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Aliens (1986) Poster

(1986)

Trivia

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Like most films, the movie wasn't shot in sequence. But for added realism, James Cameron filmed the scene where we first meet the Colonial Marines (one of the earliest scenes) last. This was so that the camaraderie of the Marines was realistic because the actors had spent months filming together.
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Lance Henriksen had privately pledged to quit acting if this part didn't work out for him after years of journeyman roles. It proved to be one of his most successful films.
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The knife trick scene was not in the original shooting script. According to Lance Henriksen, the adding of Hudson's hand to the knife trick was discussed with almost everyone, except Bill Paxton.
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In both the standard and special edition versions, the fifteen minute countdown at the end of the film is indeed fifteen minutes.
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Sigourney Weaver had several notes for James Cameron after having read the script. Although he could not grant all her requests, Cameron praised her for never taking issue with the direction he wanted to take with the story. Her notes were all about how she felt Ripley should respond to her situations, which he was happy to accommodate.
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The Alien nest set was kept intact after filming. It was later used as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman (1989). When the Batman crew first entered the set, they found most of the Alien nest still intact.
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According to Bill Paxton, he improvised many of his lines including "Game over, man! Game over!"
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Lance Henriksen wanted to wear double-pupil contact lenses for a scene where Bishop is working in the lab on a microscope and gives a scary look at one of the Marines. He came to set with those lenses, but James Cameron decided he did not need to wear them because he was acting the character with just the right amount of creepiness already.
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Al Matthews, who plays a Marine sergeant in this film, was in real life the first black Marine to be promoted to the rank of sergeant in the field during service in Vietnam.
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Only acting role for Carrie Henn. She later became a teacher.
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In a deleted scene, the portrait of Ripley's daughter is of Elizabeth Inglis, Sigourney Weaver's real-life mother. This was restored in the director's cut.
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Sigourney Weaver's Best Actress Academy Award nomination for this movie was the first ever for an actress in a role in an action movie.
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The spear gun Ripley used at the end of Alien (1979) is briefly visible in the opening scenes, while the escape pod door is being cut open - still stuck at the bottom of the escape pod door, where the gun jammed 57 years earlier.
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The full-size queen puppet was actually too big to fit into the elevator. For the shot where she is seen there, her tail was removed, and yet the back of the elevator still had to be opened to accommodate the prop; smoke effects, dark lighting, and a black curtain at the back obscure this.
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The armored personnel carrier (APC) is a modified tow-truck that British Airways used for towing airplanes around at Heathrow. The only trouble was that the truck they purchased weighed 75 tons. By stripping out most of the lead used in its construction, they were able to remove about 35 tons. It was still so heavy that the construction team had to reinforce several floors to carry the vehicle's weight.
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When they have landed and deployed in the troop carrier, Apone tells the Marines they have 10 seconds until they arrive. If you count from here until the first Marine jumps out of the carrier and his boots hit the ground, it really is ten seconds.
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Aliens (1986) was never shown to test audiences because editing and scoring was not completed until the week before its theatrical release. Only a studio screening was performed for 20th Century Fox executives, which was enthusiastically received. Marketing experts later said that Aliens probably helped save Fox, which was in desperate need of a hit at the time.
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James Cameron faced a big problem trying to win the confidence and respect of the British crew, many of whom had worked on Alien (1979) and were fiercely loyal to Ridley Scott. In order to try and convince them he had the talent and skills for the job he arranged a screening of The Terminator (1984) for the crew on the set, to demonstrate his abilities. However, most of the crew ignored the invite and didn't bother to turn up.
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When Fox execs saw an early cut of the film, they complained to producer Gale Anne Hurd that it looked like the money had all been spent on sets rather than special effects. Hurd took great delight in telling the execs that a majority of the sets that they were seeing in the film were indeed miniatures or optical effects (eg, special effects). The artists behind these images were very pleased that their work had fooled the money men.
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One of the alien eggs used in the film is now exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
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The film takes place in 2179.
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Bill Paxton continuously apologized to Carrie Henn throughout filming every time Hudson had to swear in front of her. Carrie later admitted that she didn't mind, mainly because she really didn't know what any of the words meant.
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Sigourney Weaver had initially been very hesitant to reprise her role as Ripley. She had rejected numerous offers from Fox Studios to do any sequels, fearing that her character would be poorly written, and a sub-par sequel could hurt the legacy of Alien (1979). However, she was so impressed by the high quality of James Cameron's script - specifically, the strong focus on Ripley, the mother-daughter bond between her character and Newt, and the incredible precision with which Cameron wrote her character, that she finally agreed to do the film. She was of course disappointed when Cameron had to shorten the movie, and cut the scene where Burke brings Ripley the news of just missing the death of her character's daughter (which Weaver felt would have completed the circle of the mother-daughter bond with Newt), but this scene was later restored in the special edition.
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The alien screams are Baboon shrieks altered in post.
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None of the models or the original designs of the Narcissus (the Nostromo's shuttle) from Alien (1979) could be found, so set designers and model-makers had to reconstruct the model of the ship and the interior set from watching Alien (1979).
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The "special edition" includes seventeen minutes of extra scenes: Ripley discussing her daughter with Burke; Ripley is demoted by the board; Newt's parents discovering the abandoned alien ship on LV-426; a tour through the Sulaco prior to the marines waking up; Hudson bragging about his weaponry; Ripley hesitates before she enters the colony complex on the planet; robot sentry guns repelling two Alien raids; the marines theorizing about an Alien leader as the source of the eggs; and Hicks and Ripley exchanging first names. Also included is a scene on LV-426 where a child rides a Bigwheel similar to one ridden in The Terminator (1984), also directed by James Cameron.
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According to Lance Henriksen, during the production of "Aliens", the film Full Metal Jacket (1987) was also being shot at a nearby location. Because of this, the crews of each movie would often gather together for parties. Both films feature US Marines trapped in intense combat situations, and both casts feature a US Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran (R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket and Al Matthews in Aliens). In both films, these actors played sergeants who use the phrase "assholes and elbows". Coincidentally, both actors died in 2018.
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In Alien (1979), a 7-feet tall performer had been used to portray the Alien, so that it would tower over the human characters. Since this film called for many Aliens and the production would never be able to find so many tall people, 6-feet stunt performers were hired, reasoning that the humans and Aliens would hardly be seen in the same frame anyway. Although more Alien suits were created, only six were used at a time, and even then they were often just a handful of latex appliances on black leotards, to give the stunt performers more freedom to move. The appearance of hundreds of aliens is simply clever editing and planning, and lighting plus slime helped make the "suits" more solid.
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The movie's budget was almost running out when it was time for constructing the set of the hypersleep chamber aboard the Sulaco. Each chamber cost over $4,300 to build, meaning that they could only afford to make four capsules. Production designer Peter Lamont had the difficult task of telling director James Cameron that they had to omit the entire scene, but he devised a trick: clever placement of mirrors and camera angles made it look like there were 12 chambers, allowing the scene to be filmed.
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James Cameron was not impressed by the way that Ray Lovejoy was editing the film (Lovejoy was used to the slow pace in which he had edited 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)), and was seriously considering firing him and having the film re-edited from scratch by Mark Goldblatt, Cameron's editor on The Terminator (1984), and Peter Boita, who had already been brought on-board to edit the more dialogue-driven scenes. Upon hearing that his job was in danger, Lovejoy grabbed all the footage from the film's final battle, locked himself in an editing suite over the weekend, and presented the fully edited version of the battle to Cameron the following week. The effort paid off, because Cameron was sufficiently impressed to let Lovejoy stay on-board and supervise what was intended to be the final edit. Lovejoy later received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing.
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Having hired James Cameron to write the screenplay, 20th Century Fox then did the unthinkable when he left the production to direct The Terminator (1984): they agreed to wait for Cameron to become available again and finish the screenplay, with an option to direct if The Terminator turned out well and he showed talent as a director. Cameron had only completed about 90 pages at that stage, but the studio had loved what he had written so far, with Fox president Lawrence Gordon saying that "everything about him spelled 'right guy'."
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Bishop's line about him being incapable of hurting a person or letting anyone come to harm are a paraphrase of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, more specifically the First Law: "A robot may not injure a human being nor, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." (the Second Law is "A robot must obey the orders given by a human being except where it would conflict with the First Law; the Third Law is, "A robot must protect its own existence except where it would conflict with the First or Second Laws."). Asimov eventually introduced a "Zeroth" Law: "A robot may not injure humanity nor, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm."
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According to the shooting script, Vasquez and Drake spent a tough childhood together in a Hispanic slum, and were drafted into the Colonial Marines from juvenile prison.
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The body mounts for Vasquez's and Drake's smart guns are taken from Steadicam gear.
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Michael Biehn got the call on a Friday night asking him to take over the role of Hicks and was in London to start filming on the following Monday. Coincidentally, the same situation happened to John Hurt when he was cast as Kane in Alien (1979), because another actor had to drop out.
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There was talk of bringing Swiss artist H.R. Giger back for the second movie to do more design work, but James Cameron decided against it because there was only one major design to be done, that of the Alien Queen, which Cameron had already made some drawings of. He hired Ron Cobb and Syd Mead for the futuristic buildings and crafts instead. Cameron later admitted that he regretted not asking Giger, but feared doing so, thinking that the eccentric artist would be difficult to work with.
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James Cameron had especially centered the story and screenplay for the movie around the character of Ellen Ripley, so he was dismayed to learn that not only had Sigourney Weaver never signed on for a sequel, she had not even been contacted yet to reprise her role from Alien (1979). When Cameron finally contacted her himself and gave her the script, Weaver showed interest, but the studio objected against her increased salary demands (as she had become a bankable star in the meanwhile). The difficulties surrounding her contract negotiations were such that Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd - recently married - announced that if the deal was not done by the time they got back from their honeymoon, they were out. When they returned, no progress had been made and shooting was due to start in several months, so Cameron, determined to make the film and wary of the deadline scenario he had created, devised a scheme: he telephoned Arnold Schwarzenegger's agent for an informal chat and informed him that, thanks to his newfound standing in Hollywood following The Terminator (1984), he was planning on making this film entirely his own by writing Ripley out; as Cameron anticipated, Schwarzenegger's agent immediately relayed the information to his colleague representing Weaver at ICM, who in turn contacted 20th Century-Fox Head of Production Lawrence Gordon; both men, determined that under no circumstances whatsoever would Ripley be written out, wasted no time in sealing Weaver's deal.
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Most of the movie was filmed under very bluish light to give it a strange and "alien" feel. The colors of the Marines' camouflage BDUs and the Humbrol "Brown Bess" used on the Assault Rifles were all chosen specifically to work with the blue set lighting. As a result, both look very different under natural light than they did on screen.
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Hicks was originally played by James Remar, but Michael Biehn replaced him a few days after principal photography began. The often given reason for Remar being removed was due to "artistic differences" between Remar and director James Cameron. But in episode #128 of the 'Sidebar' podcast, Remar states that he was fired from the production because he was busted for possession of drugs. He said this was in a period of his life where he said he had developed a terrible drug problem. Remar still appears in the finished film - he is seen for one shot when the marines enter the alien nest. Because he is seen from behind wearing the same armor as Michael Biehn, it's impossible to tell the difference between the two actors.
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Whilst filming the power loader battle, the crew played a practical joke on Sigourney Weaver by strategically strapping a balloon connected to an air pipe to where her backside would be. When they pumped up the balloon, Sigourney thought that the man operating the power loader inside it was getting aroused behind her.
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James Cameron clashed with Dick Bush who refused to light the Alien nest the way Cameron wanted (Cameron wanted dark lighting to create an eerie atmosphere while the cameraman kept going with bright lighting to show off the intricacies of the set). Bush was a very old school DP, who lit the scenes to his content, while Cameron was a very visually involved director. Finally Cameron, fed up with the bad attitudes of his crew, yelled at the guy "YOU'RE FIRED!" and threw him off the set, which led to the crew walking out, requiring Gale Anne Hurd to coax them back once they had all cooled down. Bush was then replaced by Adrian Biddle, who had never DP'ed a feature before but who had been the focus puller on Alien.
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James Cameron had the actors (the Marines) personalize their own costumes (battle armor and fatigues) for added realism (much like soldiers in Vietnam wrote and drew things on their own helmets). Actress Cynthia Dale Scott, who plays Corporal Dietrich has the words "BLUE ANGEL" written on the back of her helmet, a reference to Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel (1930) or Blue Angel. Bill Paxton has "Louise" written on his armor. This is a dedication to his real-life wife, Louise Newbury.
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In an interview, composer James Horner felt that James Cameron had given him so little time to write a musical score for the film, he was forced to cannibalize previous scores he had done, such as elements from his Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) scores, as well as adapt a rendition of "Gayane Ballet Suite" for the main and end titles. Horner stated that the tensions with Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. However, Cameron loved the score from Braveheart (1995) so much, the two mutually agreed that Horner would write the score for Titanic (1997), because it was a story they both wanted to do. They've let bygones be bygones ever since, especially when they won their Oscars for Titanic (1997) and collaborated again 12 years later for Avatar (2009).
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Ripley's miniature bathroom in her apartment is actually a British Airways toilet, purchased from the airline.
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When the set crews were looking around for floor grating to use on the Sulaco set design, they asked a local set design manufacturer/shop if they had anything of the sort. Indeed they did, an immense pile of old floor grating had been sitting out in the back of their shop for the last seven years. It was left there from when they tore down the set of Alien (1979).
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All of the cast who were to play the Marines (with the exception of Michael Biehn, who replaced James Remar one week into filming) were trained by the S.A.S. (Special Air Service, Britain's elite special operations unit) and sergeant Al Matthews (who would later play Apone) for two weeks before filming. Sigourney Weaver, Paul Reiser, and William Hope didn't participate/attend the training because director James Cameron felt it would help the actors create a sense of detachment between the three and the Marines - the characters these three actors played were all outsiders to the squad; Ripley being an advisor to the Marines while on the trip to LV-426, Burke being there just for financial reasons and Gorman being a newly-promoted Lieutenant with less experience than most of the Marines.
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One of the perfect locations they found was a decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Acton, West London. The only trouble with it was that it was heavily riddled with asbestos. So, a team was sent in to clean up the plant, and atmosphere readings had to be taken constantly throughout filming in this location to make sure that the air was clear of contamination. Fortuitously, the Acton location turned out to have better atmospheric quality than Pinewood Studios.
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Three different types of smoke were used in the film, one of which has since become illegal to be used on movie sets.
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Most of the shots where it appears that the aliens are crawling quickly through tunnels or airducts were filmed using a vertical shaft with the camera at the bottom and the alien actor lowered headfirst on a cable.
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There was a lot of animosity on the set. The British crew was openly hostile to both James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd. In their eyes, Cameron was a nobody who had not made a decent film yet (as they hadn't seen The Terminator (1984)), while they openly mocked Hurd by claiming she only got to be producer because she was married to Cameron, and that they wouldn't take orders from a woman. Cameron and Hurd, in turn, despised the crew's lazy, insolent and arrogant behavior; one of their few allies among them was production designer Peter Lamont. After the long and difficult shoot, Cameron addressed the crew by saying that one thing kept him going through it all: "The certain knowledge that one day I would drive out of Pinewood and never come back, and that you sorry bastards would still be here". Cameron indeed never came back to Pinewood studios, but he later hired Lamont as production designer on True Lies (1994), and even got him out of retirement to work on Titanic (1997).
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Armorer Terry English made three sets of armor for each member of the cast who needed to wear armor. He was only given two weeks to complete the job and upon arriving back at his workshop a few hours drive away from the film set, he realized he had forgotten the scrap of cloth James Cameron had given him so that the camouflage on the armor could be matched correctly to the uniforms the Marines would be wearing. Instead of going all the way back, English painted the completed sets of armor from memory. The result was a pattern and color combination not too dissimilar to the British Army DPM pattern. Fortunately, Cameron liked the contrast between the armor and the BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) the Marines wore beneath it, saying it make the armor more obvious to the eye. The graffiti you see on some of the armor was done by the actors themselves, with a little help from English for a few details like Hicks' clasp and padlock on his chest armor. The armor was hand made from Aluminum and all in one size, with on set adjustments made by English to make them fit each actor.
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Michael Biehn later said that he almost never got to play heroic characters like Corporal Dwayne Hicks, saying that people who look at him must see something wicked in his eyes and assume there's something wrong with him. Coincidence or not, in The Abyss (1989), his next film with James Cameron, he was cast as the villain.
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Inside the APV preparing for battle, "El riesgo siempre vive!" can be seen scrawled in white across Vasquez's armor. Literally translated from Spanish this is: "Risk always lives!"; a variant of the Ancient Roman slogan "Luck favors the bold."
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"Sulaco" is the name of the town in Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo." See also Alien (1979).
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Except for a very small reference in Alien (1979), the special edition of this film is the first to reveal the name of 'The Company' as Weyland-Yutani. The name is clearly written on several pieces of equipment and walls in the colony during a pre-alien outbreak scene of the special edition.
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Many businesses wanted to buy Power Loaders as forklifts. Sadly none were to be bought, since it's a combination of a stunt man sitting in the loader behind Ripley moving the limbs, wires holding it up, and some miniatures work.
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To most of the Pinewood studio crew members, the choice of James Cameron as director was mystifying as he was a complete unknown in England, since The Terminator (1984) had not been released there yet. According to Cameron, most crew members, with the exception of some of the art department people and production designer Peter Lamont, approached the job as factory work, with no love for the art of film whatsoever. Derek Cracknell, the film's assistant director (well respected among the crew as he had been AD for Stanley Kubrick), continuously questioned Cameron's decisions and was openly antagonistic towards him, calling him 'guv'nor' and 'Grizzly Adams'. Ultimately, the on-set feuds with Cracknell as well as director of photography Dick Bush caused the production to fall behind schedule, leaving producer Gale Anne Hurd no choice but to fire both men. This briefly instigated a mass strike from the rest of the crew, and with no other crew quickly available, there were serious doubt as to whether the film would make it to completion. Cameron briefly considered moving production out of England, but fortunately, the mutiny was quickly resolved when a meeting was set up, where he convinced the crew of the importance of his work, and promised to be more sensitive to their breaks and working hours. Tensions remained during the remainder of the shoot, though.
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The Alien Queen has transparent teeth, as opposed to the warrior aliens whose teeth are metallic.
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Contrary to popular belief, Jenette Goldstein is not Hispanic. Make-up was used to make her skin appear darker. She also dyed her hair black and wore dark brown contact lenses.
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Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) actually did the chin-up curls and behind-the-head pull-ups, at the request of director James Cameron to establish Vasquez as the "tough" woman in the platoon.
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Since production took place in England, the production was obliged to audition and hire a number of local actors, so for the speaking parts, they conveniently cast many American actors who were already living in England. This was particularly important for the actress playing Newt, who had to be a minor. Carrie Henn, who played Newt, was an American girl from a military family stationed in England (actually, a hint of an English accent can be heard when she says, "Let's go," and, "There is a short-cut across the roof," during the Alien attack at the end of the movie). Although she had no prior acting experience, she was perfect for the role; most child actors who had auditioned had done mostly commercials, and had the tendency to smile after delivering their lines. Henn's movie brother Timmy (seen only in the extended version) is also her real-life brother Christopher Henn.
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A Spydor toy from the He-Man franchise was bought as a reference to test how the facehuggers would move.
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A lightweight dummy model of Newt (Carrie Henn) was constructed for Sigourney Weaver to carry around during the scenes just before the Queen chase.
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In the shooting script, the synthetic Ash from the previous movie was referred to as a 'Cyberdyne Systems 120-A/2', an obvious nod to the Cyberdyne Systems 101 Terminator from The Terminator (1984), James Cameron's previous movie. It was changed in the movie to a Hyperdine System 120-A2.
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The facehuggers (both the live specimens and the dead ones) that had been retained by the colonists were kept in jars of water so that if they got injured in any way and began secreting acid, the acid would immediately be diluted by the surrounding water, thus preventing the jar from being ruptured and the creature being released. While Bishop explains that the acid blood turns inert once an alien dies, the original script for Alien featured a scene where the dead facehugger immediately began to decompose and leak copious amounts of acid everywhere. This sparked a panicked rush to eject the facehugger's remains from the Nostromo before its blood could eat through the ship's hull. In terms of acid exposure, dead aliens were originally intended to be more dangerous than live ones.
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Sigourney Weaver refused any information on the behind the scenes making of the queen so she could keep the character real in her mind.
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The word "fuck" is used 25 times in the film, 18 of them are spoken by Hudson.
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While salary negotiations were going on with Sigourney Weaver to reprise her character in the second movie, the studio asked James Cameron to work on an alternative storyline excluding Ripley, but James Cameron indicated the series is all about Ripley and refused to do so.
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Although it is probably her most memorable line in the film, Carrie Henn has said that she hates the line "They mostly come at night. Mostly."
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The various screens and displays, seen mostly in the backgrounds, are actually TV screens with a video running. The film was shot in the UK where televisions run at 25 frames per second, however, film is normally shot and projected at 24 frames per second! Filming the TV monitors at that speed would cause the TV screens to run out of sync with the film, so they would have flickered terribly. Instead, the shots containing the monitors were taken at 25 frames per second to keep the monitors in sync, so when these are then projected at the standard rate of 24 fps, they now run a bit slower than real-life.
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A complicated effect shot (the Marines entering the Alien nest) had already been filmed just before James Remar was replaced by Michael Biehn. A re-shoot would be too expensive, so the Corporal Hicks seen with his back towards camera is still played by James Remar.
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James Cameron married producer Gale Anne Hurd during pre-production. Their marriage lasted 4 years; by the time they started work on The Abyss (1989), they were separated.
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At one time during filming, the APC had an actual roof. But, during the "Fire In the hole" scene, the actors were actually suffocating from the fire's smoke. After a few tries, the roof of the APC was removed.
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Unlike American studios, where crews were generally hired by the production, Pinewood studios where filming took place came with its own indentured crew who weren't used to working 12 hours a day, which is an average shooting day in the USA. Bill Paxton later said that this British film crew drove everyone nuts with their "indentured work ethics", literally stopping filming in the middle of complicated scenes just so they could have tea, go to the pub, or finish early. Michael Biehn made fun of the British crew in the audio commentary by saying that they "weren't used to working" (a remark he threw in when Paxton was talking about the "indentured work ethics").
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When the crew is getting dressed after waking up from hypersleep, Hudson says, "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" to which Vasquez answers, "No. Have you?" This is "borrowed" from a Hollywood legend involving columnist Earl Wilson and actress Tallulah Bankhead. He asked "Have you ever been mistaken for a man?" and she said, "No darling. Have you?"
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According to myth, the name for the company, "Weyland Yutani", was taken from the names of Alien (1979) director 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.
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During Hudson's (Bill Paxton) boasting monologue aboard the drop ship (special edition only) he talks about some of the weaponry of the Colonial Marines, mentioning a "phased plasma pulse rifle" - the pulse rifles the marines carry are kinetic, not "phased plasma", but the line references The Terminator (1984) (also directed by James Cameron, and featuring Paxton in a minor role) in which the terminator asks a gun store clerk for a "phased plasma rifle."
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The rhyme that Hudson mutters as he's searching for the colonists is from the AC/DC song "Shake a Leg": "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen..."
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In the air shaft where Vasquez shoots the alien with a handgun, Jenette Goldstein could not handle the recoil of the gun properly. As a result, producer Gale Anne Hurd doubled for Vasquez in shots where the gun is fired. She was the only woman available who had experience firing handguns. Goldstein's flinching at the firing of a gun is also masked during the operations room fight immediately preceding the air shaft scene, when Vasquez is seen firing two grenades at the aliens - for the first one, there's a barely visible cut (Goldstein's head changes position suddenly) and for the second shot there is a smash-cut away from her face at the moment of firing.
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The mechanism used to make the face-huggers thrash about in the stasis tubes in the science lab came from one of the "flying piranhas" in one of James Cameron's earlier movies Piranha II: The Spawning (1981). It took nine people to make the face-hugger work: one person for each leg and one for the tail.
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One of the options considered was making the creature translucent. Since this wasn't done in the earlier movie, for continuity it couldn't be used for the creatures in this film, although it survives in one small way: the queen's teeth are translucent.
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To create the effect of Bishop performing the knife trick at inhuman speed, the footage was sped up. This creates a rather apparent goof whereby other characters in the background can be seen moving at an unrealistically accelerated rate, most notably Sergeant Apone, whose head can be seen moving up and down incredibly fast as he laughs.
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Was voted the 42nd Greatest Film of all time by Entertainment Weekly. They describe it as the "greatest pure action movie ever."
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In 2015, it was rumored that Sigourney Weaver would return as Ripley for the first time in 20 years since Alien: Resurrection (1997). The fifth film would ignore Alien³ (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997) as if they never happened (such as a dream in Ripley's mind) or would be set in a alternate timeline. Neill Blomkamp was attached as director, with Ridley Scott (director of 'Alien (1979)_) producing. However, in 2017, Blomkamp stated that the project was unofficially dead, because the studio had preferred to complete Scott's Alien prequel trilogy (which started with Prometheus (2012)). Scott later added that Blomkamp's project had never been more than some ideas and artwork, without a completed script.
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Jenette Goldstein's character, Vasquez, inspired the character Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), and Goldstein herself was initially considered for the part. She later went on to make a brief appearance in Star Trek Generations (1994). Bill Paxton's character, Hudson, inspired the character Guy Fleegman in the Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest (1999), which also starred Sigourney Weaver.
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According to James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, who is a strong advocate for gun control, tried to convince him not to let Ripley handle any weapons at all. Cameron then took Weaver to a shooting range, and let her fire a machine gun. Weaver had to admit it was good fun, and had no further objections; Cameron joked that "another liberal bites the dust".
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Michael Biehn stated that he didn't get to customize his armor because he was cast so late in production. For the most part he liked all of the custom work on his, but he states that he hated the heart with the padlock on the chest plate as it was far too much like a bulls-eye.
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Carrie Henn watched Alien (1979) before shooting at James Cameron's request. When she watched it, she actually found it funny and laughed.
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Apone was named after mechanical effects technician Allan A. Apone who worked on Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror (1981), of which James Cameron was production designer and Second Unit Director.
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The music in the beginning, when the Narcissus is shown floating in space, was also used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It's the Adagio from the Gayaneh Ballet Suite by Aram Khachaturyan.
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Hudson says the word "man" a total of 35 times.
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For the pulse rifles, James Cameron wanted the brightest muzzle flash possible so that the firing would light up the actors faces, like in the classic early gangster films; in which they used Thompson submachine guns. The flash was due to the inefficiency of the tommy gun, in which unburned powder would fly from the barrel and be ignited on the way out. After trying out every fully automatic weapon in the armorer's collection, the found the one with the brightest muzzle flash - which turned out to be the classic Thompson submachine gun.
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Four actors from this movie appear in various Terminator movies: Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton in The Terminator (1984), and Jenette Goldstein in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).
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Bishop states that he can't harm a human. This is why he places his hand on top of Hudson's during the knife trick. This could be a reference to the Laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov.
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The portable computers used in the sentry gun scenes are GRiD GridCase 1535EXPs. Rugged and light due to their magnesium alloy enclosures, GRiD computers were used by the US military in combat and by NASA on early 1980s Space Shuttle missions.
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There is a red circular sticker seen on the dropship which isn't visible. It says Bug Stomper "We Endanger Species" in Behind the Scenes.
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James Cameron wrote the movie as an allegory to the American involvement in the Vietnam War, with the marines representing the U.S. conservative hawks and the xenomorphs (aliens) representing the Vietnamese. In an interview with Screenprism, James Cameron said, "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of the superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work." Cameron has also likened Ripley to veteran soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, who would inexplicably be among the first to go back to the war zone despite the horrors they witnessed.
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Several references to Robert A. Heinlein's novel, "Starship Troopers": the prominent use of the military; during the orientation when Hudson asks if this is a "bug hunt."; the power loader which was based on the combat exoskeletons in the book; and the use of the term "drop".
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According to Lance Henriksen, when he saw the movie at the premiere, he was so impressed by the effort that James Cameron had put into the making of the movie as a director, writer and designer, that he was left speechless to the point that he promised Cameron that he would write him a letter to properly express his feelings on it. He never ended up doing this, and Cameron misinterpreted all this as a sign that Henriksen hated the movie. Eventually, they cleared it all up.
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According to Al Matthews (Apone) when James Remar was still cast in the role of Corporal Hicks Remar accidentally blew a hole in the set of Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors (1986) which was being shot on an adjacent stage to Aliens at Pinewood Studios with the Ithaca Model 37 pump action shotgun that Michael Biehn uses when hes cast as Hicks, Matthew's then said to Remar "Where the fuck did you get live ammo?"
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The model of the derelict "engineer" ship (seen in the extended edition) is the same model used in the first film. Fox had turned the model over to effects wizard (and prop archivist) Bob Burns, who had the prop sitting in his driveway. With some repair, it was able to be reused for the brief appearance in this film.
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According to Lance Henriksen, he based the character of Bishop on his innocent 12-year-old self. He would sometimes get lost in the role during shooting and would leave the studio to wander around London where the movie was actually being filmed. Not knowing the area, he would easily get lost and have to call the crew to ask how to come back to the studio. Henriksen also said that just like his young self, Bishop would forgive people their mistreatment of him, since he knew that he'll outlive all of them.
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Some of the sound effects for this film were created with help from the Fairlight, an early Australian-made digital sampler. The then state-of-the art Fairlight machine sampled at 8 bit resolution. Musicians such as Jan Hammer, Kate Bush, and Prince have used it extensively throughout their careers.
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One of the pulse rifles used in the film is on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England.
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When Ripley is in front of the board at the start of the film, the seats they are all sat on are in fact automobile seats, they have the mounting points for the headrests and the levers for sliding forward to allow people to enter the back of the car, they are mounted on office chair posts to give them the look of office boardroom chairs.
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A scene on the colony before the Alien outbreak was deleted from the final cut, but it was reinstated in the Special Edition. It shows a Weyland-Yutani employee asking his superior why the Company has requested that they check some remote coordinates on the planet; his superior indicates that he didn't bother to ask, since it takes weeks to get an answer, and the answer is always "Don't ask". Elements of that scene show up in later James Cameron projects: the entire scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) where Miles Dyson is introduced at Cyberdyne follows the same pacing and tone as the scene from Aliens: an employee flags down a supervisor, they walk together, talking about the mysterious behavior of their employer (Weyland-Yutani in Aliens, CyberDyne Systems in Terminator 2) and ending in the line '...don't ask'. The character name 'Lydecker' was used in Dark Angel (2000).
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Al Pacino visited the set as he was filming Revolution (1985) in the studio next door.
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James Horner wasn't particularly happy with the treatment of his score for the film despite receiving his first Oscar nomination. He delivered a finished score which didn't sit well with the edited film. Because Horner was unavailable as he was working on another film at the time, James Cameron had to heavily chop up the score to fit his edit. (A Deluxe Edition soundtrack of the score has since been released by Varèse Sarabande.)
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The longest of all four Alien films, clocking at 2 hours and 17 minutes. Even if the special editions of all films are considered, this record still stands (the longer version of Aliens clocks at 2 hours and 34 minutes).
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Many of the characters in the movie whose first names are never mentioned, actually share their first name of the actor/actress portraying them: e.g. Sgt. Al Apone (Al Matthews), Cpl. Collette Ferro (Colette Hiller), Pfc. Jenette Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), Pvt. Mark Drake (Mark Rolston), Pvt. William Hudson (Bill Paxton), Pvt. Daniel Spunkmeyer (Daniel Kash), Pvt. Ricco Frost (Ricco Ross), Pvt. Trevor Wierzbowski (Trevor Steedman), and director Paul van Leuwen (Paul Maxwell).
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Producers David Giler and Walter Hill were keen to meet with James Cameron after liking his script for The Terminator (1984), which was temporarily stalled in pre-production. Cameron pitched several ideas, none of which they were that receptive to (one was a sci-fi update of a "sword-and-sandals movie", but they only wanted to do a proper historical action movie on an alien planet). As Cameron was leaving, however, they did mention plans of doing a sequel to Alien (1979); immediately, Cameron's interest was piqued, since Alien was one of his favorite recent movies. The only premise that Giler and Hill had for 'Alien II' at the time was that a group of marines would encounter the alien creatures on a remote planet, so they tasked him to come up with the rest. Cameron used many elements from a story he had written called "Mother", in which a human protagonist uses a power suit to battle a genetically-engineered creature that is trying to protect its offspring. Terraforming, an all-powerful company and the term 'xenomorph' were all part of the 40-50 page story treatment that he handed in less than a week later. Giler and Hill loved it, and commissioned him to write a full screenplay. Cameron was a bit hesitant at first, because he had already landed screenwriting duties for Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) that day, but Giler and Hill told him: "Don't be stupid. Take both jobs." Cameron worked on three scripts simultaneously, as he was also writing additional drafts of his Terminator screenplay. Although Rambo II would later be heavily re-written, his research into Vietnam veterans proved useful when writing Ripley's post-traumatic stress disorder. After submitting the first act of his 'Alien II' script and coining the title change to 'Aliens', he was also considered to direct.
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Filming took place in an abandoned power station in London, England
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Stephen Lang auditioned for the roles of Carter Burke and Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Hicks was eventually played by Michael Biehn. Lang would later play the villain Miles Quaritch in Avatar (2009), also directed by James Cameron. The part of Quaritch was originally intended for Biehn, but since Sigourney Weaver had already been cast, they wanted to prevent Avatar from looking like an "Aliens reunion".
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James Cameron wrote the script two months before he left production to direct The Terminator (1984).
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Hudson's quip to Vasquez about her thinking that she thought "alien" meant "Illegal alien" is an inside joke. According to an interview with Starlog magazine after the film was released, when Jenette Goldstein heard the title of the film, she mistakenly thought it was, in fact, about illegal aliens.
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The initial cinematographer was Dick Bush. However, director James Cameron fired him a month into production because he wasn't satisfied with the lighting, and the two men reportedly hated working with each other. Cameron then tried to hire Derek Vanlint, the DP on the previous film. Vanlint wasn't interested, but recommended Adrian Biddle for the job.
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James Cameron had several designers come up with ideas for the drop ship that took the Marines from the Sulaco to the planet. Design after design, he finally gave up on them to come up with one he liked and constructed his own drop ship out of a model of an apache helicopter and other spare model pieces.
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The M-56 smart guns and the sentry guns built for the movie were designed around German MG 42 machine guns (most recognizable on the smart guns where the MG 42's characteristic recoil booster muzzle is clearly visible). The gun is mounted on a heavily modified steadicam harness - the MG 42 alone (without the additional cosmetic dressing and ammunition) weighs in at about 25 pounds.
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The original planetoid from Alien (1979) is renamed as LV 426, where the Weyland's company creates a miner workers' colony. LV 426 is a reference for the Holy Bible, accurately Leviticus 4:26, that it says: "All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven".
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The phrase "nuke from orbit" referring to Ripley's drastic solution to the alien infestation has gone into the common vernacular as a way of completely eliminating a problem.
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The text that is superimposed over the video feeds (from the marine's cameras) seen on the video monitors in the APV were created using BBC model B microcomputers, commonplace in England at the time. The built-in teletext character generator was employed, and the output was gen-locked with the signal from the helmet cameras, before being fed to the monitors on the set.
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The pulse rifles that the Marines use are made from a Thompson M1A1 machine gun with a Remington 870 shotgun (shortened to just 15 inches and covered by the also-cut-down shroud and fore-grip from a Franchi SPAS 12 shotgun) underneath.
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The colony on LV-426 is named Hadley's Hope, with a population of 158. This is revealed in the special edition and if you look carefully, the saying "Have A Nice Day" is painted on the sign.
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The button on the control panel Ripley presses to shut the air lock doors on the ship at the end of the film is actually a "Hold" Button from a UK style slot machine or "one-armed bandit."
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James Horner's schedule only allowed for him to work on the film for 7 weeks. He arrived in London to perform his duties, only to find that they were still shooting, much less editing. He sat around for 3 weeks before being able to get started, and when he did, there were only 2 weeks before the scheduled scoring session (which couldn't be canceled without forfeiting the entire fee). He wrote his final piece of music overnight, and it was recorded on the last day of the scoring session. Additional music had to be added after Horner left to score another film.
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Sigourney Weaver threatened to not do any more "Alien" movies after seeing the movie's final cut, so as a compromise, the 1987 Special Edition was released on Laser-Disc.
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The original design of the Xenomorph head from Alien (1979) was initially copied. It had a ridged forehead with a layer of semi-translucent gel covering the ridges, to make it appear smooth. When James Cameron saw the heads as a work in progress without the gel, he thought the ridges made the heads more interesting, so the gel was left out. The difference in appearance between the creatures from both films has since been the subject of several fan theories, one being that the ridged Xenomorphs from Aliens are a specific warrior caste within the species, specifically bred to protect the Queen.
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The title of Alien (1979) in Hungarian was "The 8th passenger: Death." Consequently, the title of Aliens (1986) was: "The name of the planet: Death".
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Michael Biehn was given James Remar's armor to wear after Remar left the production, but felt the bright red heart Remar had painted on his chest plate was a bit over-the-top, saying that to him it looked too much like a bullseye, giving an enemy a convenient place to aim.
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The second draft of William Gibsons unproduced script for Alien 3 (1992) features a scene where one of the main characters goes through Gorman's belongings aboard the Sulaco including a photograph that reveals that Gorman had a wife/girlfriend.
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Ricco Ross said that Director James Cameron named his character Frost as he thought it would be ironic given that he is set on fire with a flamethrower.
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The camo pattern worn by the Marines was custom made for the movie, but due to its similarity it is often confused for one called "frog and leaf," which is no longer in production.
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There were two versions of the "Bug Stompers" logo designed for the movie, one wearing sneakers, and one wearing combat boots as seen on the drop ship.
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Aliens was the last of the series in which Stan Winston would do the special effects. The torch was then handed to veterans Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. for Alien³ (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997).
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James Remar was dismissed after he was busted for possession of drugs. It also meant that he fell out with director Walter Hill, with whom he had worked with on " The Warriors " , " The Long Riders " and " 48 Hours " . Hill was a producer on " Aliens " and had got Remar the audition. It would be another 12 years before the two worked together again.
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Sigourney Weaver was paid $1 million to reprise her role as Ripley, a 30-fold increase in salary from Alien (1979). She also received a percentage of the film's gross. Her salary would increase with every subsequent Alien movie: $5.5 million for Alien³ (1992), and finally $11 million for Alien: Resurrection (1997).
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The pouch Ripley takes onto the lift at the end of the movie is a British Armed Forces respirator haversack.
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During the scene in the loading bay, when Ripley shows her skills with the loader. Apone raises his hand whilst laughing to show a black masonic ring.
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The video screen park background at Gateway Station hospital is actually a still photograph of the gardens at Pinewood Studios, where the movie was made.
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At 106 minutes in, Ripley confronts Burke about his plan to smuggle in a specimen (or two), and says he sent a message to the colonists about the ship containing the nest on '6/12/79'; the original movie, 'Alien', premiered on 6/22/79.
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In Alien (1979), H.R. Giger originally intended the openings at the top of the alien eggs to closely resemble a human vulva, but the explicitly sexual aspects of the design were soon dropped due to censorship concerns. Giger's vision of a distinctly vaginal beginning to the aliens' story would come to fruition in some small way in the sequel: the letter "I" in the film's title flares out into an ovular shape, vaguely resembling a vulva.
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A set design company offered to build James Cameron a complete and working APC vehicle from scratch, but the cost was far too high for the budget he had in mind.
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(at around 13 mins) When Carter Burke and Marine Lieutenant Gorman are trying to convince Ripley to return to LV-426, he mentions the Colonial Marines are "Real tough hombres." "Tough 'Ombres" is the name of the US Army's 90th Infantry Division which saw action during WWI and WWII. This reference is either an incredible coincidence or an incredibly sly bit of foreshadowing on the part of the writers. The 90th Infantry Division suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any US Army division during World War II, with just under 20,000 Soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing. One of the largest contributing factors to the division's high casualty rate turned out to be poorly trained leadership. By referring to the Marines as "Really tough hombres," Burke may be foreshadowing the outcome of the Marines' first encounter with the alien creatures, and highlighting Lieutenant Gorman's lack of experience.
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Sigourney Weaver based Ripley in Aliens on a very unsentimental environmentalist friend.
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To create the effect of the chestburster bursting out of Mary's body, Barbara Coles wore a prosthetic chest piece made of foam through which the chestburster model emerged. A replica dummy of Barbara Coles was then used for shots where the Marines torched her body.
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The armor for the film was built by English armorer Terry English, and painted using Humbrol paints.
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Ray Lovejoy had come within a hair's breadth of being fired and replaced by Mark Goldblatt, until he impressed James Cameron with his work on the final battle sequence.
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The space station above earth is called Gateway, a possible reference to Frederik Pohl's "Gateway" novel, a sci-fi classic.
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Ripley's pulse rifle, Gorman's pistol, Hicks' shotgun, Hudson's pulse rifle, Vasquez's pistol and smartgun and Frost's flamethrower all appear in Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) as "Legendary Weapons".
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The knife bishop uses for the knife trick is a gerber mark 2 knife produced since the Vietnam era and still in production today.
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This is one of the first films for which a "Special Edition" with added footage was available on home media. This version became so popular that most fans (and director James Cameron) now consider it the definitive cut of the film (it was even available on DVD before the theatrical version). Contrary to most films with special editions where only the original theatrical cut is ever broadcast on television, Aliens' Special Edition is usually the one shown on TV. Some broadcasters may not indicate which version they are showing (and it may be hard to guess from the scheduled time slot duration due to the volume of advertising breaks included). The easiest way to identify the extended Special Edition is by the early scenes of Ripley learning about her daughter following the events of Alien (1979), and Newt's family finding the derelict ship.
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William Hope (Gorman) voiced dr. Groves in the 2010 video game Alien vs. Predator and Marshall Waits in Alien Isolation (2014) he also provided voice acting for the Predator characters in Alien versus Predator, something he had previously done on Alien versus Predator (1999) and Alien versus Predator 2 (2001) coincidentally Gorman's incompetence share similar traits to Waits character, Hope also recorded voice work for T. Shannon in Aliens Colonial Marines, But ultimately the character did not appear in the final game.
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The knife trick performed by Bishop (Lance Henriksen) is an homage to the film "Dark Star" (1974), in which a similar knife trick was performed by Boiler (Cal Kuniholm). Dark Star which was co-written and starred by Dan O'Bannon, who also wrote the story and screenplay for the original Alien (1979).
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The helmets the Marines wear are modified M-1 ballistic helmets.
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Music during the climactic spaceship/Alien queen scene was used in trailers for the main event of 1995's WWF Survivor Series (Diesel vs Bret Hart)
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The pistol used by Colonial Marines is a Heckler and Koch VP70.
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This is the second James Cameron film in which Michael Biehn gets injured and has to have his female co-star help him, with Linda Hamilton doing the honors in The Terminator (1984).
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James Cameron delivered his initial 42 page treatment for the sequel in just three days.
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James Cameron described his creative process as "what I'm good at is working with actors to create scenes and then editing their performances to get the absolute best vibrating version of that scene and then share that with the audience. It's an amazing process to go through. Sometimes you think it's not going to work when you get started and then the characters come to life."
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At the briefing, Pvt Vasquez (probably unintentionally) quotes the ancient proverb, "The Spartans do not ask how many the enemy number, but where they are."
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When the film first premiered on ITV in the UK in 1990, all bad language was dubbed over by unknown voice actors. In one scene, Hudson says "The Sarge is gone! Get the f*** out of here!", but in the ITV broadcast it was changed to "The Sarge is gone! Get the hell out of here!!!" and another scene which Ripley says "You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them f****** each other over a goddamn percentage." In the ITV broadcast, it was changed to "You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fricking each other over a goddamn percentage".
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The scene featuring Al Simpson (Mac McDonald) and Lydecker (William Armstrong) in the Extended Cut is almost identical to a scene in James Cameron's later film Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991) an employee Flags down a supervisor in a busy office and they walk together, discussing the behavior of their employer-Weyland-Yutani in Aliens, CyberDyne Systems in Terminator 2, before the more senior man ends their conversation with a line about their employer only responding to sensitive questions with the phrase "don't ask".
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The marines ship "Sulaco" takes it's name from the port city in Joseph Conrad's Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard. This is in reference to the space freighter in Alien (1979) being called "Nostromo".
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James Cameron had sent his The Terminator (1984) screenplay out to producers in the hope of landing more writing assignments. He was hired to write Aliens on the recommendation of Walter Hill who loved The Terminator (1984), and was offered the director's chair after the studio was impressed by his screenplay.
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Both this film and its predecessor, Alien (1979), won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and were nominated for Best Art Direction.
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With a total of five nominations, this is the most Oscar-nominated movie of the franchise, and with two wins (Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing), it is also the most decorated installment in the series.
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(Extended Edition Only) Newt says that everybody calls her as "Newt" except her brother who calls her as her real name Rebecca, however, previously in the scene when Newt's parents enter the derelict while she and her brother wait for them, he calls her Newt instead of Rebecca.
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During the drop Hicks falls asleep. This is an obvious nod to Mercury astronaut Major Gordo Cooper, who was the last solo American in space and had the longest solo flight. Cooper was so laid back that he fell asleep in his capsule during the prelaunch countdown and had to be woken up before they could continue.
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This is one of two films in which Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton play roles where they are on the same team. They are both marines in this movie, and four years later, Navy Seals in Navy Seals (1990). In Tombstone (1993), seven years later, they are enemies: Biehn as Johnny Ringo and Paxton as Morgan Earp. They also appear together in 'The Terminator' and 'The Lords of Discipline'.
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The sentry gun software program displayed on the screen with the ammo counters is UA 571-C. Bill Paxton (Hudson) had a lead role in the movie U-571, 14 years later.
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This was the only Alien film to be shot in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The previous version of this trivia item was phrased "first and only," but it being the "only," naturally it was the first.
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When negotiating for the role, Sigourney Weaver requested that in the film, her character should never use a gun, have sex with an alien, and die. Cameron refused her on all three, but she achieved all three in the sequels where she got to be producer.
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United States Colonial Marines personnel service numbers:
  • SFC Apone, A A19/TQ4.0.32751E8
  • Pt Crowe, T A46/TQ1.0.98712E6
  • Cpl Dietrich, C A41/TQ8.0.81120E2
  • Pt Drake, M A23/TQ2.0.47619E7
  • Cpl Ferro, C A71/TQ9.0.09428E1
  • Pt Frost, R A17/TQ4.0.61247E5
  • Lt Gorman, S A09/TQ4.0.56124E3
  • Cpl Hicks, D A27/TQ4.0.48215E9
  • Pt Hudson, W A08/TQ1.0.41776E3
  • Pt Spunkmeyer, D A23/TQ6.0.92810E7
  • Pt Vasquez, J A03/TQ7.0.15618E4
  • Pt Wierzbowski, T A14/TQ8.0.20034E7
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In Aliens Colonial Marines, Gormans first name is William however, the crew manifest seen on a monitor aboard the Sulaco in the film gives his first initial as S. Alien the Weyland-Yutani Report later revealed his first name is Scott. This name was in fact chosen as a subtle thank you to an alien franchise fan, expert and forum member who helped to fact check the report.
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Sentry guns featured in special edition are of UA 571 model as viewed on their laptop management console. Funny enough, Bill Paxton (pvt. Hudson) appeared as Lt. Cmdr. Mike Dahlgren in submarine movie U-571 (2000).
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Al Matthews (Sergeant Apone) had a relatively big hit in the UK charts in 1975 with a song called "Fool"
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Sigourney Weaver had just finished shooting Half Moon Street (1986) two days before Aliens (1986) commenced production.
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The actor Mac McDonald who plays Al Simpson, the head of the colony, may be familiar to sci-fi buffs, but only for minor roles. He would later play the captain of the Red Dwarf (1988) and he was the flying cop who gets covered in fast food in The Fifth Element (1997), in which Al Matthews (Sgt. Apone) appeared as well.
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In Alien (1979), during their first meal after hypersleep, Lambert complains about the imitation cornbread. During the first meal in Aliens, Spunkmeyer has the same complaint.
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The Alien franchise was a major inspiration for the Nintendo series of Metroid (1986). The first game features a girl heroine that explores planets by herself while fighting dangerous biomechanoid creatures. They even named the bad guy of the series (Ridley) after the director of Alien (1979), Ridley Scott, and the second game, Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991), features a Metroid Queen.
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James Cameron originally wanted to shoot the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but hates anamorphic lenses after visual effects problems he experienced working on Escape from New York (1981). Around this time, Super 35 film stock was becoming an option, but a lab tech talked him out of it by warning him of how grainy the process was, leading Cameron to shoot it flat in the 1.85 ratio. Ironically, the film is infamous among cinematographers for having one of the grainiest 70mm transfers to public knowledge, and in the DVD commentary, Cameron wishes he shot the movie with the wider frame. It should be noted that all of Cameron's movies after this were shot in the Super 35 format and are often regarded as the gold standard for the process.
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When asked about the possibility of a sequel to Alien (1979), director Ridley Scott stated that he saw a lot of potential in exploring the origins of the Alien, which he saw as "may be one of the last descendants of some long-lost self-destructed group of beings". Scott added that "in many respects [this sequel will] be more interesting [than the first movie], from a pure science-fiction stand point." In the end, Scott was never approached to do a sequel, after James Cameron was asked to write and direct one on the strength of his movie The Terminator (1984). Scott said that "it hurt my feelings, really, because I thought we did quite a good job on the first one". However, while doing another film on an adjacent studio, he had a brief but polite chat with Cameron, showing no hard feelings whatsoever. Although the sequel did go into another direction than Scott had hoped, he was impressed by the result: "It's always a tough job to follow a successful film with a sequel to it, so what I think James Cameron did was an excellent action picture. It really was amazing what he accomplished. [...] I would never, ever critique or criticize [Aliens] because I think it was very successful and what he did was really good."
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Like Dan O'Bannon who had changed the name of his screenplay for the previous film from 'Star Beast' to Alien (1979) because he noted how often the word 'alien' was used in it, James Cameron similarly changed his screenplay from 'Alien II' to 'Aliens' after realizing how often that word appeared in it. It was also rumored that he convinced the studio of the name change by spelling 'Aliens' as 'Alien$', highlighting its box office potential.
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The Sulaco was described as "metal spires followed by a mountain of steel... ugly, battered, functional" in the screenplay. Syd Mead initially designed it as a large, circular ship, but James Cameron preferred something elongated. He handed in a sketch that made it look like a large pulse rifle as used by the marines in the film, which Mead used as the basis for the re-design.
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After the sudden success of The Terminator (1984), James Cameron was in high demand, but he really wanted to do this sequel to Alien (1979), one of his favorite films. A risky project, given that movie's popularity, but Cameron later said that he was so happy that he never considered it could be career suicide. When warned by producer Julia Phillips of Taxi Driver (1976) fame that anything good in the movie would inevitably be attributed to Ridley Scott's vision, and all the bad to his, he simply replied "Yeah, but it will be cool".
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The initial cut of the movie ran nearly 150 minutes, which was commercially risky. James Cameron was in doubt about how to shorten it, since shortening random scenes would only save minutes, and make the film feel rushed. Producer Gale Anne Hurd finally suggested cutting out a few scenes entirely, such as the references to Ripley's daughter, as well as the early scene on the colony and the Derelict Ship. Cameron hesitated to cut the latter, as it was the only direct link with the original film. He later realized that Hurd was right, as these scenes could be cut without damaging the plot, and deleting them brought the film neatly under 135 minutes. All these scenes were restored in the Special Edition that was created 6 years later.
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Bill Paxton ran into friend and colleague James Cameron shortly after the latter had been given the director's job on the movie. Paxton jokingly told Cameron "I hope you write me a good part in it", and was subsequently called to audition. He got a fake plasma rifle to use, but he got too enthusiastic, and later thought that his performance had been too over the top. Luckily, Cameron loved the energy that Paxton had displayed, and cast him as the Private Hudson, the movie's comic relief character.
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The Aliens' slime that covered the sets was created with copious amount of K-Y yelly lubricant, which gave it its characteristic glisten. The same substance was used in Alien (1979).
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The planetoid is called LV-426 in the movie, but it was less formally named 'Acheron' in the script. In Greek mythology, Acheron is 'the river of woe', one of five rivers in the Underworld (the land of the dead). Acheron forms the border between the upper and the lower world, and dead souls needs to cross it to reach the Underworld.
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To enhance the impact of gunshots, white frames were edited into the negative during gunfire. Due to the substantial amount of gunshots later in the movie, a negative cutter told James Cameron that reel 12 of the film contained more cuts than any complete film he had ever worked on.
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The success of this movie and his previous one, The Terminator (1984), allowed director James Cameron the right of final cut on his following movies.
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After the dropship rescues Ripley and Newt, a blast sends it hurling sideways into the wall before Bishop regains control. As he retracts the landing legs, some of the wreckage is pulled in with them. The Queen alien apparently used the opportunity to jump into the landing leg well.
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Vasquez's appearance and demeanor has caused speculation in regards to her sexuality. Jenette Goldstein, the actress who portrays Vasquez has made comments that she considers Vasquez to be an outsider, commenting, "With Vasquez, I never said she was straight or gay because to her it was nobody's business."
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Sergeant Apone's full rank is listed as "SFC" on a computer monitor. That is the abbreviation for the current U.S. Army rank of Sergeant First Class, which is usually a platoon sergeant position. The equivalent current U.S. Marine Corps rank would be Gunnery Sergeant, abbreviated GySgt. SFC Apone also wears the current Army gold and green stripes of a Sergeant First Class.
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The hero shotgun prop used by Hicks was an Ithaca Model 37 altered by having its barrel shortened and the original hand grip replaced with a World War II MP40 submachine gun pistol grip; parts of the shotguns original stock woodwork were retained as a fixing point for the MP40 aluminum grip casting, the same shotgun previously appeared in the episode "Heroes" of the British television series The Professionals, and the episode "The Bogeyman" of the British television series Dempsey and Makepeace (1985) where it was used by the characters Tommy and Keith Lymon, respectively. In these television appearances the weapon was fitted with a folding stock seemingly also taken from an MP40. However for the filming of Aliens, the stock was removed. Also for Aliens the grip had gaffer tape wrapped around it covering the entire grip along with the holes for mounting the folding stock. By the time the shotgun came to be in the possession of the prop store, the tape had long been removed.
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The pump-action Ithaca 37 shotgun used by Hicks "for close encounters" was originally featured in an episode of The Professionals: Heroes (1978), "Heroes", in 1978. The prop was used again in an episode of Dempsey and Makepeace: The Bogeyman (1985) in 1985. Coincidently, Al Matthews also starred in an episode of The Professionals in 1981.
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When Sergeant Apone points to himself and says "Look into my Eye", he's flashing a Masonic Ring on his hand.
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Paul Reiser subsequently appeared in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) for director Tony Scott, whose brother Ridley Scott directed the original Alien (1979). Although she doesn't appear; Helen Hunt acted with two co-stars of this film. Paul Reiser on television in "Mad About You" (1992) and Bill Paxton in feature film "Twister" (1996), respectively.
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Footage from this movie was used in a DirecTV commercial.
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When Burke and Ripley are discussing her psych evaluation results, a People magazine can be seen on a table.
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Lance Hendrickson plays a character that is named after him (Lance Bishop).
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If Hudson was really getting close to days before getting out, more than likely, the marines would have pulled him from duty.
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By the late 1980s, the process of 24 frames per second video had been widely adopted, in part as a technical advance on the techniques used in "Aliens", amongst other productions, including 24fps filming of the UK's 25/50 fps PAL tv and video monitors - removing generally unavoidable screen flicker from the video refreshing rate clashes causing odd screen images when shot using different film speed frame rates. Ultimately this led to many productions being shot on video and given a fake 24fps film appearance, and ultimately led to motion pictures being shot in HD and Ultra HD, in effect as 24fps video.
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The colonial Marines cast members, including the android, Bishop, are highly synonymous with the vampires from 1987's Near Dark.
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Pauline Kael called James Cameron's "Aliens" "an inflated example of formula gothic ... more mechanical than the first film," but she did single out Sigourney Weaver for praise: "With her great cheekbones, her marvelous physique, and her lightness of movement, Weaver seems to take over by natural authority and her strength as an actress. Her surprisingly small, tense mouth holds all the suspense in the story.... Weaver gives the movie a presence; without her it's a B picture that lacks the subplots and corny characters that can make B pictures amusing."
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The second of four Alien movies starring Sigourney Weaver.
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Vic Armstrong says in his memoirs he was offered this film.
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Gorman is the archetypical inexperienced Lieutenant - a person in authority who does not have the experience that the men have and is prone to make mistakes that cause problems and sometimes cost lives. One may have heard the expression, "shaved tail looey." This is a reference to lieutenants like Gorman.
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Vasquez's cross-draw holster appears to be made from a Pulse Rifle/M240 Incinerator Unit/M314 Motion Tracker nylon sling and a belt seen being worn by other Marines in the film.
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The base of the ME3 props used, was a Hama "Kameragriff mit Spiralkabel" 50 cm (5506 or 5507). It appears that the welder may have not been directly built from a Hama grip and that the grip was used as the base the welder prototype was build on, as the screw holes on the right side of the grip have been filled in, the "trigger" has been omitted and the hinge bracket has been fixed in place and extended to the back. It is possible the prototype was then used to cast shells, which would then cover a real TIG welder.
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Inside the colony complex, Bishop (Lance Henriksen reads the medical chart of a "Marachek, John J.", one of the colonists who died when they removed a facehugger from his face. This name could be a reference to actor Steve Marachuk who starred with Henriksen in Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), one of director James Cameron's previous films.
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Newt reckons the scenario will turn ugly again for the humans, despite the presence of the Space Marines. Ripley: Newt, these people are soldiers. They're here to protect you. Newt: It won't make any difference.
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Ripley promises that she won't leave Newt, "cross my heart and hope to die". She gets a chance to prove that she means it when the xenomorphs capture Newt with only minutes before a nuclear detonation will occur.
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Ripley suggests nuking the site from orbit and Hicks agrees. The site ends up nuking itself when the damaged power plant explodes.
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Also in the Special Edition, when Commander Simpson is discussing claim rights for colony surveyors. In reference to Newt's dad, "if he finds anything, it's his". Well, he certainly brings something back to Hadley's Hope with him -- and that particular "piece of salvage" does not stay his, but becomes a major problem for the entire colony very fast. Also, Newt's dad was only concerned about his claim not being honored "because you sent them to that particular middle of nowhere on Company orders," indicating someone took Ripley's story seriously enough to have it investigated, kicking off the entire plot.
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While searching the colony, they find vats of facehuggers, two of which are still alive, and as one is alerted by Burke, Hicks comments "Looks like love at first sight to me." Later, we learn that the "love" went both ways, with Burke wanting to bring in a xenomorph himself, and when Ripley refuses to cooperate, he sics the two living facehuggers on her and Newt.
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Director Cameo 

James Cameron: (at around 4 mins) voice over in the opening deep salvage team: "Bio readouts are in the green, looks like she's alive!"
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Director Trademark 

James Cameron: [Biehn's hand] (at around 45 mins) Michael Biehn's character gets bitten on the hand by another character. See The Abyss (1989) and The Terminator (1984).
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James Cameron: [strong women] Many of Cameron's films (Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), The Terminator (1984), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Titanic (1997)) champion strong women, both mentally and physically.
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James Cameron: [flying vehicles] The flying vehicles in Cameron's films exhibit helicopter-like flight characteristics regardless of their design. Specifically, the noses of the vehicles dip to initiate forward movement (also: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Avatar (2009)).
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James Cameron: [nice cut] (at around 5 mins) a few minutes into the movie, we see Ripley lying in the cryo-tube, and then the scene fades to the picture of the earth; the earth directly fits into the silhouette of Ripley's face.
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James Cameron: [feet] When Ripley drives the APC, she crushes an alien's head under one of the wheels.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In an interview with Moviefone Sigourney Weaver said that each time one of the actors was to "die" she would give them a bouquet of flowers before filming began. When it was time for Paul Reiser to be killed she gave him a handful of dead blossoms.
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When filming the scene with Newt in the duct, Carrie Henn kept deliberately blowing her scene so she could slide down the vent, which she later called a slide three stories tall. James Cameron finally dissuaded her by saying that if she completed the shot, she could play on it as much as she wanted. She did, and he kept his promise.
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Lance Henriksen caught a dose of food poisoning from the milk and yogurt combination that he had to spew up when his chest was pierced by the alien queen's tail. Having this lactose combination sitting around under hot studio lights created a bacterial breeding ground. Curiously, the crew of the first Alien (1979) film opted not to use milk for Ash's "death" scene (where he also spews the milky substance out of his mouth) as they thought a fluid made of milk would go sour under the hot lights (see also trivia for Alien (1979)).
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To bring the Alien queen to life would take anything between 14 and 16 operators, since the head, neck, body, legs, face, lips, jaws and tongue all had to move independently. Stan Winston constructed a mold from fiberglass and foam, which was subsequently dressed with black garbage bags and moved by two puppeteers inside, in order to shoot a test video as proof that such a large creature would be feasible. The fully built animatronic creature was so convincing that Steven Spielberg later enlisted Winston to construct the full animatronic T-Rex for Jurassic Park (1993).
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When Newt and Ripley are locked in MedLab, Ripley is attacked by one of the two facehuggers after setting off the sprinklers, resulting in the facehugger wrapping its tail around her neck after jumping off of a table leg. To film this, director James Cameron had the Special Effects crew design a facehugger fully capable of walking towards Ripley on its own, but to make it appear as if it jumps off of the table, and Cameron then used backwards-filming. He set up the facehugger on the table leg, then dragged it off and later edited the piece of film to play backward to make it appear to be moving forward towards Ripley. The crew thought that the fact that water was falling down during this whole scene would affect the sequence that was filmed backward (it would show the water moving up instead of down). In the end, the water was not visible enough to see the direction in which it was falling.
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In the original script, while Ripley is rescuing Newt, she encounters a cocooned Burke (Paul Reiser) in the power plant. He claims he can feel the chestburster inside him and asks for help. Ripley simply gives him a live grenade and moves on. This scene was filmed, but James Cameron didn't like it visually, and cut it from the theatrical cut. It was not among the restored scenes in the Special Edition either, so for decades, the only proof that it existed was a single still image from a magazine. The scene was finally made available in full on the film's Blu-Ray bonus content.
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At the film's premiere, Paul Reiser's sister physically struck him because his character, Burke, was so contemptible.
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According to the 1991 Special Widescreen Collector's Edition Laserdisc release of the movie (presented on the Bonus Disc of the 2003 Alien Quadrilogy DVD Box Set), James Cameron turned in the first treatment for the film, called "Alien II" at the time, on 21 September 1983. Some of the differences between this initial treatment and the final film included the following: - The character of Carter Burke was absent, instead, his dialogue was given to someone named Dr. O'Niel, who did not join Ripley and the marines on their voyage to the colony planet. - Instead of being taken to the Gateway Station, Ripley was taken to Earth Station Beta. - The name of the colony planet was Acheron, taken from the script of Alien (1979), instead of LV-426. - Ripley's daughter was alive, and Ripley had a disheartening videophone conversation with her, where she blamed Ripley for abandoning her by going to space. - There were multiple atmospheric processors on the planet. - The initial discovery of the aliens on the colony planet is much longer, where it is shown how Newt's father gets to the site of the eggs and is jumped by a facehugger. - An additional scene involves a rescue team going to the site of the alien eggs and being jumped by tens of facehuggers. - The aliens sting people to paralyze them before either killing or cocooning them. - At one point Ripley, Newt and Hicks get cocooned. - The aliens cocooning people are a different breed. They look like smaller, albino versions of the warrior aliens. - Bishop refuses to land on the planet and pick up Ripley, Hicks and Newt, indicating "the risk of contaminating other inhabited worlds is too great." - Ripley ends up using the colonists' shuttle to get back to the Sulaco. - Bishop tells her: "You were right about me all along." The first draft script was turned in by Cameron on 30 May 1985. This draft was quite different from the treatment, but very close to the final film.
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The music that plays when the Alien Queen appears as Ripley and Newt wait for the elevator is a reused piece from Jerry Goldsmith's score for the original Alien (1979). Thematically, the music appears in both movies at the same time: near the end, as Ripley tries to escape from an alien while the environment around her counts down to self-destruction (the Nostromo in Alien (1979), and the atmosphere processor in Aliens (1986)).
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Although the first script draft turned in on 30 May 1985 was very close to the final film, some scenes in this version were dropped or changed in the final film, though most remained in Alan Dean Foster's novelization. Those include:
  • Ripley's nightmare was quite bloody, with a quick glimpse of the chestburster.
  • Ripley and Burke waiting outside for the board's final decision; Ripley is convinced they think she is crazy.
  • A longer scene with the Jordan family arguing; apparently, Newt and Timmy often play hide-and-seek inside the facility, which she calls 'Monster Maze'.
  • A shower scene aboard the Sulaco.
  • Ripley going into more detail about the facehuggers while briefing the Marines, calling the facehugger "a walking sex organ" to which Hudson replies, "Sounds like you, Hicks."
  • While nearing LV-426, Gorman re-confirms that there is no communication whatsoever from the colony.
  • There are thirty atmospheric processing units on the planet, as opposed to only one in the final film.
  • The initial sweep of the colony complex includes the colonists' quarters as well. A dangling piece of ceiling sets off the motion tracker (white mice in the movie).
  • Ripley returns into the APC, not yet ready to enter the complex. When she finally goes in, she is startled at the door by Pvt. Wierzbowski, who kept an eye on her.
  • Gorman telling Burke that the Company can write off its share of the colony; Burke replies it is insured anyway.
  • Ripley offers to be Newt's friend, but she declines, thinking Ripley will be dead soon anyway. Newt explains she evaded the Aliens because she was so good at playing Monster Maze.
  • The resin from the Alien nest contains furniture, wires, as well as human bones.
  • During the Alien attack, Apone hands back the rifle magazines, ignoring Gorman's order.
  • During the escape, Gorman is stung unconscious by an Alien and almost pulled out of the APC; Hicks uses a gun turret to blast the Alien off the roof.
  • Burke stresses the importance of the Aliens more strongly, even offering Ripley a higher percentage if she cooperates.
  • Newt formally offering Ripley to be her daughter; Ripley likes the idea.
  • Bishop reveals that Gorman's catatonia is caused by a neuromuscular toxin from an Alien's stinger (replaced by the discovery that Alien blood gets neutralized through oxidation in the movie). Bishop also predicts that the Queen has a large abdomen, and possesses basic intelligence.
  • After the first sentry gun attack, a motion sensor indicates the Aliens have breached the door, and have entered the complex.
  • Bishop encountering an Alien while crawling along the tunnel (this scene also appeared in the final script but neither in the theatrical release nor in the Special Edition).
  • Gorman asks Vasquez if she still wants to kill him; she replies it won't be necessary.
  • The second drop ship refueling itself before leaving the Sulaco under Bishop's remote control.
  • Hicks uses a welder to open a duct into a service way. From there, Newt falls into a chute. Ripley follows, but takes a different chute.
  • The first draft also included a scene with a cocooned Burke, which was shot but not included in any of the versions of the movie.
  • There are tiny albino versions of the warrior Aliens in the egg chamber, which pick up the eggs.
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As Russ Jordan (Newt's father) was the first of the colonists to be impregnated, it has been theorized by many fans that he may have given birth to the Xenomorph Queen. When asked about what happened off screen, James Cameron indicated that after Newt's mother called for help, a rescue team arrived, and some its members investigated the Derelict Ship. They also got impregnated and were brought back to the colony complex, where they 'birthed' several chestbursters. Cameron theorized that the Queen was "one of the first to emerge from hosts".
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(At around 1h 30 mins) In the MedLab scene, just before Ripley reaches out to hug Newt after setting off the fire alarm, there is a futuristic piece of medical apparatus with three objects hanging down off of it that can be briefly seen in the foreground. These objects are actually three Transformers toys, namely the Decepticon 'Shockwave' made by Hasbro in 1985 (though it's possible that the toy might even be the earlier 'Galactic Man' sold by Radio Shack). The toys have been spray-painted a dull silver colour and are displayed in their laser gun 'mode', but with each of the robot toy's arms (i.e. the laser gun's barrel) split apart. In this 'semi-transformation' the toy is made to look like a futuristic grasping tool or perhaps even a laser scalpel. With this 'cameo' of sorts, it could be said that 'Shockwave' appeared in two movies in 1986, the other being The Transformers: The Movie (1986).
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The longer "Special Edition", which broadcasters seem to show instead of the theatrical version, clearly explains why Ripley becomes a protective mother to Newt. Also, that the end scene is actually a battle between 2 mothers - Ripley and the Alien.
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Even Paul Reiser's own mother said "Good" when his character met his demise in the film.
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In the first half of all four Alien films, one or two characters are introduced and built up in a way to make the audience think that they are going to be important characters throughout the story, only to have them killed off less than halfway through. In Aliens, it is Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews).
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A key plot point is the station's fusion reactor building up to a thermonuclear explosion. Fusion reactors of contemporary design (ITER, Tokamak) cannot explode in this way. However, there is much technology in this movie (spaceships, etc.) that hasn't been invented yet, and it's possible that a future fusion reactor could have this fault, or that the Weyland-Yutani Company simply doesn't care enough about the safety of its people and installations.
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Vasquez says to Bishop vaya con dios which means go with god when he goes through the tunnel to the uplink tower. Ironically, Bishop survives while Vasquez dies along with Gorman.
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Some of the more complicated special effects shots such as the crash of the first dropship, and Ripley and Newt standing on the platform just before they are picked up by Bishop, were done with an old technique called process photography. Basically, this involves filming the actors in front of a large screen upon which the preferred background is projected (usually pre-filmed special effects footage). It is usually done when filming the background for real would be unpractical, too costly or impossible. Process shots had been used extensively since the 1940s to depict people in moving vehicles, but had been all but abandoned by the 1980s because the movements of the backgrounds would often comically mismatch with the actors' movements in the foreground. However, James Cameron, who would later use process photography in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) as well, was praised for his ability to employ the old technique so convincingly, eschewing the use of bluescreen photography which was the norm then, before computer-generated imagery (CGI) would take over.
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Hudson (Bill Paxton) is last seen dragged away by an Alien warrior, so it is assumed that he was either killed by Aliens, or died in the nuclear explosion when the atmosphere processor went critical. However, the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) gives him a different (non-canon) fate: the colony complex, though heavily damaged from the blast, is still standing, and Hudson's corpse is found in the sewer, cocooned to the wall and with a hole in his chest, clearly having been killed when a Chestburster emerged from him.
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James Cameron later admitted that he didn't think the character Burke (Paul Reiser) was very realistic. He had written Burke as a ruthless schemer, but later found that most company men are "spineless and would not go out on a limb as Burke does for a proactive reason of greed".
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