Ridley Scott’s Alien is a sci-fi masterpiece, a template for so many films that followed. The claustrophobic frights, suspense, and unforgettable creature creations have been burned into our imaginations and spawned a few sequels and spinoffs since its 1979 release.
Here are 13 things you may not have known about the film, before and after its release…
1. The casting of Ellen Ripley came down to two actresses, Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep, who had been classmates at Yale. Of course, the role went to Weaver and the rest is history.
2. Alien is ranked #7 on AFI’s 10 greatest sic-fi movies of all time.
3. Harrison Ford turned down the role of Dallas, which ultimately went to Tom Skerritt.
4. The inside of the alien eggs as seen by Kane was composed of real organic material. Ridley Scott used cattle hearts and stomachs. The tail of the facehugger was sheep intestine.
5. The chest-bursting scene was considered the second scariest movie moment of all time on Bravo’s The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
6. Only John Hurt knew exactly what was going to happen in the chest-bursting scene. The other actors in the room had an idea, but the details were kept a secret to enhance their shock. Veronica Cartwright had no idea she was going to be sprayed with blood.
7. The chest bursting scene was filmed in one take with four cameras.
8. 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.
9. The slime used on the alien was K-Y Jelly, and the tendons in its jaws were made of shredded condoms.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Ridley Scott reportedly said that originally he wanted a much darker ending. He planned on having the alien bite off Ripley’s head in the escape shuttle, sit in her chair, and then start speaking with her voice in a message to Earth. Apparently, 20th Century Fox wasn’t too pleased with such a dark ending.
13. According to Ian Holm, Ash’s fake head contained spaghetti, cheap caviar and onion rings.