At one point, David Fincher was denied permission by the film's producers to shoot a crucial scene in the prison understructure between Ripley and the alien. Against orders, Fincher grabbed Sigourney Weaver, a camera and shot the scene anyway. This scene appears in the final cut.
First-time director David Fincher disowned the film, citing constant studio interference and actually walked out of production before final editing began. He did preside over a rough cut that became the basis for the 'Assembly Cut', a longer version of the movie later released on DVD and Blu-ray.
William Gibson wrote a very early script treatment for the film, which was initially intended as a two-parter to be shot back-to-back. As Sigourney Weaver's involvement was in question, the main focus of this script was between Hicks and Bishop, two characters from Aliens (1986). Many consider this to be a much superior script. The only carry-over from this original script, however, is the bar-codes on the back of the convicts' necks.
Original Alien (1979) Director Ridley Scott turned down the chance to direct. Scott, and later Renny Harlin both thought the third film should explore the origin of the Xenomorph species. This concept was deemed too expensive by David Giler and Walter Hill, so Scott declined to return and Harlin later quit the film. Scott ultimately got his wish with the movie Prometheus (2012).
Michael Biehn stated in an interview that he was deeply hurt that the film opened with his character from Aliens (1986), Corporal Dwayne Hicks, being killed off, after escaping with Ripley, Newt and Bishop at the end of the previous film and did not understand why Hicks had to be killed off.
One possible idea for the film included a chest-burster coming out of Michael Biehn's character, Hicks. A replica of the actor with his chest torn open was created, but after Biehn discovered this, he threatened to sue the producers for using his likeness without his consent, and the idea was dropped. Later, the producers paid him to use his picture at the beginning of the film for the computer sequence. Apparently he received more money for use of this one image than for his role in Aliens (1986). Biehn later stated that, had he any idea the kind of career David Fincher would have, he might have been more accommodating, in the hopes of getting a chance to work with him on a subsequent project.
With the release of the definitive Alien Quadrilogy on DVD in 2004, 20th Century Fox proffered David Fincher the proverbial olive branch and asked him to assemble and comment on his own Director's Cut. Fincher declined. He was the only one of the four Alien directors to refuse to have anything to do with the project, stating that all the creative differences and studio interference he had to endure during production made the project stray too far from his preferred vision. As such, even with additional material, there would never be a version he could call a "Director's cut". Due to this, the extended version of Alien 3 was made without his involvement, but since it was based on an earlier workprint which he himself had help assemble, it was dubbed the "Assembly Cut".
One early draft of the script focused almost entirely on Hicks, Bishop and Newt, played in Aliens (1986) by Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Carrie Henn respectively. The story would tie up loose ends from the preceding film with Newt returning to Earth to live with her grandparents, as well as Hicks and Bishop and a new team of Colonial Marines battling a rival faction of planets who use the Alien as a bio-weapon. The latter was used somewhat in Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
(at around 10 mins) Dr. Clemens' line about Fury-161 being one of 'Weyland-Yutani's backwater prison planets.' was the first time the name Weyland-Yutani was spoken out loud. It had appeared on computer screens and props in the previous two films, Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), but characters always referred to it as 'The Company' in dialogue.
Much more of the autopsy scene was filmed than ended up in the final film. A rough cut of the scene originally contained so much gore, that it even made crew members who had worked on it sick to their stomach.
An advanced type of facehugger, one that impregnates Ripley with a queen embryo, was designed and built, but was cut from the Theatrical Version. It does however make a brief appearance in the extended Assembly Cut.
The original budget was $45 million which included Sigourney Weaver's fee of $5.5 million. The budget soon spiraled however, with first Renny Harlin and then Vincent Ward both leaving the project before novice feature film director David Fincher came on board. Extensive last minute re-shoots - especially after the finale was deemed to be too similar to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - ultimately pushed the budget into the region of $65 million.
Cinematographer Alex Thomson replaced Jordan Cronenweth after only two weeks of filming, after he began to suffer the onset of Parkinson's Disease. Though Cronenweth insisted that he was well enough to make it until the end of production, and David Fincher supported him, line producer Ezra Swerdlow forced Cronenweth off the film, largely because he had lost his own father to the same illness several years previously and knew that if anything, the demanding schedule would likely take a fatal toll on Cronenweth's health.
David Twohy contributed to the pile of abandoned scripts the movie's pre-production generated. In his version, the only returning character is Ripley, who only briefly appears on a file card. As in previous scripts the story involves experiments in genetically-engineering aliens as bioweapons. This script introduced a high-security prison facility in space and its morally ambiguous inmates (one of which is an escape artist), themes which made it into both the finished product, and Twohy's own Pitch Black (2000).
Sigourney Weaver had a clause in her contract specifying that Walter Hill and David Giler would write the final shooting script. Weaver has said that she considers Ripley a very difficult character to write, and, with the exception of James Cameron, only Giler and Hill have really ever written the character correctly.
Some of H.R. Giger's design for the film involved a puma-like alien with claws. The producers also instructed him to do more sexy designs, so he created a drawing of an alien, which, in close view, had the lips of a woman. One of his ideas involved the alien kissing the victims and killing them that way (an idea that was later used in the movie Species (1995) for another Giger creation).
Writer/Producer David Giler has stated he regrets writing this movie, as it eroded his authority as producer. Giler only committed to writing the film upon demands from Sigourney Weaver who, after Vincent Ward's departure, would only sign on to the film if Giler and Walter Hill would pen the screenplay. Giler claims this later generated conflicts between himself, director David Fincher and Fox Studios executives, with Fox taking Fincher's side over Giler's. After one particularly heated disagreement, Giler walked off the set, leaving his duties to producer John Landau.
On the set at Pinewood Studios, a giant lead foundry took 12 weeks to construct and put the production way behind. Even with 6 day weeks and 14 hour days, the crew were unable to keep up with the schedule.
The creature that the alien impregnates was originally an ox, but was eventually changed because an ox was cumbersome and was seen as somewhat incongruous when placed in the film's environment. This sequence was later restored for the extended "Assembly Cut."
The damages inflicted on Bishop were too severe to have Lance Henriksen work a prosthetic head while hiding under a table/chair/platform, so the filmmakers ended up having the android being played by... an android. A mechanical copy of Henriksen's likeness was used in this movie for the portrayal of the Sulaco-Bishop.
Alien 3 marks the first time a chestburster appears almost fully formed, instead of the pupa appearance of the previous installments. The chestburster looked like a scaled down version of the adult. This would later be seen in Prometheus (2012), where "The Deacon" was born already fully formed.
Initially Renny Harlin was attached as director, but left to direct Die Hard 2 (1990). Then Vincent Ward came on board, but only lasted a few months before being fired after several disagreements with the producers. The scriptwriter, Walter Hill, was considered to direct the film as well, but he stepped back after David Fincher became available.
After the first draft was complete (in which the Alien attacks a monastery), construction work began on the sets. The construction shut down, leaving the crew in limbo, as the script was reworked. Although the location changed to a prison, it was decided that they would use the already half-built monastery sets.
Novelist Alan Dean Foster who wrote the novelization of the film objected to the storyline, most specifically, the deaths of Newt and Hicks. His initial draft of the novel had Newt survive but the studio rejected this, forcing Foster to keep his adaptation consistent with the film. For this reason, the author declined to write any other adaptation of the franchise.
(at around 7 mins) A cross is briefly seen on the planet surface to suggest the religion that some of the inmates have turned to. The model department held a competition to see who could design the best one. Four different models were created, and then David Fincher chose the version he liked best.
The famous tagline of the original Alien (1979) was "In space, no one can hear you scream." When this movie, in planning stages, was to be set on Earth, a proposed tagline was "On Earth, everyone can hear you scream."
A series of Aliens comic books were published that were set after the events in Aliens (1986), featuring an adult Newt returning to space with a shell-shocked Hicks to stop the retrieval of an alien specimen by Weyland-Yutani corporation. The books were re-published to accommodate Alien 3 (1992), with Newt re-named Billy.
The Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset has pre-feature introductions by the directors of their respective contributions to the franchise for the Special Editions except David Fincher. The film famously went through a difficult production which included severe script issues, being massively over budget, re-shoots not to mention the lack of creative control given to Fincher.
David Fincher (depending on which source you believe) either spent a year attempting to edit the film, or was locked out of the editing suite altogether by the studio. The reshoots reportedly pushed the budget to $65 million, and were done in Los Angeles with almost an entirely-new crew. This was reportedly the last straw for Fincher, who walked away for good at the end of the reshoots.
The production of the 2003 'Alien Quadrilogy' DVD box set enabled the makers of the Alien films to create a Director's Cut of their original movie. The team that worked on Alien 3 (minus director David Fincher, who declined the offer) encountered some difficulties with the restoration of scenes. In most cases, only the original production sound was available, and the dialogue was often of poor quality as it was recorded on set with considerable background noise. Unfortunately, the team did not have the time and budget for a re-recording of the original dialogue (which would have required the participation of several actors), so the problem was solved by inserting subtitles in places where the dialogue was difficult to hear. For the 2010 'Alien Anthology' HD BluRay box set, the original cast members were brought in for additional dialogue recording, making the soundtrack on par with the original theatrical version.
This is the only film in the Alien franchise that is actually a "numbered" sequel. Even so, the number in the title isn't an normal integer, but in superscript, which technically means 'to the third power'.
Walter Hill and David Giler (the latter of whom referred to David Fincher as a "shoe salesman" during a conference call with the studio) fought with Fincher for 2 months over the script, and he complained about their budgetary restrictions. They and screenwriter Rex Pickett (who was also hired to rewrite the second half of the duo's script) in turn abandoned Fincher, and left him to finish the script himself. Fincher would end up rewriting lines and entire scenes on-the-fly during production, while trying to keep Fox (who were requesting daily updates from the set) at bay.
This is the only film in the Alien Quadrilogy that does not feature an android character unique to that film. The only android that appears is Bishop (in a severely damaged state), and he had previously appeared in Aliens (1986) prior to this.
David Fincher wanted the alien to be, "more of a puma, or a beast" as opposed to the upright, humanoid posture of the previous films, so H.R. Giger was contacted to generate new sketch ideas. His revisions included longer, thinner legs, the removal of "pipes" around the spine, and an idea for a sharp alien "tongue" in place of the secondary jaws. Working from his studio in Zurich, Giger produced these new sketches which he faxed to Cornelius Defries who then created their model counterparts out of plasticine. The only one of Giger's designs that wound up in the final project was a "Bambi Burster" Alien that had long legs and walked on all fours.
Hoping to give the destroyed Bishop a more complex look that could not be done by simple make-up, the final product was done entirely through animatronics, while a playback of Lance Henriksen's voice played to guide Sigourney Weaver.
Vincent Ward wrote a script where Ripley crashlands on a "wooden planet" filled with monks. At this point in production, 1/5 of the planned budget had already been spent, and Fox told Ward to rein in his plans (even prompting then-CEO Joe Roth to state "What the fuck is going on?" after hearing about Ward's plan to have Ripley be placed in a cryotube by "seven dwarves" in the finale). After butting heads with executives, Ward left the project.
A cast of Meryl Streep's face was used in a 3D model on a monitor showing the scan of the facehugger on Ripley, as a face cast of Sigourney Weaver had not been made at the time. Coincidentally, Streep was one of the final actresses considered for the role of Ripley in Alien (1979) before Weaver got the part.
When David Fincher was brought on as director, a major set had already been constructed (a monastery set built before the setting was changed to a prison - but still kept, as a church inside the facility), the budget was running behind, the script was still incomplete and roles still hadn't been cast.
The crew were pushed to make the movements of the Alien as quick as possible to the point where they were barely in control, and this led to, according to Richard Edlund, "the occasional serendipitous action that made the alien have a character." The ease of this setup allowed the crew to film 60-70 takes of a single scene.
Stan Winston was asked to work on this film, but was unavailable. Instead recommended Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, two former workers of his studio who had just started their own company, Amalgamated Dynamics.
Paul McGann went on to play the title character in Doctor Who (1996). He returned to the role years later to be regenerated into the War Doctor, played by John Hurt. Hurt gave birth to the first creature in Alien (1979).
(at around 1h 6 mins) This is the first time Slow Motion cameras were used intentionally in an Alien movie, seen when explosives are being set, and one falls. The use of the cameras, which were primitive at the time, resulted in a squashed and blurred image, and stands out against the normal speed recordings. The technique was then later used briefly in the spin off, Prometheus (2012).
H.R. Giger - the original designer for the first Xenomorph - was shafted in favour of Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis' designs. This didn't stop Giger from faxing his designs to his client, David Fincher, after he disbanded from the project.
Walter Hill and David Giler were brought onboard by the studio to give input, and it was deemed that the film had many issues that required significant reshoots (including a finale that was deemed too similar to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)), and a pivotal sequence that had to be filmed (the death of the xenomorph!).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final shooting script, the novelization and the comics adaptation confirm that Newt was the first one to be facehugged. This is merely hinted during the opening credits since the facehugger attacks and cracks Newt's cryotube. When the scanner shows the facehugger attached to a person, Ripley is shown in a seizure state but she is clearly in her intact tube. After the EEV crashlanded Newt drowned. She was sadly conscious and cried for help. After she died the alien embryo crawled out of her mouth and proceeded to Ripley's chamber since it requires a living host to grow properly. It opened Ripley's mouth and forced itself into her throat. Although the scenes were storyboarded they were never filmed because the effect of the creature switching hosts could not be portrayed realistically. The Theatrical Cut adds more confusion to the backstory since the inmates discover Ripley perfectly clean in her tube meaning that her capsule was never violated. The Extended Cut however shows Clemens discovering a half-drowned Ripley in the shore covered in dirt and lice, meaning that she was already out of her cryotube. This also accounts for the continuity error in the theatrical cut since Ripley is spotless in the EEV but she is dirty when Clemens carries her in the infirmary. But in Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) (expansion "Stasis Interrupted") it explains that the Facehugger actually attacks Ripley's cryotube and latches onto her face.
Because of continuing troubles with the film, Fox halted production in Pinewood Studios in England in late 1991. The crew returned to LA, and an initial screening identified the missing parts of the film. A major part yet to be shot included killing the alien in the lead pool. By the time of the new shots in LA, Sigourney Weaver's hair grew back, and she had an agreement with the producers that if she would have to cut her hair she would be paid a $40,000 bonus. The producers therefore hired Greg Cannom to create a bald cap with very short hair on it. The make-up process cost $16,000 and was very difficult and time-consuming because the hairline required the cap to be placed very precisely on Weaver's head.
Rex Pickett wrote the draft before David Giler and Walter Hill turned in their final shooting script. Pickett's screenplay keeps the former prisoners more faithful to their convictions since they never curse or use bad language. When Ripley conducts a cat scan, Pickett clarifies that the larva is a distinctively visible queen because there are tiny white spots which are the future eggs. This explains how Ripley knew that she was carrying a queen embryo. The Company also knew this vital information since the cat scanner data are transferred to their mainframe.
Special Effects company Amalgamated Dynamics built a special puppet of the queen alien for a sequence cut from the film. Originally, the queen alien was supposed to gestate in Newt until the EEV crash, when it would swim out through the mouth of Newt's dead body and embed itself in Ripley. This accounts for the confusing sequence at the film's opening when the facehugger is seen attacking Newt's cryotube, not Ripley's, which only cracks during the actual ejection sequence. Though not in the final film, this scene does appear in the comic book adaptation.
Although this is one of the last big science-fiction movies to use mostly traditional special effect techniques (miniatures, animatronics and optical visual effects), there is one notable effects shot that was computer-generated: the head of the Alien cracking after it has been cooled with water. Other uses of computer-generated graphics include minor details, such as added shadows and debris particles.
The company name written in Japanese can be briefly seen on the black box as Ripley retrieves it and on a poster in the office where 85 and Ripley contact the company for the second time. In a scene towards the end of the movie where Ripley and the inmates discuss the killing of the alien, several Kanji characters can be seen on the wall: "Chô-kô'on kiken" (danger: extremely high heat). The scrap yard where Bishop is discarded also displays a large red "tetsu" (iron).
Much like the first Alien (1979) movie, Alien 3 also had problems with negative reactions of audience who saw rough cut of the movie in early test screenings and were horrified from all the scenes of gore and violence. Because of this and also to avoid NC-17 rating by MPAA, Alien 3 was heavily cut. Some of the graphic scenes that were deleted from rough cut which is said to be 3 hours long include; Longer and more disturbing version of Newt's autopsy scene, close ups of melted face of prisoner who gets hit with Alien's acid and some gore was cut from scene where he falls into giant fan, bloodier version of Clemens' death scene and some parts from final chase and fight between prisoners and Alien.
The concept by Vincent Ward based on which the movie was green-lighted involved an artificially constructed wooden planetoid and a group of monks who thought they were living in post-apocalyptic dark ages, and had a middle-ages lifestyle. The group refused all kinds of modern technology, and when Ripley and the Alien crash-land on it, they would blame Ripley for the Alien attacks. Ripley was to be impregnated by the Alien "the old-fashioned way" rather than through a face-hugger, and therefore being impregnated with a human-alien hybrid. According to the storyboards, she would dream of half human-half Alien hybrids. Other storyboards included horse-Alien and sheep-Alien hybrids. The film was to end with one of the monks performing an 'exorcism' on the Ripley, transferring the Alien embryo to his own body, and then killing it by walking into a fire. Ward left the project after the producers insisted that he change the monks to prisoners and drop the wooden planet idea. However, since many of Ward's ideas were carried over to the final screenplay, it still earned him a story credit.
One of the reasons for Newt being killed off, the Fiorina 161 prison planet has convicted child molesters, which would had resulted in a attempted child molestation scene, which the child molester convicts attempted to rape Newt. Instead, the rapist convicts try to rape Ripley.
When the movie was turned into a novel by Alan Dean Foster, writer of the novels of Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), an original draft of the novel had Ripley survive at the end, as he disliked the ending of the film. However, studio executives told him to remain true to the original ending. He changed his novel, which upset him so much, he refused an offer to write the Alien: Resurrection (1997) novelization, a task accepted by A.C. Crispin.
This is the only Alien movie in the original series of four (thus not counting Prometheus (2012)) where Ripley does not have to escape from a place that is destroyed by an explosion following a countdown. Although she escapes death from the doomed ship Sulaco in the beginning, she is in cryosleep, there is no countdown, and the ship is never seen exploding. Additionally, this is also the only film not to feature a decompression scene where she is nearly sucked into space.