Aaron: Did you ever follow the series after Aliens? Did you watch the other ones?
I have to admit that I haven’t because I felt the first two were so masterful and I had friends, especially the special effects guys. They went to see everything and a lot of them were friends of mine and they reported back that the other ones just didn’t hold up and I just thought I don’t want to be disappointed because to me they’re two extremely separate films. The Alien and Aliens are linked in concept but they’re so very different and they’re both masterpieces. I felt that Jim had really created a masterpiece and I didn’t want to be disappointed after that. When people come to cons missing which is your favorite of all of them and I said “Well I’ve only seen two”. I can’t really answer your question accurately.
Aaron: I’m sure there’s probably a fair few people who wish they could say that they’ve not experienced the other ones. So, speaking of cons then, you’re pretty active on the convention scene appearing alongside some of your Aliens co-stars quite frequently?
Oddly enough it’s hasn’t been that frequently because I was the missing Alien. I was the missing sort of cast member for quite a few years because I had left LA and I had left acting and I started a new life and I was discovered very late and sent to this agent that books the cons. I didn’t think there would be any call for me to go and one of the first ones I did was Dragon Con in Atlanta and I was sitting on a booth with people from Star Wars and a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and these wonderful other actors. On the very first day, this group of people comes up to me and they’re all dressed like me, my character in the film and they said “Cynthia Scott, do you have any idea how long we’ve been waiting for you!”
I said “But here is the guy from Star Wars and this is the guy from another Star Wars in the Royal Shakespeare Company and all these illustrious people”. They said “No, no we’re here to see you” and they came every single day and this was not long after 9/11 and when they still had a lot of problems with flying and they had made smart guns. These long articulated smart guns and I said how on earth did you get those on the plane and they said “We didn’t. We drove down from Canada, just to get your signature” and a couple of guys that came from the UK to get my signature. I was so not off-center and moved and touched but there was this second life of the film and people really cared about us.
It was very moving but I didn’t do that many at first. It’s the last couple of years, it’s been about one a year but I haven’t really done that many. The really gigantic one, the best one was Comicpalooza in Houston two years ago because it was the largest assembly of cast members ever including Vancouver. I mean it’s the largest ever. Almost everybody made it and I hadn’t seen Sigourney, hadn’t seen Paul Reiser.
I hadn’t seen Paxton in a while. I bumped into him a couple times in LA. We did traffic school together as we got violations but I hadn’t seen Bill Hope in a long time since I’d left the UK. It was just so wonderful to see everybody again and our crew like the space troopers went out to dinner together a couple nights in a row and had a blast and of course that was almost the last time we saw Paxton.
The only other time was also when I was in Houston. All my friends in the booth next to me are getting these text messages or emails from Jim Cameron’s office and they’re all being invited to a special 30th anniversary private dinner at Comic-Con in San Diego. I talked to my agent and they were thrilled how to get in touch with me so I went to the dinner as well. We had a fabulous very private dinner at Nobu at San Diego Comic-Con and I got to meet everybody’s kids like Jim and Gale and their daughter and Paul Reiser and his son. It was just really fun and that’s the last time that we were together with Paxton before he passed and I’m grateful for those times.
Aaron: The film enjoys a really active afterlife even now in terms of fandom and in terms of you guys getting together at events and stuff like that so it’s still very much active and loved and you guys all are as well.
It’s very true and we say this to each other like when we’re going to do a con – “Oh I wonder who’s going cuz we can’t wait to see each other” and it’s actually a happy event. I mean working on some films like it’s like I never want to be with that person again as long as I live. There’s some really horrible egos and acting out in that industry and we all genuinely like each other. It’s fun to catch up with because everybody has side projects and it’s like so what are you up to and how are your kids.
It’s really fun but we don’t all do cons together quite often and in fact this one that we just did recently it was the only opportunity that people in this part of California had gotten to see any of us because people can’t travel to the big cities and the person who runs the con specifically said “I want people that that we haven’t gotten to see. I want the people that don’t do all the cons.” So, it was Ricco and Carrie Henn and her brother Christopher and myself and we have different stories to tell.
Aaron: Speaking of the film’s legacy, and more specifically your legacy… I don’t know if you’re aware but Dietrich’s recently appeared in a couple of short stories in an Alien Anthology book called Bug Hunt.
I’ve got to look it up because they rarely get my likeness correctly. I mean maybe they’re just reinventing me but right at the beginning for the first few years after the film came out, all these people were kind of clustering around and trying to get merchandise opportunities. They would make prototypes and pitch them to 20th Century Fox and try to get permission to make these little things that would be sold at cons and whatever and one of the first ones that was shown was a tiny miniature kit of each one of us. It’s like how you get an airplane kit or something and it’s all taken apart and I was all in pieces.
It’s like a little head and little arms and something you would put together yourself and paint and my head was literally an eighth of an inch tall and it looked exactly like me. It was extraordinary and he gave me the little prototype and I still haven’t put it together anything. I like seeing it all in pieces. I was so impressed by that and for the first few years Fox would contact us for our permission to use our likeness because people wanted to put us in a video game or something. A product. I would have thought a book we’d need our permission too but that hasn’t happened a lot of times. I guess either the copyrights belong to Fox or to Jim or they don’t even exist anymore.
Aaron: It was a novel rather than a comic so it was all words.
Well I’m so glad that they gave me life. That’s very heartening to hear.
Aaron: So, we’ve heard some pretty cool stories around Aliens’ production. Blasting holes in the set or the roof of the APC falling on Jim, on everybody. I was wondering other than what we’ve maybe mentioned already, was there any other specific vivid memories that you had from your time on Aliens that always come back to you when you think this period in your life.
There were so many. Well you asked if I had a regret or if there’s anything that’s shot of me that were not included. One is the scene when we’re eating breakfast and the arcturian poontang and the knife on the hand and the corn bread and stuff and we were ad-libbing and we were cutting up like a crew would do. Marines together joshing each other on the breakfast table but some of us weren’t miked.
I could see my mouth moving and nothing’s coming out because it was very naturalistic and it wouldn’t have drowned out the actual dialogue that was scripted but it would have added to the background ambience, the full feeling of what that scene was like. That scene was lots of fun and of course as an artist I’m always interested in every detail and the food that they were serving us looked like it was from outer space. They went to some oriental Dim Sum shops and so it’d be this translucent rice paper with shrimp showing through it but they would find these jellied sweets and really strange looking things that look like they were outer-space food. They had like an automat thing on the side of the set where you could go pick what you wanted and they were really fun weird-looking food items.
I loved all the detail. I really enjoyed the attention to detail. I think one of the reasons we shot at Pinewood is that the British art departments I think were the best in the world at that time. They may still be. They were phenomenal and I’ve talked about this in the past but when we were in the operations lab and you just sort of idly opened a drawer. In the drawer would be items that the colonists would have used. There’d be like a shopping list from the PX.
I mean every single detail reinforced our performance and the artistry of that is truly mind-blowing. People say why do you think [the film] has stood the test of time when so many science fiction films haven’t. They look dated and it’s partially because Jim created a human film. A human interest film. We were real characters. We were really interacting with each other. You as an audience are interested in us and how we interact in who are we and how do we feel and through time there will always be human interaction and groups of people who perform together in life-and-death situations and bonds. That’s one reason and the other reason is that everything you see on the screen really existed in life and that gives a verisimilitude that you perceive as an audience.
They’re not pretending they’re frightened in front of a green screen. When I do the sweep of the wall behind me and say maybe they don’t show up on infrared at all, the Alien is already there in the bar relief of that wall and the audience sees and I don’t see him emerge from that wall. I’ve just looked him in the face and not realized it because he’s just part of the in crustacean that’s the wall but all of that was made by human hands. It’s mind-blowing. It was huge. It was a massive installation art project.
I just had another memory. You asked me what I did in the break and of course as soon as we were cast in Aliens, Jeanette and I had no problems getting agents so my agent sent me out for Little Shop of Horrors – the remake and I was cast in it and it would have shot during my break. My part of it would have shot during the break. It would have would have neatly fit into the break and my agent said “You can’t do it because just in case Aliens’ filming goes over a week, the other film then you’re in breach of contract and you can’t take that chance. It would have been really cool to like do two movies at one. It’s my first like right out of the box.
Aaron: That’s actually all of my questions. I did have just a couple of specific ones from members of our community. So first off Weyland would just like to know earlier on in the production, during your boot camp, during your preparations did you receive any sort of special and medical training since Dietrich was the medic. I know that’s not really played into the film too much but was that something that they prepared you with?
That’s a really good question and I did not. It turns out that I never was required to actually do anything medical because when we shoot the scene with Newt when she’s still dirty and I examined her and I gave a little report of her condition to the lieutenant. As the scene opens, I’m closing up my case like I’ve already done the examination.
I’m actually closing everything back up so I never really had to look realistic taking blood pressure or temperature or anything so I did not receive any medical training. I was given some of the lines that have to do with quasi scientific elements like when Hicks breaks off a piece of resin and he goes “What is this stuff?” And I say “Looks like some sort of secreted resin” and Apone says “Don’t nobody touch nothing.” I mean I get the scientific line because I’m supposed to be a para-scientist. Although Bishop seemed to be much more scientifically aware than I was. He was doing all the dissection.
Aaron: You are front and centre during the film’s only genuine Chestburster sequence. I know we talked a little bit about grabbing her out of the resin and another community member, The Cruentus, would like to know what it was like filming that chestburst?
It was I’m afraid to say anticlimactic because I knew the stunt woman who was the cocooned woman and she was also cast if anyone remembers this film. It was Castaway I think but not the one that Tom Hanks was in. It was much earlier. It was a true story of a British woman who answered an advert. She was bored with her life and she answered an advert to go off with a bloke to a South Sea Island. An unoccupied Island.
She thought it’d be an adventure and she ended up almost starving to death and Barbara Coles was the double for Amanda Donahoe when she was losing weight because Barbara was very thin. That’s why she was the cocooned woman so she was in place and I lift up her head and she speaks to me and then they replace her with a dummy Barbara with an open chest and the animatronic eel-like creature that pops out. So it’s step A and step B so there was no transition for me to watch. It was out and moving around when I turned on the flamethrower.
Aaron: I’d like to thank you just one last time for taking the time to come and talk to me today. I really appreciate it and I’ve really enjoyed this.
I would like to say for anyone who hasn’t been able to see us in person and people say “Oh why don’t you come to Ireland and why don’t you come to France” and it’s sort of like Kevin Costner with Field of Dreams. If you invite us, we will come so you sort of have to lobby your Con people. I know there are several different ones and find one that would like to see us and that’s my little advertisement for the day.
Aaron: That’s all done through Cool Water was it?
That’s my agent but Jeanette has a different one. Ricco and Carrie and Christopher and I with Cool Waters and then I think Mark and Jeanette might be with the same one. There are a couple different agents that handle our bookings but I think we’re easy to find.
Aaron: Speaking of where to find you. For any of our listeners that are interested in searching you out online, do you want to tell folk where they can find you online?
Yes, I will say I’m sadly behind catching up my website. I’m not bragging but I’ve had so many exhibitions the last two years that I haven’t had time to upload the latest work but I have my artwork on cynthiascott2000.com. My Twitter handle is @Creativiste and that’s how most Aliens fans have found me.
This has been Aaron Percival and Cynthia Scott, signing off.