Saturday, December 19, 2009

Remembering Dan O'Bannon

Dan O'Bannon died yesterday. He was 62 years old, still spry from all accounts, still writing. He was one of the landmark screenwriters in the sci-fi genre of the last quarter of a century, and one of my favorite screen-writers period.

But to list just screen-writing(though it is the position with the most credits to his name) would be misleading. He also acted, did special effects, and directed. He also had works outside of film, and yet also influenced the medium.

His first credit was as editor, co-writer, art department and actor in "Dark Star", an assuredly efficient film that is so good you frequently forget it is a student film. This spring boarded him to Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Dune", the most amazing film that never got made. However,without it he would have not made the connections to contribute to the genre of sci-fi.

He went back to California, where the talk of his great effects on a shoestring skill got him him a job doing just that on "Star Wars". Then he wrote a screenplay based on his monster sequence in "Dark Star", making eventually the blueprint for "Alien"(the beginning of the finest series in science fiction). He also suggested some of the artists he made friends with on Dune for the film, Chris Foss, Moebius, and of course H.R. Giger. Speaking of Moebius, he collaborated with O'Bannon on a terrific comic called "The Long Goodbye", which was an enormous influence on the look of "Blade Runner"

Afterwards he continued to write superb screenplays , including "Invaders from Mars" remake, "Blue Thunder", "Lifeforce", "Dead and Buried", segments of "Heavy Metal", "Screamers", and "Total Recall", which is perhaps his second best known work.

The third thing his most known for is his directorial debut--which he also scripted-- called "Return of the Living Dead"(the film I am convinced forever matched zombies with brain eating). Despite occasional gaffs it is an absorbing film, wittingly skewing "Night of the living dead" showing comedic zombie years before "Shaun of the dead" He also, as far as English zombie films go, invented the notion of fast zombie(perhaps the cleverest way, given the material). Altogether he showed a masterful hand, with sly nods to classical Hollywood directors like Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder; like his "Dark Star" co-creator John Carpenter his manged to take the images and thoughts of old Hollywood dreams and apply them to modern nightmares.

At the time of hid death he was working an guide to screenwriting, which was only lacking a publisher. Hopefully, someone will now step up to the plate and let the world know of his skilled hand, his dedication to craft, and his long body of work, in his own words. You will not be forgotten Dan, and we thank you for all the memories.

Afterthoughts, Classic O'Bannon quotes:

"You're supposed to be stupid, son. Don't abuse the privilege. "

When you’re walking on eggshells don’t try to hop."

"You coming, or just breathing hard"?

"See? You made me hurt myself again! I broke my hand off completely at the wrist this time, Tina! But that's okay, Darlin', because I love you, and that's why you have to let me EAT YOUR BRAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIINS! "

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