Like most films, the movie wasn't shot in sequence. But for added realism, James Cameron filmed the scene where we first meet the Colonial Marines (one of the earliest scenes) last. This was so that the camaraderie of the Marines was realistic because the actors had spent months filming together.
Lance Henriksen had privately pledged to quit acting if this part didn't work out for him after years of journeyman roles. It proved to be one of his most successful films.
When filming the scene with Newt in the duct, Carrie Henn kept deliberately blowing her scene so she could slide down the vent, which she later called a slide three stories tall. James Cameron finally dissuaded her by saying that if she completed the shot, she could play on it as much as she wanted. She did, and he kept his promise.
According to Bill Paxton, he improvised many of his lines including "Game over, man! Game over!"
The knife trick scene was not in the original shooting script. According to Lance Henriksen, the adding of Hudson's hand to the knife trick was discussed with almost everyone, except Bill Paxton.
The spear gun Ripley used at the end of Alien (1979) is briefly visible in the opening scenes, while the escape pod door is being cut open - still stuck at the bottom of the escape pod door, where the gun jammed 57 years earlier.
The Alien nest set was kept intact after filming. It was later used as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman (1989). When the Batman crew first entered the set, they found most of the Alien nest still intact.
In both the standard and special edition versions, the fifteen minute countdown at the end of the film is indeed fifteen minutes.
Sigourney Weaver had several notes for James Cameron after having read the script. However, Cameron praised her for never taking issue with the direction he wanted to take with the story. Her notes were all about how she felt Ripley should respond to her situations, which he was happy to accommodate.
Al Matthews, who plays a Marine sergeant in this film, was in real life the first black Marine to be promoted to the rank of sergeant in the field during service in Vietnam.
In a deleted scene, the portrait of Ripley's daughter is of Elizabeth Inglis, Sigourney Weaver's real-life mother.
When Fox execs saw an early cut of the film, they complained to producer Gale Anne Hurd that it looked like the money had all been spent on sets rather than special effects. Hurd took great delight in telling the execs that a majority of the sets that they were seeing in the film were indeed miniatures or optical effects (eg, special effects). The artists behind these images were very pleased that their work had fooled the money men.
Sigourney Weaver's Best Actress Academy Award nomination for this movie was the first ever for an actress in a role in an action movie.
When they have landed and deployed in the troop carrier, Apone tells the Marines they have 10 seconds until they arrive. If you count from here until the first Marine jumps out of the carrier and his boots hit the ground, it really is ten seconds.
Lance Henriksen wanted to wear double-pupil contact lenses for a scene where Bishop is working in the lab on a microscope and gives a scary look at one of the Marines. He came to set with those lenses, but James Cameron decided he did not need to wear them because he was acting the character with just the right amount of creepiness already.
One of the alien eggs used in the film is now exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The "special edition" includes seventeen minutes of extra scenes: Ripley discussing her daughter with Burke; Ripley is demoted by the board; Newt's parents discovering the abandoned alien ship on LV-426; a tour through the Sulaco prior to the marines waking up; Hudson bragging about his weaponry; Ripley hesitates before she enters the colony complex on the planet; robot sentry guns repelling two Alien raids; the marines theorizing about an Alien leader as the source of the eggs; and Hicks and Ripley exchanging first names. Also included is a scene on LV-426 where a child rides a Bigwheel similar to one ridden in The Terminator (1984), also directed by James Cameron.
None of the models or the original designs of the Narcissus (the Nostromo's shuttle) from Alien (1979) could be found, so set designers and model-makers had to reconstruct the model of the ship and the interior set from watching Alien (1979).
The assault vehicle is a modified tow-truck that British Airways used for towing airplanes around at Heathrow. The only trouble was that the truck they purchased weighed 75 tons. By stripping out most of the lead used in its construction, they were able to remove about 35 tons.
Aliens (1986) was never shown to test audiences because editing was not completed until the week before its theatrical release.
Sigourney Weaver had initially been very hesitant to reprise her role as Ripley, especially because Cameron had cut the scene where Burke had brought Ripley the news of just missing the death of her character's daughter (which Weaver felt would have completed the circle of the mother-daughter bond with Newt) she had rejected numerous offers from Fox Studios to do any sequels, fearing that her character would be poorly written, and a sub-par sequel could hurt the legacy of Alien (1979). However, she was so impressed by the high quality of James Cameron's script - specifically, the strong focus on Ripley, the mother-daughter bond between her character and Newt, and the incredible precision with which Cameron wrote her character, that she finally agreed to do the film.
James Cameron had the actors (the Marines) personalize their own costumes (battle armor and fatigues) for added realism (much like soldiers in Vietnam wrote and drew things on their own helmets). Actress Cynthia Dale Scott, who plays Corporal Dietrich has the words "BLUE ANGEL" written on the back of her helmet, a reference to Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel (1930) or Blue Angel. Bill Paxton has "Louise" written on his armor. This is a dedication to his real-life wife, Louise Newbury.
The full-size queen puppet was actually too big to fit into the elevator. For the shot where she is seen there, her tail was removed, and yet the back of the elevator still had to be opened to accommodate the prop; smoke effects, dark lighting, and a black curtain at the back obscure this.
Budget constraints meant that they could only afford to have six hypersleep capsules for the scenes set aboard the Sulaco. Clever placement of mirrors and camera angles made it look like there were 12. Each hypersleep chamber cost over $4,300 to build.
The difficulties surrounding Sigourney Weaver's contract negotiations were such that James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd - recently married - announced that if the deal was not done by the time they got back from their honeymoon, they were out. When they returned, no progress had been made - so James Cameron, determined to make the film and wary of the deadline scenario he had created, devised a scheme: he telephoned Arnold Schwarzenegger's agent for an informal chat and informed him that, thanks to his newfound standing in Hollywood following The Terminator (1984), he had decided to make this film entirely his own by writing Ripley out; as Cameron anticipated, Schwarzenegger's agent immediately relayed the information to his colleague representing Weaver at ICM, who in turn contacted 20th Century-Fox Head of Production Lawrence Gordon; both men, determined that under no circumstances whatsoever would Ripley be written out, wasted no time in sealing Weaver's deal.
Hicks was originally played by James Remar, but Michael Biehn replaced him a few days after principal photography began. The often given reason for Remar being removed was due to "artistic differences" between Remar and director James Cameron. But in episode #128 of the 'Sidebar' podcast, Remar states that he was fired from the production because he was busted for possession of drugs. He said this was in a period of his life where he said he had developed a terrible drug problem. Remar still appears in the finished film - he is seen for one shot when the marines enter the alien nest. Because he is seen from behind wearing the same armor as Michael Biehn, it's impossible to tell the difference between the two actors.
Only six alien suits were used, and even then they were mostly just a handful of latex appliances on black leotards. The appearance of hundreds of aliens is simply clever editing and planning, and lighting plus slime helped make the "suits" more solid.
Bill Paxton continuously apologized to Carrie Henn throughout filming every time Hudson had to swear in front of her. Carrie later admitted that she didn't mind, mainly because she really didn't know what any of the words meant.
According to Lance Henriksen, during the production of "Aliens", the film Full Metal Jacket (1987) was also being shot at a nearby location. Because of this the crews of each movie would often gather together for parties.
Bishop's line about him being incapable of hurting a person or letting anyone come to harm are a paraphrase of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, more specifically the First Law: "A robot may not injure a human being nor, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." (the Second Law is "A robot must obey the orders given by a human being except where it would conflict with the First Law; the Third Law is, "A robot must protect its own existence except where it would conflict with the First or Second Laws."). Asimov eventually introduced a "Zeroth" Law: "A robot may not injure humanity nor, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm."
James Cameron faced a big problem trying to win the confidence and respect of the British crew, many of whom had worked on Alien (1979) and were fiercely loyal to Ridley Scott. In order to try and convince them he had the talent and skills for the job he arranged a screening of The Terminator (1984) for the crew on the set, to demonstrate his abilities. However, most of the crew ignored the invite and didn't bother to turn up.
Ripley's miniature bathroom in her apartment is actually a British Airways toilet, purchased from the airline.
Having hired James Cameron to write the screenplay, 20th Century Fox then did the unthinkable when he left the production to direct The Terminator (1984): they agreed to wait for Cameron to become available again and finish the screenplay. Cameron had only completed about 90 pages at that stage, but the studio had loved what he had written so far.
Whilst filming the power loader battle, the crew played a practical joke on Sigourney Weaver by strategically strapping a balloon connected to an air pipe to where her backside would be. When they pumped up the balloon, Sigourney thought that the man operating the power loader inside it was getting aroused behind her.
Most of the movie was filmed under very bluish light to give it a strange and "alien" feel. The colors of the Marines' camouflage BDUs and the Humbrol "Brown Bess" used on the Assault Rifles were all chosen specifically to work with the blue set lighting. As a result, both look very different under natural light than they did on screen.
James Cameron was not impressed by the way that Ray Lovejoy was editing the film, and was seriously considering firing him and having the film re-edited from scratch by Mark Goldblatt, Cameron's editor on The Terminator (1984), and Peter Boita, who had already been brought on-board to edit the more dialogue driven scenes. Upon hearing that his job was in danger, Lovejoy grabbed all the footage from the film's final battle, locked himself in an editing suite over the weekend, and presented the fully edited version of the battle to Cameron the following week. Cameron was sufficiently impressed to let Lovejoy stay on-board and supervise what was intended to be the final edit.
According to the shooting script, Vasquez and Drake spent a tough childhood together in a Hispanic slum, and were drafted into the Colonial Marines from juvenile prison.
When the set crews were looking around for floor grating to use on the Sulaco set design, they asked a local set design manufacturer/shop if they had anything of the sort. Indeed they did, an immense pile of old floor grating had been sitting out in the back of their shop for the last seven years. It was left there from when they tore down the set of Alien (1979).
There was talk of bringing H.R. Giger back for the second movie to do more design work, but James Cameron decided against it because there was only one major design to be done, that of the Alien Queen, which Cameron had already done some drawings of.
In an interview, composer James Horner felt that James Cameron had given him so little time to write a musical score for the film, he was forced to cannibalize previous scores he had done, such as elements from his Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) scores, as well as adapt a rendition of "Gayane Ballet Suite" for the main and end titles. Horner stated that the tensions with Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. However, Cameron loved the score from Braveheart (1995) so much, the two mutually agreed that Horner would write the score for Titanic (1997), because it was a story they both wanted to do. They've let bygones be bygones ever since, especially when they won their Oscars for Titanic (1997) and collaborated again 12 years later for Avatar (2009).
Michael Biehn got the call on a Friday night asking him to take over the role of Hicks and was in London to start filming on the following Monday. Coincidentally, the same situation happened to John Hurt when he was cast as Kane in Alien (1979), because another actor had to drop out.
The body mounts for Vasquez's and Drake's smart guns are taken from Steadicam gear.
The Alien Queen has transparent teeth, as opposed to the warrior aliens whose teeth are metallic.
Since production took place in England, the director and producers conveniently cast many American actors who were already living in England. This was particularly important for the actress playing Newt, who had to be a minor. Carrie Henn, who played Newt, was an American girl living with her family in England (actually, a bit of an English accent can be heard when she says, "Let's go," and, "There is a short-cut across the roof," during the Alien attack at the end of the movie). Her movie brother Timmy (seen only in the extended version) is also her real-life brother Christopher Henn.
To most of the crew, the choice of James Cameron as director was mystifying as The Terminator (1984) hadn't been released at that stage. The film's assistant director continually questioned Cameron's decisions and was openly antagonistic towards him. Ultimately producer Gale Anne Hurd had no choice but to fire him and he briefly instigated a mass walk-out from the rest of the crew. Fortunately this was quickly resolved but caused some doubt as to whether the film would make it to completion.
All of the cast who were to play the Marines (with the exception of Michael Biehn, who replaced James Remar one week into filming) were trained by the S.A.S. (Special Air Service, Britain's elite special operations unit) for two weeks before filming. Sigourney Weaver, Paul Reiser, and William Hope didn't participate/attend the training because director James Cameron felt it would help the actors create a sense of detachment between the three and the Marines - the characters these three actors played were all outsiders to the squad; Ripley being an advisor to the Marines while on the trip to LV-426, Burke being there just for financial reasons and Gorman being a newly-promoted Lieutenant with less experience than most of the Marines.
Michael Biehn later said that he almost never got to play heroic characters like Corporal Dwayne Hicks, saying that people who look at him must see something wicked in his eyes and assume there's something wrong with him. Coincidence or not, in The Abyss (1989), his next film with James Cameron, he was cast as the villain.
Three different types of smoke were used in the film, one of which has since become illegal to be used on movie sets.
One of the perfect locations they found was a decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Acton, West London. The only trouble with it was that it was heavily riddled with asbestos. So, a team was sent in to clean up the plant, and atmosphere readings had to be taken constantly throughout filming in this location to make sure that the air was clear of contamination. Fortuitously, the Acton location turned out to have better atmospheric quality than Pinewood Studios.
Except for a very small reference in Alien (1979), the special edition of this film is the first to reveal the name of 'The Company' as Weyland-Yutani. The name is clearly written on several pieces of equipment and walls in the colony during a pre-alien outbreak scene of the special edition.
Armorer Terry English made three sets of armor for each member of the cast who needed to wear armor. He was only given two weeks to complete the job and upon arriving back at his workshop a few hours drive away from the film set, he realized he had forgotten the scrap of cloth James Cameron had given him so that the camouflage on the armor could be matched correctly to the uniforms the Marines would be wearing. Instead of going all the way back, English painted the completed sets of armor from memory. The result was a pattern and color combination not too dissimilar to the British Army DPM pattern. Fortunately, Cameron liked the contrast between the armor and the BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) the Marines wore beneath it, saying it make the armor more obvious to the eye. The graffiti you see on some of the armor was done by the actors themselves, with a little help from English for a few details like Hicks' clasp and padlock on his chest armor. The armor was hand made from Aluminum and all in one size, with on set adjustments made by English to make them fit each actor.
Bill Paxton later said that British film crew drove James Cameron nuts with their "indentured" work ethics, stopping filming just so they could have tea and the like. Michael Biehn made fun of the British crew in the audio commentary by saying that they "weren't used to working" (a remark he threw in when Paxton was talking about the "indentured" work ethics).
James Cameron clashed with Dick Bush who refused to light the Alien nest the way Cameron wanted (Cameron wanted dark lighting to create an eerie atmosphere while the cameraman kept going with bright lighting to show off the intricacies of the set). Bush was a very old school DP, who lit the scenes to his content, while Cameron was a very visually involved director. Finally Cameron, fed up with the bad attitudes of his crew, yelled at the guy "YOU'RE FIRED!" and threw him off the set, which led to the crew walking out, requiring Gale Anne Hurd to coax them back once they had all cooled down. Bush was then replaced by Adrian Biddle, who had never DP'ed a feature before.
Inside the APV preparing for battle, "El riesgo siempre vive!" can be seen scrawled in white across Vasquez's armor. Literally translated from Spanish this is: "Risk always lives!"; a variant of the Ancient Roman slogan "Luck favors the bold."
James Cameron married producer Gale Anne Hurd during production. Their marriage lasted 4 years.
Was voted the 42nd Greatest Film of all time by Entertainment Weekly. They describe it as the "greatest pure action movie ever."
Most of the shots where it appears that the aliens are crawling quickly through tunnels or airducts were filmed using a vertical shaft with the camera at the bottom and the alien actor lowered headfirst on a cable.
"Sulaco" is the name of the town in Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo." See also Alien (1979).
The music in the beginning, when the Narcissus is shown floating in space, was also used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It's the Adagio from the Gayaneh Ballet Suite by Aram Khachaturyan.
The various screens and displays, seen mostly in the backgrounds, are actually TV screens with a video running. The film was shot in the UK where televisions run at 25 frames per second, however, film is normally shot and projected at 24 frames per second! Filming the TV monitors at that speed would cause the TV screens to run out of sync with the film, so they would have flickered terribly. Instead, the shots containing the monitors were taken at 25 frames per second to keep the monitors in sync, so when these are then projected at the standard rate of 24 fps, they now run a bit slower than real-life.
The crew was openly hostile to both James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, whom they openly mocked by claiming she wasn't the real producer and only got the credit because she was married to Cameron.
A Spydor toy from the He-Man franchise was bought as a reference to test how the facehuggers would move.
Although it is probably her most memorable line in the film, Carrie Henn has said that she hates the line "They mostly come at night. Mostly."
Many businesses wanted to buy Power Loaders as forklifts. Sadly none were to be bought, since it's a combination of a stunt man sitting in the loader behind Ripley moving the limbs, wires holding it up, and some miniatures work.
In 2015, it was rumored that Sigourney Weaver would return as Ripley for the first time in 20 years since Alien: Resurrection (1997). The fifth film would ignore Alien³ (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997) as if they never happened (such as a dream in Ripley's mind) or would be set in a alternate timeline. Neill Blomkamp was attached as director, with Ridley Scott (director of 'Alien (1979)_) producing. However, in 2017, Blomkamp stated that the project was unofficially dead, because the studio had preferred to complete Scott's Alien prequel trilogy (which started with Prometheus (2012)). Scott later added that Blomkamp's project had never been more than some ideas and artwork, without a completed script.
According to myth, the name for the company, "Weyland Yutani", was taken from the names of Alien (1979) director Ridley Scott's former neighbors - he hated them, so he decided to "dedicate" the name of the "evil company" to them. In reality the name was created by conceptual designer Ron Cobb (who created the Nostromo and the crew's uniforms) to imply a corner on the spacecraft market by an English-Japanese corporation. According to himself, he would have liked to use "Leyland-Toyota" but obviously could not so he changed one letter in Leyland and added the Japanese name of his (not Scott's) neighbor.
During Hudson's (Bill Paxton) boasting monologue aboard the drop ship (special edition only) he talks about some of the weaponry of the Colonial Marines, mentioning a "phased plasma pulse rifle" - the pulse rifles the marines carry are kinetic, not "phased plasma", but the line references The Terminator (1984) (also directed by James Cameron, and featuring Paxton in a minor role) in which the terminator asks a gun store clerk for a "phased plasma rifle."
The mechanism used to make the face-huggers thrash about in the stasis tubes in the science lab came from one of the "flying piranhas" in one of James Cameron's earlier movies Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981). It took nine people to make the face-hugger work: one person for each leg and one for the tail.
In the shooting script, the synthetic Ash from the previous movie was referred to as a 'Cyberdyne Systems 120-A/2', an obvious nod to the Cyberdyne Systems 101 Terminator from The Terminator (1984), James Cameron's previous movie. It was changed in the movie to a Hyperdine System 120-A2.
While salary negotiations were going on with Sigourney Weaver to reprise her character in the second movie, the studio asked James Cameron to work on an alternative storyline excluding Ripley, but James Cameron indicated the series is all about Ripley and refused to do so.
When the crew is getting dressed after waking up from hypersleep, Hudson says, "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" to which Vasquez answers, "No. Have you?" This is "borrowed" from a Hollywood legend involving columnist Earl Wilson and actress Tallulah Bankhead. He asked "Have you ever been mistaken for a man?" and she said, "No darling. Have you?"
A lightweight dummy model of Newt (Carrie Henn) was constructed for Sigourney Weaver to carry around during the scenes just before the Queen chase.
One of the options considered was making the creature translucent. Since this wasn't done in the earlier movie, for continuity it couldn't be used for the creatures in this film, although it survives in one small way: the queen's teeth are translucent.
Contrary to popular belief, Jenette Goldstein is not Hispanic. Make-up was used to make her skin appear darker. She also dyed her hair black and wore dark brown contact lenses.
Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) actually did the chin-up curls and behind-the-head pull-ups, at the request of director James Cameron to establish Vasquez as the "tough" woman in the platoon.
At one time during filming, the APC had an actual roof. But, during the "Fire In the hole" scene, the actors were actually suffocating from the fire's smoke. After a few tries, the roof of the APC was removed.
In the air shaft where Vasquez shoots the alien with a handgun, Jenette Goldstein could not handle the recoil of the gun properly. As a result, producer Gale Anne Hurd doubled for Vasquez in shots where the gun is fired. She was the only woman available who had experience firing handguns. Goldstein's flinching at the firing of a gun is also masked during the operations room fight immediately preceding the air shaft scene, when Vasquez is seen firing two grenades at the aliens - for the first one, there's a barely visible cut (Goldstein's head changes position suddenly) and for the second shot there is a smash-cut away from her face at the moment of firing.
A complicated effect shot (the Marines entering the Alien nest) had already been filmed just before James Remar was replaced by Michael Biehn. A re-shoot would be too expensive, so the Corporal Hicks seen with his back towards camera is still played by James Remar.
Carrie Henn watched Alien (1979) before shooting at James Cameron's request. When she watched it, she actually found it funny and laughed.
Sigourney Weaver refused any information on the behind the scenes making of the queen so she could keep the character real in her mind.
The rhyme that Hudson mutters as he's searching for the colonists is from the AC/DC song "Shake a Leg": "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen..."
Four actors from this movie appear in various Terminator movies: Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton in The Terminator (1984), and Jenette Goldstein in Terminator 2 (1991).
Jenette Goldstein's character, Vasquez, inspired the character Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), and Goldstein herself was initially considered for the part. She later went on to make a brief appearance in Star Trek: Generations (1994). Bill Paxton's character, Hudson, inspired the character Guy Fleegman in the Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest (1999), which also starred Sigourney Weaver.
The facehuggers (both the live specimens and the dead ones) that had been retained by the colonists were kept in jars of water so that if they got injured in any way and began secreting acid, the acid would immediately be diluted by the surrounding water, thus preventing the jar from being ruptured and the creature being released. While Bishop explains that the acid blood turns inert once an alien dies, the original script for Alien featured a scene where the dead facehugger immediately began to decompose and leak copious amounts of acid everywhere. This sparked a panicked rush to eject the facehugger's remains from the Nostromo before it's blood could eat through the ship's hull. In terms of acid exposure, dead aliens were originally intended to be more dangerous than live ones.
Michael Biehn stated that he didn't get to customize his armor because he was cast so late in production. For the most part he liked all of the custom work on his, but he states that he hated the heart with the padlock on the chest plate as it was far too much like a bulls-eye.
To create the effect of Bishop performing the knife trick at inhuman speed, the footage was sped up. This creates a rather apparent goof whereby other characters in the background can be seen moving at an unrealistically accelerated rate, most notably Sergeant Apone, whose head can be seen moving up and down incredibly fast as he laughs.
Some of the sound effects for this film were created with help from the Fairlight, an early Australian-made digital sampler. The then state-of-the art Fairlight machine sampled at 8 bit resolution. Musicians such as Jan Hammer, Kate Bush, and Prince have used it extensively throughout their careers.
Bishop states that he can't harm a human. This is why he places his hand on top of Hudson's during the knife trick. This could be a reference to the Laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov.
The portable computers used in the sentry gun scenes are GRiD GridCase 1535EXPs. Rugged and light due to their magnesium alloy enclosures, GRiD computers were used by the US military in combat and by NASA on early 1980s Space Shuttle missions.
Apone was named after mechanical effects technician Allan A. Apone who worked on Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror (1981), of which James Cameron was production designer and Second Unit Director.
Al Pacino visited the set as he was filming Revolution (1985) in the studio next door.
Several references to Robert A. Heinlein's novel, "Starship Troopers": the prominent use of the military; during the orientation when Hudson asks if this is a "bug hunt."; and the use of the term "drop"
There is a red circular sticker seen on the dropship which isn't visible. It says Bug Stomper "We Endanger Species" in Behind the Scenes.
James Horner wasn't particularly happy with the treatment of his score for the film despite receiving his first Oscar nomination. He delivered a finished score which didn't sit well with the edited film. Because Horner was unavailable as he was working on another film at the time, James Cameron had to heavily chop up the score to fit his edit. (A Deluxe Edition soundtrack of the score has since been released by Varèse Sarabande.)
A scene on the colony before the alien outbreak was deleted from the final cut. Elements of that scene show up in later James Cameron projects. The line, '... and we always get the same answer: 'Don't ask'.' was used in Terminator 2 (1991). In fact the entire scene in Terminator 2 follows the same pacing and tone as the scene cut from the theatrical version of Aliens: - an employee flags down a supervisor and they walk together, talking about the behavior of their employer - Weyland-Yutani in Aliens, CyberDyne Systems in Terminator 2 - and ending in the line '...don't ask.'. The character name 'Lydecker' was used in Dark Angel (2000).
The derelict model (seen in the extended edition) is the same model used in the first film. Fox had turned the model over to effects wizard (and prop archivist) Bob Burns, who had the prop sitting in his driveway. With some repair, it was able to be reused for the brief appearance in this film.
The button on the control panel Ripley presses to shut the air lock doors on the ship at the end of the film is actually a "Hold" Button from a UK style "Fruit Machine" or "Bandit"!
Many of the characters in the movie whose first names are never mentioned, actually share their first name of the actor/actress portraying them: e.g. Sgt. Al Apone (Al Matthews), Cpl. Collette Ferro (Colette Hiller), Pfc. Jenette Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), Pvt. Mark Drake (Mark Rolston), Pvt. William Hudson (Bill Paxton), Pvt. Daniel Spunkmeyer (Daniel Kash), Pvt. Ricco Frost (Ricco Ross), Pvt. Trevor Wierzbowski (Trevor Steedman), and director Paul van Leuwen (Paul Maxwell).
For the pulse rifles, James Cameron wanted the brightest muzzle flash possible so that the firing would light up the actors faces, like in the classic early gangster films; in which they used Thompson submachine guns. The flash was due to the inefficiency of the tommy gun, in which unburned powder would fly from the barrel and be ignited on the way out. After trying out every fully automatic weapon in the armorer's collection, the found the one with the brightest muzzle flash - which turned out to be the classic Thompson submachine gun.
James Cameron had several designers come up with ideas for the drop ship that took the Marines from the Sulaco to the planet. Design after design, he finally gave up on them to come up with one he liked and constructed his own drop ship out of a model of an apache helicopter and other spare model pieces.
According to Al Matthews (Apone) when James Remar was still cast in the role of Corporal Hicks Remar accidentally blew a hole in the set of Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors (1986) which was being shot on an adjacent stage to Aliens at Pinewood Studios with the Ithaca Model 37 pump action shotgun that Michael Biehn uses when hes cast as Hicks, Matthew's then said to Remar "Where the fuck did you get live ammo?"
James Cameron wrote the movie as an allegory to the American involvement in the Vietnam War, with the marines representing the U.S. conservative hawks and the xenomorphs (aliens) representing the Vietnamese. In an interview with Screenprism, James Cameron said, "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of the superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work." Cameron has also likened Ripley to veteran soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, who would inexplicably be among the first to go back to the war zone despite the horrors they witnessed.
Stephen Lang auditioned for the roles of Carter Burke and Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Hicks was eventually played by Michael Biehn. Lang would later play the villain Miles Quaritch in Avatar (2009), also directed by James Cameron. The part of Quaritch was originally intended for Biehn, but since Sigourney Weaver had already been cast, they wanted to prevent Avatar from looking like an "Aliens reunion".
James Horner's schedule only allowed for him to work on the film for 6 weeks. He arrived in London to perform his duties, only to find that they were still shooting, much less editing. He sat around for 3 weeks before being able to get started.
The longest of all four Alien films, clocking at 2 hours and 17 minutes. Even if the special editions of all films are considered, this record still stands (the longer version of Aliens clocks at 2 hours and 34 minutes).
James Cameron wrote the script two months before he left production to direct The Terminator (1984).
Sigourney Weaver threatened to not do any more "Alien" movies after seeing the movie's final cut, so as a compromise, the 1987 Special Edition was released on Laser-Disc.
Producers David Giler and Walter Hill were keen to work with James Cameron after having read his script for The Terminator (1984). Cameron went in for a meeting with the two producers and pitched several ideas at them, none of which they were that receptive to. As he was leaving, however, they did mention that they were thinking of doing a sequel to Alien (1979), and immediately Cameron's interest was piqued. Cameron submitted a 40-50 page treatment of what he would do for an "Alien" sequel which contained a lot of ideas for an existing treatment he had done for a script called "Mother." Giler and Hill loved Cameron's treatment and commissioned him to write a screenplay. Cameron got the good news the same day he landed screenwriting duties for Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985).
The initial cinematographer was Dick Bush. However, director James Cameron fired him a month into production because he wasn't satisfied with the lighting, and the two men reportedly hated working with each other. Cameron then tried to hire Derek Vanlint, the DP on the previous film. Vanlint wasn't interested, but recommended Adrian Biddle for the job.
The M-56 smart guns and the sentry guns built for the movie were designed around German MG 42 machine guns (most recognizable on the smart guns where the MG 42's characteristic recoil booster muzzle is clearly visible). The gun is mounted on a heavily modified steadicam harness - the MG 42 alone (without the additional cosmetic dressing and ammunition) weighs in at about 25 pounds.
The original planetoid from Alien (1979) is renamed as LV 426, where the Weyland's company creates a miner workers' colony. LV 426 is a reference for the Holy Bible, accurately Leviticus 4:26, that it says: "All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven".
The title of Alien (1979) in Hungarian was "The 8th passenger: Death." Consequently, the title of Aliens (1986) was: "The name of the planet: Death".
There were two versions of the "Bug Stompers" logo designed for the movie, one wearing sneakers, and one wearing combat boots as seen on the drop ship.
The colony on LV-426 is named Hadley's Hope, with a population of 158. This is revealed in the special edition and if you look carefully, the saying "Have A Nice Day" is painted on the sign.
When Ripley is in front of the board at the start of the film, the seats they are all sat on are in fact automobile seats, they have the mounting points for the headrests and the levers for sliding forward to allow people to enter the back of the car, they are mounted on office chair posts to give them the look of office boardroom chairs.
During the scene in the loading bay, when Ripley shows her skills with the loader. Apone raises his hand whilst laughing to show a black masonic ring.
The text that is superimposed over the video feeds (from the marine's cameras) seen on the video monitors in the APV were created using BBC model B microcomputers, commonplace in England at the time. The built-in teletext character generator was employed, and the output was gen-locked with the signal from the helmet cameras, before being fed to the monitors on the set.
The camo pattern worn by the Marines was custom made for the movie, but due to its similarity it is often confused for one called "frog and leaf," which is no longer in production.
The pulse rifles that the Marines use are made from a Thompson M1A1 machine gun with a Remington 870 shotgun (shortened to just 15 inches and covered by the also-cut-down shroud and fore-grip from a Franchi SPAS 12 shotgun) underneath.
Aliens was the last of the series in which Stan Winston would do the special effects. The torch was then handed to veterans Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. for Alien³ (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997).
Michael Biehn was given James Remar's armor to wear after Remar left the production, but felt the bright red heart Remar had painted on his chest plate was a bit over-the-top, saying that to him it looked too much like a bullseye, giving an enemy a convenient place to aim.
The pouch Ripley takes onto the lift at the end of the movie is a British Armed Forces respirator haversack.
According to Lance Henriksen, when he saw the movie at the premier, Henriksen was so impressed by the effort that Cameron had put into the making of the movie as a director, writer and designer that he was left speechless to the point that he promised Cameron that he will write him a letter about the movie to properly express his feelings on it, which he never ended up actually doing. Cameron misinterpreted all this as a sign that Henriksen hated the movie but they eventually cleared it all up.
According to James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, who is a strong advocate for gun control, tried to convince him not to let Ripley handle any weapons at all. Cameron then took Weaver to a shooting range, and let her fire a machine gun. Weaver had to admit it was good fun, and had no further objections.
The second draft of William Gibsons unproduced script for Alien 3 (1992) features a scene where one of the main characters goes through Gorman's belongings aboard the Sulaco including a photograph that reveals that Gorman had a wife/girlfriend.
In Alien (1979), H.R. Giger originally intended the openings at the top of the alien eggs to closely resemble a human vulva, but the explicitly sexual aspects of the design were soon dropped due to censorship concerns. Giger's vision of a distinctly vaginal beginning to the aliens' story would come to fruition in some small way in the sequel: the letter "I" in the film's title flares out into an ovular shape, vaguely resembling a vulva.
The armor for the film was built by English armorer Terry English, and painted using Humbrol paints.
Sigourney Weaver based Ripley in Aliens on a very unsentimental environmentalist friend.
The space station above earth is called Gateway, a possible reference to Frederik Pohl's "Gateway" novel, a sci-fi classic.
The original design of the Xenomorph head from Alien (1979) was initially copied. It had a ridged forehead with a layer of semi-translucent gel covering the ridges, to make it appear smooth. When James Cameron saw the heads as a work in progress without the gel, he thought the ridges made the heads more interesting, so the gel was left out. The difference in appearance between the creatures from both films has since been the subject of several fan theories, one being that the ridged Xenomorphs from Aliens are a specific warrior caste within the species.
At 106 minutes in, Ripley confronts Burke about his plan to smuggle in a specimen (or two), and says he sent a message to the colonists about the ship containing the nest on '6/12/79'; the original movie, 'Alien', premiered on 6/22/79.
Ray Lovejoy had come within a hair's breadth of being fired and replaced by Mark Goldblatt, until he impressed James Cameron with his work on the final battle sequence.
William Hope (Gorman) voiced dr. Groves in the 2010 video game Alien vs. Predator and Marshall Waits in Alien Isolation (2014) he also provided voice acting for the Predator characters in Alien versus Predator, something he had previously done on Alien versus Predator (1999) and Alien versus Predator 2 (2001) coincidentally Gorman's incompetence share similar traits to Waits character, Hope also recorded voice work for T. Shannon in Aliens Colonial Marines, But ultimately the character did not appear in the final game.
To create the effect of the chestburster bursting out of Mary's body, Barbara Coles wore a prosthetic chest piece made of foam through which the chestburster model emerged. A replica dummy of Barbara Coles was then used for shots where the Marines torched her body.
Ricco Ross said that Director James Cameron named his character Frost as he thought it would be ironic given that he is set on fire with a flamethrower.
According to Lance Henriksen, he based the character of Bishop on his innocent 12-year-old self. He would sometimes get lost in the role during shooting and would leave the studio to wander around London where the movie was actually being filmed. Not knowing the area, he would easily get lost and have to call the crew to ask how to come back to the studio. Henriksen also said that just like his young self, Bishop would forgive people their mistreatment of him, since he knew that he'll outlive all of them.
One of the pulse rifles used in the film is on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England.
A set design company offered to build James Cameron a complete and working APC vehicle from scratch, but the cost was far too high for the budget he had in mind.
(at around 13 mins) When Carter Burke and Marine Lieutenant Gorman are trying to convince Ripley to return to LV-426, he mentions the Colonial Marines are "Real tough hombres." "Tough 'Ombres" is the name of the US Army's 90th Infantry Division which saw action during WWI and WWII. This reference is either an incredible coincidence or an incredibly sly bit of foreshadowing on the part of the writers. The 90th Infantry Division suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any US Army division during World War II, with just under 20,000 Soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing. One of the largest contributing factors to the division's high casualty rate turned out to be poorly trained leadership. By referring to the Marines as "Really tough hombres," Burke may be foreshadowing the outcome of the Marines' first encounter with the alien creatures, and highlighting Lieutenant Gorman's lack of experience.
In Aliens Colonial Marines, Gormans first name is William however, the crew manifest seen on a monitor aboard the Sulaco in the film gives his first initial as S. Alien the Weyland-Yutani Report later revealed his first name is Scott. This name was in fact chosen as a subtle thank you to an alien franchise fan, expert and forum member who helped to fact check the report.
The scene featuring Al Simpson (Mac McDonald) and Lydecker (William Armstrong) in the Extended Cut is almost identical to a scene in James Cameron's later film Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991) an employee Flags down a supervisor in a busy office and they walk together, discussing the behavior of their employer-Weyland-Yutani in Aliens, CyberDyne Systems in Terminator 2, before the more senior man ends their conversation with a line about their employer only responding to sensitive questions with the phrase "don't ask".
The sentry gun software program displayed on the screen with the ammo counters is UA 571-C. Bill Paxton (Hudson) had a lead role in the movie U-571, 14 years later.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
When the film first premiered on ITV in the UK in 1990, all bad language was dubbed over by unknown voice actors. In one scene, Hudson says "The Sarge is gone! Get the f*** out of here!", but in the ITV broadcast it was changed to "The Sarge is gone! Get the hell out of here!!!" and another scene which Ripley says "You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them f****** each other over a goddamn percentage." In the ITV broadcast, it was changed to "You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fricking each other over a goddamn percentage".
The video screen park background at Gateway Station hospital is actually a still photograph of the gardens at Pinewood Studios, where the movie was made.
Music during the climactic spaceship/Alien queen scene was used in trailers for the main event of 1995's WWF Survivor Series (Diesel vs Bret Hart)
The knife trick performed by Bishop (Lance Henriksen) is an homage to the film "Dark Star" (1974), in which a similar knife trick was performed by Boiler (Cal Kuniholm). Dark Star which was co-written and starred by Dan O'Bannon, who also wrote the story and screenplay for the original Alien (1979).
This is one of two films in which Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton play roles where they are on the same team. They are both marines in this movie, and four years later, Navy Seals in Navy Seals (1990). In Tombstone (1993), seven years later, they are enemies: Biehn as Johnny Ringo and Paxton as Morgan Earp.
James Cameron described his creative process as "what I'm good at is working with actors to create scenes and then editing their performances to get the absolute best vibrating version of that scene and then share that with the audience. It's an amazing process to go through. Sometimes you think it's not going to work when you get started and then the characters come to life."
United States Colonial Marines personnel service numbers: SFC Apone, A A19/TQ4.0.32751E8 Pt Crowe, T A46/TQ1.0.98712E6 Cpl Dietrich, C A41/TQ8.0.81120E2 Pt Drake, M A23/TQ2.0.47619E7 Cpl Ferro, C A71/TQ9.0.09428E1 Pt Frost, R A17/TQ4.0.61247E5 Lt Gorman, S A09/TQ4.0.56124E3 Cpl Hicks, D A27/TQ4.0.48215E9 Pt Hudson, W A08/TQ1.0.41776E3 Pt Spunkmeyer, D A23/TQ6.0.92810E7 Pt Vasquez, J A03/TQ7.0.15618E4 Pt Wierzbowski, T A14/TQ8.0.20034E7
Hudson's quip to Vasquez about her thinking that she thought "alien" meant "Illegal alien" is an inside joke. According to an interview with Starlog magazine after the film was released, when Jenette Goldstein heard the title of the film, she mistakenly thought it was, in fact, about illegal aliens.
Sentry guns featured in special edition are of UA 571 model as viewed on their laptop management console. Funny enough, Bill Paxton (pvt. Hudson) appeared as Lt. Cmdr. Mike Dahlgren in submarine movie U-571 (2000).
Paul Reiser subsequently appeared in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) for director Tony Scott, whose brother Ridley Scott directed the original Alien (1979).
Sergeant Apone's full rank is listed as "SFC" on a computer monitor. That is the abbreviation for the current U.S. Army rank of Sergeant First Class, which is usually a platoon sergeant position. The equivalent current U.S. Marine Corps rank would be Gunnery Sergeant, abbreviated GySgt. SFC Apone also wears the current Army gold and green stripes of a Sergeant First Class.
When Burke and Ripley are discussing her psych evaluation results, a People magazine can be seen on a table.
The hero shotgun prop used by Hicks was an Ithaca Model 37 altered by having its barrel shortened and the original hand grip replaced with a World War II MP40 submachine gun pistol grip; parts of the shotguns original stock woodwork were retained as a fixing point for the MP40 aluminum grip casting, the same shotgun previously appeared in the episode "Heroes" of the British television series The Professionals, and the episode "The Bogeyman" of the British television series Dempsey and Makepeace (1985) where it was used by the characters Tommy and Keith Lymon, respectively. In these television appearances the weapon was fitted with a folding stock seemingly also taken from an MP40. However for the filming of Aliens, the stock was removed. Also for Aliens the grip had gaffer tape wrapped around it covering the entire grip along with the holes for mounting the folding stock. By the time the shotgun came to be in the possession of the prop store, the tape had long been removed.
At the briefing, Pvt Vasquez (probably unintentionally) quotes the ancient proverb, "The Spartans do not ask how many the enemy number, but where they are."
James Cameron: [Biehn's hand] (at around 45 mins) Michael Biehn's character gets bitten on the hand by another character. See The Abyss (1989) and The Terminator (1984).
James Cameron: [strong women] Many of Cameron's films (Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981), The Terminator (1984), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), Titanic (1997)) champion strong women, both mentally and physically.
James Cameron: [flying vehicles] The flying vehicles in Cameron's films exhibit helicopter-like flight characteristics regardless of their design. Specifically, the noses of the vehicles dip to initiate forward movement (also: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2 (1991), True Lies (1994), Avatar (2009)).
James Cameron: [nice cut] (at around 5 mins) a few minutes into the movie, we see Ripley lying in the cryo-tube, and then the scene fades to the picture of the earth; the earth directly fits into the silhouette of Ripley's face.