Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ was published almost forty years ago, and the rest is science fiction history. You probably know all the behind-the-scenes stories and have memorized the IMDB trivia pages if you are a die-hard ‘Alien’ fan.
The franchise’s great success is due to the degree of dedication shown by the fans. You are probably aware that James Cameron took ‘Aliens’ on as a writing project and ended up directing it, and that Joss Whedon despises ‘Aliens: Resurrection.’
The Alien universe has spawned a slew of books, documentaries, and crossovers throughout the years. After losing his job due to the cancellation of ‘Dune,’ Dan O’Bannon became homeless and moved in with his buddy Ronald Shusett, with whom he co-wrote the story for ‘Alien.’
Ridley Scott, a rookie director at the time, was called in to direct the film when it was sold to Brandywine. Years after the original, James Cameron expressed an interest in continuing the plot and gave us one of the most worthwhile sequels in film history. There have been two sequels, two prequels, and crossovers since then. The ‘Alien’ films are well-known, therefore we have compiled a list of twelve facts about them that you may not be aware of.
The Alien Was Originally Translucent
The Alien creature in the movie was originally envisioned to have semi-transparent skin. H.R. Giger was instructed to build translucent skin for the creature. The idea was
that the internal organs, blood, and skeleton should be visible. Giger was an expert in the biomechanical style of art, and he wanted to create the Alien creature like he made his biomechanics.
However, due to the shortage of time and the dates for the shooting closing in, it couldn’t be achieved. Special ovens were created for the plastic material, but it wasn’t able to provide enough transparency to make the person behind it visible. Giger wanted Bolaji Badejo, the actor behind the alien costume to be seen writhing like a spider thing inside the translucent suit.
Numerous transparent costumes had been produced but the material tore easily and wasn’t resistant enough. All the hard work however didn’t go to waste, and the die-hard fans of the franchise would notice that the Queen had translucent teeth.
Ultimately the movie was shot with a suit where the creature had darker skin. Even though we couldn’t see the vision achieved in the earlier movies, the Hammerpede creature in Prometheus did have translucent skin.
Thanks to the efforts of Ivor Powell, some rejected costume parts from the film were saved from being dumped in the garbage. The latex parts were made using plastic molds and they have survived over the years by staying in a bag. Pictures of the artifacts were shared by Dennis Lowe in 2012, and the corrosion of the organic materials could be spotted in the pictures.
Alien Movie Was Originally Titled ‘Star Beast’
Did you know that the original script of ‘Alien’ was titled ‘Star Beast’? For a film being pitched as ‘Jaws’ but in space, the title doesn’t come off predatory enough. Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett played around with the idea of Gremlins infiltrating a bomber during the Second World War and shifting the battle to a spaceship in the second half of the story.
A lot of changes were made in the final script but a lot was retained from the first draft. O’Bannon and Shusett wrote the story under the working title of ‘Star Beast’, but O’Bannon didn’t like how often the word was popping up in the script. They ended up settling for the title ‘Alien’, as it was simpler.
They started pitching the script to studios before they finished the script and got a better deal from their friend than Roger Corman’s studio. At that time, Brandywine was a new production house started by Gordon Caroll, David Giler, and Walter Hill and it had ties with the 20th-century fox.
The new producers didn’t have much expertise in science fiction but they weren’t satisfied with the initial script. The number of revisions and re-writings created a rift between O’Bannon and Brandywine.
It is common practice to pay homage to the films that inspired you, and according to O’Bannon, he had stolen ideas from all the science fiction films out there. ‘The Thing from another world’, ‘Forbidden Planet’, ‘Planet of the Vampires’ and ‘Junkyard’ have inspired various aspects of the story and one can see it throughout the film.
Much Of The Design Work Came From A Failed Adaptation Of ‘Dune’
Props from one set often end up being recycled in another, and quite a lot was recycled in the sets of the Alien franchise. In fact, the blue laser lights used in the scene where the Nostromo Crew arrives at the chamber full of xenomorph eggs were borrowed from ‘The Who’. After Alejandro Jodorowsky fell in love with the story of ‘Dune’, like any other filmmaker he wanted to adapt it for the big screens.
Naturally, he hired the best from the talent pool, and H.R. Giger and Moebius were part of the concept art team. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ didn’t get made at that time, but the props ended up being used in other science fiction movies including David Lunch’s ‘Dune’ in 1984, ‘Star Wars, and ‘Alien’.
Dan O’Bannon was the visual effects supervisor for the scrapped project. And when the movie never got made, he ended up broke and homeless. This led to him crashing with his friend from film school, and they ended up working together to write the story of ‘Alien’. As H.R. Giger was hired to work on the sets of ‘Alien’ as well, the design work for ‘Dune’ came in handy while creating the design for ‘Alien’.
The Actor Who Played The Alien Was Found In A Bar
We have all heard stories about how some actors are discovered in cafes and bars, and Bolaji Badejo was no exception. Ridley Scott wanted an actor or stuntman to don the Alien costume and he was on the lookout for someone tall and thin to make it work.
He even considered Peter Mayhew, the man behind the Chewbacca costume for the titular role. The lengthy casting process was wearing out Peter Adam until he came across Bolaji Badejo in a pub.
After a meeting with Ridley Scott, the director settled on the Nigerian actor as the perfect fit for the role. It isn’t easy to play a character who’s veiled by a costume all the time, and the opportunity didn’t come without its challenges.
Bolaji couldn’t see or hear very well in the costume and it also made it difficult for him to sit at times. He did have fun performing all the stunts on set but sadly it was the last time he acted. He didn’t need any dialogues to scare the audience. The actor passed away in 1922, at the young age of 39 as he was suffering from sickle cell disease.
Ripley Wasn’t Originally Considered A Female Character
Ellen Ripley and the xenomorphs are practically synonymous with the Alien franchise but her character was originally known by the name of Martin Roby, a man who’s cautious but intelligent, and a survivor. Most of the characters were unisex and could be easily played by actors of either gender. It was Alan Ladd who came up with the idea that Ripley should be a woman.
At that time, casting a female lead in a science fiction movie was unheard of, and the roles of the female characters were mostly damsels in distress. Watching a female character dominate the screen as she defeats extraterrestrial creatures was quite refreshing to watch.
Not much was changed when Ellen Ripley’s character was rewritten. She was still the hero and the ultimate survivor, a trope usually played by male characters in the sci-fi survivor horror genre at that time. Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of the character was so strong that the sequel earned her an academy award nomination.
Her character is so popular with the fans that the producers don’t feel comfortable creating a sequel without her. In the third part of ‘Aliens’, it was Newt’s character who was going to be resurrected as a clone, and Joss Whedon was hired to write her character. But the producers didn’t want to risk a sequel without Ripley’s character and the script was rewritten with her as the lead.
The Practical Effects In ‘Alien’ Featured Real Guts
Great Directors will go to extreme lengths to achieve perfection, and Ridley Scott was no exception. While some directors encourage method acting, Scott takes it to a different level. The scene where Kane dies is probably attached to your memory like it was yesterday and there’s a good reason why.
The crew was enjoying their meal before they headed back to their cryogenic sleep, and they were blissfully unaware of the fact that an alien organism had hatched onto Kane and wanted to use him as a host to lay its eggs. Kane began to convulse as the alien fetus ripped out of his chest.
The practical effects required Hurt to stick his head, shoulders, and arms through a hole in the table, and it was linked to a mechanical torso to create the effect of the alien exiting his body. In order to get genuine reactions from his actors, he didn’t warn anyone of the real blood and guts he was going to use for the scene. And that was effective in generating disgust and terror amongst the actors.
In fact, it terrorized the actors so much that Kotto returned home still shocked, locked himself in his room, and refused to talk to anyone for several hours.
Scott’s methods aren’t that crazy if you compare it to how Tim Burton trained squirrels to attack an actress on the sets of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory, or Francis Ford Coppola pushing his actors so hard that Martin Sheen ended up having a heart attack on the sets of ‘Apocalypse’. No wonder ‘Alien’ is one of the most iconic Science Fiction movies to blend with the horror genre.
The Alien Was Supposed To Die In The Finale
Have you ever wondered why the Xenomorphs hadn’t already conquered the universe by the end of the first movie? It’s because the aliens were supposed to have a short life span and they were supposed to die by the end of the movie.
The life cycle of the Xenomorph hadn’t been developed during the course of the first film. Scott envisioned the creatures with a limited life span, and the creature’s method of reproduction was explained when Dallas and Brett were being morphed into eggs.
Even when the first film was being shot, the concept of the Alien Queen hadn’t come up yet. In the end, before Ripley attacked the alien, the creature was slowly dying after laying the eggs. What now comes off as a lazy moment for the creature, was supposed to be the scene where he dies. But thankfully it didn’t, otherwise, we wouldn’t have the sequels.
‘Alien: Resurrection’ Originally Followed A Clone Of Newt
We have already mentioned that originally, it was Newt’s character who was going to be resurrected but it was changed as the producers weren’t confident about making an Alien sequel without Ellen Ripley. Sigourney Weaver wasn’t interested in reprising her role and she made sure of that as her character had died in the finale.
Initially, the producers wanted to keep the franchise going without her presence. They even hired Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fame to write a young strong female character with Newt’s character in mind.
They were impressed with what he had written so far but as the dates approached the producers started developing cold feet. They didn’t want to risk losing the audience over Ripley’s absence and Joss was made to rewrite the story with her in mind. The actress had already made up her mind to part with the franchise but the producers were adamant to get her back. Ultimately, a large paycheck and promise of more creative control managed to convince her to reprise her iconic role.
Aliens’ Queen Puppet Was Too Big To Fit In The Elevator
Those with a keen eye for continuity errors probably noticed that the Queen no longer had her tail and the back of the elevator had disappeared during the climax in ‘Aliens’ after she used the elevator to get to the roof. The Queen’s tail and the back of the elevator went missing as the puppet being used for the Alien Queen was too big to fit into the elevator.
The elevator, as well as parts of the puppet, had to be taken off to continue shooting the scene. If you’re wondering why you didn’t notice the back of the elevator missing, it’s because the crew had covered it up with the use of black curtains, dark lighting, and smoke effects. Shooting scenes with gigantic puppets doesn’t come without its challenges.
Resurrection’s Impossible Basketball Shot Was For Real
If you assumed that the scene where Ripley 8 managed to sink a basketball with her back turned while walking away was edited, you thought wrong. Ron Perlman was as impressed as you are right now and he had almost ruined the shot with his reaction as he was blown away.
Ripley 8, the alien/human hybrid didn’t have the demons of Ripley the human and that made her more lively and cheerful. The scene wasn’t a happy accident though, Weaver had worked really hard to train for the scene and it helped her pull it off in the first take. It’s no wonder that one cannot think of the Alien franchise without her character.
A German Shepherd Was Used To Get Jones The Cat To Hiss
Did Jones’s hiss scare you off during the scene where Ripley has a nightmare after waking up from the cryogenic sleep? It’s already a difficult task to manage human actors, so one can imagine the difficulty behind getting the reaction you want from an animal. Jones was played by four identical cats and the handlers were having to get the cat to hiss.
To get the reaction they wanted from the cat, they had to bring in a German Shepard. They hid the dog behind a darkened screen and removed it when they needed Jones to hiss at the alien coming out of Ripley. The hissing wasn’t the only obstacle of that scene, Weaver had started to think she was having an allergic reaction to cat fur, but the culprit turned out to be the glycerin used to get the sweaty effect on her skin.
Ripley’s Nosebleed Came From A Deleted Scene
Going back to the topic of continuity errors, let’s talk about the mystery of Ripley’s nose bleed in ‘Alien’ in the scene where Ash tries to kill her. The nosebleed was a result of a fight with the alien, but the scene was deleted from the final cut, and most of the scene wasn’t even filmed. After Dallas’s disappearance, there was supposed to be a scene with Ripley, Mother, and Parker near an airlock, where the creature was spotted.
They were going to use flashlights to lure the creature into the airlock but the sound of an alarm causes the creature to jump in panic. The creature starts to bleed concentrated acid as it ended up with a wound while panicking, and the acidic blood creates a hole in the airlock, causing the ship to depressurize. The lack of breathable air makes the rest of the crew bleed from their ears and noses.
The fight between Ripley and Ash was supposed to follow this scene, where they fail to blast off the creature into space. You truly are a dedicated fan of the Alien franchise if you were already aware of the 12 facts mentioned here. Let us know of the behind-the-scenes trivia you can add to the list.