Goodbye, Dan O’Bannon

O’Bannon as the legendary Sgt. Pinback in John Carpenter’s 1974 cult classic, Dark Star. (O’Bannon also wrote the screenplay.)

Dan O’Bannon –the screenwriter who penned Alien, Total Recall, Dark Star and wrote/directed The Return of the Living Dead– has died, aged 63, following a brief illness.

Think about it for a second: without this man, we wouldn’t have Ellen Ripley. For that contribution alone, Dan O’Bannon is ensured the eternal adoration and gratitude of everyone here at Coilhouse.

In honor of the departed, here are a handful of scenes and previews from just a few of the fantastic sci fi and horror films O’Bannon worked on over the years. Requiescat in pace.

A recent Return of the Living Dead cast and crew reunion:

11 Responses to “Goodbye, Dan O’Bannon”

  1. Paul Allan Ballard Says:

    His designs for the readouts on the movie Dark Star influenced practically every sci fi movie I love. He worked on the animated screens on the original Star Wars, Alien & BladeRunner. Setting the look for sci-fi for my childhood.

    He worked on the legendary aborted Dune project with Jodorworsky, Foss, Moebius, Giger, Ron Cobb. He was one of my heroes and inspiration, I hoped one day I would tell him that. I never will. It’s a sad day.

  2. Rockford Says:

    I have the same feelings for O’Bannon that I have for John Carpenter: Not necessarily the best in his field, but definetly the one with the coolest ideas. A filmmaker who you could relate to, simply for having a sort of nerd-mentality and knowing what constitutes an awesome scene. Lifeforce is one of the shining examples of this.

    He will be missed.

  3. Clockpolk Says:


    Dan O’Bannon had nothing to do with Ellen Ripley. In his script, the Ripley character was a man. From what I’ve heard his original script was actually quite meh and was rewritten many times — my bet is that what made the film great has more to do with Ridley Scott, the producers, H.R. Giger and the actors.

    Not to be disrespectful to the recently diseased, though. He was a cool guy and Dark Star is still great. RIP!

  4. Mer Says:

    Actually, Clockpolk, that’s not entirely accurate.

    Yes, O’Bannon and Ron Shusett initially sketched all of the roles for Alien as generic males. However, they handed over their script with a note that explicitly stated: “The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women.” They were the first to suggest that traditional gender roles could be reversed, leaving the door wide open for Brandywine’s rewrite/production team, Ridley Scott, and casting.

    Also, O’Bannon’s the one who got Giger involved in Alien in first place (after the Jodorowksy Dune project fell through), not to mention Chris Foss, Ron Cobb and Moebius. Being an incredible draftsman in his own right, with a great eye for aesthetics (as Paul state above), he’s the one who pushed Scott to go with Giger as a lead concept designer. In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of elements in O’Bannon’s drafts of the script –especially the alien creatures and tech– were written with Giger in mind.

    Make no mistake. O’Bannon was one of the main driving forces that made Alien happen, and he deserves respect and recognition for it.

  5. Jon Says:

    I read an interview with him in a magazine a long time ago where he basically said “Aliens was a’ight, but they went with an idea I discarded; I had a much better idea for the sequel that didn’t get used.” I always wondered what it was, and now we’ll never know. Fuck.

  6. malpertuis Says:

    Dan O’Bannon directed a version of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It was called The Resurrected with Chris Sarandon as the pro/antagonist. He was also at the last HP Lovecraft film festival.

    I can only rattle off things because I really love him and my heart hurts at the loss. I gotta dig my Pinback costume out and wear it with a black armband today.

  7. Tim Kern Says:

    Return Of The Living Dead is by far one of my favourite movies. I will have to wear my ‘Uneeda Medical Supply’ t-shirt tomorrow, in his memory. R.I.P.

  8. Clockpolk Says:

    Mer, I stand corrected! Thanks for the insight, didn’t know all that. Cheers!

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