THE NERDY 30 - ALIENS 30TH ANNIVERSARY

THE NERDY 30 is an ongoing series highlighting a significant film in the sci-fi/horror genre as it turns 30 years old.  Today we celebrate Aliens, which hit theaters on July 18th 1986. Many would argue one of the few sequels that meets or exceeds it's predecessor. It seems like everyone loves Aliens, even if they like the original 1979 Alien better. This is the movie that established James Cameron as a blockbuster juggernaut of a director, as well as cementing the iconic standing of the franchise itself. But how well do you know it? Here are 30 things about Aliens to hug your face with.

 

1) In the original shooting script, Drake and Vasquez grew up together in a "Hispanic slum". Living a tough life on the streets, they were later locked up together in a juvenile prison. It's from this prison that they are drafted into the Colonial Marines.

2) In the movie it seemed as if there were hundreds of alien "warriors", but in reality only 6 suits were made. Mostly just latex appliances applied to black leotards, covered in a judicious amount of slime. 

3) Aliens earned it's "R" rating not from being overly violent, but from it's 25 "fucks", 18 of which came from Hudson. (He says "man" 35 times.)

4) The character Master Sergeant Al Apone was named after effects tech Allan A. Apone. Cameron worked with him on Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror in 1981.

5) Aliens is the first and last acting role for Carrie Henn who played "Newt". Her least favorite line is: "They mostly come at night, mostly".
 

 

6) The films tagline was "This time it's war". One of Cameron's main inspirations for Aliens was the Vietnam war, saying: "Their training & technology are inappropriate to the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work". 

 

7) Vietnam didn't just inspire the plot, but military hardware and vehicles as well. The drop ship design was inspired by the AH-1 Cobra helicopter and F-4 Phantom II fighters.

 

8) Many accused the 1997 film Starship Troopers of ripping off Aliens.  But Cameron has stated it's the other way around. The 1959 Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers novel was the other main inspiration for the story. Even providing the terms "bug hunt" & "drop ship".

9) Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Ripley in Aliens. She noted it as a turning point for her being respected as an actress, as well as respect for the sci-fi genre being too rare .  It was the first nomination for an actress in an action role. She lost to Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God.

10) The British set crew for Aliens at Pinewood Studios, was reportedly very big fans of Ridley Scott, but not of James Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd. They frequently mocked Cameron for not being up to the task and Hurd for only having her job because she was the director's wife.  

11) James Remar was originally cast in the role of Corporal Hicks. He was fired well into production for drug problems and replaced by Michael Biehn.

12) Cameron had the " space marine" actors go through basic military training together, so their bond would seem more real on screen. The initial scenes we see of them were actually some of the last ones shot, for the sake of this realism. With the notable exception of Burke, Ripley and Gorman. Biehn of course missed out having been the last minute replacement for Hicks.
 

 

13) Most of the alien nest scenes were shot at a decommissioned power station in London. The set wasn't dismantled after filming and was later reused for Batman (1989) for the Axis Chemicals set.

14) The M577 Armored Personnel Carrier is actually a modified Hunslet ATT77. They had hoped to create something from scratch, but chose this due to budget limitations.

15) Bishop's "knife trick", appears in the 1976 film Ban Jin ba liang. It wasn't in the original shooting script and the addition of Hudson's hand was discussed with everyone, except for Bill Paxton, who played him.

 

16) One of the key elements to the staying power of Aliens is how quotable the movie is. Many of these can be directly attributed to Bill Paxton, who ad libbed most of his best lines.
 

 

17) The alien sounds are actually collected sounds from baboons.

18) If Al Matthews seemed convincing in his role as Marine sergeant Apone, it might be because he's the real deal.  He was the first black Marine to be meritoriously promoted to rank of Sergeant during the Vietnam War. He's also a folk singer, a musician, and was the first "black voice" on England's national station, Radio 1.

19) Due to budget limitations, only 6 hypersleep capsules were made for the scenes aboard the Sulaco. Using mirrors and strategic camera placement, they were able to fake the appearance of 12. One for each passenger.

20) Vasquez is an iconic character adored by fans. But her casting might not fly today as she was portrayed by not-hispanic Jenette Goldstein. Goldstein not only appeared in other Cameron films such as Terminator 2 and Titanic, but future wife Katherine Bigelow's vampire cult classic, Near Dark (1987). Cameron suggested Bigelow use much of his Aliens ensemble for her film, which she did, also casting Henriksen and Paxton. Biehn declined, however.

 

21) Lance Henriksen was so frustrated with his acting career at the time, he vowed to quit acting altogether if Aliens didn't take off for him. It did. The 76 year old actor became a fixture of the sci-fi/horror genre with 226 credits to his name. 

 

22) A mixture of milk and yogurt was used to create Bishop the android's blood. It looked awesome, but disaster struck for Henriksen when the crew forgot to put it back in the fridge overnight and it became rancid. It was then left out underneath hot production lights between takes. Shooting the films climax required him to have mouthfuls of this rancid mixture, take after take. He became violently ill, vomiting for 4 days. Those pained expressions of Bishop in that scene are quite real.

 

23) The alien queen required 14 to 16 operators. Instead of bringing back H.R. Giger, Cameron designed the queen himself. The queen was built by Stan Winston and his crew, who also worked with Cameron on the first two Terminator movies. She has transparent teeth unlike the "warrior" aliens.

 

24) James Horner was hired to do the score, but was left with very little time to do so, forcing him to cannibalize his earlier works from Star Trek II & III. Because he wasn't given a finished edit to work with, the delivered score didn't match up with the final edit, forcing Cameron to chop it up himself, much to Horner's dismay. Tensions got so heated between the two, that Horner was sure they'd never work together again. Cameron ended up hiring him to score Titanic and Avatar. Horner got his first Oscar nomination with Aliens and his 2nd Oscar win for Titanic. He died in a place crash in 2015.

 

25) Aliens takes place from May 16th to July 28th in the year 2179. 57 years after the events of Alien.  Alien 3 takes place 10 days after the events of Aliens. Alien Resurrection takes place 200 years later.

 

26) The crew decided to play a practical joke on Sigourney Weaver during the power loader battle scene, connecting a balloon to an air pipe where her backside rested. So, when they pumped up the balloon, Weaver was convinced the crewman operating the loader from within was getting aroused.

27) Besides Ripley, the only other character to survive the first Alien movie, is Jones (Jonesy) the cat.  An expanded scene was planned in Aliens to show Jones stalking a bird, only to find out it was a high resolution display after jumping into a wall, with Ripley calling out "Dumbshit". Evidently the cat wasn't cooperative, imagine that. 

 

28) Bill Paxton apologized after every take with young actress Carrie Henn, for his swearing.  She said she didn't mind, since she didn't understand the swear words he used.  She purposefully and repeatedly botched her takes falling down the ventilation shaft because she was having so much fun doing it. Here is her stunt double, Louise Head celebrating her birthday on set.

29) Known only in the credits as "cocooned woman" (portrayed by Barbra Coles), she was the only Hadley's Hope colonist to be killed on-screen in the film.  Her death was achieved using a prosthetic foam chest, for the chestburster to be forced out of. She was replaced by a dummy replica when the Marines began torching her with the flame thrower (of course).
 

 

30) While now in limbo, Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 is still supposedly going to happen...eventually. It was slated for production until Ridley Scott announced he wanted to return to direct his follow-up to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which is said to bridge Prometheus to the original Alien.  Blomkamp's Alien sequel however is reported to continue from Aliens, ignoring the events of Alien3 and Alien Resurrection. Most notably bringing back the characters of Hicks and Newt, who were killed off in Alien3.  With Weaver now busy, re-teaming with Cameron for the next (presumably) 3 Avatar films, it's difficult to see how or when this much anticipated sequel will finally begin production. If ever.  Weaver is still very much on board, expressing her adoration for Blomkamp's script saying "It gives Ripley a proper ending." Let's hope we all get that proper ending!