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Alien Trivia

Below you’ll find Alien trivia.

Pre-Production

  • 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.”

Production

  • 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.

Post-Production

  • 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.

Afterwards

  • The producers of the 1950s potboiler It! The Terror from Beyond Space considered suing for plagiarism but didn’t.
  • Ridley Scott’s 2003 director’s cut largely came about when over 100 boxes of footage of his 1979 original were discovered in a London vault.
  • Despite releasing a new version of the film titled “Alien: The Director’s Cut”, Ridley Scott wrote in a statement in the film’s packaging that he still feels the original Alien was his perfect vision of the film. The newer version is titled “The Director’s Cut” for marketing purposes, featuring deleted scenes many fans wanted to see incorporated into the film (such as the scene where Lambert and Ripley discuss whether or not they’ve slept with Ash, suggesting there’s something not quite right about Ash).
  • A lawsuit by A.E. van Vogt, claiming plagiarism of his 1939 story “Discord in Scarlet” (which he had also incorporated in the 1950 novel “Voyage of the Space Beagle”), was settled out of court.
  • Ridley Scott cites three films as the shaping influences on his movie: Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey for their depiction of outer space, and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for its treatment of horror.

Other Things

  • The words “Weyland Yutani” (the name of The Company) appear at the bottom of one of the computer screens during the landing sequence (in green).
  • Many of the non-English versions of the film’s title translate as something similar to “Alien: The 8th Passenger”.
  • There is no dialog for the first 6 minutes.
  • The word “fuck” is used five times in the film, four of them by Ripley.
  • The “Company” referred to in the film is Weylan Yutani. It would become Weyland Yutani in James Cameron’s sequel 7 years later.
  • According to a quote from Veronica Cartwright in a film magazine, in the scene where the alien’s tail wraps around her legs, they are actually Harry Dean Stanton’s legs, in a shot originally filmed for another scene entirely.
  • Copywriter Barbara Gips came up with the famed tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Cast

  • According to John Hurt in the DVD Documentary, he was considered at the beginning of casting to play Kane but had already committed to another film that was set to take place in South Africa, so John Finch got the role instead. However, two separate incidents occurred which got Hurt the role. First was the fact that he was banned from South Africa because the country mistook him for actor John Herd who strongly opposed the Apartied (Hurt points out that he was opposed to it too, but was lucky enough not to get blacklisted) so he was unable to do the other film. Second, actor John Finch became seriously ill from diabetes and had to pull out. Ridley Scott immediately contacted Hurt, pitched him the script over a weekend and John Hurt arrived on the set Monday morning with little to no sleep to begin filming.
  • Veronica Cartwright was originally to play Ripley, but producers opted for Sigourney Weaver.
  • Veronica Cartwright only found out that she wasn’t playing the part of Ripley when she was first called in to do some costume tests for the character of Lambert.
  • The character of Lambert was supposed to be the reflection of the audience. She was the one in the film that was expressing all the fears that the audience would have been experiencing.
  • Tom Skerrit wasn’t initially interested in playing a part in Alien until he found out Ridley was involved.
  • The screen test that bagged Sigourney Weaver the role of Ripley was her closing off speech aboard the Nostromo’s shuttle at the end of the film.
  • When casting the role of Ripley, Ridley Scott invited several women from the production office to watch screen tests, and thus gain a female perspective. The women were unanimously impressed with then-unknown actress Sigourney Weaver, whose screen presence they compared to Jane Fonda’s.
  • Ripley was originally a male character called Roby. But it was decided that the lead should be a female, something that was coming about in the movies of the time: “The return of the women”.
  • Bill Paterson turned down a part.
  • Bolaji Badejo beat Peter Mayhew to the part of the alien.
  • Bolaji Badejo who plays the Alien in the movie was a graphic artist who was discovered at a pub by one of the casting directors. Being a Masai he was about 7 feet tall with thin arms – just what they needed to fit into the Alien costume. He was sent for Tai Chi and Mime classes to learn how to slow down his movements. A special swing had to be constructed for him to sit down during filming as he could not sit down on a regular chair once he was suited up because of the Alien’s tail.
  • Yaphet Kotto (Parker) actually picked fights with Bolaji Badejo who played the Alien, in order to help his onscreen hatred of the creature.

H.R. Giger

  • Dan O’Bannon first encountered H.R. Giger’s unique style when the two were briefly working on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ill-fated attempt at making “Dune”.
  • Conceptual artist H.R. Giger’s designs were changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.
  • Conceptual artist H.R. Giger would successfully sue 20th Century Fox 18 years later over his lack of screen credit on Alien: Resurrection.
  • H.R. Giger’s initial designs for the face-hugger were held by US Customs who were alarmed at what they saw. Writer ‘Dan O’Bannon’ had to go to LAX to explain to them that they were designs for a horror movie.
  • Giger removed the eyes from the design for the Alien, because he felt it was scarier not knowing where the Alien was looking.

Alien Designs

  • The front (face) part of the alien costume’s head is made from a cast of a real human skull.
  • During production an attempt was made to make the alien character transparent or at least translucent.
  • Three aliens were made: a model and two suits. One of the suits was for the seven foot tall Masai tribesman Bolaji Badejo, and the other was for a trained stunt man.
  • The models had to be repainted every evening of the shoot because the slime used on-set removed the acrylic paint from their surfaces.
  • Among some of the ingredients of the alien costume are Plasticine and Rolls Royce motor parts.
  • Shredded condoms were used to create tendons of the beast’s ferocious jaws.
  • The face hugger carcass that Ash autopsies was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters and a sheep kidney to recreate the internal organs.
  • The slime used on the Alien was K-Y jelly.

Chestburster Scene

  • The rumor that the cast, except for John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the “chestburster” scene is partly true. The scene had been explained for them, but they did not know specifics. For example, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood.
  • The alien that bursts out of John Hurt’s stomach makes its speedy exit across the dinner table via a hole cut in the table and a crew member on a skateboard underneath attached to a rope. Several other members of the crew then yanked on the rope quickly to make the alien really move.
  • The chestbursting scene was filmed in one take with four cameras.
  • Roger Dicken, who designed and operated the “face hugger” and the “chest burster,” had originally wanted the latter to pull itself out of Kane’s torso with its own little hands, a sequence he felt would have produced a much more horrifying effect than the gratuitous blood and guts in the release print.
  • The shriek that the alien baby makes when it first bursts out of John Hurt’s chest was a combination of a viper, a pig’s squeal and a baby’s cry.
  • For the chestburster sequence, John Hurt stuck his head, shoulders and arms through a hole in the mess table, linking up with a mechanical torso that was packed with compressed air (to create the forceful exit of the alien) and lots of animal guts. The rest of the cast were not told that real guts were being used so as to provoke genuine reactions of shock and disgust.
  • The screech of the alien as it bursts from the stomach of John Hurt was actually voiced by animal impersonator Percy Edwards. He was personally requested by director Ridley Scott to do the sound effect and it was recorded in one take.

Nostromo

  • “Nostromo” is the title of a Joseph Conrad book. The shuttle that Ripley escapes on is called the “Narcissus”, a reference to another Joseph Conrad book. See also Aliens.
  • The vector graphics that appear on Ripley’s screen showing the undocking sequence for the Nostromo were also used for the aircar launch sequence in Blade Runner.
  • Three Nostromos were built for the production: a 12″ version for long shots, a 48″ version for the landing sequence and a seven ton rig for showing the ship at rest on the planet’s surface.
  • The original name for the spaceship was Snark. This was later changed to Leviathan before they finally settled for Nostromo.
  • The Nostromo’s computer is called Mother. In the third sequel, Alien Resurrection, the spaceship’s computer is called Father.
  • Mother’s two 30 second countdowns take 36 and 37 seconds respectively.
  • To simulate the thrust of engines on the Nostromo, Ridley Scott had crew members shake and wobble the seats the actors were sitting in.
  • The Nostromo was built to then-current NASA specifications for spacecraft. Some of the displays from the Nostromo are reused in Blade Runner (1982).
  • The decal on the door of the Nostromo is a “checkerboard square”, the symbol on Purina’s pet food label; it designated Alien Chow.
  • During the opening sequence, as the camera wanders around the corridors of the Nostromo, we can clearly see a Krups coffee grinder mounted to a wall; this is the same model that became the “Mr. Fusion” in Back to the Future (1985).
  • The Nostromo is supposed to be 800 feet long, while the craft she is towing is a mile and a half long.
  • Many of the interior features of the Nostromo came from airplane graveyards.
  • For the alien’s appearance in the shuttle, the set was built around Bolaji Badejo, giving him an effective hiding place. However, extricating himself from the hiding place proved more difficult than anticipated. The alien suit tore several times, and, in one instance, the whole tail came off.
  • The computer screen displaying Nostromo’s orbit around the planet contains a hidden credit to Dr. Brian Wyvill, one of the programmers for the animation. Within the top frame entitled Deorbital Descent, it is possible to isolate the letters “BLOB”, Dr. Brian Wyvill’s common nickname.
  • The grid-like flooring on the Nostromo was achieved using upturned milk crates, painted over.
  • The engines of the Narcissus coming to life was created by having water pour out of showers with strong arc lights around it. This gave the illusion that it was plasma.
  • The engine plasma that blasts the alien away from the shuttle at the end of the movie is actually just tons of water pouring over the camera.

Derelict Spacecraft

  • 20th Century Fox Studios almost did not allow the “space jockey”, or the giant alien pilot, to be in the film. This was because, at the time, props for movies weren’t so large.
  • The blue laser lights that were used in the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who. The band was testing out the lasers for their stage show in the soundstage next door.
  • 130 alien eggs were made for the egg chamber inside the downed spacecraft.
  • The inside of the “eggs” as seen by Kane was composed of real organic material. Director Ridley Scott used cattle hearts and stomachs. The tail of the “face hugger” was sheep intestine.
  • The space jockey prop was 26 feet tall.
  • In the space jockey scene, the three crew members Lambert, Dallas, and Kane are portrayed by Ridley Scott’s two children and another child; this was done to make the model appear larger.
  • The embryonic movements of the “face hugger” (prior to bursting out of its egg) were created by Ridley Scott using both his rubber-gloved hands.
  • A closer look at the alien eggs in the scene right before the facehugger reveals that slime on the eggs is dripping from bottom to top. Ridley Scott did this intentionally by shooting with the camera upside down.