On this Day in Movie History, December 17, 2009: Horror Director, Screenwriter and Occasional Actor Dan O’Bannon Dies

It was on this day, December 17, 2009, American motion-picture screenwriter, director and occasional actor, usually in the science fiction and horror genres Daniel Thomas “Dan” O’Bannon died. He was fifty three.

O’Bannon got his start when he and John Carpenter collaborated on the cult sci-fi film Dark Star (1974). After a failed attempt to make “Dune” with bizarre surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky in Europe, O’Bannon returned to the US and began work on “Star Beast” (later retitled Alien (1979)) with Ronald Shusett (with whom he later worked again on Dead & Buried (1981)). Also 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 and was considered a box office flop.

He continued working in the Sci-fi/Horror genre mostly as a script doctor, but his directorial debut, The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is known as one of the best zombie movies ever made (and as of this writing two sequels with another in production).

In 1986 O’Bannon would again collaborate with Jakoby and Hooper for the remake of 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.

On December 17, 2009, O’Bannon died of Crohn’s disease in Los Angeles (most people experience Crohn’s disease in their gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus.) O’Bannon credits his experiences with Crohn’s for inspiring the chest-busting scene from Alien. (And we thought it was simply gas.)

1915 – Joan (Joanne) Woodbury (actress: The Time Travelers, Northwest Trail, Song of the Gringo, Bulldog Courage; died Feb 22, 1989)

1943 – Christopher Cazenove (actor: Aces: Iron Eagle 3, Three Men and a Little Lady, Windmills of the Gods, Mata Hari, Children of the Full Moon, Eye of the Needle, Zulu Dawn, Royal Flash, A Fine Romance, Dynasty; died Apr 7, 2010)

1944 – Bernard Hill (actor: Mountains of the Moon, Shirley Valentine, Bellman and True, Drowning by Numbers, No Surrender, The Bounty, Gandhi)

1945 – Ernie Hudson (actor: Tornado!, The Substitute, Congo, Wild Palms, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Ghostbusters series, Joy of Sex, The $5.20 an Hour Dream, Broken Badges)

1946 – Eugene Levy (actor: SCTV (1976), Waiting for Guffman (1996), American Pie (1999), Best in Show (2000), A Mighty Wind (2003), American Pie 2 (2001), Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003))

1947 – Wes Studi (actor:The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The New World (2005), Avatar (2009))

1953 – Barry Livingston (actor: My Three Sons, Sons and Daughters)

1953 – Bill Pullman (actor: Spaceballs (1987), While You Were Sleeping (1995), Independence Day (1996), Lost Highway (1997))

1974 – Marissa Ribisi( Actress | Writer : Dazed and Confused (1993), Pleasantville (1998), Some Girl (1998), 100 Girls (2000))

1975 – Sarah Paulson (Actress: What Women Want (2000), Down with Love (2003), Serenity (2005), Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)


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