Aliens‘ 30th anniversary will be on July 18th and to celebrate we put together a rundown of information on it’s purposed sequel Alien 5 aka Alien: Xeno, which is being developed by writer-director Neill Blomkamp.
The South African-Canadian filmmaker Neill Blomkamp got his start doing effects for projects like Smallville and Stargate SG-1.
His impressive effects work and short films eventually led to creating a set of live-action shorts for the marketing campaign of Halo 3 with the aid of Peter Jackson’s company Weta. The great fan reception of the ads turned into a film deal with Fox’s Tom Rothman and Microsoft to direct a live-action Halo film, with Peter Jackson acting as a producer with his production company Weta (Lord of The Rings, Avatar) behind it.
The game of course takes influence and visual cues from Aliens.
Rothman’s meddling and budget cuts would lead to Blomkamp’s exit and severing his ties with Fox, as he would move his original films District 9, Elysium and Chappie to Sony Pictures. The Halo film has since been in development hell, and with Rothman’s recent move to Sony, Blomkamp left the studio soon after that news broke.
During the shooting of Chappie, Neill and actress Sigourney Weaver became very friendly. Neill then approached Weaver with his idea for a fifth Alien film, and the two bounced-off ideas and kept-mum about it. He seemingly developed an outline of sorts and commissioned a bunch of concept art, all of this without the studio’s knowledge.
The project would be a direct sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens and not Alien Resurrection.
Blomkamp then would release a wave of artwork on his personal Instagram and Twitter accounts, which the fan community for the most part embraced the idea of him making another Alien film with Ripley returning. This led to actual development deal with 20th Century Fox (some industry people sounded a bit perplexed a major studio deal was struck via social media posts), and Neill started working on a script while he and Sigourney spoke to the press about it’s potential.
What originally caught the attention of 20th Century Fox and producers was the first wave of concept art Neill had quietly commissioned on his own. The working title spotted on the artwork was Alien: Xeno.
We can develop a couple of theories about the film based on this artwork, and what might be going on. Basically, Wyland-Yutani has finally got their greedy little hands on the alien derelict ship along with the xenomorph eggs.
Oddly enough, Alien 5 isn’t actually a new project as it had been originally developed as a collaboration between directors Ridley Scott and James Cameron. The pair decided to work together on a sequel to Alien Resurrection with Scott directing and Cameron writing/producing. Their idea was to have Ripley track-down the origin planet of the xenomorphs and destroy them once and for all, an exciting final bow for the character.
Cameron had toyed with the idea of adding Arnold Schwarzenegger into the fray back in 2003 during an interview with the BBC. So, it’s possible Schwarzenegger could have had a role in the film and would have been an interesting dynamic to see Arnold and Sigourney play-off each other.
” I’ve even discussed the possibility of putting him [Arnold Schwarzenegger] into the Alien movie.”
Arnold could have used a hit like that, since a string of disasters such as Batman and Robin, End of Days, The 6th Day and Collateral Damage hurt his action career and something like Alien 5 would have been interesting to see.
Schwarzenegger almost worked with Ridley Scott on their gritty 90’s version of I Am Legend, before it eventually got reworked into the unrecognizable Will Smith vehicle. So, in theory Scott was already open to working with Schwarzenegger on something.
However, at the time Fox had been gearing-up for it’s crossover film with the Predator franchise, and instead passed on the purposed Alien 5 to make the horrid PG-13 monster mash-up AVP. Cameron washed his hands of the franchise and moved-on with other things, he gave his full opinion on the situation during a Reddit AMA session.
“We never talked about [doing] ‘Alien 3,’ ” Cameron said. “I don’t remember the timing exactly, but I might have been making ‘The Abyss‘ at that time, also for Fox. What came up was the idea of doing ‘Alien 5,’ and at one point I pitched that I would write it and produce it, and Ridley would direct it, and we had lunch talking about this, and we were in violent agreement, then nothing happened. What happened was Fox went ahead with ‘Aliens Vs Predator,’ and I said, ‘I really don’t recommend that, you’ll ruin the franchise, it’s likeUniversal doing ‘Dracula versus the Werewolf,’ ‘ and then I lost interest in doing an Alien film. But ‘Prometheus’ is seen as the A-level alien, as opposed to rather, the derivative. I don’t think I have anything to offer on the ‘Prometheus’ sequels, that’s Ridley’s, I think I’ll stick to the ‘Avatar’ universe.”
Cameron would instead focus on getting Avatar into production, which focused on a greedy company backed by the U.S. military industrial complex and set on a super hostile alien planet. You really have wonder how much of Avatar incorporated elements from his original ideas for that fifth Alien film.
There has been suggestions that Arnold might have a role in the Avatar sequels, as Jim and Arnold reunited recently for a PSA.
So where does Neill’s film fit into overall timeline of the franchise compared to something like Alien Covenant?
To clear up some misconceptions going around, Alien: Covenant is Prometheus 2 not Alien 5. There has been a little confusion due to it’s title having the franchise header attached to the title, as it’s more of a marketing ploy than anything else. The film is not a main Alien saga installment, it’s still apart of that prequel group of films that Ridley Scott is spearheading with two more sequels possibly on the way.
They’re both set in the same universe while set in two drastically different eras.
Covenant takes place ten years after Prometheus, and decades before the original Alien.
Alien 5 would be taking place twenty or so years after the events of Aliens. The purposed new timeline for the fifth installment would actually recton the existence of Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. This has been somewhat confirmed by Weaver recently telling Entertainment Weekly their film would be taking another path.
“It’s just as if, you know, the path forks and one direction goes off to three and four and another direction goes off to Neill’s movie,” Weaver says.
The idea to recton to better serve a sequel actually first came from James Cameron himself as he stated to the BBC back in 2003, while discussing both his hatred for Alien 3 and his idea for an Aliens sequel that was going to be Ridley Scott’s Alien 5.
“Hated it. Simple as that. I hated what they did…. I couldn’t stand ‘Alien 3’ – how they could just go in there and kill off all these great characters we introduced in aliens, and the correlation between mother and daughter? It stunk, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to rectify all that. We’re looking at doing another one. Something similar to what we did with ‘Aliens.’ A bunch of great characters, and of course Sigourney.”
It’s not to say those films don’t have their moments, but killing-off three major characters from the last film and nixing the original vision James Cameron had for his Aliens sequel was a bonehead move by producers. The brutal death of Hicks was a response to Michael Biehn’s refusal to takeover the main lead role, so they wouldn’t have to pay Weaver’s new contract or have her return for future films.
Concept art posted by Blomkamp confirmed the potential return of both Michael Biehn‘s Hicks and a grown-up Newt, for that to happen neither Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection could have happened. Weaver even hinted at the return of Lance Henriksen‘s Bishop android as well.
In the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines, they attempted to explain the resurrection of Hicks by suggesting someone else was switched into his cryo-tube. Although, it’s unknown what Cameron’s original plan was to explain away the last two sequels. Some have suggested possibly the events were nightmares in cryo-sleep.
Michael Biehn spoke last year about his return and the recasting of the Newt role, which would see the torch being passed down to her from Ripley.
“The basic idea is acting like ‘Alient’ 3 and 4 never existed….I know Ridley Scott is doing his movie first and is going to be the executive producer on this one, so I’m really looking forward to that. I know that Ridley’s focus is on [‘Alien: Covenant’] and I’m sure that he and Fox both don’t want that and Neill’s movie to come out right next to each other, because they’re kind of two different worlds, with ‘Aliens’ taking place thousands of years later, which is how they explained it all to me, but at the same time, they want to give them a similar feel,” he explained. “I know they’re putting the brakes on Neill’s movie just for a little while, but I really think that it would be embarrassing to Ridley and Fox and Sigourney [Weaver] if they just didn’t make the movie.”
“They’re planning on bringing me and Newt back and at this point Newt will be around twenty-seven years old,” Biehn said. “I know that every actress in Hollywood is going to want to play this one, it’s really a passing of the torch between Sigourney and this younger actress who would play Newt. It would keep the franchise alive and the studios would make money, because that’s what the bottom line is now: money. That’s why you end up seeing ‘Terminator’ 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10 and ‘The Fast And Furious’ 7, 8, 9, and 10.”
Recasting Newt is kind of a sure-bet, as actress Carrie Henn hasn’t worked in films since Aliens and from what I hear the franchise lead will be passed onto her by Ripley. I’m unsure Fox is going to buy into the idea of Carrie now taking over a massive and expensive franchise like this, yet haven’t acted in thirty years.
Biehn suggesting the character would now be in her late 20s, I’m sure there are a couple of actresses that come to mind who might fit that role perfectly.
My personal choices would be to see Emma Stone (Zombieland, Birdman) and Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) as the new Rebecca as they’ve dabbled in both awards caliber films and big genre flicks as well. They’ve dipped their toes into other franchise roles recently with Stone being offered a lead in Sony’s Ghostbusters 3 and Robbie almost taking the lead in DreamWorks’ Ghost In The Shell.
Natalie Dormer (Hunger Games, Captain America: The First Avenger, Game of Thrones) is another interesting choice since she really hasn’t found a film franchise footing, outside of a small supporting role in The Hunger Games. Dormer actually looks the most like Carrie, so it could be a bit more believable with her in the role.
There is a bit information that might back-up the claim Newt will takeover the Alien saga, as the fan-film Alien: Identity from Sonnet Realm Films got a cease-and-desist order last summer from 20th Century Fox.
Something a little uncommon for Fox, as plenty of Alien fan-films have been created over the decades.
However, after hearing about the film’s concept you might understand why Fox was a little concerned with it’s development and eventual release. It would have been a sequel to Aliens with Newt as the main lead, which would also retcon the events of the last two Alien sequels, not unlike what we know to be mostly the beats of Blomkamp’s film.
“ALIEN IDENTITY takes place 14 years after the events of Jim Cameron’s 1986 blockbuster, Aliens. It continues the story of Newt, the little girl we all loved, but despised to see perish in vain. They decided to bring back Newt, played by Elle Viane Sonnet as a young woman with an undeniably haunting past and an uncertain future.”
“I love the character Newt. Bringing her back has been something I’ve thought about for years, which is why this film takes place after Aliens, and dismisses the events of Alien 3 and Resurrection. It has been pretty much accepted as canon, that the last two films of the series are considered cryo-sleep nightmares, which we have no objection to.”
The film’s concept was eventually reworked into the new project Triborn with Aliens alumni Carrie Henn and Rico Ross participating in the film.
So what’s currently going on with the status of Alien 5?
Local sources had pointed-out that Fox was planning on shooting Alien 5 at Vancouver’s North Shore Studios. The same location that was the production home of Deadpool, Star Trek Beyond, War for The Planet of The Apes, Warcraft, Tomorrowland, and it will also be the production space for Shane Black’s upcoming shoot for The Predator taking place between September 26th and December 20th.
This was before Blomkamp announced the project’s production delays.
Visual effects for both Prometheus and Avatar were also done at North Shore.
Blomkamp is not a stranger to North Shore as he filmed Elysium there with additional footage for Chappie and visual effects for District 9.
My own thought is that Alien 5 could move into North Shore as soon as Deadpool 2 completes production next year, but it’s just an idea at this point.
There had also been unfounded speculation that Covenant killed Alien 5, untrue.
Blomkamp would take to Twitter to allude that Ridley Scott (also a producer on Alien 5) had asked him to delay production, so that his Prometheus sequel Alien: Covenant could shoot first. This reason for the production delay was reiterated by Sigourney Weaver.
“Well, I *think* it is. Ridley asked Neill NOT to make our Alien til after Prometheus 2. He (Ridley) wanted his movie to shoot and be released first.”
Weaver confirmed she’s seen a script and reaffirms her excitement/commitment to it.
“But it’s an AMAZING script, and Neill and I are REALLY excited about doing it. We’re doing other things until we can get going on that. I’d be really surprised if we DIDN’T do it, because it’s such a great script, and we love working together. So, it’s just going to take a little bit longer to get out to you, but it’ll be worth the wait.”
During another Q&A, Sigourney mentions wrapping something else with Blomkamp in South Africa, which may or may not have been test footage.
She just wrapped something else with Blomkamp which she can’t talk about, in South Africa. She stated how expansive the Alien 5 story is, and mentioned that, like the other films, Blomkamp’s film has a very particular new vision.
Another possible reason for the delay is that Neill might be developing more than one installment, as a rumor has suggested that Alien 6 might be on the table as well.
This second film rumor was somewhat supported by a brief comment made by Blomkamp on the Empire Podcast.
“The first two are the ones that I care about. Then I started to realise there was a whole film – at least a film, if not more – that still contained Ripley, which I was really surprised by.”
It could be cost effective to shoot two films back-to-back, as we’re seeing this become common place with Avengers 3 and Avengers 4 being an upcoming example of it. Perhaps, we might be seeing Alien 5 and Alien 6 shooting at the same time.
Now that Covenant is looking to wrap-up shooting by the end of the summer, it’s more than likely well start hearing news about the official green light for Alien 5.
Fox’s film division has pulled-out of the San Diego Comic-Con lineup at Hall H, but will screen Aliens along with a panel afterwards with James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Gale Anne Hurd,Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton and even Newt herself Carrie Henn in attendance to celebrate the 30th anniversary.
Recently speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Sigourney did give the impression the panel’s conversation will lead to Alien 5. It’s extremely possible the studio could use this event/venue to officially announce (also possibly date) the sequel since they’re already celebrating the film, it’s a perfect chance to get some major buzz for it’s direct sequel as nothing much else from the film division will be promoted there.
James Cameron’s endorsement might also come into play as well, since he originally wanted to make Alien 5 his Aliens sequel, and had teased the film to exclude the two sequels course-correcting along with reversing the deaths of Hicks and Newt. It’s likely he’d be just as thrilled about the prospect of the film coming together, and being at the event I’m sure he’ll make his opinion known.
It wouldn’t be the first time Cameron gave his blessing to another filmmaker to make a project he once had intention on making himself, as his anime adaptation Alita: Battle Angel was recently handed over to Robert Rodriguez.
Blomkamp and Cameron actually do have a connection of sorts. One of Neill’s first jobs was working on the Dark Angel pilot as it’s lead animator, Cameron produced and created the series that was shot at North Shore Studios in Vancouver. The Fox series was our first introduction to Jessica Alba before she made the transition to feature films.
My own sources tell me that Fox is still very much interested in moving forward with the project and haven’t given any signs otherwise. I haven’t heard anything concrete about Comic-Con, but logic would suggest they will be speaking about it at length during the panel and a quick sound bite of confirmation isn’t a big stretch.
UPDATE: Sigourney Weaver has given the impression that her commitments to James Cameron’s Avatar sequels has further delayed shooting Alien 5.