1979's Alien is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic pieces of sci-fi horror ever created; and its success served as the launching pad from which Ridley Scott created the Alien cinematic universe, which encompasses the Alien, Prometheus and AvP franchises.
Behind the scenes of this great undertaking there lurks as much interesting trivia as there are xenomorphs in Alien 2, but did you know these six fun facts about the original Alien?
1. Practicing Safe Xenomorphing
The xenomorph has gone on to become one of the most iconic and most terrifying beasts in sci-fi history, but perhaps the knowledge of how the alien itself was created takes some of the edge off of that terror.
In addition to using plasticine, Rolls-Royce parts and — um — vertebrae from dead snakes (yikes), the costume designers used KY Jelly and condoms to create the creature's mouth. The jelly was used to create the xenomorph's viscous saliva, and shredded condoms were used to create the stretchy tendons in its jaw. Sticky.
2. Growing Pains
The scene in which the chest-burster rips through the ribcage of crew member Kane (John Hurt) remains one of the most shocking and iconic moments in horror sci-fi history, but did you know where Alien scriptwriter Dan O'Bannon got the idea from?
Throughout his life O'Bannon suffered from the inflammatory bowel condition Crohn's disease, a condition which would eventually take his life due to complications in December 2009. The concept of the chest-burster came to O'Bannon when he awoke in the middle of the night with severe stomach pains, a symptom of Crohn's disease, the process being described as "something bubbling inside of him struggling to get out".
3. Captain Solo?
Actor Harrison Ford is best known as Han Solo, one of the stars of the original Star Wars trilogy, the first movie of which — Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope — was cited by director Ridley Scott as one of the big influences on Alien.
But he nearly starred in Alien too. Ford was up for the part of Captain Dallas, but reportedly turned it down when offered. Why he turned it down is still not widely known, but it may have had something to do with filming clashes for The Empire Strikes Back which released in 1980, a year after Alien. The part instead went to Tom Skerritt, and Ford would go on to star in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner a few years later in 1982.
4. That's A Bad Kitty!
Some of the first scenes from the beginning of the Alien shoot involved Sigourney Weaver interacting with Jonesy the cat, but she began breaking out in a terrible rash whilst filming. According to Roger Luckhurst's Alien book, Weaver "hid in her dressing room, appalled", fearing that she was allergic to the cat and would be replaced in the lead role. This was due to the fact it would be easier to replace her, being a first-time actress on the big screen, than to source another specially trained cat.
However, it turned out that it wasn't the cat she was allergic to, but the glycerine sprayed on her skin to make her appear sweaty, as well as that which had been applied to various props on set. The glycerine was replaced, and Weaver went on to secure her place in sci-fi history.
5. A Case Of Too Many Jo(h)ns
John Hurt portrays Kane in Alien, the first victim of the xenomorph and the one on the receiving end of that iconic chest-bursting. According to his comments on the Alien Blu-Ray commentary, Hurt was originally on board to portray Kane but had to drop due to other filming responsibilities in South Africa. At this time he was replaced with actor Jon Finch.
However, Hurt was denied entry to the country due to the fact that authorities had confused him with another actor named John Heard, who had been blacklisted from entering South Africa due to his publicly speaking out against Apartheid. In another twist of fate, Hurt's replacement Jon Finch became unwell around the time he returned from his failed attempt to film in South Africa, and so Hurt was invited back for the role.
6. A Lucky, But Expensive, Star
The scene towards the end of the movie in which Ellen Ripley sings softly to steel herself in the face of the xenomorph has become another eerily iconic piece of Alien, but the idea to have Ripley sing here was Weaver's, not Scott's.
According to Scott, speaking on the Alien Director's Cut DVD commentary, he got in a lot of trouble for this from the 20th Century Fox producers due to the fact that the rights to the song sung by Weaver — 'You Are My Lucky Star' by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur — were very expensive.
For more insane trivia check out 7 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Nintendo, or take a peek at the first image from the upcoming Alien: Covenant.
Do you know some interesting Alien trivia? Tell us in the comments below!
Sources: Listverse's Epic Book of Mind-Boggling Lists; The Observer; Not Starring.com; Alien (BFI Film Classics); Alien Blu-Ray commentary (via Alien Explorations); Alien 2003 Director's Cut commentary (via Film School Rejects).