O'Bannon in 2008.
|Born||Daniel Thomas O'Bannon
September 30, 1946
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
|Died||December 17, 2009
Los Angeles, California, USA
|Occupation||Screenwriter, director, actor|
|Spouse(s)||Diane Louise Lindley (1986–2009)|
Early life and career
O'Bannon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Bertha (née Lowenthal) and Thomas Sidney O'Bannon, a carpenter. He attended the art school of Washington University in St. Louis, where he did stand-up comedy routines, did make-up for campus theater productions, and provided illustrations for Student Life, the student newspaper. While there he roomed with Michael Shamberg, later the producer of "The Big Chill," "A Fish Called Wanda," "Pulp Fiction" and many other movies, and Donald Friedman, the author, most notably of "The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers." O'Bannon moved home briefly after Washington U and attended Florissant Valley Junior College where he wrote and directed a short science fiction satire titled "The Attack of the 50-foot Chicken." He then attended the University of Southern California (USC) film school, where he met John Carpenter and collaborated with him on the 83-minute USC School of Cinema-Television short Dark Star (1970). Carpenter expanded the short into a feature which was released in 1974 with a final budget of only US$60,000. O'Bannon served in a number of capacities, including scripting, editing and acting in one of the leading roles ("Pinback"). In 1975, Dark Star won the Golden Scroll award (the Saturn Awards' original name) for Best Special Effects.
O'Bannon, growing up a science-fiction and horror enthusiast, abandoned technical work (including a stint as a computer animator on George Lucas' classic Star Wars) for screenwriting. He was attached to supervise special effects for an Alejandro Jodorowsky production of Frank Herbert's Dune, but this fell apart in 1975 and the movie was never made as the major Hollywood studios were wary of financing the picture with Jodorowsky as director. O'Bannon's role is prominently featured in the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. The collapse of Dune left O'Bannon broke, homeless, and dependent on friends for his survival. While living with his friend Ronald Shusett, they came up with the story for O'Bannon's career-making film Alien (1979), for which he wrote the screenplay and supervised visuals.
O'Bannon attended USC Film School and lived near the Los Angeles Campus in an old two-story house affectionately called the "Menlo Manor" which he shared with other USC students (Don Jakoby, who collaborated on several screenplays with Dan including Blue Thunder; and Jeffrey J. Lee, who became a well-known artist in Europe). Part of his student film Dark Star was filmed there, with O'Bannon co-starring as Sgt. Pinback. He spent many late nights in old Hollywood editing his and other student films. His wish was to become a director. Dark Star was edited by O'Bannon using a 1940's Moviola.
In 1981, O'Bannon helped create the animated feature Heavy Metal, writing two of its segments ("Soft Landing" and "B-17"). O'Bannon voiced his displeasure with his next big-budget outing, John Badham's Blue Thunder (1983), an action yarn about a Los Angeles helicopter surveillance team. Originally written with Don Jakoby, Blue Thunder also underwent extensive rewriting, losing some of its political content. He and Jakoby also scripted Lifeforce (1985), a tale directed by Tobe Hooper that veers from alien visitation to vampirism and an apocalyptic ending. It was not well received at the time, and was considered a box office flop. O'Bannon would again collaborate with Jakoby and Hooper for the 1986 remake Invaders from Mars. Purists considered it inferior to the 1950s original and it also performed poorly at the box office. O'Bannon also worked as a consultant for C.H.U.D., helping to create the design concept for the title creatures.
In 1985, O'Bannon moved into the director's chair with Return of the Living Dead. Like Alien, the film met with success, spawned numerous sequels and became a cult classic.
In 1990, O'Bannon and Shusett re-teamed to make Total Recall, an adaptation of the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Phillip K. Dick. This was a project the two had been working on since collaborating on Alien. The film earned well over US$100 million. An earlier screenplay by the duo titled Hemoglobin was also produced as the low budget feature Bleeders (1997).
O'Bannon's second directorial feature, The Resurrected (1992), was a low-budget horror effort released direct-to-video. Based on the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, it focused on a family's ancient rituals that awaken the dead. In 1995, O'Bannon received a co-writing credit for the film Screamers, a science-fiction film about post-apocalyptic robots programmed to kill. Adapted from the Philip K. Dick story "Second Variety", O'Bannon first worked on the screenplay in the early 1980s.
Personal life and death
O'Bannon died from Crohn's disease in Los Angeles on December 17, 2009. O'Bannon credited his experiences with Crohn's for inspiring the chest-bursting scene from Alien. He is survived by his son Adam.
Selection of his work
- 1974 Dark Star – writer, special effects, editor, production design, co-star (Sgt. Pinback)
- 1976 The Long Tomorrow – writer
- 1977 Star Wars – special computer effects
- 1979 Alien – writer
- 1981 Dead & Buried – writer
- 1981 Heavy Metal – writer of two segments, Soft Landing and B-17
- 1983 Blue Thunder – writer
- 1985 Lifeforce – writer
- 1985 The Return of the Living Dead – writer, director, voice
- 1986 Invaders from Mars – writer
- 1990 Total Recall – writer
- 1992 The Resurrected – director
- 1995 Screamers – writer
- 1997 Bleeders – writer
- Bruce Weber (December 20, 2009). "Dan O’Bannon, 63, Who Wrote Screenplay for 'Alien,' Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-09-11. "Dan O’Bannon, whose screenplays for “Alien,” “Total Recall,” “The Return of the Living Dead” and other films made him a cult hero among science fiction aficionados, died on Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 63."
- "Dan O'Bannon Biography (1946-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "R.I.P. Dan O'Bannon".
- "Invaders from Mars". Box Office Mojo.
- C.H.U.D. Facts
- "Rest in Peace: Dan O'Bannon".
- "Dan O'Bannon 1946–2009".
- "The Horror! The Horror! Fright Flicks Finally Get Their Due". New York Observer. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- "Screenwriter for 'Alien', Dan O'Bannon, dies". CBC News. December 19, 2009.
- "'Alien' writer O'Bannon dies, aged 63".
- Official website
- Dan O'Bannon at the Internet Movie Database
- December 2007 Den Of Geek interview with Dan O'Bannon