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In Memoriam: Dan O'Bannon

December 23, 2009

Daniel Thomas "Dan" O'Bannon (September 30, 1946 – December 17, 2009) was an American motion picture screenwriter, director and occasional actor, usually in the science fiction and horror genres.

O'Bannon was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Bertha (née Lowenthal) and Thomas Sidney O'Bannon, a carpenter. When O'Bannon was in USC, he met John Carpenter and they collaborated on the 45-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 was along, serving in a number of capacities, including scripting, editing and acting as one of the leading roles (Pinback). In 1975 Dark Star won the Golden Scroll award (as the Saturn Awards were known in the early years) for Best Special Effects.

O'Bannon, growing up a sci-fi and horror enthusiast, had abandoned technical work (including a stint as a computer animator on George Lucas' classic Star Wars) for screenwriting. Following Star Wars he was attached to supervise special effects for a Alejandro Jodorowsky production of Frank Herbert's Dune but this fell apart in 1975 leaving O'Bannon homeless and with no money. Together with Ronald Shusett, he wrote the original story for Alien (1979), regathered the artistic talent from the defunct Dune project and is generally acknowledged (along with H. R. Giger and Ridley Scott) as being one of the main creative forces behind Alien's success.

In 1981, O'Bannon helped create the cult classic animation feature Heavy Metal, writing two segments, "Soft Landing" and "B-17". O'Bannon has 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 to an apocalyptic ending. It was not well-received 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.

Also in 1985, O'Bannon moved into the director's chair with Return of the Living Dead. The film met with success, has become a cult classic, and went on to spawn numerous sequels, not unlike the earlier Alien.

He and Shusett would reteam on Total Recall (1990), an adaptation of the classic Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale". This was a project the two had been working on since collaborating on Alien. The film went on to earn well over US$100 million. An earlier screenplay by the duo titled Hemoglobin was also produced as the low budget feature Bleeders (1997).

His second directorial feature, The Resurrected (1992), was a low budget horror effort that was released directly on video and focused on a family's ancient rituals which awaken the dead. It was based on the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.

O'Bannon also received a co-writing credit on the film Screamers (1995), a science fiction film about post-apocalyptic robots programmed to kill. Adapted from the Philip K. Dick story "Second Variety", O'Bannon did his work on the screenplay in the early 1980s.[4]

O'Bannon was married to Diane Louise Lindley from January 18, 1986 until his death from Crohn's disease in Los Angeles on December 17, 2009.[7] He is survived by their son Adam.

1974 Dark Star – writer, special effects, editor, production design, co-star

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

2010 Silvaticus 3015 – co-screenplay writer

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