Saturday, December 28, 2013

Biehn Scene: Alien 3

I love Aliens.  I've loved it since seeing it as a kid on CBS Saturday night then running around the house with a Super Soaker thinking it was a Pulse Rifle.  Years later I'd see it in all it's uncut glory on VHS and then the Special Edition in 1990 that reincorporated 17 minutes of James Cameron preferred footage.  Michael Biehn's portrayal of soft spoken, thrown into command, Biehn there, done that Corporal Hicks was a revelation.  Even though it was Ripley's movie, Biehn's turn as Hicks was calm, cool and badass while forever ingraining himself as one of my favorite actors.  Whether he's the vulnerable action hero of The Terminator, Navy Seals and Timebomb or the crazed, misunderstood mustached "villain" of Tombstone or The Abyss, Biehn always delivers a performance that can only be described as equal parts sensitive and intense...Sintense!

My love for 1986's Aliens was so strong that I never had a desire to watch 1979's Alien let alone 1992's Alien 3.  I may have caught bits and pieces of both but I didn't sit down for Alien until last summer to prep for PrometheusAlien 3 was still dead to me since I knew Hicks was not featured and had only heard bad things about the troubled production.  Thanks to the magic of in depth special features, we get to hear about all of those struggles from the people who lived them.  Following the success of Aliens, the producers went to work on a third installment but were stuck creatively.  Even though Sigourney Weaver's Ripley had become a north star for women in science fiction and garnered her an Academy Award nomination, female moviegoers still did not flock to Alien or Aliens.

For Alien 3, ideas were fleshed out and screenplays commissioned focusing on the male action hero Hicks could represent.  For whatever reason, Biehn, the man who brought Hicks to life, the consummate professional who replaced another actor already cast in the role over a weekend, was not going to be asked back.  When the flick finally started to roll under first time director David Fincher's eye, Weaver was center stage and Hicks was dead.  Already dead at the start of the film, Hicks was to be a carrier of a chest burster, thus bringing the xenomorph threat to new settings.  Once Biehn got wind of it, he and his agent protested and threatened to sue if his likeness was used.  Finally, a photo of Biehn from Aliens appeared on screen, for which he was paid nearly as much as his salary was on the previous film.

Now I'm trying to watch the prison planet set Alien 3, which has it's merits, but it's no Aliens and I nodded off several times.  Even though each Alien film is it's own self contained story, it's hard to watch Alien 3 and see everything Cameron and crew had accomplished in Aliens negated and jettisoned in the first 15 minutes.  That, and the cast and characters just can't hold a candle to Hicks, Hudson, Bishop, Apone, Drake or Vasquez.

Hicks lives!

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