resurrected characters from the film's immediate prequel, "Aliens," and there were others, each thrown together by various teams of famous screenwriters. All the while, sets were being built and altered, each to accompany a version of the movie that had been abandoned two drafts ago. The final version was a haphazard amalgam of multiple ideas, shot on sets that were built for previous versions. 

For years, Fincher said little about his experience working on "Alien³," with the most biting comment coming in his 1999 film "Fight Club." In one scene, a group of merry pranksters break into a Blockbuster with a powerful electromagnet and gleefully erase all the cassettes on the shelves. A visible endcap in the Blockbuster is stacked with "Alien³" cassettes. In recent years, Fincher has finally begun to speak candidly about what happened on set and how awful an experience it was for everyone. 

Snow White in space

In 2003, an "assembly cut" of the film was included in the extras of an "Alien Quadrilogy" box set, which clarified a lot of the flick's dangling plot and tonal loose ends. One particular detail from the film's production and revision saga stands out. Throughout the many initial rewrites, a screenwriter named Larry Ferguson was hired to do a complete once-over on the script (Fincher's own ideas were considered too expensive to film), and his concept drew from a famous story first conceived in 1937, albeit an odd one to base an "Alien" film on. Ferguson's draft was a violent, alien-populated version of David Hand's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

The website Strange Shapes has, thankfully, republished an article from the May 1992 issue of Premiere Magazine wherein several crew members and Fincher himself recalled the experience.

Waiting for Prince Charming

The premise of "Alien³" is beautifully depressing: Only three people survived the events of James Cameron's "Aliens," exiting that film in a stasis tube and prepping for a long ride home. At the very start of "Alien³," Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakens to find that the gruff soldier Hicks and the young girl Newt have died in transit thanks to an undetected alien stowed away on board. Her ship then crash lands on a planet called Fury 161, which serves as an all-male penal colony. After being left unattended for so long, the prisoners have become monks, and they're especially ill-prepared to wrangle the alien xenomorph that will inevitably infiltrate their midst.

Fincher pointed out that in Larry Ferguson's draft, a woman falling into the care of a group of male outsiders — seven, to be exact — was intentional.

"In the draft Larry was writing, [Ripley] was going to be this woman who had fallen from the stars. In the end she dies, and there are seven monks left — seven dwarfs. I swear to God. She was like ... what's her name in 'Peter Pan?' She was like Wendy ... [Ripley] would make up all these stories. And in the end, there were these seven dwarfs left, and there was this f***ing tube they put her in, and they were waiting for Prince Charming to come wake her up."

It is unclear who Prince Charming was meant to be in the "Alien³" saga.

The script, Human Centipeded

Premiere Magazine went on to chronicle the next emergency rewrite, which involved 20th Century Fox dropping an additional $600,000 for Walter Hill and Dave Giler (who both produced "Alien" and conceived the story for "Aliens") to erase any similarities to "Snow White." Multiple previous drafts were hastily Human-Centipeded together, picking up the prison setting from a draft written by David Twohy and the monk angle from a treatment by Vincent Ward. Giler transformed the monks into what he called "your basic militant Christian fundamentalist millenarian apocalyptic" type of characters. Both the studio and Sigourney Weaver, who also served as a co-producer, liked the Giler/Hill additions, but Fincher did not.

Ultimately, Hill, Giler, and Ferguson were the only credited screenwriters on "Alien³," but there are many other fingerprints on the script.

The "Snow White" angle could have been interesting enough. A horror version of a Disney fable, with a bone-like cockroach monster in place of the Evil Queen. There's no reason that this, from a story perspective, would not have worked. The alien could leave some kind of poisonous spore in Ripley's food, recreating the poison apple. Perhaps this particular alien had the ability to gestate a second time, pupating into a more monstrous version of itself, mirroring the Queen's transformation into the Crone.

It wouldn't be the last time Weaver dabbled in "Snow White" stories. In 1997, Weaver played the Evil Queen opposite Monica Keena in Michael Cohn's TV movie "Snow White: A Tale of Terror." Everything, it seems, comes full circle.