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Alien (1979) Poster

(1979)

Trivia

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To get Jones the cat to react fearfully to the descending Alien, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him with a screen between the two, so the cat wouldn't see it at first, and came over. The screen was then suddenly removed to make Jones stop, and start hissing.
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 instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood.
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.
Shredded condoms were used to create tendons of the beast's ferocious jaws
It was conceptual artist Ron Cobb who came up with the idea that the Alien should bleed acid. This came about when Dan O'Bannon couldn't find a reason why the Nostromo crew just wouldn't shoot the Alien with a gun.
The chestbursting scene was filmed in one take with four cameras.
Ridley Scott cites three films as the shaping influences on his movie: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for their depiction of outer space, and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) (1974) for its treatment of horror.
The inside of the alien eggs as seen by Kane was composed of real organic material. Director Ridley Scott used cattle hearts and stomachs. The tail of the facehugger was sheep intestine.
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. 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.
20th Century Fox doubled the budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million on the strength of seeing Ridley Scott's storyboards.
The front (face) part of the alien costume's head is made from a cast of a real human skull.
The dead facehugger that Ash autopsies was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters and a sheep kidney to recreate the internal organs.
Copywriter Barbara Gips came up with the famed tagline: "In space, no one can hear you scream."
Ridley Scott stated that in casting the role of Ripley, it ultimately came down to Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep. The two actresses had been schoolmates at Yale.
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.
Harrison Ford turned down the role of Captain Dallas.
The creature is never filmed directly facing the camera due to the humanoid features of its face. Ridley Scott, determined at all costs to dispel any notion of a man in a rubber suit, filmed the beast in varying close-up angles of its ghastly profile, very rarely capturing the beast in its entirety.
The original title was "Star Beast".
In H.R. Giger's original illustrations the creature has eyes. For the movie, Giger insisted that the creature have no eyes, thus giving the bleak appearance of a cold and emotionless beast.
According to Yaphet Kotto, Ridley Scott told him to annoy Sigourney Weaver off-camera so that there would be tension between their characters. Kotto regrets this because he really liked Weaver.
The slime used on the Alien was K-Y jelly.
A scene originally cut, but re-inserted for the Director's Cut shows Lambert slapping Ripley in retaliation for Ripley's refusal to let her, Dallas, and Kane back on the ship. According to both Ridley Scott and Veronica Cartwright, every time she went to slap Sigourney Weaver, Sigourney would shy away. After about three or four takes of this, Scott finally told Cartwright "Not to hold back. Really hit her." Thus the very real shocked reactions of Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton.
Many of the interior features of the Nostromo came from airplane graveyards.
Many producers have professional "readers" that read and summarize scripts for them. The reader in this case summarized it as "It's like Jaws (1975), but in space."
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.
The chestbursting scene was considered the second scariest movie moment of all time on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).
The original cut of the film ran 3 hours and 12 minutes.
After the crew awakens from hyper-sleep, the navigator Lambert announces that the ship is "just short of Zeta 2 Reticuli". Zeta Reticuli is a real double-star system about 39 light-years from Earth, and has figured prominently in UFO lore. In the 1960s, Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been abducted by "gray" aliens from Zeta Reticuli.
Ridley Scott did all the hand-held camera-work himself.
Conceptual artist H.R. Giger's designs were changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.
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.
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.
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.
The Nostromo is supposed to be 800 feet long, while the craft she is towing is a mile and a half long.
The Hungarian translation of the title translated back is "The 8th passenger is the Death" and from that on, all 3 other Alien movies had such titles that end with the word "death". Aliens (1986): "The name of the planet: Death"; Alien³ (1992): "Final solution: Death"; Alien: Resurrection (1997): "Reawakens the Death". Furthermore, the alien is referred to as "death" in the Hungarian title of AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004): "The Death against The Predator".
H.R. Giger's initial designs for the facehugger 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. The actual production design of the facehugger used by sculptors to make the real prop was created by Dan O'Bannon himself, as O'Bannon had trained as a designer. (Giger wasn't available in England at the time).
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 Jon 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 Heard 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, Finch became seriously ill from diabetes and had to pull out. Ridley Scott immediately contacted Hurt, pitched him the script over a weekend and Hurt arrived on the set Monday morning with little to no sleep to begin filming.
Conceptual artist H.R. Giger would successfully sue 20th Century Fox 18 years later over his lack of screen credit on Alien: Resurrection (1997).
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".
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. Aldrich in particular came very close to being hired, but the producers ultimately decided against it after they met him in person, and it quickly became apparent that he had no real enthusiasm for the project beyond the money he would have received. According to David Giler, the moment when Aldrich talked himself out of the job came when they asked him what kind of a design he had in mind for the facehugger; Aldrich simply shrugged and said "We'll put some entrails on the guy's face. It's not as if anyone's going to remember that critter once they've left the theater."
As a child, Veronica Cartwright had appeared in The Birds (1963), opposite Doodles Weaver, who was Sigourney Weaver's uncle.
In the wide shots of the Space Jockey prop, Ridley Scott used his two sons to make the prop seem bigger.
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 (1979) 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). He also deleted as much material from this cut to maintain the movie's pacing.
Roger Dicken, who designed and operated the facehugger and the chestburster, 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.
According to Ridley Scott, the mechanism that was used to make the alien egg open was so strong, that it could tear off a hand.
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 and it would only be used for one scene. However, conceptual artist 'Ron Cobb (I)' convinced them to leave the scene in the movie, as it would be the film's "Cecil. B. DeMille shot", showing the audience that this wasn't some low-budget B-movie.
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).
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.
Dan O'Bannon was hyper-critical of any changes made to his script and, to be fair, he defended some aspects of the film that ended up being most iconic (including H.R. Giger's designs). Although he would come on set and nitpick, O'Bannon was generally welcomed by Ridley Scott until O'Bannon lost his temper and insulted Scott in front of the whole crew. The producers, including Walter Hill, had minimal respect for O'Bannon and largely ignored him, giving him little credit once the film became a success.
The screen test that bagged Sigourney Weaver the role of Ripley was her speech from her final scene.
According to Ridley Scott in the DVD commentary, he had envisioned a moment in the ending scenes of Ripley and the alien in the space shuttle in which the alien would be sexually aroused by Ripley. Scott says that in the scene, after Ripley hides in the closet, the alien would find her and would be staring at her through the glass door. The alien would then start touching itself as if comparing its body to Ripley's. The idea was eventually scrapped.
A sex scene between Dallas and Ripley was in the script, but was not filmed.
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.
The grid-like flooring on the Nostromo was achieved using upturned milk crates, painted over.
Three aliens were made: a model; a suit for seven-footer Bolaji Badejo; and another suit for a trained stunt man.
The stylized artwork that Ridley Scott used to create the storyboards that got Fox to double the budget were inspired by the artwork of famed French comic book artist Jean Giraud AKA Moebius.
During this production, only H.R. Giger and Bolaji Badejo were permitted to view the rushes with Ridley Scott, enabling them to better discuss and refine aspects of the beast's look and movements.
Aside from being an easy-to-remember moniker for the ship's computer, another reason for the crew referring to it as "Mother" is the actual name of the computer: MU-TH-UR. This is printed in red lettering on the small access door that holds the computer card that Dallas and Ripley use to gain access to the control console room.
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.
The screech of the newborn alien was 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.
To simulate the thrust of engines on the Nostromo, Ridley Scott had crew members shake and wobble the seats the actors were sitting in.
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 horseshoe-shaped alien craft became known by the nickname "The Big Croissant" among the cast and crew.
The alien's habit of laying eggs in the chest (which later 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.
There is no dialog for the first 6 minutes.
130 alien eggs were made for the egg chamber inside the downed spacecraft.
The original name for the spaceship was Snark. This was later changed to Leviathan before they finally settled for Nostromo.
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.
While the crew is eating, if you freeze the frame, you can clearly see the "Weyland-Yutani" brand on the can Dallas is drinking from. This is the name of the company that they work for.
The character of Ash did not appear in Dan O'Bannon's original script.
When Ripley punches in the code to activate the scuttle procedure, one of the button tabs reads AGARIC FLY. While engineering sounding in name, fly agaric is actually a highly poisonous hallucinogenic mushroom whose toxin used to be commonly used in flypaper.
The large Space Jockey sculpture was designed and painted by H.R. Giger himself, who was disappointed he couldn't put any finishing touches on it by the time filming came about for the scene. Also, the Space Jockey prop was burned and destroyed by a burning cigarette left on the model. Los Angeles. The unfortunate event was covered by local TV news stations that evening.
Ridley Scott's original cut was lot bloodier, but because of the negative reactions of test audience and possibility that movie will get X rating, scenes with violence and gore were cut down. Some outtakes that can be seen in making of documentaries show longer and bloodier versions of chestburster scene and Brett's death scene.
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Much of the dialogue was developed through improvisation.
During production an attempt was made to make the alien character transparent or at least translucent.
The embryonic movements of the facehugger, prior to bursting out of its egg, were created by Ridley Scott using both his rubber-gloved hands.
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 production designers, in an attempt to cut costs while still remaining creative, constructed several of the sets in such a way as to make them usable in more than one scene. A good example of this can be seen in the "Space Jockey" room (the room in which to away team discovers the skeletal remains in the alien ship) and the "egg chamber." The sets were designed so that the skeleton and the revolving disc on which it sits could be removed and the empty space then redressed with the "eggs," creating, combined with a matching matte painting, a vast cavern full of potential alien spawn.
When the Nostromo crew first discover the marooned alien spacecraft and exit their craft to investigate, the murky POV footage through their helmet visors was filmed by Ridley Scott walking a consumer camcorder at low level across the cramped set.
Yaphet Kotto (Parker) actually picked fights with Bolaji Badejo who played the Alien, in order to help his onscreen hatred of the creature.
An early draft of the script had a male Ripley, making this one of at least three films where Sigourney Weaver played a character originally planned to be a man. The second is The TV Set (2006) and the third is Vantage Point (2008).
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, O'Bannon viewed the dailies by standing beside the projectionist whilst he screened them for everyone else.
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.
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 (1980).
According to myth, the name for the company, "Weyland Yutani", was taken from the names of Ridley Scott's former neighbors - he hated them, so he decided to "dedicate" the name of the "evil company" to them. In reality the name was created by conceptual designer Ron Cobb (who created the Nostromo and the crew's uniforms) to imply a corner on the spacecraft market by an English-Japanese corporation. According to himself, he would have liked to use "Leyland-Toyota" but obviously could not so he changed one letter in Leyland and added the Japanese name of his (not Scott's) neighbor.
The space jockey prop was 26 feet tall.
In a preview of the bonus feature menus for the "Alien Legacy" box set posted to USENET, the bio for Dallas had him as being born female and Lambert as being born male, suggesting gender reassignment before the events in the film. Fan reaction prompted this to be changed before production of the DVDs.
Entertainment Weekly voted this as the third scariest film of all time.
In The Blue Planet (2001), David Attenborough said the Alien (1979) monster was modeled after the Phronima, a creature spotted by submersibles at great depths. However there is little evidence to support this claim - the original Alien design was based on a previous painting by H.R. Giger, Necronom IV, which bears little resemblance to the Phronima. Giger's agent, Bijan Aalam, claims "He never inspired himself by any animals, terrestrial or marine".
Veronica Cartwright was originally auditioned to play Ripley, but producers opted for Sigourney Weaver.
The models had to be repainted every evening of the shoot because the slime used on-set removed the acrylic paint from their surfaces.
Bolaji Badejo beat Peter Mayhew to the part of the alien.
Dan O'Bannon requested that Ridley Scott and producer Walter Hill, both of whom had little knowledge of horror or science-fiction cinema, screen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) to prepare for shooting the more intense scenes. Scott and Hill were stunned by the horror film and admitted it motivated them to ratchet up the intensity of their own film.
Walter Hill's re-write included to make two of the characters female (and to add a romantic subplot that was deleted) and to alter much of the dialogue written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The original dialogue has been described as poetic but Hill assessed it as pretentious and obscure.
To preserve the shock-value of the alien's appearance, no production images of it were released, not even to author Alan Dean Foster when he wrote the film's novelization.
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H.R. Giger's design for the Chestburster was originally based very strongly on Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, depicting creatures that while quite phallic are also more birdlike, being based on the Greek Furies. Giger's doubts about his first design were confirmed when Ridley Scott fell about laughing at the sight of the prototype Chestburster, describing it as "like a plucked turkey", and Roger Dicken ended up retooling it to resemble the now classic design.
Among some of the ingredients of the alien costume are Plasticine and Rolls Royce motor parts.
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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.
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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.
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Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Sci-Fi" in June 2008.
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.
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 (1962) 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.
Carlo Rambaldi constructed three alien heads based on H.R. Giger's designs: two mechanical models for use in various close-up work, and an elementary model for medium-to-long shots. Rambaldi was not available to operate his creations on the actual shoot, though he did spend two weeks in the UK as a technical advisor to Ridley Scott and his crew.
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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".
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Walter Hill and David Giler's contribution to the script was to make Ash a robot.
Three versions of the landing craft 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.
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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.
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For the scene in which the facehugger attacks, the egg was upside down above the camera, and the operator thrust it down toward the lens like a hand puppet.
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The genesis of the film arose out of Dan O'Bannon's dissatisfaction with his first feature, Dark Star (1974) 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 (1974) also led him in the direction of an intense horror movie.
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"Nostromo" is the title of a Joseph Conrad book. The shuttlecraft is called the "Narcissus", from the title of another Joseph Conrad book. See also Aliens (1986).
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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 (1990). 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.
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The original design for the Alien by H.R. Giger had eyes, which were eliminated to make the creature look even more menacing.
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The decal on the door of the Nostromo is a "checkerboard square", the symbol on Purina's pet food label; it designated Alien Chow.
Ridley Scott was keen to take on the project as the one that he had been previously working on at Paramount, Tristan + Isolde (2006), was stuck in development hell.
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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.
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Like the alien, parasitic wasps gestate inside a host's body; in this case a caterpillar; and then chews its way out with razor sharp teeth. Unlike the human host, however, the caterpillar usually does not die right away. Instead, it has been affected with a virus that changes its behavior. The caterpillar will usually create a cocoon for itself to turn into a butterfly. Under the influence of this virus, however, it spins its cocoon instead around the newly hatched wasp larva, and then aggressively guards the cocoon against other predators. It does this at the expense of seeking out food, so it will eventually starve to death.
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Originally to be directed by Walter Hill, but he pulled out and gave the job to Ridley Scott.
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Ridley Scott's first exposure to early Alien (1979) drafts were sent to him by Sanford Lieberson, then head of 20th Century Fox's London headquarters. Lieberson had seen Scott's The Duellists (1977) and was adequately impressed to consider the neophyte filmmaker.
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The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include Alien: The Eighth Passenger (Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Denmark and France) and Alien: The Uncanny Creature from a Strange World (West Germany).
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A green monitor visible behind Ripley while the crew discusses Kane's condition outside the kitchen shows nonsense characters as well as the word "Giler", obviously a nod to producer David Giler.
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The producers of the 1950s potboiler It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) considered suing for plagiarism but didn't.
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When the movie was broadcast in Israel, its title was changed to "The Eighth Passenger" in Hebrew.
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Many of the non-English versions of the film's title translate as something similar to "Alien: The 8th Passenger".
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Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist who, in her comic Dykes to Watch Out For, proposed a simple test to see if a film treated its female characters as equal members of the cast. The rule has three parts: the must feature 1. At least two female characters, who 2. have a conversation with each other that 3. isn't about one of the male characters. This criteria came to be known as the Bechdel test. The character in the comic who outlines these criteria says the last movie she saw that fit these criteria was Alien.
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Nostromo's identification number is 180924609.
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Kay Lenz auditioned for the role of Ripley.
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Bill Paterson turned down a part.
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Director Trademark 

Ridley Scott:  [mothers]  The Nostromo's computer is named "Mother". The incubation of the alien has also been interpreted as a metaphor for pregnancy.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Ridley Scott reportedly said 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.
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.
Extra scenes filmed but not included, due to pacing problems:
  • The crew listens to the eerie signal from the planetoid.


  • An additional discussion between Parker and Ripley over the comm, concerning the progress on the Nostromo's engines.


  • A scene where a furious Lambert hits Ripley for her earlier refusal to let her team back aboard the Nostromo.


  • An additional conversation between Lambert and Ash, where Lambert notices a dark patch over Kane's lungs on the scanner, foreshadowing Kane's fate.


  • A discussion among the crew, immediately following Kane's death, on how to proceed further.


  • Alternative death scene for Brett: Ripley and Parker witness an alive Brett being lifted from the ground.


  • Ripley and Lambert discuss whether Ash has sex or not.


  • An unfinished scene where Parker spots the alien next to an airlock door. He asks Ripley and Lambert over the comm to open the airlock and flush the alien into space. However, the alien is warned by a siren and escapes, but not before it gets injured by a door and its blood creates a small hole, causing a short decompression.


  • Ripley finds Dallas and Brett cocooned. Brett is dead and covered in maggots; Dallas is alive and begs Ripley to kill him. She does so with a flame thrower. The mercy-killing scene would eventually be recycled and used in Alien: Resurrection (1997) when an alien/human-hybrid clone of Ripley begs the real Ripley to kill her, to which she does so with a flame-thrower.


According to Ian Holm, Ash's head contained spaghetti, cheap caviar and onion rings.
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.
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.
Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett wanted all the characters to be male to avoid what was already becoming a cliché in horror films: the female in danger being the only one left alive to face the killer at the climax, later referred to as the "final girl" phenomena. Ironically, that's exactly where the character of Ripley ended up although it must be noted she is much stronger and more resourceful than the typical horror film "final girl".
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.
The scene with the alien exploding from the stomach was a reference that came to co-writer Dan O'Bannon because he struggled with stomach problems.
Body Count: 9 (including the Space Jockey, facehugger, and the Alien itself).
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