According to Yaphet Kotto, Ridley Scott told him to annoy Sigourney Weaver off-camera, so that there would be tension between their characters. Kotto regrets this, because he really liked Weaver.
The blue laser lights that were used in the alien ship's egg chamber were borrowed from The Who. The band was testing out the lasers for their stage show in the soundstage next door.
To get Jones the cat to react fearfully to the descending Alien, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him with a screen between the two, so the cat wouldn't see it at first. The screen was then suddenly removed to make Jones stop advancing and start hissing.
The dead facehugger that Ash autopsies was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters, and a sheep kidney to recreate the internal organs.
It was Conceptual Artist Ron Cobb who came up with the idea that the Alien should bleed acid. This came about when Dan O'Bannon couldn't find a reason why the Nostromo crew wouldn't just shoot the Alien with a gun.
In H.R. Giger's original illustrations, the creature has eyes. For the movie, Giger insisted that the creature have no eyes, thus giving the bleak appearance of a cold and emotionless beast.
During early development, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett ran into a writing impasse while trying to work out how the alien would get aboard the ship. Shussett came up with the idea "the alien f*cks one of them", which was eventually developed into the facehugger concept. This method of reproduction via implantation was deliberately intended to invoke images of male rape and impregnation, so both writers were adamant that the facehugger victim be a man: firstly, because they wanted to avoid the horror cliché of women being depicted as the easy first target; secondly, because they felt that making a female the casualty of a symbolic rape felt inappropriate; and thirdly, to make the male viewers feel more uncomfortable with this reversal of genre conventions.
The creature is never filmed directly facing the camera due to the humanoid features of its face. Ridley Scott, determined at all costs to dispel any notion of a man in a rubber suit, filmed the beast in varying close-up angles of its ghastly profile, very rarely capturing the beast in its entirety.
Bolaji Badejo who plays the Alien in the movie, was a graphic artist, who was discovered at a pub by one of the casting directors. He was seven feet one inch tall with thin arms, just what they needed to fit into the Alien costume. He was sent for Tai Chi and Mime classes to learn how to slow down his movements. A special swing had to be constructed for him to sit down during filming, as he could not sit down on a regular chair once he was suited up, because of the Alien's tail.
Many producers have professional "readers" that read and summarize scripts for them. The reader in this case summarized it as "It's like Jaws (1975), but in space."
Copywriter Barbara Gips came up with the famed tagline: "In space, no one can hear you scream."
Ridley Scott stated that in casting the role of Ripley, it ultimately came down to Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep. The two actresses had been college mates at Yale. Ultimately, Weaver was offered the job because Streep was mourning the death of her partner John Cazale at the time of casting.
Ridley Scott cites three films as the shaping influences on his movie: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for their depiction of outer space, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) for its treatment of horror.
20th Century Fox doubled the budget from 4.2 million dollars, to 8.4 million dollars, on the strength of seeing Ridley Scott's storyboards.
The Xenomorph has four minutes of screentime, and doesn't make its first appearance until about an hour into the film.
The spacesuits worn by Tom Skerritt, Sir John Hurt, and Veronica Cartwright were huge, bulky items lined with nylon and with no outlets for breath or condensation. As the actors and actress were working under hot studio lights in conditions in excess of one hundred degrees, they spent most of their time passing out. A nurse had to be on hand at all times, to keep supplying them with oxygen. It was only after Ridley Scott's and Cinematographer Derek Vanlint's children were used in the suits for long shots and they passed out too, that some modifications were made to the costumes.
Dan O'Bannon's original draft title was "Star Beast", but he was never happy with this. It was only after re-reading his script, that he noted how many times the word "alien" appeared, and realized that it was a perfect title. It works as a noun and an adjective, and it had never been used before.
The inside of the alien eggs, as seen by Kane, was composed of real organic material. Ridley Scott used cattle hearts and stomachs. The "egg tube" of the facehugger was sheep intestine.
A sex scene between Dallas and Ripley was scripted, to show how casually the crew would solve long periods of abstinence. Another reference to this was a deleted scene where Ripley inquires with Lambert whether she ever had sex with Ash. The sex scene was ultimately not filmed, but Ridley Scott revived the idea for Prometheus (2012).
It was Sigourney Weaver's idea to sing, "You Are My Lucky Star" while preparing to get rid of the Xenomorph. Ridley Scott mentions how much flak he got from the studio because of how expensive the rights to the song were.
A scene originally cut, but re-inserted for the Director's Cut, shows Lambert slapping Ripley, in retaliation for Ripley's refusal to let her, Dallas, and Kane back on the ship. According to Ridley Scott and Veronica Cartwright, every time she went to slap Sigourney Weaver, Sigourney would shy away. After about three or four takes of this, Scott finally told Cartwright "Not to hold back. Really hit her." Thus the very real shocked reactions of Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton.
The first day that she shot a scene involving Jones the cat, Sigourney Weaver's skin started reacting badly. Horrified, the young actress immediately thought that she might be allergic to cats, and that it would be easier for the production to re-cast her, instead of trying to find four more identical cats. As it transpired, Weaver was reacting to glycerin sprayed on her skin to make her look hot and sweaty.
20th Century Fox almost did not allow the "space jockey", or the giant alien pilot, to be in the film. This was because, at the time, props for movies weren't so large, and it would only be used for one scene. However, Conceptual Artist Ron Cobb convinced them to leave the scene in the movie, as it would be the film's "Cecil B. DeMille shot", showing the audience that this wasn't some low budget B-movie.
In the original script by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the names of the characters were Standard, Roby, Broussard, Melkonis, Hunter, and Faust (there was no Ash character). Walter Hill and David Giler hated the names, and changed them multiple times during revisions. They finally settled on Dallas, Ripley, Kane, Lambert, Parker, and Brett, and added Ash. The script by O'Bannon and Shusett also had a clause indicating that all of the characters are "unisex", meaning they could be cast with men or women. Consequently, all of the characters are only referred to by their last name (Dallas, Kane, Ripley, Ash, Lambert, Parker, and Brett), and the few gender-specific pronouns (he or she) were corrected after casting. However, Shusett and O'Bannon never thought of casting Ripley as a female character.
To preserve the shock value of the alien's appearance, no production images of it were released, not even to author Alan Dean Foster when he wrote the film's novelization.
The front (face) part of the alien costume's head is made from a cast of a real human skull.
Ron Cobb's explanation of the what happened to the Space Jockeys: "At some point, a cataclysm causes the extermination of the adults in this unique race, leaving no one to tend and nurture the young. But in a dark lower chamber of the breeding temple, a large number of eggs lies dormant, waiting to sense something warm. Years later, the Space Jockey race comes to this planetoid. The Jockeys are on a mission of exploration and archaeology, and they are fascinated by this marvelous temple and unknown culture. One of them finds the egg chamber and gets face-hugged. He's rescued, but no one knows what's happened. They take him back to their ship and continue their exploration of the planet's surface. When the chest-burster erupts from the Jockey, it goes on a killing rampage until it is shot and killed. The Alien dies, but immediately decomposes and its acid eats through the hull of the Jockey ship, leaving them stranded on the planet. The Jockeys radio out a message that there is a dangerous parasite on the planet, that nothing can be done to save them in time, and that no one should attempt a rescue. Then the Jockeys slowly starve to death."
When casting the role of Ripley, Ridley Scott invited several women from the production office to watch screentests, and thus gain a female perspective. The women were unanimously impressed with then-unknown Sigourney Weaver, whose screen presence they compared to Jane Fonda's.
The facehugger was planned to be painted green, but Dan O'Bannon, seeing the unpainted facehugger on-set, and noting how inventive its human flesh tone color was, argued for it to remain as is.
H.R. Giger successfully sued 20th Century Fox eighteen years later, over his lack of screen credit on Alien: Resurrection (1997).
H.R. Giger's designs were changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.
The chestbursting scene was considered the second scariest movie moment of all time on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).
In the chest bursting scene, Veronica Cartwright, playing Lambert, screams when blood splatters on her. Her screaming was genuine. The cast didn't expect so much blood, and didn't know which way the blood would splatter.
Many of the interior features of the Nostromo were inspired by images from airplane graveyards.
H.R. Giger's initial designs for the facehugger were held by U.S. Customs, who were alarmed at what they saw. Dan O'Bannon had to go to Los Angeles International Airport, to explain to them that they were designs for a horror movie. The actual production design of the facehugger used by sculptors to make the real prop, was created by Dan O'Bannon, as O'Bannon had trained as a designer (Giger wasn't available in England at the time).
Originally, no film companies wanted to make this film; 20th Century Fox even passed on it. They stated various reasons, most being that it was too bloody. The only producer who wanted to make the film was Roger Corman, and it was not until Walter Hill came on-board that it all changed. 20th Century Fox agreed to make the film, as long as the violence was toned down. Even after that, they still rejected the first cut for being "too bloody".
In the wide shots of the Space Jockey prop, Ridley Scott used his two sons to make the prop seem bigger.
The stylized artwork that Ridley Scott used to create the storyboards, that got Fox to double the budget, were inspired by the artwork of famed French comic book artist Jean Giraud a.k.a. Moebius.
According to Sir John Hurt in the DVD Documentary, he was considered at the beginning of casting to play Kane, but had already committed to another film that was set to take place in South Africa, so Jon Finch got the role instead. However, two separate incidents occurred which got Hurt the role. First, was the fact that he was banned from South Africa because the country mistook him for John Heard, who strongly opposed Apartheid (Hurt points out that he was opposed to it too, but was lucky enough not to get blacklisted) so he was unable to do the other film. Second, Finch became seriously ill from diabetes, and had to pull out. Ridley Scott immediately contacted Hurt, pitched him the script over a weekend, and Hurt arrived on the set Monday morning with little to no sleep to begin filming.
For the scene, in which the facehugger attacks, the egg was upside down above the camera, and the operator thrust it down toward the lens like a hand puppet.
For the awakening from hypersleep segment, Veronica Cartwright and Sigourney Weaver had to wear white surgical tape over their nipples so as not to offend certain countries.
The engines of the Narcissus coming to life was created by having water pour out of showers with strong arc lights around it. This gave the illusion that it was plasma.
Dan O'Bannon was hypercritical of any changes made to his script and, to be fair, he defended some aspects of the film that ended up being the most iconic (including H.R. Giger's designs). Although he would come on-set and nitpick, O'Bannon was generally welcomed by Ridley Scott, until O'Bannon lost his temper and insulted Scott in front of the whole crew. The producers, including Walter Hill, had minimal respect for O'Bannon and largely ignored him, giving him little credit once the film became a success.
The screentest that bagged Sigourney Weaver the role of Ripley, was her speech from her final scene.
Roger Dicken, who designed and operated the facehugger and the chestburster, had originally wanted the latter to pull itself out of Kane's torso with its own little hands, a sequence he felt would have produced a much more horrifying effect than the gratuitous blood and guts in the release print. A chestburster with tiny arms pulling itself out would be seen in the sequel Aliens (1986).
The Nostromo is supposed to be eight hundred feet long, while the craft she is towing is a mile and a half long.
Aside from being an easy-to-remember moniker for the ship's computer, another reason for the crew referring to it as "Mother" is the actual name of the computer: MU-TH-UR. This is printed in red lettering on the small access door that holds the computer card that Dallas and Ripley use to gain access to the control console room.
H.R. Giger's design for the Chestburster was originally based very strongly on Francis Bacon's "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion", depicting creatures that, while quite phallic, are also more birdlike, being based on the Greek Furies. Giger's doubts about his first design were confirmed when Ridley Scott fell about laughing at the sight of the prototype Chestburster, describing it as "like a plucked turkey", and Roger Dicken ended up retooling it to resemble the now classic design.
Ridley Scott's 2003 Director's Cut largely came about, when over one hundred boxes of footage were discovered in a London vault.
After the crew awakens from hypersleep, the navigator Lambert announces that the ship is "just short of Zeta 2 Reticuli." Zeta Reticuli is a real double-star system about thirty-nine light-years from Earth, and has figured prominently in U.F.O. lore. In the 1960s, Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been abducted by "gray" aliens from Zeta Reticuli.
According to myth, the name for the company, "Weylan-Yutani" (the spelling was changed to "Weyland-Yutani" in Aliens (1986) and later films), was taken from the names of Ridley Scott's former neighbors. He hated them, so he decided to "dedicate" the name of the "evil company" to them. In reality, the name was created by Conceptual Designer Ron Cobb (who created the Nostromo and the crew's uniforms) to imply a corner on the spacecraft market by an English-Japanese corporation. According to himself, he would have liked to use "Leyland-Toyota", but obviously could not, so he changed one letter in Leyland, and added the Japanese name of his (not Scott's) neighbor.
The screech of the newborn alien was voiced by animal impersonator Percy Edwards. He was personally requested by Ridley Scott to do the sound effect, and it was recorded in one take.
Potential directors who either were considered by the studio or wanted to direct, included Robert Aldrich, Peter Yates, Jack Clayton, Dan O'Bannon, and Walter Hill. Aldrich, in particular, came very close to being hired, but the producers ultimately decided against it after they met him in person, and it quickly became apparent that he had no real enthusiasm for the project beyond the money he would have received. According to David Giler, the moment when Aldrich talked himself out of the job came when they asked him what kind of a design he had in mind for the facehugger. Aldrich simply shrugged and said, "We'll put some entrails on the guy's face. It's not as if anyone's going to remember that critter once they've left the theater."
The movie's Hungarian title translates back into English as "The eighth passenger is the Death". All other Alien movies had titles that end with the word "death". Aliens (1986): "The Name of the Planet: Death"; Alien 3 (1992): "Final Solution: Death"; Alien: Resurrection (1997): "The Resurrection of Death". The original releases ignored the word "Alien" from the title, but it gradually became reinserted after more people became familiar with the franchise's English name. Despite this, the Alien is again referred to as "Death" in the Hungarian title of AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004): "The Death Against the Predator".
In an interview for Métal Hurlant, Ridley Scott revealed that to make the action more realistic, the flight deck was wired so that flipping a switch in at one console would trigger lights somewhere else. The cast then developed "work routines" for themselves where one would trip a switch, leading another to respond to the changes at his work station and so on.
The alien's habit of laying eggs in the chest (which later burst out) was inspired by spider wasps, which are said to lay their eggs "in the abdomen of spiders". This image gave Dan O'Bannon nightmares, which he used to create the story. But spider wasps (pompilidae) lay eggs on their prey, not inside them, after which, the wasp maggots simply snack on the sting-paralyzed spiders. O'Bannon may instead have been thinking of either ichneumon wasps, or braconid wasps. The ichneumon drills a single egg into a wood-boring beetle larva, whereas braconids inject eggs inside certain caterpillars. Both result in fatal hatch-outs more alike to O'Bannon's alien.
The embryonic movements of the facehugger, prior to bursting out of its egg, were created by Ridley Scott using both of his rubber-gloved hands.
The genesis of the film arose out of Dan O'Bannon's dissatisfaction with his first feature, Dark Star (1974) which John Carpenter directed in 1974. Because of that film's severely low budget, the alien was quite patently a beach ball. For his second attempt, O'Bannon wanted to craft an altogether more convincing specimen. The goofiness of Dark Star (1974) also led him in the direction of an intense horror movie.
The models had to be repainted every evening of the shoot, because the slime used on-set, removed the acrylic paint from their surfaces.
The original name for the spaceship was Snark. This was later changed to Leviathan, before they finally settled for Nostromo.
The horseshoe-shaped alien craft became known by the nickname "The Big Croissant" among the cast and crew.
The vapor released from the top of the spacesuit helmets (presumably exhausted air from the breathing apparatus) was actually aerosol sprayed from inside the helmets. In one case, the mechanism broke and started spraying inside the helmet.
The murky point-of-view footage from the Nostromo's crew's helmet visors when they first exit their craft to investigate the alien planet, was filmed by Ridley Scott, walking a consumer camcorder at low level across the cramped set.
The production designers, in an attempt to cut costs while still remaining creative, constructed several of the sets in such a way as to make them usable in more than one scene. A good example of this can be seen in the "Space Jockey" room (the room in which to away team discovers the skeletal remains in the alien ship) and the "egg chamber". The sets were designed so that the skeleton and the revolving disc, on which it sits, could be removed and the empty space then redressed with the "eggs", creating, combined with a matching matte painting, a vast cavern full of potential alien spawn.
The large Space Jockey sculpture was designed and painted by H.R. Giger, who was disappointed he couldn't put any finishing touches on it by the time filming came about for the scene. Also, the Space Jockey prop was burned and destroyed by a burning cigarette left on the model. The unfortunate event was covered by local television news stations that evening.
One hundred thirty alien eggs were made for the egg chamber inside the downed spacecraft.
After the first week of shooting, Dan O'Bannon asked if he could attend the viewing of the dailies, and was somewhat staggered when Gordon Carroll refused him. To get past that ban, O'Bannon viewed the dailies by standing beside the projectionist while he screened them for everyone else.
Ridley Scott made sure that Bolaji Badejo did not take tea or lunch breaks with the rest of the cast, so that their fear of the Alien would be more genuine.
According to Ridley Scott, the mechanism that was used to make the alien egg open was so strong that it could tear off a hand.
Dan O'Bannon requested that Ridley Scott and Producer Walter Hill, both of whom had little knowledge of horror or science fiction cinema, screen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) to prepare for shooting the more intense scenes. Scott and Hill were stunned by the horror film, and admitted it motivated them to ratchet up the intensity of their own film.
Bolaji Badejo regretted that no one can recognize him as the Alien in the film, but thinking back on Boris Karloff, Sir Christopher Lee, or other successful actors who began their careers by playing grotesque monsters, he adds, "The fact that I played the part of the Alien, for me, that's good enough. Legally, I'll be given the opportunity of doing a follow-up, if there is one." Although he is training for a career on graphic design and commercial art, he exclaims, "Not if a film comes along!"
Three aliens were made: a model, a suit for seven foot tall Bolaji Badejo, and another suit for a trained stuntman.
Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) and Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) had both read for the part of Ripley. Cartwright only found out that she wasn't playing the part of Ripley when she was first called in to do some costume tests for the character of Lambert.
A closer look at the alien eggs in the scene right before the facehugger reveals that slime on the eggs is dripping from bottom to top. Ridley Scott did this intentionally by shooting with the egg hanging from the ceiling and the camera upside down.
Dan O'Bannon's idea for the movie came from his experiences on two other projects. He had worked as a writer and special effects supervisor on John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974), a sci-fi comedy that started out as a student project, but got turned into a feature film. Halfway during the production of the movie, O'Bannon thought the movie's premise would work much better as a horror movie, so he started work on a script called 'Star Beast'. Dark Star was a commercial failure, but it was seen by Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who had acquired the rights to Frank Herbert's "Dune". Jodorowsky invited O'Bannon to help him with the book's ambitious adaptation, so O'Bannon sold all his belongings and moved to Paris to work on the film. While briefly working on the ill-fated project, he encountered influential artists such as Chris Foss, Ron Cobb, Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), H.R. Giger and their unique styles. When Jodorowsky's Dune fell through due to lack of funding, O'Bannon took the creative team and worked on his Star Beast movie (titled Alien at that time), using much of the designs already created for Dune. Ridley Scott, one of the few who had also seen and liked Dark Star, agreed to direct. It has since been said that Alien became the movie that "Jodorowsky's Dune" was supposed to be.
The initial idea for the opening credits was to have the title made up of bits of flesh and bone, which Ronald Shusett explains was far too gory. Ridley Scott recollects he saw the poster design for the film, and asked that the film's title be used with the same font.
At the start of production, Ridley Scott had to contend with nine producers being on-set at all times, querying the length of time he was taking over each shot.
During production, an attempt was made to make the alien character transparent, or at least translucent. Coincidentally, this idea was later used for the title creature's camouflage suit in Predator (1987), which was later decided to take place in a shared universe with this movie.
To simulate the thrust of engines on the Nostromo, Ridley Scott had crew members shake and wobble the seats, in which the actors and actresses were sitting.
The grid-like flooring on the Nostromo was achieved using upturned milk crates, painted over.
While he was working on the visual effects for this film, Brian Johnson was simultaneously working in the same capacity on Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Originally, the Nostromo was painted a dull yellow, but Ridley Scott was unhappy with the final look, and ordered all model shots to be dumped, and the Nostromo repainted battleship gray.
During this production, only H.R. Giger and Bolaji Badejo were permitted to view the rushes with Ridley Scott, enabling them to better discuss and refine aspects of the beast's look and movements.
Alison Bechdel's column "Dykes to Watch Out For" once proposed a simple test to see if a film treated its female characters as equal members of the cast. The rule has three parts. The film must feature 1: at least two female characters, who 2: have a conversation with each other that 3: isn't about one of the male characters. This criteria came to be known as the Bechdel test. The character in the column says that the last movie she saw that fit these criteria was Alien. Interestingly, there was a scene filmed between Ripley and Lambert where they talk about Ash, but it ended up being deleted.
As Ripley goes through the shuttle start up sequence, a brief shot of a monitor appears which displays an "Environmental CTR Purge" screen. The exact same screen appears in Blade Runner (1982) when Gaff takes Deckard to see Bryant in his flying police car.
During the opening sequence, as the camera wanders around the corridors of the Nostromo, we can clearly see a Krups coffee grinder mounted to a wall. This is the same model that became the "Mr. Fusion" in Back to the Future (1985).
Yaphet Kotto (Parker) actually picked fights with Bolaji Badejo who played the Alien, in order to help his on-screen hatred of the creature.
In a preview of the bonus feature menus for the "Alien Legacy" box set posted to USENET, the bio for Dallas had him as being born female and Lambert as being born male, suggesting gender reassignment before the events in the film. Negative fan reaction prompted this to be changed before production of the DVDs. Their bios now display their gender with "natural" in brackets behind it, implying that gender reassignment is a fairly common procedure in the future.
Ripley mentions the facehugger bleeding acid while alive, and fears what it could do when dead. This may echo an earlier version of the screenplay, in which the dead facehugger's skin is dissolving, and the crew is able to throw it out of the ship just in time before its acid eats through the hull.
Jerry Goldsmith was most aggrieved by the changes that Ridley Scott and Editor Terry Rawlings wrought upon his score. Scott felt that Goldsmith's first attempt at the score was far too lush, and needed to be a bit more minimalist. Then, Goldsmith was horrified to discover that his amended score had been dropped in places by Rawlings who inserted segments from Goldsmith's earlier score for Freud (1962) instead. Rawlings had initially used these as a guide track only, and ended up preferring them to Goldsmith's revised work. Goldsmith harbored a grudge against the two until his death in 2004.
Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Sci-Fi" in June 2008.
As a child, Veronica Cartwright had appeared in The Birds (1963), opposite Doodles Weaver, who was Sigourney Weaver's uncle.
The name of "the company" that the crew work for is "Weylan-Yutani" (the spelling was changed to "Weyland-Yutani" in Aliens (1986) and later films). The name can be seen on a computer monitor, as well as on a beer can, from which Dallas drinks, during the crew meal. The light blue "wings" emblem seen in several places, most notably Ash's uniform, is intended to be W-Y's logo (the logo was also changed for the later films).
When Tom Skerritt first read the screenplay for this movie, he declined to be involved, as he was unimpressed with the writing quality, and the low budget. After the screenplay was edited, and the budget enhanced, Skerritt was approached again, which prompted him to sign on. Halfway through production, he approached Writer and Executive Producer Ronald Shusett, asking if he could trade his salary for half a percentage point of royalties.
Among some of the ingredients of the alien costume are Plasticine and Rolls-Royce engine parts.
The writing partnership between Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett came about when Shusett approached O'Bannon about helping him adapt a Philip K. Dick story to which he had acquired the rights. That was "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," which later became Total Recall (1990). O'Bannon then said that he had an idea that he was stuck on, about an alien aboard a spaceship, and that he needed some assistance. Shusett agreed to help out, and they tackled the alien movie first, as they felt it would have been the cheaper of the two to make.
The sets of the Nostromo's three decks were each created almost entirely in one piece, with each deck occupying a separate stage and the various rooms connected via corridors. To move around the sets, the actors and actresses had to navigate through the hallways of the ship, adding to the film's sense of claustrophobia and realism. The sets used large transistors and low-resolution computer screens, to give the ship a "used", industrial look, and make it appear as though it was constructed of "retrofitted old technology".
At the end of the film wait for the credits, turn the volume up, and you can hear the sound of a pod opening.
Walter Hill's re-write included making two of the characters female (and adding a romantic subplot that was deleted) as well as altering much of the dialogue written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The original dialogue had been described as "poetic", but Hill dismissed it as pretentious and obscure.
In The Blue Planet (2001), David Attenborough said the Alien was modelled after the Phronima, a creature spotted by submersibles at great depths. However, there is little evidence to support this claim. The original Alien design was based on a previous painting by H.R. Giger, Necronom IV, which bears little resemblance to the Phronima. Giger's agent, Bijan Aalam, claims "He never inspired himself by any animals, terrestrial or marine."
In the Director's Cut, the scene where Brett is looking for Jonesy, he enters a room with lots of chains and machinery, hanging from one of the chains, is the Alien folded into a ball, as not to draw attention to itself, clearly seen as the camera pans around the room.
This is the only film in the franchise in which Sigourney Weaver didn't receive top billing.
DIRECTOR_TRADEMARK(Ridley Scott): [mothers]: The Nostromo's computer is named "Mother". The incubation of the Alien has also been interpreted as a metaphor for pregnancy.
"Nostromo" is the title of a Joseph Conrad book. The shuttlecraft is called the "Narcissus", from the title of another Joseph Conrad book.
The dead fossilized alien is commonly referred to as the "Space Jockey". It was a term used by the production crew, and was subsequently adopted by fans of the movie, even though the name itself isn't used anywhere in the movie, nor in the script. Similarly, the terms "facehugger" and "chestburster" were used throughout production to refer to the face-grasping parasite and newborn alien respectively, and have become widely recognized terms, even though they were never used on-screen.
Sir Ian Holm and Ridley Scott recalled that one day, as Ridley rolled into the studio in his Rolls-Royce, Sigourney Weaver quipped, "Nice car. Did your dad buy it for you?" The comment really irked Scott, but Holm seemed to observe that she was yanking Scott's chain, having recognized him as being self-made and proud of it.
Veronica Cartwright had originally auditioned to play Ripley, but producers opted for Sigourney Weaver instead. Weaver was initially more interested in playing Lambert because in the early screenplay, Lambert was written as a wise-cracking character. In later re-writes, the role of Lambert became much more subdued and serious, and was given to Cartwright.
Originally to be directed by Walter Hill, but he pulled out and gave the job to Ridley Scott after being impressed by Scott's The Duellists (1977).
A lawsuit by A.E. van Vogt, claiming plagiarism of his 1939 story "Discord in Scarlet" (which he had also incorporated in the 1950 novel "Voyage of the Space Beagle"), was settled out of court.
Brett's death was storyboarded by Ridley Scott originally for the Alien to use its inner mouth to take his heart out of his chest, harkening back to the image of the space jockey. The Alien would then leave Brett, where he would be found by Parker and Ripley, who'd cradle his body. Scott abandoned this idea, due to it being too similar a death to the chestburster scene, and the scene that now plays, was made up on the day it was shot.
An early draft of the script had a male Ripley, making this one of at least three films where Sigourney Weaver played a character originally planned to be a man. The second is The TV Set (2006) and the third is Vantage Point (2008).
Ridley Scott and Jerry Goldsmith were at odds with each other on the usage of the original music score. As a result, many crucial cues were either rescored, ill-placed, or deleted altogether, and the intended end title replaced with Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2 (Romantic)". The original intended score was featured as an isolated track on the now out-of-print 20th Anniversary DVD.
To assist the actors and actresses in preparing for their roles, Ridley Scott wrote several pages of backstory for each character, explaining their histories. He filmed many of their rehearsals in order to capture spontaneity and improvisation, and tensions between some of the cast members, particularly towards the less-experienced Sigourney Weaver, translated convincingly on film as tension between their respective characters.
The computer screen displaying Nostromo's orbit around the planet contains a hidden credit to Dr. Brian Wyvill, one of the programmers for the animation. Within the top frame entitled Deorbital Descent, it is possible to isolate the letters "BLOB", Dr. Brian Wyvill's common nickname.
Harry Dean Stanton's first words to Ridley Scott during his audition were, "I don't like science fiction or monster movies." Scott was amused, and convinced Stanton to take the role, after reassuring him that the film would actually be a thriller more akin to Ten Little Indians.
Three versions of the landing craft were built for the production: a twelve inch version for long shots, a forty-eight inch version for the landing sequence, and a seven ton rig for showing the ship at rest on the planet's surface.
Dallas' pursuit of the Alien down the ventilator shafts, and the intercut scenes of the rest of the crew urging him on, were shot in one day.
Ridley Scott's first exposure to early Alien (1979) drafts were sent to him by Sanford Lieberson, then head of 20th Century Fox's London headquarters. Lieberson had seen Scott's The Duellists (1977) and was adequately impressed to consider the neophyte filmmaker.
Saul Bass, the famous graphic artist designed the opening ALIEN hieroglyphic titles. He was not credited.
Some of the Nostromo's corridors were created from portions of scrapped bomber aircraft, and a mirror was used to create the illusion of longer corridors in the below-deck area.
The decal on the door of the Nostromo is a "checkerboard square", the symbol on Purina's pet food label. It's meant to designate "alien chow".
Up until 2012, all the androids in the franchise had been named in alphabetical order: Ash in this film, Bishop in Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), Call in Alien: Resurrection (1997), and David in Prometheus (2012). This trend seems to have come to an end as the new android character in Alien: Covenant (2017) is called Walter. In this new film, however, David is still to be a main character, and both he and Walter are portrayed by Michael Fassbender.
Unimpressed with the poor body cast mold made of Bolaji Badejo (the actor cast to play the Alien), H.R. Giger was prepared to suggest a replacement before he'd met Badejo. One of his suggestions was supermodel Verushka, who Giger described as just as tall as Badejo. Reportedly, Ridley Scott was open to the suggestion. When he finally met Badejo, Giger realized that he was perfect for the Alien role, and insisted that a new body cast be made.
Originally, in the end lifeboat scene, the Alien was meant to be latched onto the ceiling of the vehicle until Ripley sees it, but Ridley Scott felt this was too similar to what happened with Brett, so it was changed.
When Sir John Hurt was being fitted up for his scene on the table, it was a long and complicated affair, and ultimately, he got somewhat bored. In the end, he asked the crew if he could have his cigarettes and a bottle of his favorite wine, which they poured for him. He was then happy and relaxed afterwards, with his creature comforts.
Ridley Scott was keen to take on the project as the one that he had been previously working on at Paramount, Tristan + Isolde (2006), was stuck in development hell.
Sigourney Weaver had pictured the Alien as a big yellow blob chasing the Nostromo crew when she read the script, and not seeing the designs for the Alien.
Carlo Rambaldi constructed three alien heads based on H.R. Giger's designs: two mechanical models for use in various close-up work, and an elementary model for medium-to-long shots. Rambaldi was not available to operate his creations on the actual shoot, though he did spend two weeks in the UK as a Technical Advisor to Ridley Scott and his crew.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Many of the non-English versions of the film's title translate as something similar to "Alien: The Eighth Passenger".
Brett's hobby was building model clipper ships. Some can be seen behind him in his bridge station, and also in the engineering bays where he works.
The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include Alien: The Eighth Passenger (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Denmark, Israel, and France) and Alien: The Uncanny Creature from a Strange World (West Germany).
The reason for most of the film having hand held shots was down to the close confines of the sets. Tracks and dolly movements were too fast or too wide, so were replaced with hand held instead.
When Ripley punches in the code to activate the scuttle procedure, one of the button tabs reads AGARIC FLY. While engineering sounding in name, fly agaric is actually a highly poisonous hallucinogenic mushroom, whose toxin used to be commonly used in flypaper.
The original wakening sequence started on Kane's nostril and then pulled back further and further to reveal him getting out of his cryotube.
At the premiere of the movie, religious zealots set fire to the model of the Alien (Xenomorph), believing it to be the work of the devil.
The vast majority of this movie was filmed using a handheld camera. Art Director Roger Christian remarked in an interview that "Eighty percent of Alien was shot on Ridley's shoulder". Referring to the fact that Ridley Scott did all the hand held camera work himself.
Ridley Scott originally conceived flying mice robots, that while the crew were in hypersleep, would zip around corridors repairing things. However, executives believed this was too similar to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Following the massive success of their Star Wars action figures, Kenner marketed an Alien toy for Christmas 1979. However, instead of the three to four inch size used for the Star Wars figure, the Alien figure was eighteen inches, and was not paired with figures of the Nostromo crew. While faithful to the Giger design and featuring a hinged jaw, the figure was highly breakable. Due to parental complaints, Kenner pulled the action figure. The toy has since become a collector's item, with mint boxed versions going for as much as one thousand dollars.
Roger Christian used scrap metal and parts to create set pieces and props to save money, a technique he employed while working on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
A green monitor, visible behind Ripley while the crew discusses Kane's condition outside the kitchen, displays nonsense characters, as well as the word "Giler", a nod to Producer David Giler.
Giger's first attempt at an egg had the top with one long slit across it, when he presented it to Scott, the department head burst out laughing, as it looked far too much like a woman's vagina, the slit was duplicated at a ninety degree angle, to make it more like an "X", which satisfied everyone.
The producers of It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) considered suing for plagiarism, but didn't.
When the movie was broadcast in Israel, its title was changed to "The Eighth Passenger" in Hebrew.
The hole to the egg chamber was originally planned to have an organic membrane covering it that Kane cuts through with a knife.
Ridley Scott was so bored, while waiting for the budget to be determined on the film, in his spare time he storyboarded the entire movie, and then sent it to the studio, where they were so impressed with his vision, they doubled the budget.
Parker and Lambert's original deaths involved the Alien killing Parker and using his body as a shield against Lambert's flamethrower, with the Alien stepping out of the flames towards her.
When Kane has the face-hugger on him, and is in the x-ray machine, Ash says, "We don't know anything about", and pauses and says "it", a possible nod to It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958).
Special Effects Supervisors Brian Johnson and Nick Allder made many of the set pieces and props function, including moving chairs, computer monitors, motion trackers, and flamethrowers.
Tons of sand, plaster, fiberglass, rock, and gravel were shipped into the studio to sculpt a desert landscape for the planetoid's surface, which the actors would walk across wearing space suit costumes.
Ash and Dallas originally attempted to remove the facehugger from Kane inside the Autodoc using little robotic manipulator arms to cut it free.
Lambert had a death involving her getting sucked through a tiny hole into space in the airlock sequence. This would be used for the newborns death in Alien: Resurrection (1997).
Cinematographer Derek Van Lint found the lighting issues on the Alien, the monitors, LEDs, fluorescents, and standard incandescent lights, all had various color temperatures, so getting them to match on camera, was an enormous technical challenge.
The original Panaglide SteadiCam system was suggested for this movie, but with neither RIdley nor Derek Vanlint familiar with the format, they decided against using it, so they could operate cameras on the film themselves, and not rely on outside technicians.
For the Director's Cut of the movie, a deleted scene was restored where the Nostromo crew listens to the signal from the planet before landing. This scene had already been available as a bonus feature on the first DVD edition of the film. The sound they originally heard was quite scary and organic, almost sounding like an extremely deep, slowed-down voice. Kane's response ("Good God!") and the suggestion that it could be a voice actually made a lot of sense in this version, but for the scene in the Director's Cut, for unknown reasons, a much more mechanic and subdued sound effect was used.
A crew of over two hundred workmen and technicians constructed the three principal sets: The surface of the alien planetoid, and the interiors of the Nostromo and derelict spacecraft.
Ridley Scott's plan for Kane entering the egg chamber, originally involved him entering through the ceiling and landing on the blue laser "placenta", which caused a faint breeze, as air was released. The space around Kane would be pitch dark, so Kane would activate hundreds of little lights on his space suit like a Christmas tree, which would illuminate the area.
After the airlock sequence, the crew were meant to be moving through the ship in their space suits, as much of the ship's atmosphere was lost in the airlock scene.
While walking towards the derelict ship, the storm around them obscured their vision, so Lambert's helmet gave her a heads-up display, mounted on a visor inside her helmet, which showed a 3-D topographical map rendering of the environment around her, so she could see where she was going.
Originally, the crew was suppose to emerge from hypersleep completely naked, as can be seen in the storyboards. This was nixed due to concern about censorship in several markets.
Originally, the lighting plan for this movie, was to have everything pre-lit, so they wouldn't have to rearrange lighting from shot to shot, but Ridley soon realized it was looking very television-ish, with an even all-round, fit-for-everything lighting plan. Also, actors and actresses would wind up moving in parts of the set that weren't lit well enough, so they went back to normal lighting set-ups for each angle.
Although the film was given the 18 certificate in the UK, and the R16 rating in New Zealand. The film was given the M rating in Australia.
The famous chestburster scene was parodied in Spaceballs (1987). In that scene, with Sir John Hurt as Kane, and the Nostromo crew are seen eating and having a laugh over one of the crew member's joke. Hurt starts choking. The alien bursts out of his chest, and Hurt says "Oh, no! Not again!" and the Alien performs "Hello, My Baby" from One Froggy Evening (1955).
Giger is quoted in his book, that when he presented artwork to Ridley he didn't like, Ridley would nod thoughtfully and say, "interesting", which Giger translated as "shit".
Ridley would always use Gigers Necronomicon book, to explain the kind of designs he wanted to Giger, who was gratified, as he was using his own designs, instead of having to copy another artists strange designs.
H.R. Giger was asked by a Shepperton Studios Manager if he would front the cost for frames for all of his paintings. Giger refused, and instead offered to fly economy instead of first class on all of his flights, they complimented him on his head for business.
H.R. Giger met with monster maker Roger Dicken. Giger was warned he was a prickly character by Scott, and not to criticize his work. Giger was horrified when Dickens confessed he found Gigers work repulsive abortions, and the creature should be beautiful. In a blind rage, Giger told Scott and Carroll he would do the monster work himself. The studio agreed, but only if he focused on the main Alien and left the other creations to Dicken.
As of 2017, Sigourney Weaver is the only cast member in the main cast to work with Ridley Scott more than once: in this movie, 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014).
Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger were heavily inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft in their concept of the Alien. Especially Lovecraft's stories featuring the Cthulhu monster are said to have been particularly influential. Cthulhu is described as a giant, vaguely anthropoid creature with tentacles, chained in a submerged ruin on the bottom of the sea. Although it is hardly ever seen, its escape from imprisonment is a constant source of dread for mankind.
Despite many fans calling the creature asexual, or referring to the creature as "it", the Alien is heavily implied to be male. In fact, when fans and the film's cast refer to the creature by it's gender, they always say "he" or "him".
Yaphet Kotto was sent a script, off the back of his recent success with Live and Let Die (1973), although it took some time and deliberation between Kotto and his agent, before he was offered the part.
One common story is that "Weyland" and "Yutani" were the names of two of Ridley Scott's neighbors whom he didn't like. However, this isn't the case. Ron Cobb, the designer of the movie, came up with the name "Weylan-Yutani". "Weylan Yutani, for instance, is almost a joke, but not quite. I wanted to imply that poor old England is back on its feet, and has united with the Japanese, who have taken over the building of spaceships the same way they have now with cars and supertankers. In coming up with a strange company name, I thought of British Leyland and Toyota, but we couldn't use 'Leyland-Toyota' in the film. Changing one letter gave me 'Weylan', and 'Yutani' was a Japanese neighbor of mine."
The Alien franchise was produced by Brandywine Productions. The Brandywine river is found in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth universe. Sir Ian Holm starred as Bilbo Baggins in the theatrical versions of The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, respectively.
The process of preparing to make this film ended up having a major impact on another violent, shocking, R-rated film, The Warriors (1979). Walter Hill and David Giler were watching an Israel-set film called Madman (1978), because they had heard positive notice on Sigourney Weaver's performance, and wanted to see if she was a good fit for the role of Ripley. Of course, it turned out that she was, but Hill found himself very impressed by the supporting work in Madman (1978), of an unknown actor named Michael Beck, and he thought Beck could be a good fit for a major role in The Warriors (1979). He called Beck to come in and read for the part of gang leader Swan, and Beck nailed the audition, and was immediately cast.
Peter Beale, one of the Fox executives argued with Giger over his fee, which Giger saw as insulting, and the same money paid to a high grade secretary working in Switzerland, Gordon Carrol fought in Giger's corner, in a discussion that lasted three hours.
Giger was appalled at the failed translation of his ideas in England, and stayed only to keep things on track with his designs.
H.R. Giger discovered that old designs were still being constructed by the Art Department, Giger spoke to Production Designer Brian Seymour, who told him he was aware things had changed, but to stop them mid construction would wreck morale, and they had to be kept busy until the new designs were ready to be built, and it was better to let them finish, then replace them. When Giger asked what would happen to the old work, Seymour told him "scrapped". Giger was baffled at this strange economy of waste.
Initially, Gigers derelict ship was accepted, and then rejected, in a tense meeting with the Fox team and Scott, they were concerned the bone-like shape would blend into the already bone-like environment. Giger believed his friends O'Bannon and Shusett were behind the idea, and tried to argue his case that the biomechanical nature of the ship would separate it from the background, until Gordon Carrol ordered him to create something new. Ridley remained quiet in the discussion, drawing a standard plane like fin sticking out of the ground in silent opposition. Two months later, Giger returned to the UK astonished to find they had gone back to his original designs, feeling there wasn't enough time to begin again.
The Space Jockey's body was painted with Sepia glaze, and then coated with frayed rubber latex.
Originally, only six eggs were to be present in the egg silo under the derelict ship, but Ridley Scott stepped in and demanded that many more were required.
Ridley suggested for the Alien they could strap two kids to an adult, and have them wrapped in rubber. Also, they proposed trying a robotic alien, but safety was an issue with that.
Originally, the plan for the Alien's transparent head, was for it to be filled with living maggots.
The Alien was to be transparent, until H.R. Giger's team began to run out of time. Following a disastrous failed cooking of the molds, the team decided, in a car park, that the Alien would be standard latex, as the production would suffer huge costs if they didn't meet the looming deadline.
The Alien murdering Brett was the first scene shot with the finalized Alien costume and mechanical head.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The early screenplay by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett contained the Alien, the Derelict Ship, the Space Jockey, but also an ancient pyramid-like structure on the planet's surface full of alien eggs (more shaped like canisters), where the crew of the Nostromo was to encounter the facehugger. The notion was that the pyramid, eggs, facehuggers and Alien would all be indigenous to the planet; the Derelict Ship had once landed on the planet and its pilot, the Space Jockey, had become an unfortunate victim of the facehugger. The pyramid was written out due to budget concerns in subsequent versions, and merged with the Derelict Ship. The idea of a pyramid-like structure filled with eggs/canisters resurfaced again in AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and in the Alien prequel Prometheus (2012).
The release and success of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) has often been stated as instrumental in getting 'Alien' made. The screenplay for Alien had been written for 20th Century Fox, but the studio was not very interested in financing a science fiction movie at the time. When Star Wars became a big hit, Fox was very eager to continue their recent success of space-themed science fiction films as quickly as possible. With a finished screenplay ready for production, they wasted no time in greenlighting the project.
Although never stated on film, the planetoid where the Nostromo lands and finds the Derelict Ship is named 'Acheron' in several drafts of the screenplay. In Greek mythology, Acheron is the "stream of woe", a branch of the river Styx which separates the underworld from the world of the living. The screenplay of the sequel Aliens (1986) also mentions the name Acheron, but refers to the planetoid with the technical name LV-426 on-screen. Both names have subsequently been used in expanded-universe media such as games and comics.
Sigourney Weaver was given the part of Ripley, when she impressed Ripley Scott and the studio with her screentest.