Dan O’Bannon, one of the scriptwriters behind such seminal SF flicks as Alien and Total Recall, has passed away in Los Angeles following a bout of ill-health, at the age of 63.
O’Bannon was a lifelong SF enthusiast, and got his first experience of filmmaking when he worked as writer, editor and special effects producer on John Carpenter’s brilliant, cynical debut Dark Star. O’Bannon and Carpenter had studied together at USC prior to the film’s 1974 release.
He went on to do special effects work on the first Star Wars film and was involved in the early stages of comic writer Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to bring Dune to the big screen in the mid-‘70s. But it was when he began to concentrate on writing over production and effects that his career really took off. O’Bannon is credited with writing the original screenplay for Alien (alongside Ronald Shusett), and his influence on that film extended to bringing into the fold a certain Swiss artist called H.R. Geiger, who had also been involved in the failed Dune project.
O’Bannon’s other hits included the gloriously OTT Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by the O’Bannon-Shusett partnership. He was also involved in a number of cult classics, including Lifeforce, Heavy Metal, and Screamers, while his Moebius-illustrated comic The Long Tomorrow was the inspiration for the art style of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
O’Bannon changed the face of science-fiction (and horror, inventing ‘fast’ zombies in his 1986 directorial debut Return Of The Living Dead), and I’ve been hoping for years that he’d make a return to the big screen (possibly with the perpetually-delayed Silvaticus 3015) to show all these modern ‘sci-fi’ writers what’s what.
A public memorial for Mr. O’Bannon will be held sometime in the next few weeks at my apartment in the form of a movie marathon. Interested parties please reply within.