Rex Pickett Interview

Posted by Darkness on June 18, 2022 (Updated: 18-Jun-2022)

 Rex Pickett Interview

Rex Pickett

Rex Pickett is a writer and is best known in the community for being one of the many writers brought on to write the screenplay for Alien 3. Rex is most well-known in his career for writing the 2004 novel Sideways which Alexander Payne adapted into a film in the same year. Rex joined us on episode 146 of the AvPGalaxy Podcast to recount his experiences working alongside David Fincher, and opposite Walter Hill and David Giler, to provide us with a frank and honest first-hand account of that infamous nightmarish production.

Rex discusses how his wife, who was an assistant to both Vincent Ward and David Fincher, leaked him scripts which allowed Rex to do a stealth rewrite; How David Fincher snuck Rex to the United Kingdom without the studio or producer’s knowledge; The infamous memo that contributed towards his departure from the production; The fickle nature of Hollywood productions, and plenty more!

Rex’s draft of Alien 3 is available to read here. As discussed in the episode, Rex’s most recent novel, The Archivist, is also available to purchase on Amazon (UK/US). You can listen to the episode below or continue on for a transcription of the most relevant points. There is more discussed in the actual episode.


Adam: Do you remember your first time you encountered H.R. Giger’s iconic Alien and what are your thoughts on the series in general?

Rex: Well, it’s funny you bring up H.R. Giger because I’ve heard the name, but my first experience was going in and seeing the Ridley Scott film, the very first Alien film. So Giger obviously, he was the creature guy, who created the monster. I don’t want your audience to turn away because I do have a pretty interesting story, but I used to see everything in the theater. Even if it wasn’t a genre that I liked or whatever and I went and saw it, first of all it has an unbelievable cast.

As far as a sci-fi movie goes and I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise by ghettoizing it to a genre, but I think it’s one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The first one. It holds off on the suspense. It allows you to get emotionally invested in the characters and there’s also something claustrophobic about that ship and it’s a brilliant conceit from a from a Hollywood pitch standpoint. Trapped on the spaceship but there’s something that’s going wrong. Where do you go? How do you escape? It’s brilliant and so I saw the movie and I thought it was a mind-blowingly great movie. I really did.

I have to say when I saw Aliens, I didn’t like it. I thought it was all about fire power. I know it’s James Cameron and he’s gone on Titanic and Avatar, but I just wasn’t a big fan. I actually liked Terminator, his first film because I thought was a good action picture. But in in all my work, there’s very little violence and that one [Aliens] just seemed like it was full-on attack mode, firepower. Maybe I should revisit it and I’ll be honest with you for this podcast, I did not go back and look at Alien 3 or Aliens or Alien or [Alien vs Predator]. I haven’t looked at any of them at all but the first movie, I knew who Giger was. I just didn’t know his work really and I just thought everything in that film was brilliant.

 Rex Pickett Interview

Rex Pickett

Aaron: So obviously we’re here to talk about Alien 3. That’s why you’re on because Alien 3 is hitting its 30th anniversary and I found you because you were obviously one of the writers on it but your time on that production is often boiled down to two statements but there’s actually something of a saga to the time you spent working alongside David Fincher on Alien 3. So, the logical place to start is right at the start. So, could you tell us a little about how you first became involved with that production?

Rex: So, as I said earlier, I got married and we made two films together and Barbara Schock, she acted but she also produced the films, went on to win an academy award for a short film that I wrote after Alien but after her second film bombed, she needed work. We needed work and she supported me. So, she knew through a close friend Michael London. Michael London was a VP in charge of production at Fox under Joe Roth which was the regime that produced Alien 3. As the story goes, Joe Roth was on a plane and on that plane in first class was Vincent Ward who was this New Zealand director, and he made this kind of sci-fi film that’s all dark and gloomy.

I saw it. It’s cripplingly boring but if you like that kind of thing and he pitched to Joe Roth, as the story goes, monks on a wooden planet and they did a deal on the plane for Alien 3. It’s funny they wouldn’t go back to Dan O’Bannon – maybe they weren’t gonna pay him enough or maybe they wanted a fresh look or whatever. There’s a lot of politics involved with writing and so Vincent Ward needs an assistant. He’s new. He’s in L.A.. He’s given offices and so Barbara Schock is assigned as his assistant and now they start to develop the monks on the wooden planet that Ripley is going to crash onto.

Well thank God, it’s 30 years later because I couldn’t tell you this 20 years ago but now, I don’t care. Barb and I, we’re married. She’s feeding me screenplays. She’s feeding me drafts from the lot at 20th Century Fox. I got the inside scoop and I’m going, this is a ridiculous screenplay. This is so bad and apparently, they had tried… but they had commissioned a number of screenplays, and these are six figure deals by the way and maybe Dan O’Bannon wrote one and they didn’t like it and someone else wrote one and whatever. I can’t remember the different writers.

So maybe they thought Vincent Ward had like a really fresh take on it. I can’t remember if he was the one writing the scripts or if they brought in other writers but now, they’re following his vision. Monks on a wooden planet okay and the scripts are coming out. They’re terrible but meanwhile you have to understand, there’s a pay or play deal with Sigourney Weaver involved. It’s her third film and it was the biggest amount that they’d ever paid a female actor ever and pay or play, I think what that means. If you don’t play by this date, you pay okay. So, without really having a fully realized script, they shift the production to London and Pinewood Studios. They have all these departments and special effects and production design and they’re building according to this script.

 Rex Pickett Interview

David Fincher

The script is the blueprint but meanwhile Vincent Ward, he’s losing control of himself and of life. He’s snorting coke like crazy… I have the inside… Barbara goes to London to be his assistant and he’s just completely losing it and she called Michael London and said, “He’s losing it” and they fired him the next day and she didn’t do it for me or anything. She did it for the project. She just literally believed that he had no idea what he was doing, and you think the studio… it’s a huge studio. You think there’d be some oversight on this. You’d be surprised how much they just sort of let go.

“Oh, he’s the genius. Maybe there’s a method to his madness or whatever” and they’ve done it with Terry Gilliam and other people. Sometimes you get genius and other times you get crap. They fired him. They took Barbara’s story and then they hired David Fincher and I don’t know what the process was. So, David Fincher is 25 years old. He’s never made a narrative film in his life. He’s never made a narrative short. He’s a huge music video director and commercial director. He had done all the Madonna videos for example but those show a real visual style. They think if we can match him with a good writer.

Also, he’s very cocky and I wouldn’t call him arrogant, but he definitely is a man of conviction. He has a lot of confidence. He’s only 25 years old and Barbara stays on as his assistant because I think Fincher really recognized that she produced two feature films. She knew a lot about story and narrative okay, but Fincher isn’t into monks on a wooden planet. No that isn’t David Fincher. If you’ve seen Seven or his other films, he’s not into monks so no offense to the to the to those people. So he goes “No prisoners on a on a planet” and they’re in a penal colony and so now they’re gonna… but David is not a writer. To this day, he’s never been a writer and I appreciate that from him that he knows his strong suit.

So, they hire Larry Ferguson and he’s a big six figure writer and they bring him in at, I think, 400,000. This is a lot of money in ‘89 but meanwhile they’re on a crunch. They’ve just fired a director. They’re at Pinewood Studios. They’ve got creature departments and now all the wooden stuff is just thrown out the door. Whatever they’ve created that’s wood and drawings or whatever, it’s prisoners now in a penal colony. These people are going crazy by the way out at Pinewood. Anyway, Larry Ferguson is quite a character, and he was going to give them one month. For, I think, it was a 100,000 a week and he wanted hookers around the clock and the whole thing. We won’t go into that but it’s all true story and again I’m reading all the scripts. I’m following it with Barbara.

I mean we’re talking pretty much every day and she’s in London. Actually his script wasn’t that bad given the new direction that Fincher had dictated. It was actually a readable script as I recall. Again, it’s been a long time, but I remember thinking “Okay it’s competent unlike the monks on the wooden planet” which was just ludicrous. But it wasn’t quite there and then Fincher and Fox made a very crucial error what I believe in Alien 3. So, Ferguson is out after four weeks. His fee goes up every week after that and they’re gonna keep rewriting. There’s other things that I’m not aware of.

I mean I’m sure these drafts are getting sent to obviously the producers who would be Walter Hill, David Giler, also probably Sigourney Weaver. She’s privy to the script. She’s probably by the third one. What’s important is that she had… because actors they sometimes have say so and sometimes, they don’t. So by the third film, they have to have Sigourney. I mean that’s it. She’s the star of the film and so she’s of course going to have her say. So, this is the crucial error. So, Walter Hill, as a director, has directed many films. He’s also a screenwriter. David Giler’s just a screenwriter but they’re also the producers.

So, they were involved in the hiring of David Fincher. Well, they hired themselves to rewrite Ferguson okay. Now you have a problem. You have a young director. This is a big deal. His first feature is a franchise movie. It’s not like he made some indie film and worked his way up. He’s vaulted from Madonna music videos to the big stage here. So, these guys are seasoned, they’re older producers whatever. On one hand, as producers, they’ve hired him so he has to pay lip service to them on that level. But now they’re writers and they should listen to him and his input but it’s like who the f**k are you, you little punk.

You don’t hire the producers to write your script. You want the writers to be someone you can kind of control or at least work with, collaborate with. It’s very unusual and of course I’m getting every draft and it’s not kosher to be sending me drafts. They say highly confidential across every page and everything else, but their draft went kind of in a different direction. I’m sure they had meetings with Fincher but of all the screenplays I’ve read in my life that are going into production, it is the most amateurish screenplay I’ve ever read in my entire life. By far, it makes no narrative sense.

David Giler didn’t do any writing. He died recently but he’s just a massive drunk. Everyone knows it and I saw him. I met him in person. I never met Walter Hill. By this point, he probably doesn’t even really want to be doing it, but he takes the fee. They write this script and it’s so bad and Barbara is sitting in the office next to Fincher and she’s really great. She went on to be big in development and then won an Academy Award for a short film. She’s now the chair of NYU School of Graduate Film. I mean she teaches film and story and narrative. They’re talking and she’s basically saying, “Look I know someone who maybe could help you out here.”

 Rex Pickett Interview

Xenomorph

I’m in Los Angeles. They’re in London so I’m reading the script and so they asked me, David [Fincher] kind of under cloak of darkness here, to analyze the script. So, I brilliantly analyze it saying it’s missing conflict, it’s missing story, it’s missing characters that we were invested in. It’s a mess basically. However, in that letter, I said “Unfortunately I really think that Walter Hill and David Giler are just a couple of hacks living off their laurels in Malibu.” In a personal letter to David Fincher. He shows the letter to Tim Zinnemann. Tim Zinnemann was the line producer which is a big job. He the son of Fred Zinnemann, the famous director from Here to Eternity.

So, he’s big over there at Fox and Tim said “Boy this guy really knows what he’s talking about.” So Fincher, again under cover of darkness, he had a plane ticket on Virgin Air. He flies me over to London and we meet out at Pinewood and I listen. I read the script and whatever and this goes way back and I rewrote the entire script in nine days without anyone knowing for free, for nothing. I’ll try to remember what I did but it was a lot. So he then presents me to 20th Century Fox as his new writer.

Well, that didn’t go over well with some people, especially Walter Hill and David Giler because remember as producers, the studio is beholden to them. The reason they’re beholden to them is because they kind of control Sigourney Weaver if you think of it that way. They can manipulate her. So, they’re not happy about it but you have to understand, this thing has been fast tracked. There’s a pay or play thing. We don’t have a screenplay and you’re announcing this guy Rex Pickett who’s never written a studio film in his life. He’s not Larry Ferguson. He’s your new writer and let’s back up a little bit.

To show you how unprofessional Hill and Giler were. When I was doing the nine-day rewrite of the entire… I rewrote the whole script in nine days. Barbara was also Walter Hill’s assistant. Walter Hill was saying to Barbara “Here are David’s storyboards for the action sequences. If you could write them out for me and put them in the script, I’d appreciate it.” To a non-writer, this guy making six figures, was farming out action sequences to my now ex-wife. She sub-farmed them out to me.

So, while I’m rewriting the main script at night, I’m putting his action sequences into words and putting them into his dreadful script that is being rewritten by me. In all fairness to Barbara, she was doing it not for me, she was doing it really for… she knew that I could bring character and story. She did it for the project. She did it for Fincher. She knew that David… if he watches this, I love the guy. He’s a great guy. He can be tough on crews. He’s a great visual stylist but David knew.

He wasn’t brainwashed by Barbara. He knew the Hill-Giler script was a piece of crap. It made no sense at all. So, they’re not happy about that but Hill and Giler are Hollywood veterans. They’re still gonna get the producer credit. They’ve got other projects, especially Walter Hill. So, they accept that there’s a new writer but then something else happens and a couple days later… now they’re bringing in… and Fox did not like that I was… so behind the scenes for all the fans there who are immersed in the characters and immersed in this world, in the future and everything else.

 Rex Pickett Interview

Ripley & Michael Bishop

Behind the scenes there are major politics going on. That’s kind of my story but they got over it because Fincher is now calling the shots but the studio decides to replace the line producer Tim Zinnemann and so I’m officially hired. I get 10,000 a week. £1500 a week back then in ’90 was a lot of money here. They hand it to you in cash and you have these wonderful big bills over there. You have to buy new wallets for them. They’re really quite wonderful. Anyway, so Tim’s Zinnemann’s fired, and he had a pay or play deal and they weren’t going to pay him. They were going to screw him out of his pay or play deal.

So, what Tim Zinnemann does that no one understands, he had kept the letter that I wrote Fincher where I called Hill and Giler hacks living off their laurels in Malibu. He sends the letter to everyone at 20th Century Fox. Hill, Giler, Joe Roth, everybody. They all call their lawyers. I’m assuming I’m two days into being the official writer. I assume I’m gone. They know I’m married to Barbara. I’m assuming she’s gone. No, they keep us on, but he just immediately flies out of London. He’s just ripping mad that somebody could say that. Forget the fact that I said it in a letter addressed to David.

He passed it to Zinnemann and he’s just going to throw… he knows he’s just throwing a monkey wrench into the wheels because they’re screwing him out of his pay or play deal. Had he not sent that letter to anyone, that script probably would have been the script of record if you want to know the truth and Fox played a kind of a… and I would have stayed on. So, I did stay on but meanwhile, Hill is gone and there was a transition meeting with Giler. He was aware of the letter obviously and he didn’t bring it up and there were heavyweights in that room. David Fincher, John Landau who’s head of physical production at Fox who went on to produce Titanic and Avatar movies. He’s James Cameron’s producer.

Michael London was in there. Went on to produce Sideways which he never should have got the credit for but that’s another story. I remember Giler was just wanting… all he was talking about was prostitutes in Thailand and how wonderful they were, and he went into detail. This is supposed to be the transition meeting from one writer to the next. The passing of the torch. You have to realize all these departments have now started to plan for a world of prisoners and a penal colony.

This guy’s talking about hookers in Thailand. He went on at length about it and we’re all just sitting there like okay, and he had nothing to say to me at all. He had nothing to say narratively and everything and part of the reason is, he had nothing to do with the screenplay. Hill was the one who did the rewrite but even he… and he told Barbara this. He goes “When I need dialogue, I just turn on the tv and I just pull dialogue from whatever shows on tv.”

This is how unprofessional these people were. You’re talking about a 60-million-dollar movie. I mean today that’s a 150-million-dollar movie. It’s a huge film and this this is how cavalier… they didn’t care, and Fincher knew that. He cares. The guy really cares, and he works hard and he’s very demanding and he’s a visual stylist. I felt sorry for him that he was thrown into this mix. Anyway, Giler leaves ultimately London too and so meanwhile, now they don’t fire me because they don’t have another writer. David wants me and I’ve rewritten it and they’ve all admitted it’s a great script.

That I really did a great job but now David wants to go in for revisions and other stuff. We can talk about the script and my memory won’t be real great of it. I tried to create divisions at the penal colony between Dillon and the administrators, the prisoners and obviously Clemens who was kind of a neutral character, as the medic. Tried to bring character to it because remember, I couldn’t create whole new action sequences because it would throw the production into problems.

I had to stay within those bounds and actually I’ve often said the nine-day rewrite I did and then I worked with Fincher for a solid month. Met with him probably every other day and Fox was hassling us for pages because they were freaking out. Back then it was before text and cell phones and stuff. So, we had these things where he would ring twice and hang up and then ring again. Then I would pick up the phone because it wouldn’t be Fox. We had this kind of system going because Fincher didn’t want them to say “We don’t like these pages. We’re bringing in somebody else.”

 Rex Pickett Interview

Ripley & Morse

He wanted to have it. He wanted to give me that space and so that he could create the script that he wanted from the time that they hired him and brought him on. The working with David, it was great. I mean I don’t like to be critical of him, but he was young. He doesn’t come from narrative very much. He would say certain things that to me as a writer… like he handed me Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book. The seven stages of dying. He says, “We need Ripley to go through the seven stages of dying” and I’m like “What does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

I read the book and he’s kind of trying to impose… he wanted something deeper, something subtextual going on in there.  For the most part, he was going along with my nine-day rewrite. That’s what we were coming off on. But meanwhile in the background, Hill and Giler are renegotiating their contracts. David and I worked hard, and we presented the script to Fox, and they approved it. I’m going “My god, I’m a made writer” and even though I wasn’t going to get a credit. That was illegal because you can’t negotiate a WGA writer not to get a credit in a contract, but they did. But more than likely in arbitration, I probably would have got the credit, but Hill and Giler know this.

Remember their egos are still simmering for this month that we’re doing this and they’re the producers and they bring them back. They give them more money and the script went out to every department and there was literally celebration. “My god, we finally have a locked down script. We can now just go town. Work our asses off and take every scene and break it down in terms of costumes, production design, creature making.” Hill comes back to London. They’re getting close to shooting actually and he recalls the screenplay from every department. This is 200 scripts, and has it shredded – the script, I believe in front of Fincher. They said, “You’re doing our script or you’re off this project” and I’ll never forget the last time…

So I’m gone of course now and because the studio’s going to default. They’re going to capitulate to Hill and Giler, and I remember going out to Pinewood and Barbara’s clearing out her desk. I saw David and he was sitting in his office, and he looked very dejected to say the least. Just glum. We had worked really hard for a month on it and bear in mind, there was the nine days where I’d completely written it to give him a new foundation. I said “David, if you go back to that amateurish, unprofessional script, I promise you, it will be years before you direct again.”

But he had a very powerful agent, and it was a big deal. I don’t know how much he got, maybe half a million. It’s a big deal and I actually was right. It took five years before he did Seven after Alien 3. Five years and this guy’s a hot director and because the film was a bomb when it came out and it was critically savaged. I know that you guys are going to give me a different perspective on things in there, but the truth of the matter is, they pulled his arm behind his back. They did a half nelson on it, and they did not do it for aesthetic reasons. They did it strictly out of ego.

You’re making our script and they left and let me just sit there and write and toil and write with David and meet with him and everything else and they knew all along what they were gonna do. You say, “Well why didn’t the studio usurp Hill and Giler’s power?” Because as you said, Hill and Giler were very close to Sigourney. The providence was with Hill and Giler to the very first Alien which was super successful and Aliens, even though I don’t like the film that much, was even more successful commercially and critically as well. A lot of people like it. She would have walked, and the studio plays the power game.

So, they had to capitulate to Hill, Giler on this absolutely amateurish screenplay. Fincher is just shaking his head like “I gotta direct that f**king piece of sh*t and he made the decision to stay on and he considered walking from the film. Remember I came out there… yes Barbara introduced me to him, but I not only wrote an overview of the script that he knew was dreadful, I also wrote some sample scenes for him of stuff that I would do. He really liked the writing and then he flew me out there on his own dime.

He took a real risk with me, and it really paid off because I can tell you right now, it’s a way better screenplay than that Hill-Giler script and everyone knows it to this day. They know it and I’m not saying that out of any arrogance. I don’t need to prove anything. I’ve gone to have my own level of success. I just feel sorry for the project. The characters are so much better fleshed out but that’s the politics of Hollywood. Then they went back to that script and from that point on, I would only know, from the movie, because Barbara’s… of course she’s immediately fired because Hill sees her as a traitor.

First of all, he’s brought in at the penultimate moment. They fire a director. He completely upends what the whole script is about. They bring in writers Larry Ferguson, Hill and Giler and then finally me and the stress that man was under and everything else, the shoot was miserable long days. Of course probably shooting some nights for day and then I know that David can be he’s very demanding. That’s why he’s a great director. I know that they did reshoots on the film and that those were expensive reshoots, but you’ve got people saying, “No we’re not going to go over budget here” and they’re also looking at the film.

If they don’t think the film is going to really do anything box office wise, they don’t throw good money after bad. They just finish the film and get it out there. This is his first feature. It’s a big feature and I remember saying to him. “Don’t do it David”. I said to him just one-on-one. “Don’t do it. Do not do that Hill-Giler script, it’s gonna ruin your career.” I think he got thrown into big studio politics at a very young age and he handled it well. He did but I don’t think he had… that was a big decision to walk from that film at that moment and you have to realize, he’s a huge fan of Alien and Aliens.

He’s a huge fan of these films. He wants to work with Sigourney. “I can make this work visually somehow” but no unless… and this is why I go back to Alien because I do think it’s a great movie, is if we’re not invested in the characters, we don’t care. So, I don’t care how great the pyrotechnics are, the special effects and the chasing down and the incredible creature and it morphs, and it grows bigger and all the stuff that honestly, I could care less about. I don’t write that kind of stuff. I brought character to it. I brought human emotion to it. There was even a love story developing between Clemens and Ripley in my script.

 Rex Pickett Interview

Seven Poster

There’s something starting there, and I thought Dillon’s stuff about his kind of progressive religious ideologies. I mean it brought the kind of gravitas that Fincher wanted to it, but we can still have the Alien killing people trapped on this planet which is what everyone wants from the standpoint of it being commercial to a younger audience. So, David’s always one… if you look at his films, he always wants to have it both ways. So, if you go if you watch Fight Club for example, yes, he does have a film that has fista cuffs and other stuff but there’s other stuff about consumerism in there.

He’s got other themes going on. He’s got other themes going on in Seven, even though it’s a serial killer genre. One of my least favorite genres in the world. In fact, if all the serial killers from serial killer movies and serial killer novels actually existed on the planet, there would be no humans left except serial killers because there have been so many of them. But even that, I actually think it’s one of his better films and some of his other films can be blatantly commercial like Gone Girl but he does try. One of his great films was his last one was Mink about Joseph Mankowitz and who’s the driving force behind Susan Kane.

I thought it was an underrated movie although it did get a lot of Academy nominations. David’s always wanted to have films have a commercial appeal but also have a critical appeal to have some depth, some gravitas to them. He knew, if he had to go back to that absolutely miserable… I mean the Hill-Giler script isn’t even bad on a superficial level where you establish the characters. You established the planet Ripley crash lands and now there’s a quandary. No, they can’t even deal with the basics of character development and character conflict. He knew that David knew that and that had to have been incredibly bitter experience for him.

It went on because there were reshoots and everything else and then he’s got to do the marketing and publicity for a film he doesn’t even believe in probably. That’s a painful experience when you have to go… but you have no choice because it’s a big movie. Imagine a red-carpet premiere of a film you don’t believe in, and people walk out and go “Good work David. Nice work.” It’s not the same as when there’s laughter and massive applause and they’re hugging you. You feel jobbed. You were paid well but you feel jobbed, and you wonder where your career is going to be. David kind of really grew up on that film.

People say that Spielberg grew up on the set of jaws now he’d made one feature before… well two features before that. Sugarland Express and Duel the tv movie which was a great tv movie but on Jaws, the problems on that film were massive and budgets and going over budget. Richard Dreyfuss said he became a man and I think Fincher became a man on Alien 3 but what he went through. What I saw and what I witnessed, he really held it together until Hill and Giler pulled a power move on him. They threatened to pull Sigourney. I’m inferring that but I’m pretty sure I’m right because the studio would have overruled Hill and Giler on the screenplay. They would have sided with Fincher if they didn’t have to pay lip service.

It’s who has the power in the monopoly game and their power was Sigourney. Fincher doesn’t have that power. His power is he’s the director but he’s also young and it’s a first feature and his power is they couldn’t replace him at this point. If they want a movie and they don’t want to pay Sigourney $7M for a film they have to scuttle, abort. So Hill and Giler played a very dangerous game in my opinion by letting us write that script for a month, then waltzing back into London and saying no and literally had it recalled and shredded a script that 20th Century Fox had approved.

In fact, I’ve made two feature films. They’re indie films but they were hard. Took nine years out of my life. If you’ve ever been in the making of a film, you wonder how any film ever gets finished but this is this is a big movie. There’s a huge fan base and I obviously I had David there for all the things that had to do with the Xenomorph, with the Facehugger, with Giger. That’s Fincher’s world. His storyboards were just wonderful. They’re easy for me to take storyboards and put them into words. I mean you’re handing me a blueprint to that, that was easy to do but to bring character to it that’s harder to do and obviously later in life, that’s what I’m known for with Sideways. It’s a totally character-driven movie. It’s a comedy.

I mean Alien 3 wasn’t going to be a comedy, but I tried to really find the inner lives of some of the characters, especially Ripley giving her an inner life because we know that she’s going to die in this one, through whatever self-immolation. She’s going to die to kill the Alien. I haven’t seen the film since then because my experience with it was… I was paid well but I had never worked on a big studio film before and the politics to me were just despicable.

I saw behavior that was puerile from big people. In fact, the youngest guy there, David Fincher was the most mature. In fact in all fairness, I told him David “You shouldn’t do this film.” He didn’t walk. That showed real maturity. He said, “I don’t want to be the guy who they can then go around Hollywood and say he bailed on us because he couldn’t handle…” I think that’s one reason he hung on there, but he had no choice but to shoot this unshootable screenplay.

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