Peter Briggs is a screenwriter in the film industry, who is best known in the community for writing the first Alien vs Predator script in 1991 which 20th Century Fox then purchased. AvP spent the next decade or so in development hell before Paul Anderson brought his version to cinemas in 2004. Over the years, Briggs has written many unproduced scripts including Judge Dredd and Freddy vs Jason but he did write the story for 2004’s Hellboy. Future films he is producing is Mortis Rex and Panzer 88.
Peter Brigg’s first AvP draft is available to download here though his second draft is not online. Aaron has written two good articles about this Peter’s script: See The Hunt Begins: The Early Days of Peter Briggs’ Alien vs. Predator and an overview of the script itself – The Hunt: Alien vs. Predator – Peter Briggs’ Script.
We interviewed Peter Briggs for Episode 130 of the AvPGalaxy Podcast that was first published in July 2021. You can listen to the episode below or read on for a transcription. The interview references a lawsuit from the original writers of Predator – the Thomas Brothers who sued Disney in April 2021 to get the Predator rights back. That lawsuit is still ongoing as of August 2021.
Aaron: So, one of the things I always tend to bring up is that we don’t get to talk about Alien vs Predator very often. The individual series’ have far more stories and games and comics and books and films so, we don’t get to talk AvP very often. We are going back to the start of AvP’s theatrical life here. We are talking to none other than the first writer on the project – Mr Peter Briggs.
Peter and I have been talking on and off for years and years. Peter’s helped me out fact checking on various articles and questions I have. We’re obviously talking Peter’s famed and fabled script. Hopefully we’re gonna get his memory going enough that we can get some details on that second draft that nobody has ever seen.
Before we do start to talk about your part in this grand Alien and Predator story, one of the things we love to hear about our guests is pretty much just the first time you encountered the beasts. So, do you remember the first time you ever laid eyes on H.R. Giger or Stan Winston’s extra-terrestrial terrors?
Peter Briggs: It starts off, I think, for me… I mean this was the 1970s and there was no internet. We were stuck with the magazines we had at the time. I was a regular reader of, at that point in 1979, Starburst and Starlog. There were a few other magazines as well. There was Future Life and some other things which kind of came up. So going back for me, the first time I heard about Alien was Starburst #8 which was the Space 1999 cover and had Star Wars 2 news. I still am an enormous Star Wars fan and there was a thing on it.
It said “Alien – New SF Shocker” on the front cover and that in itself didn’t kind of grab me. It was the Space 1999 Star Wars thing on the front and I was reading the magazine anyway and I remember turning a few pages and then as I was reading it, turned the page and there was a Ron Cobb picture of the Nostromo, or I guess the Leviathan as it was known back then. It was the big shot that he kind of did of the back of the engines of it, drawn on graph paper. I looked at this picture of this amazing image and some incredible design and was just like “What the hell is this?”
And then there were a few more pictures over the next couple of pages, I think. There was a shot of the Nostromo’s bridge and I think there might have been a picture of Giger and Ron Cobb in there as well but it was like basically two pages of… this has been shooting at Shepperton and those drawings, Cobb’s drawings, immediately grabbed me and I wanted to know everything there was to know about this and this would have been March or April of 1979 and so, at the same time I found the first issue I’d seen of Fantastic Films if you remember that magazine and I guess that was issue… I missed one.
I missed one Alien one because it had terrible distribution up in the northwest of England which is where I was at the time and it was issue 13, I think which was the yellow cover with Kane being winched down with Dallas and Lambert with the Space Jockey in the background. This is the time when the film opened and so I’d already been primed by this Starburst article. The film opened. Obviously did a big Star Wars-ish kind of opening weekend on May 25th. I remember one of the kids at school telling me “Oh yeah there’s some pictures in The Sun.”
I guess The Sun did a spread with the Space Jockey in on one day. I think they actually did print the Alien but I didn’t see that issue. I saw the Space Jockey one and so from March, April to September, I was sort of obsessed with Alien. I needed to know all about it. I went off on a school trip to York and got Alan Dean Foster’s novelization. I got that first issue of Fantastic Films and then I guess the next issue of Fantastic Films was the issue 14. I guess that was the one with 14 and 15 were the two big Ridley Scott interviews. They had all of his Ridleygrams, all of his storyboards and that was an exhaustive interview. Still one of the best interviews with Ridley I think I’ve ever seen and then Book of Alien came out.
I remember I was in an art book shop in St. Helens and found Giger’s Alien and got that and so before I’d seen even a trailer and I was a kid, I think. I’ve just turned 13 at the time and wouldn’t have been able to get into Alien anyway because it was an 18. But I was primed man. I wanted to see this film and nothing was going to stop me seeing this film and all through the summer I was just waiting and waiting and in 6th of September, it opened in Britain. My uncle Eric who had taken me as a baby to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. I pleaded with my dad who I’d gone to see Star Wars with.
My dad just didn’t want to go and my uncle Eric was like “Oh I’ll take you.” So, my uncle Eric sneaked me in to the cinema. It was the Odeon in Liverpool where I’d seen Star Wars and sneaked me in. In fact weirdly enough, I remember about a year later I got friendly with the projectionists at the cinema so I actually do have the quad poster from the lobby of the Odeon Liverpool. So I do actually have that showing that I saw of Alien. Well, I have the poster for that which was great.
So, I remember I already knew everything that was happening in the film before I saw the film so there were no real surprises for me. It just was a great film. Then after the film I guess a month or so later, the Richard Anobile photo novel came out. I had that because back in the day, with VHS kind of in its infancy, I didn’t get a video recorder until I guess 1980, 1981 which my dad got. So, I didn’t have access to watching a film over and over again. So, for years reading that Anobile photo novel was my way of kind of keeping the film alive for me until I got to see it again. So that was my initial exposure to Alien and reading Cinefex, all the magazine articles that came out. Yeah, just an enormous Alien fan from the outset.
Aaron: I was just looking for my copy of the photo novel then because I think that is brilliant.
Peter Briggs: It’s terrific. It’s a really great photo novel. I mean I had actually had a few more photo novels from the time. I had a whole bunch of Star Trek photo novels from the original Kirk Spock series but if you remember, they sort of came out. They were almost a little bit Mad Magazine because they had speech balloons and they did that with the Invasion of the Body Snatchers photo novel. They did that with Close Encounters photo novel which is really disappointing because if the Close Encounters one had the same production value as the Alien one did, that would have been awesome with those big frames kind of across the page like that.
Aaron: I think IDW revisited them recently – the Star Trek stuff and even tried using caps and stuff to create original stories with them as well.
Peter Briggs: They did yeah. It was interesting. I haven’t seen that book in years. Oh, and I remember. I guess around about 1980-1981, I came across a copy of Ron Cobb’s Colorvision which I gave to a friend to borrow. We ended up ending our friendship and I never got it back. So, it took me many years to get another copy of that again. But yeah I was just primed down the years and then I guess we had Aliens finally in ‘86.
Aaron: What about Predator then? What was the first time you ran into that one?
Peter Briggs: Predator kind of came out of the blue. I mean I was a regular cinema guy. I’d seen the trailers. I knew it was a Schwarzenegger movie. The trailer doesn’t really give very much away. So, I went into that completely blind and of course loved it. I mean it is what it is. It’s the perfect little film really. I think I saw that at the Odeon Marble Arch in London. To my mind, that’s kind of still my favourite of the Predator sculpt. I mean there’s something about the Predator in that first film that kind of looks realistic.
I don’t know whether it was the kind of urethane or whatever they were using on the sculpt. If you kind of contrast that with the Predator in Predator 2 which looks a little bit rubbery and then the Alien vs Predator Predators, they’re different things. I’m a big soundtrack collector and I like to write to things. Less now than I used to but I’ve got thousands of film scores.
Aaron: Do you prefer [the xenomorph] with the skull visible or not? Now I know that you’ve got a soft spot for a certain Alien statue – Takayuki Takeya Alien Pile Statue and the skull is definitely visible in there.
Peter Briggs: Technically speaking, I mean you’re referencing the Alien Pile but before there was the Alien Pile, there was a single of his version of that creature which was just the creature standing there. I mean fans will be listening to this so they’ll know what I mean but it’s the freakiest looking thing. It’s sort of standing there in a sort of hunched kind of thing with its arms sort of slightly back but stretched forward. It always reminds me of some of the raptors in Jurassic Park in sort of the way that it looks.
But what I like about that is that its head is just unfathomably long. Takeya actually himself did a sculpt of that Alien. You sort of look at it. He pulled his dimensions back. Whenever I’ve thought about doing an Alien film since, my version of it would be probably an even more outlandish version of the Alien than that looks. I think it’s important to get away from the guy in a suit look on it which I mean even if you look at Covenant.
I mean the Alien in that is relatively skinny and obviously isn’t in long shots a guy in a suit because he’s CG. I would hire Takeya honestly but there are some beautiful sculptures. Some very surreal ones on the internet by various fan artists that are quite beautiful but Takeya’s one is the one. I’m not a fan of the warrior. I don’t like that head. I think it’s a cop-out.
Eric: I’m from that older generation as well where it was like videotape and DVD didn’t exist etc. James Cameron famously wrote a rebuttal to critics of Aliens for Starlog magazine in ‘92. In it he refers a number of times to a certain Peter Briggs. Now was this you butting heads with Cameron. It feels like it was foreshadowing that development hell on AvP in a weird way.
Peter Briggs: Yeah, it was much earlier than that. I think it was probably not long after the film because I think I wrote a letter and I’d written an another one. I think the ‘92 one the second letter. I think that was me commenting about Terminator 2, I think, just as I was writing Alien vs Predator. This was 30 years ago. I was a brat. I was a kid.
It’s probably akin to kind of every annoying kid on Twitter now who kind of thinks they know everything and I was that annoying kid. Weirdly enough that letter did go on much longer. It was edited down. I can’t remember what the original letter what was cut from it but I took Kevin’s task for some things. I mean it was like “Where’s the ringed world that LV-426 is around?” And pointed out nice things as well in it.
I was a little disappointed in Aliens I’ll be honest because that first film is almost perfect and the tone is very different. What I like about Alien over Aliens is I like that very realistic, very natural, very gritty tone that exists down to the acting, down to the dialogue, down to the almost kind of improvisational kind of way that Ridley had his actors sort of play it and the sort of almost handheld cameras in some scenes and Ridley as a filmmaker… I mean Cameron just couldn’t really compare to that although it’s a classic in its own right. In terms of performance and direction, I feel that Ridley’s approach was superior to Cameron.
Eric: Can I ask you from the perspective of a writer, just quickly touching on that, when the Special Edition eventually came out and we saw those scenes which I felt added a great deal for Ripley’s characterization. Like the stuff between Burke and Ripley and finding about her daughter and stuff, would you say that changed your perspective of that film or did you still feel mostly the same way about it?
Peter Briggs: Well, I knew those scenes were there anyway because I’m a fan. I’d read the book and seen some stills of things that have been cut from it. So, I do much prefer the special edition for those reasons. There’s only one line I don’t like which is Hudson’s kind of big mama bug because it does give the game away a little bit. If you just excise that one exchange, I think pretty much everything else that’s put back into the special edition is a huge improvement to it.
Then we’re in into territory where it starts to become a film that’s way over two hours and it’s a very… weirdly enough I’m writing something at the moment and it’s sort of that thing of how many pages in, how long into the story can you get away with before you have to show the creature and when you look at the special edition of Aliens, I mean okay you have the stuff with the derelict put back in, you have the Facehugger but you don’t really see a warrior Alien until obviously the scene where [Dietrich] gets it first. I think you’re hitting about 60 70 minutes. It’s a very long time into the film and it’s the same with Alien.
There’s a slow burner. It takes its time before we have the Chestburster sequence but no, I do I like all of those extended scenes. I do like the extended scenes in Alien as well although once we get to the cocoon sequence. If you’re kind of looking at it from a canonical point of view as an overview of the whole series, the cocoon sequence, in one respect, given that we know about the Queen Alien, in one respect it becomes a little difficult but I had come up with my own life cycle for the Alien when I was writing Alien vs Predator and there is that weird line that people don’t pick up on.
It’s not a great film obviously but Alien Resurrection. There’s the whole exchange with the scientists and Brad Dourif and everybody where they talk about the amount of different reproductive ways that the Queen Alien has. So, I think that there is sort of some latitude kind of to sort of suggest that there is more than one way to skin a cat.