Posted by Darkness on December 10, 2006 (Updated: 24-Jan-2010)
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Below you’ll find trivia for the film.
- The genesis of the film arose out of Dan O’Bannon’s dissatisfaction with his first feature, Dark Star which John Carpenter directed in 1974. Because of that film’s severe low budget, the alien was quite patently a beach ball. For his second attempt, O’Bannon wanted to craft an altogether more convincing specimen. The goofiness of Dark Star also led him in the direction of an intense horror movie.
- Originally to be directed by Walter Hill, but he pulled out and gave the job to Ridley Scott.
- Potential directors, who either were considered by the studio or wanted to direct, included Robert Aldrich, Peter Yates, Jack Clayton, Dan O’Bannon and Walter Hill.
- All of the names of the main characters were changed by Walter Hill and David Giler during the revision of the original script by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The script by O’Bannon and Shusett also had a clause indicating that all of the characters are “unisex”, meaning they could be cast with male or female actors. However, Shusett and O’Bannon never thought of casting Ripley as a female character.
- The alien’s habit of laying eggs in the stomach (which then burst out) was inspired by spider wasps, which are said to lay their eggs “in the abdomen of spiders.” This image gave Dan O’Bannon nightmares, which he used to create the story. But spider wasps (pompilidae) lay eggs on their prey, not inside them, after which the wasp maggots simply snack on the sting-paralyzed spiders. O’Bannon may instead have been thinking of either ichneumon wasps or braconid wasps. The ichneumon drills a single egg into a wood-boring beetle larva, whereas braconids inject eggs inside certain caterpillars. Both result in fatal hatch-outs more alike to O’Bannon’s alien.
- It was concept artist ‘Ron Cobb’ who came up with the idea that the alien should bleed acid.
- The stylized artwork that Ridley Scott used to create the storyboards that got Fox to double the budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million were inspired by the artwork of famed comic book artist Mobius.
- The character of Ash did not appear in Dan O’Bannon’s original script.
- The writing partnership between Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett came about when Shusett approached O’Bannon about helping him adapt a Philip K. Dick story that he had acquired the rights to. That was “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” which later became Total Recall. O’Bannon then said that he had an idea that he was stuck on about an alien aboard a spaceship and that he needed some assistance. Shusett agreed to help out and they tackled the alien movie first as they felt it would have been the cheaper of the two to make.
- The original title was “Star Beast”.
- Walter Hill and David Giler’s contribution to the script was to make Ash a robot.
- Ridley Scott was keen to take on the project as the one that he had been previously working on at Paramount, Tristan + Isolde, was stuck in development hell.
- A sex scene between Dallas and Ripley was in the script, but was not filmed.
- Originally, no film companies wanted to make this film, 20th Century-Fox had even passed on it. They stated various reasons, most being that it was too bloody. The only producer who wanted to make the film was Roger Corman, and it was not until Walter Hill came on board that it all changed. 20th Century-Fox agreed to make the film as long as the violence was toned down; even after that they still rejected the first cut for being “too bloody”.
- Many producers have professional “readers” that read and summarize scripts for them. The reader in this case summarized it as “It’s like Jaws, but in space.”
- It took around 11 weeks to build the sets for the film.
- Much of the dialogue was developed through improvisation.
- To get Jones the cat to react fearfully, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him.
- Dallas’ pursuit of the alien down the ventilator shafts, and the intercut scenes of the rest of the crew urging him on, was shot in one day.
- For the awakening from hypersleep segment, Veronica Cartwright and Sigourney Weaver had to wear white surgical tape over their nipples so as not to offend certain countries.
- Ridley Scott did all the hand-held camera-work himself.
- Ash’s blood is colored water. Milk was not used as it would have gotten very smelly very quickly under the hot studio lights. Milk was used though for the close-up of his innards, along with pasta and glass marbles.
- The spacesuits worn by Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Veronica Cartwright were huge, bulky items lined with nylon and with no outlets for breath or condensation. As the actors were working under hot studio lights in conditions in excess of 100 degrees, they spent most of their time passing out. A nurse had to be on hand at all times to keep supplying them with oxygen. It was only after Ridley Scott’s and cinematographer Derek Vanlint’s children were used in the suits for long-shots and they passed out too, that some modifications were made to the costumes.
- At the start of production, Ridley Scott had to contend with 9 producers being onset at all times, querying the length of time he was taking over each shot.
- Due to the pressure put on Ridley by the producers from Fox-who were saying he wasn’t filming enough – Ridley punched a hole in the roof of one of the sets.
- The first day that she shot a scene involving Jones the cat, Sigourney Weaver’s skin started reacting badly. Horrified, the young actress immediately thought that she might be allergic to cats, and that it would be easier for the production to recast her instead of trying to find 4 more identical cats. As it transpired, Weaver was reacting to glycerin sprayed on her skin to make her look hot and sweaty.
- After the first week of shooting, Dan O’Bannon asked if he could attend the viewing of the dailies, and was somewhat staggered when Gordon Carroll refused him. To get past that ban, ‘Dan O’Bannon’ viewed the dailies by standing beside the projectionist whilst he screened them for everyone else.
- The vapor released from the top of the spacesuit helmets (presumably exhausted air from the breathing apparatus) was actually aerosol sprayed from inside the helmets. In one case, the mechanism broke and started spraying inside the helmet.
- The background sound that is heard in the laboratory where Kane has the face hugger “on”, is heard also in Deckard’s room in Blade Runner.
- For Parker’s death, a fiberglass cast of Yaphet Kotto’s head was made, and then filled with pigs’ brains. The forehead was made of wax so that the alien’s teeth could penetrate it easily. Indeed barbed hooks were fastened to the end of the teeth to make sure it broke the wax surface effectively.
- In an interview for Métal Hurlant, Ridley Scott revealed that to make the action more realistic, the flight deck was wired so that flipping a switch in at one console would trigger lights somewhere else. The cast then developed “work routines” for themselves where one would trip a switch, leading another to respond to the changes at his work station and so on.
- According to Ian Holm, Ash’s head contained spaghetti, cheap caviar and onion rings.
- Ridley Scott is reportedly quoted as saying that originally he wanted a much darker ending. He planned on having the alien bite off Ripley’s head in the escape shuttle, sit in her chair, and then start speaking with her voice in a message to Earth. Apparently, 20th Century Fox wasn’t too pleased with such a dark ending.
- Jerry Goldsmith was most aggrieved by the changes that Ridley Scott and his editor Terry Rawlings wrought upon his score. Scott felt that Goldsmith’s first attempt at the score was far too lush and needed to be a bit more minimalist. Even then, Goldsmith was horrified to discover that his amended score had been dropped in places by Rawlings who inserted segments from Goldsmith’s score to Freud instead. (Rawlings had initially used these as a guide track only, and ended up preferring them to Goldsmith’s revised work.) Goldsmith harbored a grudge against the two right up to his death in 2004.
- While he was working on the visual effects for this film, Brian Johnson was simultaneously working in the same capacity on Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
- The original cut of the film ran 3 hours and 12 minutes.
- Extra scenes filmed but not included, due to pacing problems:
- Ripley finds Dallas and Brett cocooned. Dallas is covered in maggots and begs Ripley to kill him. She does so with a flame thrower.
- Ripley and Lambert discuss whether Ash has sex or not.
- Alternative death scene for Brett: Ripley and Parker come across an alive Brett being lifted from the ground.
- Director Ridley Scott and composer Jerry Goldsmith were at odds with each other on the usage of the original music score. As a result, many crucial cues were either rescored, ill-placed, or deleted altogether, and the intended end title replaced with Howard Hanson’s “Symphony No. 2 (Romantic)”. The original intended score was featured as an isolated track on the now out-of-print 20th Anniversary DVD.
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