Dan O’Bannon, saying goodbye!

I just got word of Dan O’bannon’s passing, and I am quite taken back by this horribly sad news!!!  Dan has been mentioned here on the blog many times, and I was unaware that he was battling Crohn’s disease for over 30 years….  Sadly, it looks like he lost the fight on December 17, 2009.  He will be deeply missed!!!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. O’Bannon, here is a little write-up for you to get to know him a little bit.

Dan O’Bannon’s passion was for movies & writing, and he was quite gifted with an amazing talent to do just that!  He went to USC in the late 60’s/early 70’s and teamed up with fellow wannabe film maker John Carpenter.  Together they were creating a 45 minute short Sci-Fi movie called “Electric Dutchman,” later to be renamed “Dark Star”!  The two men created a hilarious film that was later lengthened and released theatrically.  Both Dan and John wore many hats during the production.  Dan took on the role as Co-writer, Production Designer, Film Dditor, Visual Effects Supervisor and even acting…playing the mistreated and belittled character of Pinback (who’s real name is Bill Froog, but had to become Pinback because that was the name on the uniform).  Dan and John’s film was released on January 16, 1975 ( Carpenter’s 27th Birthday) and died virtually unnoticed!!  Today it has become a cult classic.  The film brought together some vast movie talents such as Greg Jein, Ron Cobb and Bill Taylor, as well as launching both John and Dan’s careers as major movie makers.  Sadly, the partnership did not survive after Dark Star, and both went out in different directions!

Dan went on to his next project of trying to get “Dune” off the ground!!  This attempt fell apart, and Dan went on to do some of the computer graphics for Star Wars.  Unhappy with the thought of becoming a computer graphics designer, Dan went back to his first love of writing and wrote what would be one of the greatest Science fiction films ever made!!!  “Alien” was it’s name, and the mega hit came out in May of 1979.   Along with Star Wars, the look of space movies coming out of Hollywood changed forever.  From there O’Bannon went on to write many other landmark films and stories.  He wrote two of my favorite segments entitled “Soft landing” and the awesomely horrifying “B-17” from the “Heavy Metal” movie released in 1981.  Next he wrote “Blue Thunder,” which he was terribly displeased with; the story had been heavily rewritten and had lost it’s political edge by the time it made it to the big screen.  The same happened with his screenplay for Lifeforce (1985).  In 1986 he wrote a wicked little screenplay for the remake of “Invaders from Mars,” and I was happy to be a part of this one.  I had just started working at Apogee VFX house in Van Nuys,  making Invaders and Top Gun the first two movies I got to work on.  I was extremely happy to be working on a Dan O’Bannon and Tobe Hooper  film!!  Dan switched to the director’s chair  with another cult classic, “Return of the Living Dead,” and then moved on to write another SCI-FI favorite, “Total Recall”.  “Bleeders”, “Screamers” and “The Resurrected” would come in future years.

Dan was a huge fan of Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft, as you could tell by his work, but he was a man of incredible talent in so many other fields; he was hysterically funny, very gracious, very kind and  he had a deep appreciation for others and their talents.  He had a strong sense of self confidence and rebellion towards authority which made him able to withstand just about anything and not fall apart when criticism was thrown his way.  He never gave up and always followed his passions with great pride and imagination.  Mr. O’Bannon  is one whom I have great admiration for.  He was the best at what he did, and his work and talent have definitely inspired me in so many ways!!!  He will be missed dearly.  Thank You, Dan, and may God bless and be with your family, friends and especially your wife, Diane, and son Adam.

this link will take you to a great site that has a lot of Dan’s graphics work and a cool interview as well!



Click below to see several great photos of Dan and his amazing work…(if you see the pictures, you’re already there!).

Dan O'bannon & John Carpenter from the set of Dark Star

Dan OBannon as Pinback, here in the feeding the alien sequence from Dark Star

Dan's Star Wars Graphics

thank you Dan

20 Responses to “Dan O’Bannon, saying goodbye!”

  1. 1 Scott D
    December 20, 2009 at 1:15 am

    He was quite the inspriation, I remember watching Dark Star many times. And I was fond of Blue Thunder and Lifeforce. I wish we could’ve really seen their full potential.

    But I’ll be honest, I didn’t know Dan was behind the Star Wars Graphics. Out of the entire movie, I think those computer graphics were the most memorable outside of the cast and the Lightsabers.

  2. 2 Razor
    December 20, 2009 at 2:59 am

    I was shocked to hear about it myself…he’ll be greatly missed. His interviews on the Alien DVD’s are great.

  3. 3 DeanneM
    December 20, 2009 at 4:08 am

    He was a talented man, for sure, and left behind a lot for us to remember him by.

    God bless his wife and family.

  4. 4 Richard Knapp
    December 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

    This is very sad news. God bless his wife and son.

  5. 5 deg
    December 20, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    A fine tribute and well said, John. 🙂

    Indeed, thank you Dan, and God bless you on your journey, and your family still here.

    I’ll be building Dark Star not too soon. Your inspiring talent and way of doing it will be missed

    peace | deg

  6. 6 JNG
    December 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    He left good works behind that people will enjoy for a long time to come…can’t ask for much more than that. R.I.P.

  7. 7 Mysterion
    December 20, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Dark Star has always been a big favorite of mine, and a lot of that has much to do with the epic struggle of Sgt. Pinback vs. the Beachball. Comedy gold.

    Recently watched some of the behind-the-scenes documenteries on the Alien DVD, and some of the most engaging interviews are those with Mr. O’Bannon. He seems like he would have been great company to just sit with and shoot the bull with. and there aren’t a lot of people that can pull off a bowtie the way he seems to have done.

    Mr. O’Bannon was a creative genius and will be missed.

    • 8 johneaves
      December 20, 2009 at 7:36 pm

      I still can’t get over it!!!I just saw the you tube of him winning the Lovecraft award and he looks so very frail!!! Oh those cancers and diseases just whip you so badly!!! He was a great man and I so wish I would have had the chance to have met him!

  8. 9 Kevin H. Martin
    December 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Dan did the SW stuff in concert with John Wash and Jay Teitzell and I think another guy, and from what I recall his stuff was downshooter animation.

    The story Wash told is that Dan asked Lucas what would happen if their work wasn’t ready in time for release date, and GL said, “i’ll put a title card in its place saying this is Dan O’Bannon’s fault.”

  9. 10 Matt Boardman
    December 20, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    It’s always so sad when someone so brilliant leaves us. Still, the impression that they have left upon us all will last forever. Thank you Dan for everything. Godspeed to you in the next great adventure and best wishes to your family during their time of sorrow.

  10. December 21, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Very sad, indeed. I met O’bannon around 1980 during a small talk he gave on the making of Alien. He was very engaging and funny and really opened my eyes to what a wondrous & vicious place Hollywood could be.

    While “Alien” was a landmark film, the studio apparently worked its bookkeeping voodoo and claimed it made no profits and therefor owed the (contractually entitled) writers nothing. It was in the courts for years. Dan was bitter, but fairly amused by it all, and he told some great stories, one of which is how Alien is essentially a big budget remake of Dark Star. Think about it, almost all the major elements are interchangeable!

    And, of course, Dark Star is a classic that influenced my early childhood in so many ways. It was truly a turning point for my interests that was later cemented by Star Wars.

    May he Rest In Peace.

  11. December 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    He was a major influence to me growing up. The computer graphics in the original Star Wars had a level of sophistication and verisimilitude that even to me as a 10 year old viewer really hit home. I’m still amazed by them so that link to the article on their development was fascinating.

    I noticed there was a character in the Danny Boyle film “Sunshine” named Pinback and wondered if that was a hommage to the character from Dark Star.

    Rest in Peace O’Bannon.

  12. December 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    When I read of his passing my heart sank; very sad news. O’Bannon was such a talented guy, and I loved watching him talk about making Alien on the special edition dvds. He was one of those guys that just “got it”. My thoughts are with his family and friends…he will be missed.

    Many thanks Mr. O’Bannon.

  13. December 21, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I saw Dark Star in the theater when it was first released in ’75, and O’Bannon’s work as Pinback was the real standout in the cast. It was fun recognizing common everyday objects in the set design, like plastic icecube trays serving as control panel buttons.

  14. 15 johneaves
    December 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Thanks for all the great and moving comments!! I find it amazing how many folks are touched and influenced by the same people that I am!!! If anything this blog has really brought together a lot of good friends who all share in common so many fantastic things!!! Thanks to everyone who takes the time to write and again farewell to our friend Dan!

  15. December 22, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Never got a chance to see “The Resurrected” that he directed starring Chris Sarandon, think it was only ever available on VHS and no rental shops near me ever had it,but I heard it was OK !
    Dark Star is one of my Favourites and I love Alien and Return of the Living Dead, and thought Blue Thunder and Total Recall were great fun, wasn’t a big fan of Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars remake though !! Such a shame to hear the news of his death !! 😦

    • 17 Jay
      December 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

      “The Resurrected” actually IS available currently on DVD – sadly only a bare bones release, but still better than the previous VHS-only situation. Dan’s original cut was not to the producers’ liking and the film was fairly substantially recut to Dan’s disappointment and he had some hope of getting a cut closer to his original vision released on a more substantial DVD. Unfortunately not to happen now. But even as it is, its a dandy little thriller with a great performance by Chris Sarandon and until very recently it was my favorite film adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story. It is *light years* better than 90% of the stuff that trades on Lovecraft’s name.

  16. December 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    In recent years I was fortunate enough to have corresponded a few times with Dan O’Bannon, indirectly by email through his wife Diane. Dan was a gracious and encouraging person, to say nothing of his incredible talent. Many of his admirers know him best for his work on ALIEN, but to me he’s best known for his work on and role in DARK STAR. Rest in peace, Mr. O’Bannon. You are sorely missed… but at least you will no longer have to feed the alien. 😦

    • 19 Jay
      December 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm

      A good friend of mine was involved in getting the “Return of the Living Dead” special edition DVD going and consequently had a long and rewarding penpal relationship with Mr. O’Bannon over a period of years. He spoke very highly of Dan and had a lot of great stories about their conversations.

  17. 20 Donna Wadsworth-Brown
    April 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Danny O’Bannon was my friend at Berkeley high school, St. Louis, Missouri back in the very early 1960’s I loved his quirky humor, his gift for creative make-up in our school plays, and his tenacious commitment to individuality. I spoke with him once in the 19080’s when he called me on the phone, but that was our only contact. Still. . .I am very sorry to hear of his passing. He was a creative genius. . .and a good soul.

    Donna Wadsworth-Brown

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December 2009

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