Liam O’Donnell is the co-writer of 2010’s Skyline and the writer and director of its 2017 sequel Beyond Skyline. Liam worked closely with the Strause brothers before AvP Requiem was even greenlit, developing the initial pitch and was the creative consultant during production. Liam was quite active on our forum under the username ‘Crom’ along with Colin Strause, during AvP Requiem’s production.
We sat down and had a chat with Liam for Episode #60 of the AvPGalaxy Podcast in December 2017 in celebration of the 10th anniversary of AvP Requiem. We spoke to him about how he came to be the creative consultant on the movie and what his Alien vs. Predator 3 idea was going to be. You can listen to the podcast below or read on for a transcription. I’ve only included the most relevant bits related to AvP Requiem below but the end of the podcast goes into more about Skyline.
A few notes about the interview. The interview makes a few references to an Ain’t It Cool News (AICN) script review. For those that don’t know, in April 2006, AICN published a review of early draft of then-titled Alien vs. Predator 2 and they criticised every aspect of the script. It caused major controversy and 20th Century Fox had them remove it from their website. By that point the damage was done and the Strause brothers were under constant criticism right up to and after AvP Requiem’s release in December 2017. While it was an early draft, the finished film wasn’t that far from it. For those that are curious, you can read AICN’s script review here.
With regards to AvP Requiem deleted scenes. You can read the AvP Requiem Theatrical vs Unrated Cut article to get the lowdown between the two cuts. You can also view the Deleted Scenes article to read more about the Kendra and Curtis scenes that were cut out.
Aaron: I just want to thank you for taking the time to come and join us today and talk about your experiences on the film and on Skyline as well. Not only did you work on Requiem, you worked on Skyline and you’re also the main man behind the new one Beyond Skyline. But before we start nerding out, I was hoping you could just give us a little background on yourself for our listeners. Who are you and what do you do?
Well yeah I’d say working backwards now, I just directed my first film Beyond Skyline which is coming out this December. Before that and for the past ten years I’ve been writing and producing for Hydraulx Visual Effects, Hydraulx Entertainment, working with Greg and Colin. I wrote and produced their last movie Skyline and then AvPR was the first film project that I worked with them on.
Kind of developing the pitch with them before they went in to meet with Fox and then just kind of being like their creative kind of go-to consultant on a lot of different things from soup to nuts on that whole movie. So I had a front-row seat and I kind of like to think of it as my film school because I went to school and did a couple of courses in this stuff. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do till I got out here and started getting in and mixing it up and I was 24 on that set of that movie.
It was definitely a dream come true at the time for sure. I met with them through friends and I started writing their directors’ treatments for their commercials and music videos. We would get boards sent from ad agencies and you kind of have to give them your artistic take on how you’re going to do that and then you just get sent songs from the record companies and that’s a little bit more fun, a little bit more creative.
You kind of pitch them what your vision for the videos would be so I would just sit and meet with them and we would just brainstorm ideas and then I would be the one to write it down because they are running their own visual effects company and they would be in the process of directing other things that they’d already done. So, it was just a real busy time and I kind of came in on a little bit of an apprenticeship.
Adam: We have something of a tradition on the podcast and that’s where we like to hear about the first time our guests came across the Alien or Predator franchises. Do you remember your first encounter?
Absolutely. Alien I saw growing up in Massachusetts. There’s like these two VHS channels like VHF. TV 37 would just have like matinees during the day and so for whatever reason, my parents just let me watch this movie during the day and the opening just drew me in but it was neutered to be on television. A lot of the crazier shots were cut out so I was very drawn into it and loved all of the design and stuff but the scariest thing I remember as a kid was Ash because they didn’t cut that out. It was so awesome to see this guy bleeding milk when you were like 5 years old. Really freaked me out. So that that was my experience with Alien.
Predator was the first like R-Rated movie that I ever saw. I saw that first grade at a sleepover. I was already a massive Arnold fan and I like kind of manipulated the situation where I could sleep over at a friend’s house that I knew his parents let him watch R-Rated movies. So that I could stay up late and watch Predator with him and I thought it was the greatest movie I’d ever seen.
Aaron: Had you had much to do with AvP as a concept before working on the film? The comics or the games?
No, I hadn’t. In fact, because I was around the time that the first AvP came out, I wasn’t like online following things that much. I was in college right that time but I knew about it and I was aware of the comics or anything but I wasn’t an avid reader or anything like that but I do remember being at like a bar and seeing the first TV ads for AvP and being like “What the fuck? Where did this come from?”
I like raised my arms. I was definitely just that layman who wasn’t obsessively following it and all of a sudden just saw an ad on TV for like two of my favorite creatures fighting off and had that pyramid shot. I just remember that being like “Where the hell did this movie come from?”
Adam: What are your thoughts on the films that came after yours? Did you enjoy Predators or Scott’s prequel films?
I mean Predators I’ve only seen once. I like parts of it. I still like some of our Predator design work better than some of the stuff they went with on that. But it’s a return to what the aesthetic of the franchise should be as far as characters and approach so I appreciated that. I mean that’s really my big takeaway from rewatching AvPR last night for the first time in nine years is just like from the conception of it is what’s so odd.
Like having that kind of small-town cast of characters with these creatures is just something I never would have come up with in a million years. I don’t know why that was what they decided to go with so when these movies are definitely a return to the right genre if that makes sense. I really enjoyed Prometheus, especially the visuals I’d actually put that movie on when I was writing the script for Beyond Skyline and just turn off the volume because it’s such a beautiful looking movie.
Obviously, everyone has different complaints about the story but I think I almost liked the look of Prometheus better than Alien Covenant but I think Alien Covenant was a more complete movie but I don’t know. Is that controversial? How do people feel about Covenant? I didn’t really get why people were super negative about it. Obviously, the spores seem way more advanced than the analog egg situation so I understood those complaints but I felt like if Alien Covenant came out before Prometheus and that was the first one back, people would have been pretty psyched.
Both of them I enjoyed in the theater and I remember I saw Prometheus opening night and I had a pretty good time with it and then it was afterwards everyone talking and just picking apart and then seeing the backlash form online but I still was like “Well it’s still one of the most like beautifully realized Alien environments I’ve ever seen”. That planet is seamless so I took away a lot from it.
I enjoyed it and then Alien Covenant, I just saw once and I was still like oh I had fun so I guess it would be the same thing of revisiting and kind of picking up on what’s rubbing everyone else the wrong way. Prometheus is more pleasing to me I thought. It’s just such a beautiful movie to look at whereas Alien Covenant was good but I felt like it was almost like he was reacting to Prometheus, trying to do something a little different instead of just embracing the same look.
Aaron: You were involved with Requiem from a fairly early point and you were involved in a creative capacity pretty early on. So, could you tell our listeners a little bit about how you got involved with AvPR and your responsibilities on its production?
So at that time I was writing their treatments I like I said earlier and we got an early draft of the script because as a visual effects company, Fox had sent it out to get bids. To bid the visual effects and we got a little bit of a head start and we read it and we’re kind of talking about ideas and obviously huge fans of Alien vs Predator but I think that my initial gut response is that I didn’t understand the concept.
Watching the movie again for the first time nine years later. Like I said, it wasn’t very well planned as a sequel to the first one which we had a lot of trouble on that opening, having that sort of make sense in our heads. Iitially the draft was like it all happened really fast – the Predalien – at the end of the first AvP like Earth is very clearly farther in the background. When the Chestburster comes up and it was just like immediately gonna grow to full size, kill a bunch of Predators and crash-land and that didn’t make sense to us.
The kind of problems that I think still exists in the movie were kind of right there from the beginning and I actually went to Greg and pitched him like “Well maybe we should pitch a different idea.” My version was like a Fire In The Sky sort of thing where you’d have humans getting abducted into these Predator ships. When you get abducted, also an Alien egg opens up in front of you and you get turned into Aliens and you’re in this kind of training environment for Predators.
He was like “Yeah I mean that’s cool but it also sounds really expensive” and I’m 24. They’d been in this Hollywood game for a while where they continually come in on these projects and done that sort of like here’s a page-one rewrite pitch instead of trying to work within what the pitch was and they’ve been doing that since like around 2001. They hadn’t gotten anything obviously and he’s like “Yeah I just think we have to work within what this pitch is and try to make the best version of this pitch”.
So that was what we put a lot of work into in the beginning and then I would sit with them like anything else and get all their notes and brainstorm. Then I would write stuff and bring it to them and try to work within the parameters of what the script was and make the best version of it that we could.
So, I watched the Unrated cut last night and that had the ship going to a different place. Now on the theatrical it just goes right down right. We had like so many arguments with the studio about just that shot and it’s not even that complicated in the Unrated. Like it’s fine but it’s just like I said it’s not like a well-planned sequel if you were gonna end the first movie on it and the first movie was only a few years earlier. Just seems like they should had something as a studio. I’m saying they should have had a sequel sort of more thought-out I think from the first one on.