Fox revs up ‘Alien 4’ plans

In development no one can hear you scream, yet sources close to the project suggest that Joss Whedon, the 29-year-old screenwriter of Sandollar’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has been tapped to write the screenplay for “Alien 4.”

The mid-six-figure deal is the first step in the studio’s efforts to breathe new life into the sci-fi franchise whose third outing did well abroad but performed poorly domestically.

While the storyline is not set, the studio is reportedly toying with several scenarios. One would have the creatures descend on earth; another would be set on the planet from which the creatures originate.

While no stars have been attached, the studio is reportedly trying to coax Sigourney Weaver into reprising the Ripley role — a tricky feat as the character was killed in “Alien3.”

The “Alien” movies have been one of the few successful action franchises with a woman star. The movies in turn helped Weaver develop the reputation as one of the few actresses who can open a picture.

For Whedon, the opportunity to pen an “Alien” movie is the culmination of an incredible year. In June, the former “Roseanne” story editor sold a spec script, “Suspension,” to Largo Entertainment for $ 750,000/$ 1 million. His other feature credits include the screenplay for one of Disney’s 1995 animated releases, “Toy Story.”

“Suspension” is an actioner about terrorists seizing control of New York’s George Washington Bridge during a traffic jam. “Toy Story” is a buddy movie about two toys (Buzz and Woody) who fight for the affection of their master, yet somehow end up friends.

When “Suspension” was making the rounds, several Fox execs read it and reportedly offered Whedon the opportunity to write a treatment on spec for “Alien 4.”

Over three months, the scribe chased the project and in early November the studio began negotiations for Whedon’s screenwriting services.

The deal was brokered by United Talent Agency’s Chris Harbert and Risa Gertner in conjunction with Lloyd Braun of Silverberg Katz Thompson & Braun.

The “Alien” franchise got under way in 1979 when Ridley Scott helmed the sci-fier which won the Oscar for best special effects. The movie began on a desolate mining colony.

James Cameron took the reins of the 1986 sequel “Aliens,” which also won an Oscar for special effects. In the sequel, a military force was dispatched to wipe out the monsters.

“Alien3” was set on a penal colony and was not critically well-received.

At press time it was unclear whether Cameron or the first film’s producer Walter Hill would be creatively involved.

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