Friday marked the 25th anniversary of German director Roland Emmerich‘s alien invasion film “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t the only big sci-fi spectacle he had been working on for 20th Century Fox.
In the wake of David Fincher‘s “Alien 3,” it felt like 20th Century Fox was over the “Alien” franchise, and Sigourney Weaver leading it. Ellen Ripley had killed herself at the end of the film making subsequent sequels seemingly moot after their lead character’s death and flopping at the box office. Thinking they were done with the Ripley saga, between “Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection” the studio tried to develop an early incarnation of an “Alien vs. Predator” movie years before the Paul W.S. Anderson version.
Screenwriter Peter Briggs (“Hellboy“) wrote a spec script in 1991 to impress producer Joel Silver.
A rumor appeared in 1992 (same year that “Universal Soldier” is released) that Emmerich was going to direct an “AVP” film based on the popular Dark Horse Comics run, this wasn’t hard to imagine because 1990’s “Predator 2” had given audiences a nod to the comic book crossover as they added a xenomorph skull on a wall of trophies in the predator ship at the end of the film. In 1994, “Stargate” is released and that success leads to another original humans vs. aliens project with the 1996 box office juggernaut “Independence Day,” Toho and TriStar Pictures feel confident enough to allow Roland Emmerich to direct a modern “Godzilla” reboot using CGI special effects.
In 1996, “Alien Resurrection” begins shooting in Los Angeles with French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet overseeing the sequel and Ellen Ripley is brought back via the wonders of cloning (originally going to be a clone of Newt), thanks “Jurassic Park.” The film ends with the survivors landing in Paris and leaves the door open for a fifth installment.
In the November 1997 issue of Starlog Magazine, screenwriter Dean Devlin (“Stargate,” “Independence Day,” “Godzilla“) was interviewed about his Fox Television series “The Visitor” and asked about the status with “Alien vs. Predator” he replied, “For the time being, it’s dead. We wanted to do it if they had not just decided to do ‘Alien Resurrection,’ and now we’re all just waiting around to see how that film does. If it really works, the studio is going to want to continue the franchise with just the alien. If that were to happen, then we won’t be involved at all.”
This interview taking place before “Alien Resurrection”s late November release and while the sequel made slightly more than “Alien 3,” it still didn’t meet studio expectations. The following year, Roland and Dean released their critical disaster “Godzilla,” which was ridiculed and likely could have been a reason why 20th Century Fox ultimately didn’t want them handling a crossover to their two lucrative sci-fi franchises.
Speaking of “Predator 2,” Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally going to return as Dutch in the sequel before the role was reworked as Peter Keyes for actor Gary Busey and there has been a longstanding rumor that Arnold was going to star in this “AVP” movie, there might be something behind that.
In 1991, before Emmerich’s “Universal Soldier” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was released in 1992, Schwarzenegger visited the film’s set, and we have a bunch of photos that documented that visit. There is a possibility that Arnold was there to get a read on Roland Emmerich and speak to Jean-Claude Van Damme about his experience working with him.
JCVD’s star was rising in the 1990s and had played the first incarnation of the alien hunter in “Predator” before leaving during Stan Winston‘s redesign of the creature (with some help from James Cameron) to lead his action film “Bloodsport” instead of being hidden behind a predator costume.
Producers had been trying to lure him back to the “Predator” franchise every chance they got and a crossover with a huge budget along with the right director could be attractive enough for Arnold to get involved. A reminder, the studio was looking to move past Weaver since Ripley was dead and Schwarzenegger was hot as a pistol at the box office, Dutch was theoretically still alive and every “Predator” sequel since there have been attempts to have him appear.
It wouldn’t be the last time Arnold Schwarzenegger hypothetically got involved with a project connected to the “Alien” franchise, as James Cameron had wanted to bring in his “Terminator 2” and “True Lies” actor to co-star with Sigourney Weaver on the first incarnation of “Alien 5” that was abandoned when 20th Century Fox decided to go with an Earthbound PG-13 project from “Resident Evil” director Paul W.S. Anderson.
“Something similar to what we did with Aliens. A bunch of great characters, and of course Sigourney [Weaver]. I’ve even discussed the possibility of putting him [Arnold Schwarzenegger] into the Alien movie,” Cameron told the BBC in 2003 about the possibility of adding Schwarzenegger to his “Alien 5.”
Paul W.S. Anderson begins shooting “Alien vs. Predator” in Prague at the end of 2003 and essentially kills “Alien 5,” finally ending the Ellen Ripley saga for good.
James Cameron pivots to “Avatar” and the film still holds the global box office record thanks to a re-release with four sequels on the horizon.
The original version of “Alien 5” would see Ridley Scott direct with Cameron producing and co-writing (possibly with “Alien Resurrection” screenwriter Joss Whedon writing too) and would take Ripley to the homeworld of the xenomorph. The project was never made, but Ridley Scott returned to tackle his prequel “Prometheus” attempting to explore the origin of Space Jockey (engineers) and was a producer on Neill Blomkamp‘s new “Alien 5” incarnation (approved by James Cameron) that would have acted as a direct sequel to “Aliens” (ignoring the other two sequels) before that also stalled, “Alien: Covenant” stepping in to fill the void.
Scott is currently producing Noah Hawley‘s “Alien” series at FX that will be set on Earth and return the franchise to its class warfare root. He’s also talked-up a third prequel film still being in the works that has previously used the working title of “Alien: Awakening.”