Although people were excited to see Sigourney Weaver return as Ripley in Neill Blomkamp's proposed Alien 5, she wasn't always the lead character in the movie. In fact, she wasn't originally in it at all. Blomkamp has made a name for himself for his ambitious science fiction projects - District 9, Elysium, and Chappie - which he's continuing to direct and produce through his recently formed Oats Studios. He's the type of filmmaker who likes to work on his own projects, films that he builds from the ground up, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been interested in pre-established properties.
Aside from being attached to Halo (which ended up falling by the wayside), Blomkamp spent the past few years working on the script for a fifth Alien movie, one that planned to ignore the last two installments in the franchise - David Fincher's Alien 3 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection - in favor of acting as a direct sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's Aliens. In addition to having Weaver reprise her role as Ripley, Blomkamp's movie was going feature the return of Michael Biehn as Cpl. Dwayne Hicks, who was unceremoniously killed off in the third movie.
That has been the story (and movie) that Alien fans have been clamoring for, but it, unfortunately, isn't going to happen, with Blomkamp confirming earlier this year that Alien 5 is "totally dead." The thing is, the filmmaker's original idea for his Alien movie was entirely different; he didn't plan on including either Weaver or Biehn in the movie since it wasn't supposed to be a sequel to Cameron's film. Blomkamp revealed the news in a recent interview with Funhaus (via Bloody Disgusting), while promoting his latest Oats Studios short films, saying that he originally wanted to feature an entirely new character in the leading role. It was only after he met with Weaver that things changed.
"I met Sigourney on Chappie and I had a different idea for an Alien film I wanted to make. So I had this idea for a story set in the world of those two first films that was not a continuation of James Cameron’s. It was just in the world of it and it had a totally different character that was the lead character. Because my assumption was that Sigourney would just never make another one. I told her about it on Chappie and she was like 'No, no, no! I actually would make another one because I felt like Ripley’s story didn’t end correctly.’"
Once Weaver came on board, Blomkamp retooled the story as a sequel to Cameron's film, one that would give both Ripley and Hicks a proper send off. He then spent several months working on the story for the Aliens sequel, even going as far as to hire a concept artist to showcase what Weaver and Biehn would look like after all these years. Unfortunately, it was only after Scott boarded the project as a producer that everything fell apart.
"So I went back to Vancouver and, while I was editing Chappie, I started to think about what I would do with Sigourney as basically a sequel to James Cameron’s film. I spent about a year working on it with only Sigourney knowing and I hired one really awesome concept artist. We put together essentially a script and all the artwork and that’s what I went to 20th Century Fox with. They seemed really into it and Ridley [Scott] came on as producer, and then it just unraveled."
Blomkamp has previously said that he understands why Scott didn't want him working on Alien 5, and he wanted to be as amicable about the film's cancellation as possible. However, that doesn't mean fans aren't still disappointed that they won't see Hicks and Ripley get a proper conclusion, one that everyone is satisfied with. Just because Alien 5 isn't happening, though, doesn't mean there's no chance of Weaver ever returning to the Alien universe again; Scott says she could still appear in his prequel series.