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Dan O'Bannon, gone to the great outerspace oil refinery in the sky
December 18, 2009 1:26 AM   Subscribe

Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon, probably best known for his work on Alien, as well numerous other science fiction films, has passed away age 63.
posted by Artw (70 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by litleozy at 1:26 AM on December 18, 2009


May he be interered in a strange alien pyramid covered in cryptic and distrurbing hieroglyphics.
posted by Artw at 1:27 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also I'm going to have to agree with Harry Knowles: Dan was one of the key creative talents behind 'our' generations' Science Fiction / Horror mythologies.
posted by Artw at 1:37 AM on December 18, 2009


Best known to me, though, for his work on the immortal Return Of The Living Dead, arguably the greatest zombie film ever and the film that did "zom-com" 20 years before it became a bad trend. His director's commentary for that film is one of my favorites, probably only next to This Is Spinal Tap.

Also, Linnea Quigley.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:40 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by arha at 1:45 AM on December 18, 2009


Goodbye Sgt Pinback

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posted by hardcode at 2:04 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am a huge Alien fan. I have a signed picture of Lambert on my wall. I have four facehuggers of various sizes around my apartment. I realize a lot can be taken away from Dan and given to Giler,Hill, Scott, and Giger, but every pearl needs a grain of sand and "Starbeast" became quite a pearl.

That being said, I am also a huge Return of the Living Dead fan. Eight years ago or so I went to a reunion of the cast at a horror convention in Maryland. Nobody was there to see them, everybody was there to see Giles from Buffy. So we just hung around and talked with them for literally hours. Linnea flirted with our friend, everybody signed my Cinefantastique RotLD issue, it was really a great day.

So I get to talking to William Stout, who did the production design, about Dan O'Bannon. Apparently, Dan was a bit paranoid and in addition had lots of opinions, that he would make sure you knew about. Not opinions on the work on the film, opinions on other things.

Like what sort of house one should live in. Dan did all this research and determined that the best type of house of all possible houses was a ranch. Why a ranch? asked William. Well, replies Dan, because it's a single story so you don't have to worry about as much steel reinforcement in case somebody shoots up the front of your house with an uzi.

)>•<(
for Dan.
posted by Brainy at 2:09 AM on December 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


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RIP Dan. Thanks for writing my favoutire/second favourite film (I keep flipping between Alien and Blade Runner)... and the nightmares.

Doolittle, I'm going into them. I'm beginning to glow. They are taking me with them. With the Phoenix. Gonna circle the universe. Forever.

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:31 AM on December 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


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posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:22 AM on December 18, 2009


... . ... . ... . ... . ... . o

Get out of there! Get out of there!

RIP. Some amazing films there.
posted by WPW at 3:33 AM on December 18, 2009


Dan O'Bannon is almost single-handedly responsible for shifting the portrayal of space from "bright! shiny!" to "realistic, dark, cramped, boring" in movies. Sad to see a genius go so early.

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posted by explosion at 3:53 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by SageLeVoid at 4:02 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by lapolla at 4:12 AM on December 18, 2009


. I would love to watch a bunch of his movies this weekend in his honor, but the GF is too scared! (Technically, I am also too scared, but I'm less scared than her, which makes her powerful terror the limiting factor.)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:15 AM on December 18, 2009


I knew I married the right woman when we watched Alien and she recognized it as a masterpiece.

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posted by fleetmouse at 4:32 AM on December 18, 2009


I only saw Return of the Living Dead for the first time about 6 years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. The sharp dialogue, dry wit and crazyness of it all not only saves the movie but elevates it to something really special.

I just hope that Dan got one thing wrong and that being dead doesn't actually hurt.

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posted by slimepuppy at 4:45 AM on December 18, 2009


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I find zombie movies to be dull as dirt, but Return of The Living Dead is quite good. Comic and gory and sexy and disturbing all at once.
posted by zardoz at 4:55 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by jquinby at 5:14 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by interrobang at 5:26 AM on December 18, 2009


My favorite Alien-related bit of trivia: Ripley was originally scripted to be male. Imagine what that movie would have been like with a male Ripley.

also

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posted by idiopath at 5:36 AM on December 18, 2009


Send. More. Cops.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:08 AM on December 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm not keen on zombies or eggs silently screaming in space, but I loved Dark Star. If O'Bannon had done nothing else, civilization would still be enriched with the line "Good for you, you've decided to clean the elevator" and that makes me happy.

RIP, Pinback.

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posted by Herodios at 6:08 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


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I'm glad I had the opportunity to thank him in person for Return of the Living Dead.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by Smart Dalek at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2009


Love the argument with the robotic H-bomb at the beginning of Darkstar.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


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Also, what would be his DAYA page.
posted by bz at 7:03 AM on December 18, 2009


I agree with others that Return of the Living Dead is a work of genius. Rest easy.

BRAAAIIINS!
posted by elder18 at 7:05 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:12 AM on December 18, 2009


Though he is gone, I will continue to send more paramedics...in my heart.

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posted by Drastic at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by Jofus at 7:43 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by crush-onastick at 7:54 AM on December 18, 2009


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May he rise from the grave to devour Michael Bay and all his minions.

Also, Linnea Quigley is still alive and making movies. Cool beans!
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:57 AM on December 18, 2009


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Thanks for posting this, Artw. I was hoping somebody would. What a loss. He was the mind behind some of my favorite movies.
posted by brundlefly at 8:19 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by mwhybark at 8:19 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by suetanvil at 8:23 AM on December 18, 2009


Alien is my favorite film.

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posted by MarshallPoe at 8:24 AM on December 18, 2009


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Few individuals have contributed more to my enjoyment of film than O'Bannon. Alien terrorised my formative years; RotLD is a cultural gem of inestimable value; The Resurrected gave us the greatest Lovecraftian crazy-monologue in cinema thus far. I really did like everything he turned his hand to... even Lifeforce. His CV is epic win.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:28 AM on December 18, 2009



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also, am i a bad person for wondering if someone has arranged for a chest-burster to erupt from the casket during the funeral?
posted by rmd1023 at 8:35 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:40 AM on December 18, 2009


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Two movies, above all others, made the 80s not just survivable for me (a young adult) but enormous FUN. One was The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. The other was Return Of The Living Dead. The weird part is, if you'd asked me yesterday who made them (writer and director) I wouldn't have been able to tell you. Maybe because neither movie took itself even remotely seriously. They just surfed the chaos of their age and delivered the goods, as weirdly, as grotesquely, as hilariously as needed.

RIP, Mr. O'Bannon, may your appetite for BRAINS be forever sated.

And no, just in case there's confusion, I'm not suggesting O'Bannon made Buckaroo Banzai. That was WD Richter.
posted by philip-random at 9:02 AM on December 18, 2009


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posted by Superfrankenstein at 9:03 AM on December 18, 2009


"Because I love you, baby...and that's why you have to let me Eat. Your. BRAIN."

Thank you, sir.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:22 AM on December 18, 2009


I had O'Bannon's work but didn't really know who he was until I saw Dark Star, and I agree with Herodios, that movie is a little masterpiece all by itself.
posted by Snyder at 9:22 AM on December 18, 2009


It's easy to love for the Aliens and I do. Very much. As well as Total Recall and Screamers, which are fun.

But he also wrote the Soft Landing and B-17 segments from Heavy Metal, and that shit blew my 10 year old mind when I first saw it.

Drive it on up and let's cruise a while
Leave 'em very far behind
You can hedge your bet on a clean Corvette
To get you there right on time


*still thinks that a 1960 Corvette is an ideal platform for an orbital landing craft*

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posted by quin at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2009


Remembering the late, great Dan O'Bannon
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:51 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by usonian at 9:57 AM on December 18, 2009


One of the greatest things to come from Dark Star (besides the Socratic dialogue with Bomb #20) was the opening song, the saddest song ever about the effects of near-lightspeed space travel on a love affair back on Earth.

A million suns shine down, but I see only one
When I think I'm over you, I find I've just begun
The years move faster than the days, there's no warmth in the light
And how I miss those desert skies
Your cool touch in the night
Benson, Arizona blew warm wind through your hair
My body flies the galaxy, my heart longs to be there
Benson, Arizona, the same stars in the sky
But they seemed so much kinder when we watched them, you and I
Now the years pull us apart, I'm young and now you're old
But you're still in my heart and the memory won't grow cold
I dream of times and spaces I left far behind
Where we spent our last few days
Benson's on my mind
Benson, Arizona blew warm wind through your hair
My body flies the galaxy, my heart longs to be there
Benson, Arizona, the same stars in the sky
But they seemed so much kinder when we watched them, you and I

Thank you, Dan.
posted by Spatch at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2009


(I'm aware Dan O'Bannon didn't write the song, but I'm thanking him for Dark Star and everything about it.)
posted by Spatch at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2009


Run, don't walk to the Alien "Quadrillion" release and make sure you catch all the extra features, including interviews with O'Bannon. There is an original on-disc version of the script, too.

You can see how the Hollywood system slowly but inevitable crushed his spirit as the Alien property was mangled by the production company over the years. Real Coen Brothers stuff in there.

There you will learn that the original concept for the "prison planet" Alien offering was supposed to feature a wooden planet. Not a planet with a lot of trees or wood, but an entire planet, constructed only of wood and wood scaffolding.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:01 AM on December 18, 2009


Imagine what that movie would have been like with a male Ripley.

There's one scene I hope would have been cut...

Also, The Lurker in the Lobby: The Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema (Night Shade Books, 2006) has a nice interview with O'Bannon (as well as John Carpenter, Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, and others in that realm).

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posted by kurumi at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I met Dan O'Bannon a few years ago when he led a panel discussion about horror at the screenwriting magazine conference (Gordon Stuart was scheduled but he canceled) I mentioned Lovecraft and Dan lit up talking about it. Afterwards, I told him how much I loved the Resurrected and he told me how he would go to the crypt set before shooting and just sit in the dark, soaking up the atmosphere, imagining it as Lovecraft must have. He even signed my conference pamphlet.

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posted by clockworkjoe at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Stephen King of course described Alien as "Lovecraft in space".

Dan O'Bannon is almost single-handedly responsible for shifting the portrayal of space from "bright! shiny!" to "realistic, dark, cramped, boring" in movies. Sad to see a genius go so early.

I was watching Planet of the Vampires, a film which partially inspired Alien, the other day, and there is a world of difference. Theres's some very similar plotpoints - a spaceship answers a distress call from a barren planet, and at one point a spaceship full of giant alien corpses is found - but it's handling is completely differently - the characters of PoV being the quasi-military pulp hero types you see in Forbidden Planet and the like, as compared to the down to earth blue collar types in Alien.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


clockworkjoe: "(Gordon Stuart was scheduled but he canceled)"

Do you mean Stuart Gordon?
posted by brundlefly at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2009


clvrmnky - There's concept art for that too! self linky
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ripley was originally scripted to be male.

Check the early draft on the Alien link. That version also has the pyramid rather than the crashed alien spaceship. Also some neat little concept sketched throughout.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on December 18, 2009


Stuart Gordon fans stay tuned, probably going to do an FPP on his stuff sometime very soon.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on December 18, 2009


Oh, excellent! I'll keep an eye out, Artw. Lately I've had separate itches to re-watch both Re-Animator and King of the Ants.
posted by brundlefly at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2009


And no, just in case there's confusion, I'm not suggesting O'Bannon made Buckaroo Banzai. That was WD Richter.

Well, since Dan O'Bannon was mostly known as a writer, I think it's more accurate to say Earl Mac Rauch "made" Buckaroo Banzai. He also wrote the novel and the comic book sequel. Richter only directed one other film, Late for Dinner, which was pretty awful. EMR co-wrote Scorsese's New York New York (which many think was awful).
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2009


Yeah, I meant Stuart Gordon.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:40 PM on December 18, 2009


Damn.
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posted by Thorzdad at 1:54 PM on December 18, 2009


Exactly 11 days ago, on another site, I said, "It's a dream of mine to meet Dan O'Bannon someday."

In '95 or thereabouts, after several years of searching for this elusive movie I knew I needed, I finally found a VHS copy of Dark Star in a Goodwill in California. The movie's a landmark, in its own weird way, and I've probably watched it two or three dozen times. It's on DVD now, and you can get it for under ten bucks at Amazon, where you can also read some great, loving user reviews. Anyone in Portland, OR is welcome to borrow my copy of the DVD. I'm not letting go of the VHS tape, though. I always wanted to find him at some SciFi con and ask him to sign it.

It still blows my mind that one man wrote so many different movies that I love in so many different ways.

His collaboration with comics legend Moebius on The Long Tomorrow deserves mention as well; as much as every gritty, dystopian vision of the future owes Blade Runner, Blade Runner owes The Long Tomorrow.

For me it's a sad little lesson in impermanence, leaving a unicode bowtie in a metafilter thread instead of sharing an awesome story about meeting one of my heroes, because I thought I had forever to do it.


posted by churl at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


No! That sucks. Cool guy. His name was first imprinted in my mind from my Heavy Metal movie poster in my room as a kid. I hope he's surfing out the cosmos like Dark Star. RIP.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2009


He helped shape so much of our cultural landscape, often I think almost invisibly: take his work on Star Wars, for instance, which still manages to hold up very well under modern scrutiny. O'Bannon is our da Vinci and right now I feel oddly devastated.
posted by specialbrew at 4:14 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Pinback at 4:15 PM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 5:01 PM on December 18, 2009


This is pretty lame but I used to think Dan O'Bannon and Richard O'Brien were the same person. So to me, his genius was not limited to Alien and Return of the Living Dead, but he also wrote RHPS and was awesome in the part of Riff Raff. I held on to this belief well past the 80s so whenever there is mention of Mr. O'Bannon, inside my head I am hearing the Time Warp song.

Farewell good Sir!
posted by cazoo at 5:02 PM on December 18, 2009


And because I don't think anybody linked it yet, Pinback's Diary from Dark Star.
posted by churl at 6:34 PM on December 18, 2009


Glad churl mentioned The Long Tomorrow. I remember reading it in a Moebius collection and thinking, wait a minute, this can't be the Alien guy, can it? But yep, it was. What an amazing body of work.

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posted by Bron at 6:48 PM on December 18, 2009


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2009


Stuart Gordon fans stay tuned, probably going to do an FPP on his stuff sometime very soon.

Like so
posted by Artw at 7:55 PM on December 25, 2009


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