Interview: Alien War Co-Creator Gary Gillies

Alien War

Regular readers of IGP will know that Aliens is absolutely my favourite scifi movie. I loved that movie. Creepy aliens, tons of action, badass women, what more could a scifi lovin’ girl want? Well, actually, what I wanted most of all was to be able to experience Aliens first hand. As a teenager I got to do just that in 1993 when Alien War opened up at the Trocadero in London.

In the Alien War experience you are on a tour of a facility that looks suspiciously like Hadley’s Hope when some xenomorphs attack. Luckily your tour guides are a group of Colonial Marines who fend off the alien attack hurrying you through the facility, past an alien egg chamber and eventually leading you to a dropship so you can, you know, get out and nuke the whole site from orbit.

It was thrilling and it was about as close as you could get to really being there. To this day, the only attraction I’ve seen that has come close to Alien War was Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, and that eventually closed down.

My one regret was that I only ever went to Alien War once before it closed down. And, even though the experience has re-opened occasionally over the years, I haven’t ever had the opportunity to go again. So imagine my thrill when I learned that the creators of Alien War are releasing the experience once more, for their 20 year anniversary. Even though I’m stuck stateside and still can’t go visit, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to chat with the one of the show’s creators, Gary Gillies.

IGPNicki: Tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Alien War
GG: My friend John Gorman and I did an exhibition of Alien memorabilia at a local cinema here in Glasgow in 1991 and we came up with the idea of getting the public more involved. We thought, instead of walking around looking at these exhibits, let’s get them in the sets – in with the actors, the action and the alien. We contacted three local businessmen for funding and got a contract from 20th Century Fox to do the first show at the Arches in Glasgow.

IGPNicki: What is Alien War and how does it fit into the Alien universe?
GG: Instead of watching a movie, you’re in it for 15 minutes. Our new show is totally unique, a new story and we have a few different breeds of alien in the underground complex. We’ve taken the seed of the movies and created our own story and brand.

IGPNicki: How involved were Twentieth Century Fox, and how did you get their cooperation to create an Aliens attraction?
GG: At first we got nothing as they didn’t want to risk anything on these two crazy Scotsmen with this strange idea so we had to come up with all the sets, the costumes, everything. Then when articles appeared in Time Magazine, CNN and media all over the world and we told them we were going to open in London, they gave us access to everything. The President of Fox actually came over to the opening of the London show.

IGPNicki: Why did the original exhibit close?
GG: The London show closed as we sold the company on and the basement was flooded. After a year of waiting the new owners decided that once they received the insurance money they would close the show.

IGPNicki: What changes have you made to the Alien War experience over the past 20 years?
GG: We have still kept to the basic format as we target the most powerful terrifying thing on this planet – your own imagination. With this new show, we’ve added more scares than ever before.

IGPNicki: Why did you later change the title to Alien Wars?
GG: It’s now back to Alien War. A few years ago we had a number of “Wars” in the UK so that’s why we had the name.

IGPNicki: What was behind the decision to remove the Colonial Marines, and change the uniforms to a nondescript black?
GG: We split from Fox and did our own format so we could add more scares as Fox were terrified someone would actually drop dead of a heart attack! This left us free to do what we wanted, but after that we couldn’t use any copyrighted material from the movies. We now have a special forces team – more details on them can be found on the Alien War website.

IGPNicki: I read that you occasionally throw in a predator just to keep your marines (and guests) in check. Can we expect that this time around?
GG: We used to do that on special occasions in the past to keep everyone on their toes,  including the public, so in effect we were the first to actually do Alien V Predator before the movies came out!

IGPNicki: Who designs the sets and props that you use in Alien War?
GG: That is my good friend and co creator John Gorman who is amazing at set dressing and design and has worked not only on Alien War but on a lot of top movies at Pinewood and Shepperton film studios.

IGPNicki: Will you be bringing Alien War back to London next year?
GG: We want to bring “The War” back to London next year as it will be the 20th Anniversary as we opened back in 1993, but we still are looking for a good venue in central London.

IGPNicki: Any plans to bring the Alien Wars attraction to the U.S.? How about the Science Fiction Museum here in Seattle?
GG: We would love to come to the USA with our new show or with the official Fox one but it needs backing and location, your suggestion of the Science Museum in Seattle sounds great, get them to get in touch!

IGPNicki: Any last words?
GG: At Alien War, everyone will hear you scream…

If you happen to be in the UK be sure to check out Alien War currently at The Arches in Glasgow until 14th April 2013