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.
The dead facehugger that Ash autopsies was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters and a sheep kidney to recreate the internal organs.
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.
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.
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.
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 7 feet 1 inches 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."
The inside of the alien eggs as seen by Kane was composed of real organic material. Director Ridley Scott used cattle hearts and stomachs. The "egg tube" of the facehugger was sheep intestine.
Ridley Scott cites three films as the shaping influences on his movie: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for their depiction of outer space, and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) for its treatment of horror.
20th Century Fox doubled the budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million on the strength of seeing Ridley Scott's storyboards.
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.
The spacesuits worn by Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Veronica Cartwright were huge, bulky items lined with nylon and with no outlets for breath or condensation. As the actors were working under hot studio lights in conditions in excess of 100 degrees, they spent most of their time passing out. A nurse had to be on hand at all times to keep supplying them with oxygen. It was only after Ridley Scott's and cinematographer Derek Vanlint's children were used in the suits for long-shots and they passed out too, that some modifications were made to the costumes.
The Xenomorph has 4 minutes of screen time, and doesn't make its first appearance until about an hour into the film.
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 both a noun and an adjective, and it had never been used before.
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 director Ridley Scott revived the idea for his Alien prequel Prometheus (2012) 33 years later.
A scene originally cut, but re-inserted for the Director's Cut shows Lambert slapping Ripley in retaliation for Ripley's refusal to let her, Dallas, and Kane back on the ship. According to both Ridley Scott and Veronica Cartwright, every time she went to slap Sigourney Weaver, Sigourney would shy away. After about three or four takes of this, Scott finally told Cartwright "Not to hold back. Really hit her." Thus the very real shocked reactions of Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton.
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 flack he got from the studio because of how expensive the rights to the song were.
The front (face) part of the alien costume's head is made from a cast of a real human skull.
20th Century Fox Studios almost did not allow the "space jockey," or the giant alien pilot, to be in the film. This was because, at the time, props for movies weren't so large and it would only be used for one scene. However, conceptual artist 'Ron Cobb (I)' convinced them to leave the scene in the movie, as it would be the film's "Cecil B. DeMille shot," showing the audience that this wasn't some low-budget B-movie.
The first day that she shot a scene involving Jones the cat, Sigourney Weaver's skin started reacting badly. Horrified, the young actress immediately thought that she might be allergic to cats, and that it would be easier for the production to recast her instead of trying to find 4 more identical cats. As it transpired, Weaver was reacting to glycerin sprayed on her skin to make her look hot and sweaty.
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.
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 the Ash character. The script by O'Bannon and Shusett also had a clause indicating that all of the characters are "unisex," meaning they could be cast with male or female actors; 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/she) were corrected after casting. However, Shusett and O'Bannon never thought of casting Ripley as a female character.
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."
The chestbursting scene was considered the second scariest movie moment of all time on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).
Conceptual artist H.R. Giger's designs were changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.
When casting the role of Ripley, Ridley Scott invited several women from the production office to watch screen tests, and thus gain a female perspective. The women were unanimously impressed with then-unknown actress Sigourney Weaver, whose screen presence they compared to Jane Fonda's.
The 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.
Conceptual artist H.R. Giger would successfully sue 20th Century Fox 18 years later over his lack of screen credit on Alien: Resurrection (1997).
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 US Customs, who were alarmed at what they saw. Writer Dan O'Bannon had to go to LAX to explain to them that they were designs for a horror movie. The actual production design of the facehugger used by sculptors to make the real prop, was created by Dan O'Bannon himself, as O'Bannon had trained as a designer (Giger wasn't available in England at the time).
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.
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 AKA Moebius.
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.
According to John Hurt in the DVD Documentary, he was considered at the beginning of casting to play Kane but had already committed to another film that was set to take place in South Africa, so Jon Finch got the role instead. However, two separate incidents occurred which got Hurt the role. First was the fact that he was banned from South Africa because the country mistook him for actor John Heard who strongly opposed 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.
Dan O'Bannon was hyper-critical of any changes made to his script and, to be fair, he defended some aspects of the film that ended up being most iconic (including H.R. Giger's designs). Although he would come on set and nitpick, O'Bannon was generally welcomed by Ridley Scott until O'Bannon lost his temper and insulted Scott in front of the whole crew. The producers, including Walter Hill, had minimal respect for O'Bannon and largely ignored him, giving him little credit once the film became a success.
The 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.
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 screen test that bagged Sigourney Weaver the role of Ripley was her speech from her final scene.
After the crew awakens from hyper-sleep, the navigator Lambert announces that the ship is "just short of Zeta 2 Reticuli." Zeta Reticuli is a real double-star system about 39 light-years from Earth, and has figured prominently in UFO lore. In the 1960s, Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been abducted by "gray" aliens from Zeta Reticuli.
The Nostromo is supposed to be 800 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Ridley Scott's 2003 director's cut largely came about when over 100 boxes of footage of his 1979 original were discovered in a London vault.
The screech of the newborn alien was voiced by animal impersonator Percy Edwards. He was personally requested by director Ridley Scott to do the sound effect and it was recorded in one take.
The movie's Hungarian title translates back into English as "The 8th 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."
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.
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 original name for the spaceship was Snark. This was later changed to Leviathan before they finally settled for Nostromo.
The embryonic movements of the facehugger, prior to bursting out of its egg, were created by Ridley Scott using both his rubber-gloved hands.
The 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.
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.
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.
To simulate the thrust of engines on the Nostromo, Ridley Scott had crew members shake and wobble the seats the actors were sitting in.
After the first week of shooting, Dan O'Bannon asked if he could attend the viewing of the dailies, and was somewhat staggered when Gordon Carroll refused him. To get past that ban, O'Bannon viewed the dailies by standing beside the projectionist whilst he screened them for everyone else.
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.
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 murky POV 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.
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.
The large Space Jockey sculpture was designed and painted by H.R. Giger himself, who was disappointed he couldn't put any finishing touches on it by the time filming came about for the scene. Also, the Space Jockey prop was burned and destroyed by a burning cigarette left on the model. Los Angeles. The unfortunate event was covered by local TV news stations that evening.
Three aliens were made: a model; a suit for seven-footer Bolaji Badejo; and another suit for a trained stunt man.
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.
Veronica Cartwright only found out that she wasn't playing the part of Ripley when she was first called in to do some costume tests for the character of Lambert.
Dan O'Bannon first encountered H.R. Giger's unique style when the two were briefly working on Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated attempt at making a movie based on Frank Herbert's "Dune." It has since been said that 'Alien' became the movie that 'Jodorowsky's Dune' was supposed to be.
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.
At the start of production, Ridley Scott had to contend with 9 producers being onset at all times, querying the length of time he was taking over each shot.
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.
The grid-like flooring on the Nostromo was achieved using upturned milk crates, painted over.
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.
Bolaji Badejo regretted that no one can recognise him as the Alien in the film, but thinking back on Boris Karloff, 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!"
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.
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.
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.
Yaphet Kotto (Parker) actually picked fights with Bolaji Badejo who played the Alien, in order to help his onscreen hatred of the creature.
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).
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.
As a child, Veronica Cartwright had appeared in The Birds (1963), opposite Doodles Weaver, who was Sigourney Weaver's uncle.
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 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".
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.
Jerry Goldsmith was most aggrieved by the changes that Ridley Scott and his editor Terry Rawlings wrought upon his score. Scott felt that Goldsmith's first attempt at the score was far too lush and needed to be a bit more minimalist. 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.
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 Dallas drinks from 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).
Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Sci-Fi" in June 2008.
Among some of the ingredients of the alien costume are Plasticine and Rolls Royce motor parts.
This is the only film in the franchise in which Sigourney Weaver didn't receive top billing.
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.
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.
When Tom Skerritt first read the screenplay for Alien, 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 the writer and executive producer Ronald Shusett, asking if he could trade his salary for half a percentage point of royalties.
In The Blue Planet (2001), David Attenborough said the Alien (1979) monster was modeled after the Phronima, a creature spotted by submersibles at great depths. However, there is little evidence to support this claim; the original Alien design was based on a previous painting by H.R. Giger, Necronom IV, which bears little resemblance to the Phronima. Giger's agent, Bijan Aalam, claims "he never inspired himself by any animals, terrestrial or marine."
"Nostromo" is the title of a Joseph Conrad book. The shuttlecraft is called the "Narcissus," from the title of another Joseph Conrad book. See also Aliens (1986).
Veronica Cartwright was originally auditioned to play Ripley, but producers opted for Sigourney Weaver.
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.
At the end of the film wait for the credits, turn the volume up and you can hear the sound of a pod opening.
Director Ridley Scott and composer Jerry Goldsmith were at odds with each other on the usage of the original music score. As a result, many crucial cues were either rescored, ill-placed, or deleted altogether, and the intended end title replaced with Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2 (Romantic)." The original intended score was featured as an isolated track on the now out-of-print 20th Anniversary DVD.
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).
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 death to the chestburster scene, and the scene that now plays was made up on the day the scene was shot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the directors 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 a ball as not to draw attention to itself, clearly seen as the camera pans around the room.
Saul Bass, the famous graphic artist designed the opening ALIEN hieroglyphic titles. He was not credited.
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.
Three versions of the landing craft were built for the production: a 12" version for long shots, a 48" version for the landing sequence and a seven ton rig for showing the ship at rest on the planet's surface.
Harry Dean Stanton's first words to Ridley Scott during his audition were "I don't like sci fi 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.
To assist the actors 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 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) (2017) is called Walter. In this new film, however, David is still to be a main character, and both him 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.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
When 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 after, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Many of the non-English versions of the film's title translate as something similar to "Alien: The 8th Passenger."
The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include Alien: The Eighth Passenger (Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Denmark, Israel and France) and Alien: The Uncanny Creature from a Strange World (West Germany).
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.
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.
Ash and Dallas originally attempted to remove the facehugger from Kane inside the Autodoc using little robotic manipulator arms to cut it free.
Ridley Scott was so bored whilst 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.
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," obviously a nod to producer David Giler.
Ridley Scott originally conceived flying mice robots that whilst the crew where in hyper-sleep would zip around corridors repairing things, however execs believed this was too similar to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Art Director 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).
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.
The producers of the 1950s potboiler It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) considered suing for plagiarism but didn't.
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.
The hole to the egg chamber was originally planned to have an organic membrane covering it that Kane cuts through with a knife.
The vast majority of this movie was filmed using a handheld camera. Art director Roger Christian remarked in an interview that '80% of Alien was shot on Ridley's shoulder'. Referring to the fact that director Ridley Scott did all the handheld camera work himself.
When the movie was broadcast in Israel, its title was changed to "The Eighth Passenger" in Hebrew.
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." This movie was highly influenced by the movie "It, The terror from beyond space."
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.
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 it 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.
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).
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.
A crew of over 200 workmen and technicians constructed the three principal sets: The surface of the alien planetoid and the interiors of the Nostromo and derelict spacecraft.
Whilst walking towards the derelict the storm around them would obscure their vision so Lambert's helmet gave her a heads up display mounted on a visor inside her helmet which showed a 3D topographical map rendering of the environment around her so she could see where she was going.
Following the massive success of their Star Wars action figures, Kenner marketed an Alien toy for Christmas 1979. However, instead of the 3-4" size used for the Star Wars figure, the Alien figure was 18" 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 $1000.
After the airlock sequence the crew were meant to be moving through the ship in their space suits as much of the ships atmosphere was lost in the airlock scene.
Originally the crew was suppose to emerge from hypersleep completely naked. This was nixed due to concern about censorship in several markets.
Cinematographer Derek Van Lint found the lighting issues on alien, the monitors, LED,'s fluorescents and standard incandescent lights all had various color temperatures so getting them to match on camera was an enormous technical challenge.
Originally the lighting plan for alien 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 TV with an even all-round, fit-for-everything lighting plan. Also actors would wind up moving in parts of the set that weren't lit well enough, so they went back to normal lighting setups for each angle.
The original panaglide stedicam system was suggested for alien 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.
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."
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.
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.
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 process of preparing to make this film ended up having a major impact on another violent, shocking R-rated film from 1979, _ The Warriors_. Walter Hill and David Giler were watching a 1978 Israel-set film called "Maniac" 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 "Maniac" of an unknown actor named Michael Beck, and he thought Beck could be a good fit for a major role in "The Warriors". He called Beck to come in and read for the part of gang leader Swan, and Beck nailed the audition and was immediately cast as Swan.
Sigourney Weaver was given the part of Ripley when she impressed Ripley Scott and the studio with her screen test.
The famous chestburster scene was parodied in Spaceballs (1987). In that scene, John Hurt as himself 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).
The Alien franchise has been produced by Brandywine Productions. The Brandywine river is found in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth universe. Ian Holm would later go on to star as Biblo Baggins in the theatrical versions of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, respectively.
To edit a trivia item, tap it