"Alien" screenwriter Dan O'Bannon dead at 63

Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:36pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood writer Dan O'Bannon, whose script for the hit space thriller "Alien" introduced some of the most terrifying creatures of science-fiction lore to the big screen, has died at age 63.

O'Bannon, who also co-wrote the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi action film "Total Recall," died Thursday, the Writers Guild of America confirmed on Friday. Online media reports said he had suffered a brief, undisclosed illness.

A St. Louis native who grew up on horror films and monster comics like "Tales from the Crypt," O'Bannon got his start collaborating with director John Carpenter on the screenplay for the 1974 sci-fi cult parody "Dark Star."

O'Bannon also co-starred in the low-budget movie about four astronauts on a lengthy mission to clear a path through space by destroying planets that posed a navigation barrier.

His screenwriting credits also include the 1995 sci-fi thriller "Screamers," which he worked on for over a decade, and the 1997 horror film "Bleeders."

But his best known work was his screenplay for the 1979 space chiller "Alien," the first of a film series starring Sigourney Weaver as a tough space hero who battles a colony of slimy, parasitic, insect-like creatures with razor-sharp teeth and voracious appetites.

One of the most horrifying characteristics of the aliens was their penchant for gestating inside the body of a human host before bursting out of the victim's chest to prey on more people.

The original film, directed by Ridley Scott, garnered an Oscar for its visual effects. O'Bannon also shared credit in sequels for the characters he created. The first sequel, 1986's "Aliens," directed by James Cameron, won Oscars for best visual and best sound effects editing.

The latest in the franchise, an untitled "Alien" prequel set for 2011, was in production at the time O'Bannon died, according to the Internet Movie Database website (imdb.com).

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)