'Alien' writer Dan O'Bannon dies

'Star Wars,' 'Dark Star' also among his credits

Dan O'Bannon, the unassuming sci-fi screenwriter and quirky horror specialist behind the "Alien" film franchise, died Thursday at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica after a 30-year battle with Crohn's disease. He was 63.

His work on various movies ranging from 1983's "Blue Thunder" to "Lifeforce" and the mid-1980s low-budget "Invaders From Mars" to 1990's Paul Verhoeven-Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster "Total Recall" made him an influential figure in the genre world, as his did his 1985 directorial debut, "The Return of the Living Dead."

But it was "Alien" with which he made his most lasting mark, helping to create characters and monsters that are still around today (Fox is readying an "Alien" prequel with original director Ridley Scott resuming helming duties.)

The St. Louis-born O'Bannon met John Carpenter at USC, where the two wrote a short film -- Carpenter's thesis film -- that turned into the cosmic low-budget comedy "Dark Star" (1974). O'Bannon co-wrote the pic with Carpenter, who also directed, and served as effects supervisor, production designer, editor and actor (playing Sgt. Pinback).

"Dan had an enormous talent and an acerbic, biting wit," Carpenter said. "He had a very high IQ, but I think he was under-appreciated and underserved by the film business. He took a stand against all manner of authority."

O'Bannon was hired by George Lucas to do some effects work on "Star Wars" in 1977, then set "Alien" on its course into space with his and Ronald Shusett's bug-filled action spec script "The Star Beast."

He worked as a script doctor in recent decades and co-wrote 2004's "AVP: Alien vs. Predator."

O'Bannon is survived by his wife, Diane Lindley O'Bannon, and son Adam. A memorial service is pending.