In reality though, the Alien series never really went away and continues to gestate in the collective hearts and chests of an entire generation. Sure, Ridley Scott's Prometheus was a divisive take on the franchise, but ever since Ripley first took on one of the xenomorphs in1979, we've become more attached to the killing machines than a face-hugger suffering from a severe case of arthritis.
Scott's first Alien movie may have kicked things off, but there's a large contingent of fans out there who would argue that James Cameron's sequel is the definitive take on the xenomorphs. Aliens was released thirty years ago on July 18, so we're celebrating today with thirty facts that you probably never knew about the '80s gun-fest, handily divided into themed sections for your reading pleasure.
1. Ever wonder how James Cameron's team created those horrific otherworldly screams? The alien noises shrieks are actually baboon shrieks edited in post-production.
2. Before CGI became commonplace, practical effects were key to the development of huge sci-fi projects like Aliens. For example, the Alien Queen needed between 14 and 16 operators to bring it to life successfully.
3. Naturally then, the sheer size of the Alien Queen puppet proved to be problematic, as it was actually too big to fit inside the elevator. For the scene where she is placed inside the confined space, the Queen's tail was removed and the back of the elevator was opened up to accommodate her size.
4. H.R. Giger's designs were pivotal to the look of the xenomorphs and the Alien franchise as a whole, but James Cameron decided not to bring the artist back for the sequel — the only new design needed was for the Alien Queen, which the director took care of himself.
5. Although it seemed like Ripley and the Marines were up against impossible odds, fighting off hundreds of creatures, the reality is that only six alien suits were used. Ingenious use of editing and lighting transformed them from humble black leotards to horrifying monsters worse than anything you could ever dream of.
6. During the original design process, the titular aliens were almost given translucent skin. The only sign of this idea in the franchise is the Alien Queen's teeth, which remained translucent in the final cut of the sequel.
7. To make the face-huggers thrash around in the science lab, Cameron re-used a device that originally featured in his earlier movie Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. Each face-hugger required nine person to work it behind the scenes; eight for the legs and one for the tail.
8. The iconic knife trick which inspired a thousand trips to A&E wasn't in the original Aliens script. Actor Lance Henriksen revealed that Bill Paxton was the last one to discover that his character Hudson would be the one going under the knife while shooting.
9. Actress Carrie Henn liked to play around on set, so when her character Newt was travelling through the ducts, the mischievous performer kept deliberately ruining her lines so she could slide down the vent for fun. The only way that Cameron could make Henn stop blowing her lines was by promising her that she could play on the slide as much as she wanted after.
10. Lance Henriksen decided that he would quit acting if Aliens flopped, as he had enjoyed little luck with his roles before, but fortunately, Cameron's sequel ended up becoming one of the actor's most successful films.
11. Bill Paxton revealed that he improvised many of his lines, including this one endlessly quotable catchphrase;
"Game over, man! Game over!"
12. Al Matthews played a Marine sergeant in Aliens, but did you know that he was the first black marine to be promoted to the rank of sergeant while serving in Vietnam?
13. The Academy Awards are notoriously prejudiced against genre films, particularly within sci-fi and horror, but Sigourney Weaver's phenomenal performance as Ellen Ripley broke tradition, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
14. Check out the deleted scenes from Aliens on Blu-Ray to catch a glimpse of Weaver's real life mother Elizabeth Inglis in a portrait of Ripley's daughter.
15. Marine Hicks was played by James Remar at first, but Michael Biehn replaced him just a few days after principal photography had begun. Artistic differences between Remar and Cameron were originally cited as the cause for his departure, but it's since been revealed that the actor's drug problem was eventually the reason why he lost the role.
16. While Cameron filmed Aliens, another masterpiece of war was being shot close by. Lance Henriken later revealed that the cast of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket would often join the crew of Aliens to party together.
17. As you would expect from a cast of marines, expletives are thrown around more harshly than a face full of xenomorph acid. Out of all of these cusses, the word "fuck" is used 25 times in total, but what may surprise you is that 18 of them were spoken by Hudson.
18. Newt's most iconic line in Aliens sent chills through audiences at the time of the film's release, but actress Carrie Henn revealed that she hated saying the line;
"They mostly come at night. Mostly."
19. To develop a realistic camaraderie between the Marines on film, Cameron decided to film a scene where we meet the group last, despite it appearing near the beginning of the movie. This gave the actors time to refine their characters and develop their relationships into fully realised creations.
20. Editing for Aliens wasn't completed until just one week before the film's theatrical release, which meant that the sequel was never shown to test audiences, which is usually standard practice for blockbuster movies.
21. 20th Century Fox hired Cameron to write the screenplay, but when he left to direct The Terminator, the studio decided to wait until the filmmaker was available once again to resume production, as they had loved the 90 pages he'd written so far.
22. Composer James Horner fell out with Cameron during post-production on Aliens, as he felt that he hadn't been given enough time to do a successful job on the film's musical score. However, Cameron loved Horner's work on Braveheart so much that the two decided to work again on Titanic, leading to Oscar wins for them both.
23. It may be shocking to hear now, but the superstar director of Aliens wasn't famous at the time of production, as The Terminator hadn't been released yet, so the film's assistant director would often question Cameron's decisions in an antagonistic manner. Eventually, producer Gale Ann Hurd fired him, but not before he managed to instigate a brief walk-out from the rest of the crew.
24. Cameron's issues with the crew of Aliens didn't end there. Most of the British crew were still fiercely loyal to Ridley Scott, who they had worked with on the first film, so Cameron tried to win them all over by arranging a private screening of The Terminator. However, the talent showcase proved to be a huge fail when most of the crew ignored his invite and didn't even bother to turn up to the screening.
25. After filming wrapped on Aliens, the nest set was kept intact and appeared again in Tim Burton's first Batman movie, standing in as the Axis Chemicals set. The crew of Batman found out in an unusual way; As they entered the set for the first time, they were greeted by an almost perfectly intact Alien nest that had been left behind from Cameron's classic.
26. Continuity is often difficult to maintain in a franchise when new directors enter the frame, but Cameron did a great job of linking Aliens to Scott's original thanks to his attention to detail. For example, the spear gun Ripley fired at the end of Alien can be seen momentarily in the opening scenes, still stuck at the bottom of the escape pod door where it jammed over 57 years earlier.
27. To save money, Cameron's crew only paid to build six hyper-sleep capsules, even though the story required twelve, as they cost over $4,300 to make. To work around this, mirrors and particular camera angles were used to create the illusion that were twelve capsules instead of six.
28. For some bizarre reason, none of the original models or designs of the Nostromo's shuttle Narcissus could be found when development on Aliens began, so the new set designers and model-makers had to re-watch the original Alien to figure the logistics out.
29. Amidst all of the explosions and gunfights, three different types of smoke were used in Alien, one of which has since become illegal to use on movie sets, presumably because of the chemicals involved.
30. Children may not look too heavy, but if you have to carry one all day in character, it can get tricky, so a lightweight dummy model of Carrie Henn was made for Sigourney Weaver to carry around before the Alien Queen chase.
As if that exhaustive list of facts wasn't enough for the Aliens fans out there, those of you still hankering for some xenomorph goodness should check out how the universes of Alien and Blade Runner are actually interconnected. Mind. Blown.
Alien and Predator also operate within the same continuity, which eventually led to some romantic sparks flying between the two murderous species.
What's your favourite scene in Aliens?
Source - IMDB