Aaron: So, when the Anthology set came out and it came around, it gave you a chance to revisit the Assembly Cut and fix some of the audio issues in the original Quadrilogy release. I mean you’ve already mentioned it was Sigourney, it was Charles Dance, it was Lance Henricksen. So, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with those ADR fixes and what it was like directing those guys in the sessions?
Well the great thing about Sven Davison who used to be at Fox was you could just sort of say “Hey wouldn’t it be cool if we did this” and quite often he would at least look into it. Also sometimes actually get it done and this was one of those cases where we talked about the Alien 3 Special Edition DVD version that came out. It had those unfortunate bits where there’s all production audio so you’d hear like the fans on the set.
The audio was not particularly good and it was again distracting from staying in the story and the characters so once Sven looked into it. He got permission from Fox to reach out to Sigourney’s people and Charles Dance’s people and Lance Henriksen’s people, they became a sort of a process of scheduling and getting them involved and all that. So, all three of them were in different cities. When I was in LA, we had a session with Lance and that was super easy and straightforward. We did that on the Fox lot and Lance was great, really nice guy and very eager to fix this to get this polished and done right.
Charles Dance was in London and I can’t remember where I was because around the same time, I was directing my first feature Crave in Detroit. I can’t remember if I spoke with Charles via phone in Detroit but it was around the same time. He was like such a professional and like knocked it out and he did two takes for himself which were fine. Then I kind of gave him one little note which I could tell he’s like “Who is this guy?” Who he’s talking to on the phone.
So, he did two more and I said “Thank you very much, it’s great, I appreciate it”. Then Sigourney’s was the best because she was in New York, I was in Detroit working on my film and we talked for a long time. I mean beyond just doing her bit. I think the actual record time with her was like… it felt like it was maybe 15 or 20 minutes. We were on the phone for quite some time talking about the new box set and things that she would maybe like to contribute. I think there was talk for a while what she wanted to do her own commentary on all the films and she asked me about my movie and it was a really fun conversation that I had with her.
So that was that was me in Detroit, Sigourney in New York and then the team in LA recording. So, it’s like this three-city patch that happened. But it made all the difference in the world because that and then plus all the other audio work to smooth out those scenes. Kind of like fix some gaps because another shot that bugged me from the DVD version was when Junior lures the alien into the toxic waste dump and you’re supposed to hear the screams because they’re all reacting to it but in the DVD version of the Special Edition cut, we had nothing there. They were like listening whereas in the blu-ray, they added some like scratching. All of that, that final level of polish was much needed and I think much appreciated in the final go on this.
Aaron: It might veer a little too close on the revisionism kind of side but was there only ever and ever any temptation to sort of to get Paul McGann in to do like a consistent accent for his bits?
I remember talking about Paul McGann in terms of like the documentary and trying to get him involved somehow but it was minimal obviously. The little piece we did get so and once again I have to keep stressing, we’re working on four movies at the same time so it’s like you have to… I hate to say this but you only have so much bandwidth. You’d have to go to the ones where the directors are involved and the directors are interested. Basically because I was an Alien 3 like morbidly curious fan boy, I was fighting for Alien 3 but at some point you have to listen to Ridley Scott or James Cameron and what they want or what they don’t want or whatever. So Alien 3 got an incredible like five-star treatment even though we didn’t have five-star support from everybody involved on the original film.
Aaron: You mentioned earlier you got a chance to speak to the late Terry Rawlings who edited the original Alien and Alien 3 the first time around. What was it like collaborating with him?
Well I mean again when you think of the word collaboration, you think that we’re working there week in and week out. He came in through for his interview, for the documentary interviews for Alien 1 and Alien 3. Lovely conversation with him and because it was at the same office where we were working on the new cut, we just kind of like looped him into a side conversation on that. Again he was very supportive, he was very like behind it. We recorded an introduction to Alien 3 with him because Fincher wasn’t involved.
He was like our voice of authority on Alien 3 so he recorded the intro and he gave us his blessing. He gave us some really encouraging words. We asked him if he knew anything that could be of use or helpful to us in terms of making this better. He gave us his advice and again it was just nice to have him even briefly kind of like acknowledge what we were doing and if he had something he wanted us to do, I thought he had the opportunity to come in and take part. He just seemed happy that we were doing it because I think he really felt like that film got shafted in the post process.
Ridgetop: What would you say were the greatest challenges you found in creating the Assembly Cut?
I mean honestly again it’s the same thing, juggling all this stuff at once. Juggling the special features for four of the films, juggling the special editions of three of the films considering this was taking place in different parts of the world. Most of the Resurrection team is more Paris based or a lot of them were so I had to go to London and go to Paris, had a remote cruise around the world. Roger Christian was interviewed in India with some random crew so we’ve never used before.
But it’s like Alien 3 was just like another big chunk of this monstrosity of a production that took place over like a year and a half in 2002 and 2003. So, I can’t say there was one thing except for I think when it came to not so much the Assembly Cut because the Assembly Cut was again not to sound like a broken record, it was a pretty dry straightforward completion of an existing cut. The documentary and all the bonus features was a slightly different story because it was a such a contentious and problematic shoot. You had people who on the one hand want to get their side of the story out, on the other hand probably felt upset or maybe threatened or whatever by someone else giving different version of the story.
So, juggling all of these different people was tricky at times and even another person at Fox who is no longer there was very worried about pissing Fincher off with any of this. For the longest time, we’re gonna delicately be tiptoeing around the Fincher part of it all and at some point, it was just decided that the first cut of Wreckage and Rage which was chopped down to the Making of Alien 3 that first time was just too hot for DVD. So, about a half an hour got cut out and it wasn’t until the blu-ray that he was no longer at Fox and clearer heads prevailed and everyone sort of calmed down.
I actually looked at the context of it all and understood the historical importance of it that they allowed this uncut version to finally go out. I actually added additional stuff to the uncut version just in case we had to cut stuff, almost like a sacrificial lambs of pieces that we’d throw up to maybe cut out and they didn’t flag anything. Everything pretty much went through so what you got with the Wreckage and Rage blu-ray cut was actually the uncut version plus some extra and then all those enhancement pods so on. I am totally happy with how it ultimately turned out.
Getting there was tough but once we got there, I’m extremely thankful for the generosity of everyone at Fox who not just allowed it to be out but supported with just enormous resources and enthusiasm. I think at the end of the day, again no matter how many eggs got broken along the way, I feel like people are pretty proud of their contribution to it.
Ridgetop: And that stuff that was cut from the Quadrilogy but added back for the Anthology that focused a bit more on the tension that was the segment that was called The Downward Spiral, right?
I remember we had some issues with the titles like Development Hell was flagged as being negative, The Color of Blood was flagged as being too negative, Requiem for a Screen was considered too negative. I’m like I don’t see how any of this is negative at all but okay and so all those got really just chopped into like all these other kind of weird mundane titles but in terms of The Downward Spiral, I feel like versions… or like maybe that had been somewhat integrated into one of the cut-down censored versions somehow but like parts of it not all of it.
I don’t know if the whole thing got yanked completely. That was one my favorite pieces of it because that showed the frustration that Fincher was going through more than any of them. Again, I don’t think it was anything hurtful or mean about any of it. It was just showing very passionate creative people who have different points of view clashing. One could argue that person’s not creative at all. The other person could argue the same about the other person but a lot of film people are basically children okay.
They’re basically kids who are playing with toys, just with multi-million-dollar movies. I think that sensibility tends to get out in the heat of conversation sometimes. I regret it but because you are a creative person and you just want to play with your clay, sometimes you act in ways that are not the best and I just think we saw some of that on different levels of this whole project but again I’m really happy with the way it all kind of came together and coalesced. It just wasn’t always easy.
Ridgetop: But back to the Assembly Cut. As opposed to the process of putting together your own feature films, were you still having to test or get final approval from for the edit from Fox?
No because once again that was the long-lost cut we found. We got that, they transferred the tape, that sort of circulated around. Everything I believe goes through legal like the CEO’s legal department and they look at it in terms of any kind of contractual issues, release forms that maybe haven’t been signed. I mean just approvals. They kind of go through that without so much of an eye towards the creative. Like a legal person is rarely if ever gonna say “Oh I don’t like that shot” or “I don’t like the costume” or whatever.
It’s always about “Oh that’s a new actor in this cut who’s on the previous cut. Do we have his release or do we have his contract or his deal or whatever?” Things like that had to get vetted. Again, that was not really part of my process. If we ever had a problem, they told us but I don’t recall there being any problems on Alien 3. I know with Richard E Grant’s screen test. That was tricky.
I don’t think we got full approval. We got to use like footage of it but without the audio if I recall correctly but yeah things like that would occasionally come up and that’s normal. I mean that’s not rare for that to happen. You just kind of try to keep pushing as politely as you can, to get as much as you can but in terms of like a cut of the film itself, no.
Aaron: So, following the release of the Assembly Cut, I think it’d be fair to say that Alien 3 went through a massive revaluation by the fanbase. Whenever you’re on Reddit, Facebook, the forums, when the topic of Alien 3 comes up, you can guarantee there’s going to be someone chiming in about how you should watch the AC because it’s just so much better than theatrical edition. So how does it feel to have such a hand in such a huge turnaround in fandom opinion?
All I can say was that I just did my best to try to get it to people to see. Everything else is not me. I basically pushed for this and I encouraged people to do this and I just applied whatever sort of like quality control I could along the way. I, as a fan, I’m just happy to finally have this cut for myself to watch. It’s like a lot of these projects I work on, I very selfishly make them for myself because it’s like I want to have that, not only my collection but then to watch and enjoy whenever I want.
Because going back to the very beginning of our conversation, that first time I saw Alien 3 in theatre and I thought “Oh man, what a mess but what a beautiful mess, there must be something to this” – to then get to many years later “Oh now I get to see what an early version of this film was where maybe it was on a different path before it got knocked into the path that it ended up on. I mean I think it’s fair to say and I can’t really speak for anybody but I’ll just say I think it’s fair to say to assume that Fincher probably wouldn’t like this version either.
I don’t even know it could be charitable enough to say “Oh it’s maybe slightly better. It stinks a little bit less than the other one” but I doubt he’d even say that or probably never even watch it. I’m glad people have reassessed it and I’m glad that people seem to be happy that they have access to it and they can watch it but in terms of the overall perception of it… I mean it’s still a very flawed film but I think it’s an interesting flawed film.