That was until January 2015, when District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp shared some concept art he’d been working on for a proposed fifth entry in the Alien series. The concept art lit a fire under fans of the franchise, as it showed Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley teaming up again with Michael Biehn’s Hicks (who had also been killed off in Alien3, much to the ire of fans). “If it’s going to happen, it has to be on my terms. the director told Uproxx a few weeks later. “I still love it, I love the idea of the movie and I produced way more art than I put out. It was a whole story. Then I just wasn’t sure if I was going to do another film, like, at all… There’s a high possibility, a high degree of chance that it happens that I go back and try to get Alien made.” His Chappie star and Alien stalwart Sigourney Weaver added, “He sent me a lot of artwork last spring and some ideas, and so you know… I think we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. There’s no one I can imagine that would do a better job.”
Following Weaver’s comments a few days later, 20th Century Fox officially announced that Neill Blomkamp would be directing Alien 5 with Ridley Scott serving as executive producer and Weaver reprising her role of Ellen Ripley.
One of the first things Blomkamp announced as director was that his Alien 5 would be a the spiritual successor to Alien and Aliens, ignoring the continuity of Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection (and presumably both Alien vs. Predator movies) as he wanted to give the series “the ending it deserves”, akin to what Bryan Singer did with his Superman Returns sequel in 2006. “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens,” he told Sky Movies. “So it’s Alien, Aliens, this movie.” However, Blomkamp would go back on this idea in another interview the following day by saying, “My favourites are the first two movies, so I want to make a movie that is connected to Alien and Aliens. That’s my goal. I’m not trying to undo Alien3 or Alien: Resurrection. I just want it to be connected to 1 and 2.”
In March, Michael Biehn was asked if he was coming back for Alien 5 as promised in the concept art, to which the actor simply responded with, “looks like it”. Later that month, Biehn met with Blomkamp and Generation Effects Inc. to do some make-up tests as Hicks which were posted to the Internet by a group called The Terminator Fans. It looked like Blomkamp’s Alien 5 was officially moving ahead.
That was until Ridley Scott announced that his sequel to Prometheus would begin production in January of 2016 a few days later. Questions were being asked by the fanbase how Fox would handle two separate Alien franchises running concurrently with each other, and Blomkamp himself revealed that the first cracks were beginning to show when he had to change the plot of his movie to accommodate Prometheus 2. “I changed the one thing [Ridley Scott] felt was bumping Prometheus a little bit,” the director told Empire. Sources also told movie website Bloody Disgusting that development of Prometheus 2 had pushed back plans for Alien 5, which was set for release in 2017 but now may actually start production then to be released in 2018.
These rumours were exacerbated when Ridley Scott announced in September that he had plans for three more Prometheus movies and that Prometheus 2 would now be titled Alien: Paradise Lost, which was the original title for Prometheus before it was changed just before production. “We’re heading back to why and how and when the beast was invented,” Scott told HeyUGuys about his plans for the Xenomorph. “We’ll go back into the back door of the very first Alien that I did thirty years ago.”
Although sources were saying to contrary, Scott reassured fans that Alien: Paradise Lost would not affect the outcome of Blomkamp’s Alien 5. “The design is for it to go out next, after [Alien: Paradise Lost],” he told Empire about the franchise plans. “This will go out first. [Alien 5 is] more associated with Ripley, it’s a completely different angle, it’s more of a sequel. I’m coming in from the back end.” In October, Blomkamp revealed a new image of the Pulse Rifle, made famous by James Cameron’s Aliens, suggesting that his movie was heading into pre-production.
However, two weeks later, Blomkamp took to Twitter to announce that Alien 5 was “on hold” pending Alien: Paradise Lost, and that he was moving on to other projects.
Apart from reading like the production woes of Alien3, Alien: Resurrection and Alien vs. Predator, Blomkamp’s journey with 20th Century Fox and Alien 5 bring up memories of their troubled relationship over his adaptation of the popular video game Halo.
In 2005, Microsoft shipped around a script they had commissioned from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) to all the major movie studios at the same time with just six hours to make a decision whether they wanted to purchase the film rights. In the end, a joint deal was made by Universal and 20th Century Fox to co-finance the movie, and Peter Jackson was set to produce with his protégé, Neill Blomkamp, directing. Sadly for all involved, the production of Halo collapsed as quickly as it came together. While Garland’s script was being re-worked by first-time feature writers D.B. Weiss and Josh Olson, Blomkamp was finding working between three studios a very stressful environment. “My instinct was that if I crawled into that hornet’s nest it would be not good, and it was a clusterfuck from day one,” Blomkamp admitted in 2012. “There’s no question that there was a clash of worlds, for sure. The two sides weren’t seeing eye-to-eye.” Furthermore, Blomkamp was finding it difficult to work with Fox Chairman and CEO Tim Rothman. “Rothman hated me, I think he would have gotten rid of me if he could have,” Blomkamp added. “The suits weren’t happy with the direction I was going. Thing was, though, I’d played Halo and I play video games. I’m that generation more than they are and I know that my version of Halo would have been insanely cool. It was fresh and potentially could have made more money than just a generic, boring film – something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.”
Less than a year later, communications between Universal, Fox, Jackson and Blomkamp broke down and all parties walked away from the movie. “[Halo] fell over due to various politics between Universal and Fox,” Jackson told Thomas Leupp in 2009. “We didn’t really see it coming until the last week or two when we just realised that these studios are not going be making this film. It wasn’t anything to do with the budget, because we hadn’t finished a screenplay. We were still developing the script. Neill was busy working with WETA [Jackson’s workshop] doing a lot of creature designs, which were going really well. We just felt really bad because we’d found this exciting young filmmaker. The idea was to mentor him into a film and what did we do? Three or four months and then this hellish experience happens and the film falls over. So we felt terribly guilty and terribly bad about that.” As for Universal, they were left with a $12 million bill for the film rights and subsequent script re-writes that Fox refused to take any responsibility for. According to an insider who spoke with Vulture in 2012, “Fox fucked them completely”.
With the news of Alien 5 being placed on hold in favour of Alien: Paradise Lost, Deadline are suggesting that Ridley Scott has changed story aspects of his movie, which has meant that Alien 5 will now need to be redeveloped if it is going to fit in with the rest of the franchise. What this means for Blomkamp’s relationship with Fox remains to be seen, but Alien 5 could end up as just another Tale From Development Hell, joining Renny Harlin’s two part Alien 3, Peter Bigg’s faithful comic book adaptation of Alien vs. Predator and Joss Whedon’s Earth-set movie sequel to Alien: Resurrection.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and a contributor on The Flickering Myth Movie Show. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.