Dan O'Bannon, the screenwriter who wrote the screenplays for Dark Star, Alien, and Total Recall, passed Thursday at the age of 63. He had suffered from Crohn's disease for thirty years.
Dan O'Bannon was born on September 30, 1946 in St. Louis. He majored in fine art at Washington University in St. Louis, then attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1970 he graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in film. It was while he was at USC that he met John Carpenter. Together they collaborated on a forty minute short entitled Dark Star in 1970. Together they expanded the short into the feature film Dark Star, released in 1974, with Carpenter directing and O'Bannon performing duties from scripting to editing. Although Dark Star bombed at the box office, it has come to be regarded as a cult classic. O'Bannon was part of the special effects team on Star Wars, working as a computer animator. He was set to supervise the special effects on an adaptation of Dune to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, but the project fell through. It was in the wake of this failed project that he wrote the screenplay for Alien. Unlike Dark Star, Alien proved to be a hit at the box office.
O'Bannon wrote two of the segments for the animated feature Heavy Metal. He also wrote the screenplay for Blue Thunder with Don Jakoby, and voiced his displeasure when the script was extensively rewritten. In 1985 Dan O'Bannon directed his first film, the cult horror comedy Return of the Living Dead, for which he also wrote the screenplay. From the Eighties into the Nineties he wrote the screenplays for Lifeforce, the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars, Total Recall (with Ronald Shusett and Gary Goldman), Screamers, and Bleeders. In 1992 he directed The Resurrected, based on H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. At the time of his death he was working on a script entitled The Pain Clinic.
Dan O'Bannon was among the most talented screenwriters of the past forty years. Working almost solely in the genres of science fiction and horror throughout his career, he scripted movies that were intelligent, thought provoking, and could be interpreted on multiple levels. He also had a knack for knowing what audiences would enjoy. His film Alien would produce an entire franchise, one that lasts to this day. The Return of the Living Dead would not only become a cult film, but would produce four sequels. Dan O'Bannon was one of those rare talents who could create entertainment that was not only intelligent, but would also prove to be popular.