Terry Gilliam turned down a chance to direct an Alien sequel - and revealed he’s not a fan of the series either. The original Alien was conceived as a low-budget b-movie by the studio before Ridley Scott came onboard and elevated it with his vision for the project. Artist H.R. Giger also played a crucial role in making the movie iconic, and it was his design for the creature itself that set it apart.
At one point in the franchise, the studio made it their mission to get filmmakers with distinct styles to helm the sequels, resulting in James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet all finding their way behind the camera. Scott wasn’t particularly happy with the direction the series went in, which is why he came back for Prometheus, which evolved from a prequel into more of a spinoff. Both Prometheus and his subsequent sequel Alien: Covenant met with mixed fan reaction, and the disappointing box office of the latter has put the franchise on hold, for now.
Terry Gilliam (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) has revealed in a new interview with Roger Ebert.com that he turned down a chance to direct a sequel because he didn’t want to take a studio "factory" role.
I got offered an Alien sequel because I was hot at that time, as a result of Time Bandits and Fisher King, and I just don’t want to do films like that. They are factory jobs, working for a studio. My last factory job was on the Chevrolet assembly plant in Los Angeles, during my junior year of college, night shift on the line. Never again.
While Gilliam has directed some big budget movies, he’s never really directed a conventional blockbuster. Given the unique style he brought to movies like Brazil and 12 Monkeys, it’s not a shock he was approached, but he also revealed he’s not a fan of the original either.
Alien is just a ghost train where something jumps out and you don’t know who’s going to die next. When I watched the first Alien, all I kept saying was, ‘Just kill them all and be done with it,’ because you just know that they’re all going to die along the way. In the end, Sigourney Weaver, who we’ve established is a really tough military officer, is running around in her underwear trying to find a cat. Give me a f-cking break.
That said, he did concede the movie had some great things - including the title monster - but it made one vital error in the finale.
There are some great moments in it, but the shot that should’ve never been in the film is the one at the end showing the alien getting blown out of the airlock. You see the alien, and it’s just a guy in a rubber suit. Up until then, you only saw bits of the alien, and it seemed to be huge and vast and terrifying. That was so clever. It was like the shark in Jaws. I told Ridley, ‘You don’t want that shot of the alien at the end. Cut it!’
Given the timeline described by Gilliam, it seems likely he was approached about Alien 3. That entry was a notoriously troubled project and went through countless scripts and potential directors - including Scott and Clive Barker – before Fincher came onboard and had something of a nightmarish experience. A Gilliam Alien would, at the very least, have been something unique, but even if he had come on the studio would probably have tried to dilute his style.
While the Alien movie series is on hold, recent rumors suggest a TV show might be in development instead. No potential storylines, networks or filmmakers have been mentioned yet - though it’s probably safe to rule out Gilliam.