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15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Alien Franchise

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“In space no one can hear you scream,” is a sentence that brought shudders down many a spine when the trailer for Alien was released in 1979. For someone who was obsessed with the Alien movies, I have to say that the original is still one of the best and it’s been scaring the pants off of people for many generations since its release. With the release of the new movie Alien: Covenant this year, it reminded me of how great these movies are and how it’s the perfect time to do an Alien marathon before the next installment is released. The franchise is considered to be the best science fiction movies of all time, and fans just can’t seem to get enough of the movies.

Every time an Alien movie is brought to the big screen we are brought into a world that fills us with dread. The movies are filled with heart-pounding jump-out-of-your-seat thrills that make us happy to be on planet Earth. With the release of Alien: Covenant coming up we can’t help but reminisce about why we love these movies. You may think that you know everything there is to know about the movies, but you may be wrong.

15. The Egg Chamber Was Huge

Those terrifying egg chambers that the team stumbled into looked frightening for a reason. It was the room in which all the hatching eggs were releasing the face huggers. The production crew made a ton of alien eggs for the scenes, 130 to be exact. That’s why everywhere you looked there was a horrifying oozing egg. Those eggs were made with the use of cattle stomachs and hearts. The unusual and creepy body of face hugger was unique because they used sheep intestine for the tail. The creepy way in which it scuttled across the room was made more realistic with the use of Ridley Scott’s hand. During the original Alien movie during the autopsy scene involving the face hugger, the team used oysters, shellfish and a sheep’s kidney to create the dead face hugger on the slab. These creatures were made badass through the use of normal animal parts.

14. Sigourney Had A Huge Payday

Sigourney was only paid a measly $35,000 to star in the original Alien movie. She believed in the movie and the character however so making the movie was an easy decision for her. When it came time to make a sequel, however, she didn’t want to be a part of it because she thought that a sequel would be poorly written. Producers wanted Cameron to write a script that didn’t include Ripley in the chance she didn’t come back, but Cameron stated plainly, that “the Alien series was all about Ripley.” She ended up loving the new script, however, especially the mother-daughter bond between her and Newt. Her agent was also able to score her a huge $1 million payday if she starred in the sequel. It was a good thing Cameron wasn’t willing to let go of Sigourney because the second film received huge acclaim at the box office and Sigourney went on to receive a Best Actress nomination for her role.

13. Condoms and KY Jelly Were Used

When it comes to the creation of the terrifying alien, we wonder how he always looked so wet all the time. The design of the aliens was really unique, especially during that time. You might be surprised to know that they made the alien head from a cast of a real human skull. The epic drool that we see pouring from the monster’s mouth is nothing more than KY Jelly, and they even used shredded condoms inside the jaws of the beast to portray the tendons we see when the beast opens its mouth. In the first movie they made three aliens, one was in the form of a suit that was worn by a 7-ft Nigerian man named Bolaji Badejo, while the other two aliens were used as a model and one was another suit for the stunt man. The Nigerian man was cast for the role after one of the crew members met him in the bar; they couldn’t believe the size of him.

12. The Sequel Took Seven Years To Make

Usually, when producers have a hit on their hands, they want to ride that popularity right into the sequel. After all, waiting seven years could really make one forget about the movie entirely. So why did it take seven years to make the sequel? There were apparently problems with money and lawyers, and we all know how helpful lawyers can be at times. Cameron wanted to make the sequel immediately after the release of Alien in 1979, but it was delayed because there was a dispute between 20th Century Fox and the film’s producers on how the profits from the movie should be distributed. Seriously? Fox didn’t want to make a sequel because they thought it would cost too much money. They eventually agreed to get the producers off their back about wanting more money.

11. Nostromo is Named After a Book

We often wonder where directors and writers come up with the names of characters or even material things in the movies. In the case of Alien and Aliens, the ships had very unusual names. Ridley Scott got quite creative when he came up with the names of the aircraft in the movies and took them from the written word. The ship Nostromo and the shuttlecraft Narcissus from the Alien movie was named after books by Ridley Scott’s favorite author Joseph Conrad. He has a book called The Nigger of Narcissus as well as one called Nostromo. Scott continued to honor that author in the movie Aliens by naming the next ship Sulaco which was the name of a town in the book Nostromo. He went so far as to want to adapt one of Conrad’s books into a film. He did so in 1977 with the short story The Duel, which was later turned into the movie, The Duellists.

10. The Badass Crew

Bill Paxton will always be remembered for his badass role in Alien when he went from supreme confidence to delirious after going toe to toe with creatures, unlike nothing his team had ever seen before. During his freak out he screamed, “Game over, man! Game over!” which became one of his most famous lines in the movie. In Aliens, they brought the army in, and the actors were expected to do two weeks of training with the Special Air Service, which was part of the British military. This unit of their military takes care of hostage rescue, intelligence gathering, covert reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. So when it came time for the crew to act like badasses, they had a lot of experience under their belt. Sergeant Apone made it clear that his military team was “absolutely badass.”

9. How to Scare a Cat

During Aliens, there was a scene with Jonesy, the cat when Ripley and her crew was trying to capture the cat. At one point it saw an alien, and he ran from them in fear. In order to get true fear from the cat and get it to bolt, the filmmakers brought in a German Shepherd and hid it until the right moment. They kept it behind a screen and would lift the screen when they needed the cat to bolt. It worked like a charm. Another quirk that happened during filming was when Sigourney had a weird reaction when they first started filming with Jonesy. She thought she might be allergic to the cat and questions were raised about whether the cat would need to be replaced. They had to use four cats at a time so finding a new cat would be difficult because they all had to look the same. It turned out she wasn’t allergic to the cat, but to the glycerin spray they put on her skin to make it look like she sweats.

8. 20th Century Fox Didn’t Care if Alien 3 Was Good

When a movie has the kind of success that the Alien franchise has sometimes had the sequel doesn’t even have to be good to get people in the seats. David Fincher was working his ass off to try to create a movie that was good despite all the problems they were having with production. “It was a baptism by fire. I was very naive … I’d always had this naive idea that everybody wants to make movies as good as they can be, which is stupid. So I learned on this movie that nobody really knows, so therefore no one has to care, so it’s always going to be your fault. I’d always thought, ‘Well, surely you don’t want to have the Twentieth Century Fox logo over a shitty movie.’ And they were like, ‘Well, as long as it opens.’ They would say, ‘Look, you could have somebody piss against the wall for two hours and call it Alien 3 and it would still do $30-million worth of business.’ That’s the impetus to make these movies, you can’t keep the people away.”

7. The Chestburster Was a Secret

When it came time to shoot the scene where the creature burst from the chest of John Hurt, the cast had no idea what to expect. There was very little information given to them about the scene, and that should have worried them from the get-go. The director wanted to keep the scene a secret so that the shocked reactions of the team would be genuine. Shocked they were; no one expected that the director would have come up with something so gruesome and terrifying. The death of John Hurt was something that did not leave their minds so easily. It worked like a charm though as it became one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. “All it said in the script was, ‘The thing emerges,'” Sigourney said later. “Everyone was wearing raincoats,” she continued, presumably referring to the crew. “We should have been a little suspicious.”

6. Sigourney Weaver Didn’t Want to Do Alien 3

There were so many production delays that by the time the film got rolling Sigourney wasn’t thrilled about coming back, especially when it meant shaving her head for the role. She made sure when she came back that she was going to have a large payday and she also had an unusual request, that the movie have no guns that time around. An article about Weaver was put out in the Chicago Tribune, “The question of salary, however, is no joke to Weaver. Although she feels that ‘it’s in bad taste to talk about how much one is paid,’ she makes it clear that she found her payment for the last two Alien films rather distasteful. ‘I got paid not very much for the first two,’ she says, noting that 70 percent of her $1 million fee for Aliens got eaten up by American and British taxes and the agent’s fee.”

5. The Facehugger Got Held Up at Customs

We all know what it’s like to be held up at customs sometimes, having your car searched while an officer side eyes you. When it came time to make the facehugger for the Alien movie the initial designs by H.R. Giger were so amazing that the US Customs held up the delivery because they couldn’t figure out what it was. They were so alarmed by their discovering of the facehugger that they weren’t confident that it was just a design. The writer of the movie, Dan O’Bannon had to go down and explain to them it was just a design they were using for a horror film. Giger based the design off of something he created in a surrealist print in 1976, long before the movie was even made. It’s weird that he had the perfect alien creature in his mind before it was needed for a movie.

4. The Company

In the movie Aliens, there is what is known as “The Company,” the despicable entity that Burke works for who basically tries to screw Ripley over in order to get a specimen for their own research purposes. You only see the name of the company Weyland-Yutani in a few scenes, and it’s in a blink of an eye. All the equipment has the logo on it and there has been much speculation over the years as to where the company name comes from. It is said that Ridley Scott named the company after neighbors of his whom he hated but that turned out to be just a rumor. In actuality, Rob Cobb, a costume designer came up with the name. “One of the things I enjoyed most about Alien was its subtle satirical content. Science fiction films offer golden opportunities to throw in little scraps of information that suggest enormous changes in the world. There’s a certain potency in those kinds of remarks. Weyland-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 “Weyland”, and “Yutani” was a Japanese neighbor of mine.”

3. Joss Whedon was Pissed About Script Changes

For Alien: Resurrection Joss Whedon was the chief writer on the script, but it seemed like there were a lot of changes to his script that he was not pleased with. That might be because one of his versions of the script didn’t even include Ripley in the film while another had Newt as a clone. “It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines … mostly … but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script … but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s just that they executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

2. Special Effects Were Ahead of Its Time

The special effects that were produced for Aliens were some of the best effects going on at that time; they were basically unmatched by anyone. When making the alien queen, they used a lot of puppeteering and miniatures to bring the queen to life. She was a complex creature, and it took 14 different operators in order to get her moving properly. Cameron is such an amazing director that he was able to capture the alien without the audience ever seeing the massive amounts of wire rigging that helped move the queen around. The glass tubes that the military stumbled upon early in the film contained facehuggers floating inside. They were brought to life through puppetry as well. The epic scene at the end that had Ripley in a power loader to fight the queen was so convincing to the audience that there were companies calling 20th Century Fox to get the power loaders for their own company use.

1. The Cast Could Have Looked Different

When it came time to cast the Alien movie the producers wanted Harrison Ford to play the role of Captain Dallas, but he turned it down. Meryl Streep was also in the running alongside Sigourney Weaver for the role of Ripley which certainly would have changed the whole outlook of her character. Veronica Cartwright who played Lambert also auditioned for the role of Ripley, and when she was called in to go to filming, she wasn’t told that she wouldn’t be playing Ripley but had instead been cast as Lambert. Sigourney ended up being the last cast member to be cast onto the film. It’s still shocking to me that she was only paid $35,000 for the role.

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