In the late ‘70s, when a young Ridley Scott only had a few films under his belt and was a hungry director-for-hire, 20th Century Fox recruited him to helm Alien, a haunted house movie set in space. Scott could’ve phoned in a B-movie with some cheap thrills and cashed an easy paycheck, but he went above and beyond and delivered a timeless classic of both science fiction and horror cinema.
Years later, James Cameron did the same with the sequel, Aliens. And then a few more Alien movies got made. So, here are 10 Terrifying Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Alien Franchise.
10 James Cameron first took Aliens as a writing assignment
When James Cameron was prepping The Terminator, he found the ideal casting for T-800 in Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, due to scheduling conflicts, filming The Terminator had to be delayed until Schwarzenegger was free. In the meantime, Cameron still wanted to work, so he took on two writing assignments: a sequel to First Blood, which became Rambo: First Blood Part II, and a sequel to Alien, which became Aliens. He ended up directing Aliens, but he initially had a tough time winning over the British crew, who had been undyingly loyal to Ridley Scott, with whom they made the first one.
9 No one hates Alien 3 more than David Fincher
On paper, David Fincher would sound like the perfect choice for an Alien movie, because he has an engaging visual style and regularly makes masterpieces out of dark subject matter. And if he had been given more creative control, he could’ve given us a spectacular Alien sequel. But when Fox hired him to direct Alien 3, he didn’t have any feature films to his name and the studio just wanted him to execute their vision, which changed a lot throughout production. Fincher has since disowned the film and has stated that no one hates the threequel more than he does.
8 The blue lights in the egg chamber were borrowed from The Who
When the crew of the Nostromo arrives at the chamber filled with xenomorph eggs in the first Alien film, there’s an intriguing blue glow permeating throughout the set. This was achieved by using blue laser lights that were borrowed from the legendary rock band, the Who. The band was testing out various lighting effects for their then-upcoming tour on the sound stage next door to the one where Alien was being shot. A couple of crew members went over to ask the Who if they could borrow their blue laser lights, the band complied, and the egg chamber got its now-iconic look.
7 Bill Paxton improvised his “Game over, man!” speech
Bill Paxton claims that he improvised a lot of his dialogue in Aliens, including his character’s famous “Game over, man! Game over!” speech. (The speech is so famous that the Workaholics team used it as the title of their pastiche of Die Hard, which was an odd choice, but an indication of the quote’s iconic status.)
Before his untimely passing in 2017, Paxton was one of James Cameron’s most frequent collaborators, appearing in The Terminator, True Lies, and Titanic as well as Aliens. Still, his role in Aliens will probably always be his most famous, and it’s partly thanks to that quote.
6 Prometheus’ score is played backward
Composer Marc Streitenfeld did something a little different with his score for Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s indirect prequel to the original Alien film. He wrote all the tracks, then had the orchestra play them all backward for the recording, then reversed those recordings to make the tracks play as written. This gave the music an unsettling feel that Streitenfeld figured would be appropriate for the movie. Say what you will about Prometheus, which disappointed some Alien fans, but its score does set the right atmosphere for what it is: an ominous exploration of the man-playing-God mistakes that led to the xenomorph’s creation.
5 A German Shepherd was used to get Jones the cat to hiss
In Alien, when the xenomorph descends upon Jones the cat, Jones backs away and hisses at it. However, the cat’s handlers couldn’t get it to hiss at the xenomorph itself. So, they brought in a German Shepherd dog and placed a darkened screen between the two. The cat couldn’t see the dog and the dog couldn’t see the cat. Then, to get the cat’s reaction for when the alien came down, they pulled the screen out of the way, revealing the cat and the dog to each other. This caused the cat to stop in its tracks and start hissing.
4 Daniels’ hair in Alien: Covenant is inspired by Ezra Miller’s Fantastic Beasts wig
In order to lobby for the lead role of Daniels in Alien: Covenant, Katherine Waterston had to produce an audition tape on the set of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Her Fantastic Beasts co-star Ezra Miller helped her out with making the video, and even lent her the wig he’d been wearing to play his Fantastic Beasts character, Credence.
Ridley Scott was struck by Waterston’s performance in the video, so much so that he ended up casting her, but he also felt that the hair added to her take on the character. So, this hairstyle was incorporated into the film, modeled after Ezra Miller’s wig from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
3 Aliens’ queen puppet was too big to fit in the elevator
In Aliens’ climactic sequence, the xenomorph queen gets into an elevator and travels up to the roof to confront Ripley and Newt. However, when it came to shooting the scene, the full-size alien queen puppet that the production was using didn’t fit in the elevator. When we see the queen emerging from the elevator in the movie, her tail has been removed and the whole back of the elevator has been popped out to fit her in there. In order to cover up the fact that the elevator’s back panel was gone, the crew had to add smoke effects, dark lighting, and a black curtain.
2 Originally, Newt was the star of Alien: Resurrection
Despite how badly it turned out, Alien: Resurrection boasts a writing credit from Joss Whedon. Whedon was brought on due to his experience writing an action-oriented narrative with a young heroine: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is because Alien: Resurrection was supposed to have a young heroine. In its original form, Newt was the character who was cloned, and the clone would have advanced fighting skills. The studio worried that the Alien fan base wouldn’t watch a sequel without Ripley in it, so they changed the story to feature a cloned Ripley instead. It’s interesting to think about how it would’ve turned out with a cloned Newt in the lead.
1 Alien’s chest-bursting scene was shot in one take
Arguably the most pivotal scene in Alien is when the baby xenomorph tears itself through John Hurt’s chest. The scene was shot in just one take, with four cameras set up around Hurt. It’s one of the most iconic moments in the history of sci-fi cinema, and in terms of the plot, it’s the midpoint or point of no return. Once the xenomorph is out, there’s no turning back for the crew of the Nostromo. They’re picked off one-by-one by the alien, which grows to full size rapidly until Ripley – the sole survivor – confronts it and blows it out into space.