Alien fans are some of the most passionate there are, and they willingly devour every piece of behind the scenes info they can find. Throughout the franchise’s four-decade history, there have been numerous making of books and documentaries devoted to the films, pouring over nearly every corner of the series and peeling back the curtain for all to see.
Fans know all the nasty business behind the making of Alien 3 with David Fincher and his falling out with the studio, they know Prometheus started life as a direct Alien prequel, and that Joss Whedon outright hates Alien: Resurrection. There’s been so much written about the movies it’s almost overwhelming, but with a series with so much history and lore, there’s always something new to discover if you look closer.
Be it revelations from various expanded universe stories, original casting choices, abandoned storylines, or fun little easter eggs planted by the filmmakers, there’s lots of info even major Alien fans might not have discovered yet.
With that in mind, let’s explore 15 Cool Alien Series Facts You May Not Know, diving deep into the universe and coming away with some lesser known but fascinating details about the iconic franchise.
The deaths of Hicks and Newt in the opening of Alien 3 is still one of the most controversial decisions in the series, since both characters were fan favorites and it robbed Ripley of her hard-earned victory from the previous movie. Some fans defend the decision as necessary, but it definitely wasn’t a popular twist.
This is why many were eager to see Neill Blomkamp’s proposed Alien 5, which would have (somehow) resurrected both characters and reunited them with Ripley. That movie looks unlikely to move ahead now, but one detail that many seem to overlook is that Hicks has already been resurrected through the canon video game sequel, Colonial Marines.
This poorly received game takes place months after Aliens and reveals that Hicks was awoken from hypersleep before the events of the third movie. He went on to fight with Weyland-Yutani forces, and someone else took his place in the pod. Despite resurrecting an iconic character, the game was so reviled by fans they tend to discount the entire thing, despite 20th Century Fox making its story canonical.
Many fans are confused about Ripley’s mystery nosebleed in Alien during the scene where Ash tries to kill her, mainly because it seems to come on with no obvious cause. This is because the scene was intended to follow a major setpiece that wasn’t filmed, where the crew make a failed effort to blast the creature into space.
The sequence was supposed to take place between Dallas' disappearance and Ripley’s scene with Mother, and featured Parker spotting the creature near an airlock. He contacts Ripley on the bridge and they try to lure it into the airlock with a flashing light. Then an alarm sounds that scares it away, and in a panic, it receives a cut that bleeds acid on the door. This causes a hole that depressurizes the ship, causing the crew to bleed from the nose and ears.
The bridge scenes for this sequence were shot but the rest was left unfilmed, and Ripley’s nosebleed during the Ash fight was supposed to show that she was still suffering aftereffects of the breach. Oddly enough, Ripley having a nosebleed became a recurring theme, with the character receiving one in each of her four franchise outings.
James Cameron is a noted perfectionist, and his attention to detail is legendary. He made sure to study the original Alien closely to make sure his sequel matched it, right down to the smallest details that only hardcore fans would even think to look for.
During the finale of Alien, Ripley blasts the creature with a harpoon gun, sending the beast out into space. The gun gets lodged in the door before it clears the ship, though, forcing Ripley to blast it with the engines.
When recreating the lifepod set for Aliens, Cameron and his crew must have gone over this scene with forensic detail, because if you look closely, when the salvage team is cutting through the door, the harpoon gun can still be seen lodged in it. It’s something most people won’t even notice, but it’s the kind of obsessive feature that made Cameron one of the most important directors in the genre.
Ridley Scott was desperate to keep the title beast from looking like a dude in a rubber suit, and he went to great lengths to film it in unusual ways. Armed with H.R. Giger’s memorable design, he decided he needed an actor or stunt performer with a large, thin frame to portray the creature.
He looked at various mimes and basketball players during development, and he even considered Peter Mayhew, who was fresh off of playing Chewbacca for the first time. He eventually settled on Bolaji Badejo, a six-foot-ten-inch actor who was discovered in a pub. His incredible lean frame is exactly what the crew were looking for, so he was hired to bring the Xenomorph to life.
Badejo admits that he had a hard time playing the role, since he couldn’t see or hear very well, and Scott would often ask him to perform movements that were nearly impossible to pull off with the suit. While he ultimately had fun playing the creature, he never acted again, and he sadly passed away in 1992 at the age of 39.
Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat became popular with western audiences thanks to his work in John Woo movies like The Killer and Hard Boiled. He was cool, he was suave, and he looked great with a gun in each hand and diving over stuff in slow motion.
The actor made a concentrated effort to crack Hollywood in the mid-nineties, starring in action vehicles like The Replacement Killers, The Corruptor, and Bulletproof Monk. During this period, he was also up for a supporting role in Alien: Resurrection during pre-production, playing the role of mercenary Christie.
Christie is another ice cool figure armed with a gun in each hand, but the actor’s manager wasn’t impressed with the size of the role and turned it down on his behalf. Gary Dourdan, meanwhile, took over the part and made Christie into one of the most interesting characters in the film. Unfortunately, none of Yun-Fat’s solo star vehicles clicked with American viewers, and the actor eventually returned to making films in China.
Alien 3 had a famously tortured development cycle, resulting in many different scripts being written. The studio wasn’t sure that they could convince Sigourney Weaver to return for a third onscreen adventure, so they had scripts focusing on Hicks and Newt, or entirely new characters.
Hicks actor Michael Biehn quickly made peace with the fact that he wasn’t in the movie, though he was furious when he learned of a planned dream sequence that would have seen an Alien burst from his dead body. He called his agent and threatened to sue if the scene was shot, so it was scrapped before filming.
He later received a call from the studio asking his permission to use a photo, which was needed because Hicks' body is unrecognizable in the movie. Biehn has noted - with some amusement - that he made more money off of this grainy still than his entire salary for Aliens, where he was a last-minute replacement for another actor (James Remar, who was fired shortly after filming had commenced).
Sigourney Weaver was clearly having a blast playing Ripley 8, who was an alien/human hybrid cloned from the original heroine. This clone character was less haunted than the original character, and she certainly wasn’t opposed to the occasional joke or sassy one-liner.
One of Ripley 8’s most impressive moments comes when The Betty crew find her playing basketball, and after a brief fight where she makes them all look foolish, she manages to sink a basketball as she walks away with her back turned. Naturally, viewers would assume this shot was created with some behind-the-scenes trickery, especially since the ball briefly leaves the frame.
But those folks would be dead wrong, because Weaver trained so much for the scene that she actually managed to pull off the impressive shot in the first take. Actor Ron Perlman got so caught up in the moment that he almost ruined the shot, and his amazed reaction had to be carefully edited around in the final cut.
Michael Biehn wasn't the franchise's only last-minute substitute. While John Hurt was approached for the role of Kane initially, a scheduling conflict with another movie meant that he couldn’t commit to Alien. Ridley Scott instead turned to actor Jon Finch, best known for playing the title role in Roman Polanski’s gory 1971 adaptation of Macbeth.
Finch turned up on set for the first day, and it was immediately clear that all was not well. He sank into his seat and looked sickly throughout filming, and his low energy turn prompted Ridley Scott to ask him if he was okay. It turned out that he was having a diabetic episode, and the actor had to be carried offset and taken to a hospital. The production quickly had to regroup, and it turned out that by this stage, Hurt was available, so he arrived the next day and took over the role.
Kane became one of the late, great actor's most iconic works, and looking back, it’s hard to believe he almost missed out on it.
Joss Whedon’s dislike of Alien: Resurrection is well-known, and despite the film being relatively faithful to his script, he hates almost everything about it. He feels everything from the casting to the direction was way off the mark, and to this day, it remains one of his biggest disappointments.
It wasn’t a total bust, however, because it actually led to one of his biggest triumphs. The crew of The Betty in Resurrection are a ragtag group of mercenaries, surviving on the fringes of deep space by taking dangerous odd jobs. If that description sounds familiar, it’s because this group would provide Whedon with the inspiration for Firefly.
He felt a group of space outlaws was ripe territory for a television series, and in retrospect, he couldn't have been more on-the-money. Each of the two space-faring adventures feature a smooth-talking captain, and Ron Perlman’s dim-witted muscle Johner isn’t too far away from Adam Baldwin’s Jayne. Whedon has acknowledged this influence, but it’s safe to say that the tone of the show was quite different from Resurrection.
Prometheus positively revels in mystery, presenting any number of questions for viewers to ponder but refusing to provide answers for most of them. We still don’t know why The Engineers turned on humanity or what caused the destruction of their base, and it doesn’t appear that future sequels will be filling in the blanks anytime soon.
One thing that’s seemingly undeniable about the film is its Christian subtext, from Shaw’s unshakable belief in God (despite all the evidence to the contrary), her “virgin” alien birth, and the fact it all takes place during Christmas. Ridley Scott has spoken of how he considered including a plot point revealing that Jesus was an Engineer, and that his crucifixion is what caused the Engineers to turn on humanity.
While Space Jesus isn’t mentioned in the film, this explanation still makes sense. In addition to Christian symbolism, it’s noted that the disaster that destroyed the Engineers base happened 2,000 years before, suggesting that the crucifixion had something to do with it. Scott probably kept this vague to avoid controversy, but it does help glue some of the story together.
Sigourney Weaver checked out of the series with Alien 3 and effectively ruled herself out of returning by killing Ripley in the finale. She partly based her design on rumors that Fox was eager to make an Alien Vs Predator crossover, a notion she considered “just awful.”
Fox was eager to keep the franchise going without Weaver in the lead, and they ultimately settled on a concept where the movie centered on a clone of Newt. To that end, they hired Joss Whedon, as his reputation for crafting strong female characters was just started to make its way around Tinseltown. He wrote a thirty-page treatment that impressed the studio, but during development, they got cold feet with the idea of a Ripley-free entry, and asked Whedon to make it about a clone of Ripley instead.
Weaver was lured back by a large check and the promise of creative control, though the change from Newt to Ripley is a decision that never sat well with Whedon. Some references to Newt were shot but deleted, and they were only added back for a DVD director’s cut.
The nightmarish design of the original Alien is down to the genius of artist H.R. Giger, who was hired to build the suit for the film. The original concept for the beast is that it would be albino and translucent initially, allowing viewers to see its internal organs before its skin would gradually harden and turn dark as the story progressed.
Giger undertook a series of tests trying to make this concept work, but after a couple of weeks of prototype suits being built, it was found that the material would often crack. With the film's filming date looming, it was eventually decided to simplify the design, leading to the dark color shown in the movie.
The idea of an albino Xenomorph would be seen again in the series with the Newborn from Alien: Resurrection, and most recently the Neomorph from Alien: Covenant. Giger himself would get to explore the concept of a translucent alien creature with his work on Species.
Ridley Scott believes that if a film is cast correctly, over fifty perfect of the problems are over. He also prefers a hands-off approach with his actors, choosing to focus on the technical side while giving the performers the freedom to figure out the characters on their own.
Since Alien was only his second feature film, Scott was still figuring out how to deal with actors, so when the cast kept coming to him asking about their roles, he just wrote lengthy bios for each of them. These biographies provide a wealth of info on the ragtag Nostromo crew; Ash’s background is understandably vague and bare bones, while Kane is revealed as a drug addict.
The most surprising is Lambert, with her bio revealing that she was born male, but for some reason, her parents chose to change the baby's gender shortly after. Her biography also makes note of her severe anxiety issues and how she avoids risk whenever possible, explaining her rapid breakdown throughout the movie.
The lifecycle of the Xenomorph has been locked down over the course of the series, but it was still being developed throughout the first movie. For example, the concept of an Alien Queen hadn’t been thought of while the film was being shot, and originally, a scene was shot showing Dallas and Brett being morphed into Alien eggs, explaining how the creature reproduced.
In Scott’s mind at the time, the Xenomorph had a very limited lifespan, which explained why it hadn’t already conquered the universe. Originally, it was supposed to start out as albino and gradually darken throughout the film, showing its decay.
This is also the reason the creature appears so sluggish and lackluster in the finale, and why it just sits there watching Ripley instead of attacking. The intention was that the beast was slowly dying after the egg morphing process, and it only springs to life when Ripley attacks. Since the morphing concept was ultimately dropped, the beast just looks kind of lazy now.
It’s a little-known piece of trivia that Meryl Streep was considered for the part of Ripley in Alien, but the producers decided to meet with Weaver first, and the rest is cinematic history. That’s not to say Streep didn’t have an appearance - of sorts - in the series a few years later.
In the opening credits of Alien 3, there’s a brief shot of Ripley with a facehugger latched to her face, and the special effects crew behind the film revealed years later that the prosthetic face actually belonged to Streep. The actress was working on the effects-heavy Death Becomes Her at the time, so the team borrowed a fake head from that film to pull off the quick shot.
It’s impossible to tell in the final movie, since the head is covered by a facehugger, but it’s probably about as close as viewers will get to seeing Streep in an Alien movie. Probably.
What other obscure factoids do you know about the Alien franchise? Let us know in the comments!