The Alien franchise is perhaps one of the most expansive in all of science fiction, with countless books, comics, and an entire crossover deal with the Predator franchise under its belt. With that in mind, there’s a lot about the franchise even seasoned fans don’t know. For example, did you know…
10. The Pitch for Aliens Took About 8 Seconds
Aliens is the sequel to Alien. An easy way to remember this is that there are more aliens in the second Alien movie than there are in Alien. Are you following so far? Because we’re going to be saying the word “Alien” a lot in this article and it’s not going to get any easier.
Famously one of the few sequels thought to surpass the original in most every single way, Aliens is one of James Cameron’s best movies. But initially, nobody really wanted him to direct it. Reasons ranged from Cameron being, at the time, a young and unproven director (he’d just finished directing Terminator but it hadn’t been released yet), and the fact Alien hadn’t made all that much money at the box office. Not one to give up, Cameron arranged a meeting with Fox executives to pitch his idea for a sequel anyway.
According to people present that day, Cameron’s pitch for the sequel was no more than a few seconds long and consisted of him walking into the room, writing the word Alien on a big whiteboard, adding an “S” to the end… and then drawing lines through it to turn it into a dollar sign. Without exchanging a word, the executives greenlit the movie and awarded Cameron an $18 million budget.
9. Weyland-Yutani was Bought Out by Walmart
Weyland- Yutani is the massive, monolithic corporation behind much of the Alien franchise. Frequently mentioned in both the mainstream films and the extended universe of comics and books, Weyland-Yutani is described as being so ubiquitous in the future of the Alien universe it is said to own “pretty much everything.”
Which makes it kind of weird that at no point is it ever mentioned in Alien: Resurrection, right? Sure, that movie is set a few hundred years after the previous movie, but come on – Weyland-Yutani was a company that wrote off an entire planet of workers dying from xenomorph bite wounds as a minor expense in one movie. A company that big wouldn’t just disappear.
Well, according to a deleted scene in the movie, Weyland-Yutani was still a thing up until a few decades before the film began, at which point it was bought out by Walmart. While obviously intended as a joke, think about what this means for a second. In the Alien universe, a company that, remember, “OWNED EVERYTHING,” and invested billions into trying to weaponize face-raping aliens, was bought out by the same place half the people reading this buy soda.
8. There are Giant 1,000 Year Old Aliens Somewhere in the Universe
The alien, or Xenomorph as it’s usually described in expanded universe content, is a mysterious creature that, even with the wealth of content available discussing it, we still know remarkably little about. For example, it is never established in any piece of Alien media just how long the lifespan of a typical Xenomorph is, with some examples of the species being capable of living for thousands of years.
You see, Alien comics and books note that there are levels of Xenomorph above that of the Queen aliens seen in the movies, with the most powerful of them all being the Queen Mother. This Xenomorph is not only incredibly large, being described as several hundred feet tall in one book, but also possesses nebulous psychic powers. So as if being able to punch clean through starship hulls, having acidic blood, and an indefinite lifespan isn’t bad enough, the Xenomorph has a grandma with the ability to invade your dreams and make you poop your pants, too.
7. Sigourney Weaver Really Performed That Basketball Shot
Moving back to the films for a moment, we feel it’s important to mention the one redeeming feature of the cinematic turd that was Alien: Resurrection. Sigourney Weaver actually nailed that overhead basketball shot.
According to those who were present on the day, the director wanted to accomplish the shot with CGI. That annoyed Weaver, who’d been practicing how to do it for real all day. After a brief argument, the pair came to a compromise. Weaver would have six attempts to sink the shot before the director would yell cut, and they’d just finish the scene with camera trickery (this is why the shot is framed so you can’t see the ball throughout its entire arc).
Weaver agreed to these terms and nailed the shot on, depending on which source you consult, her third or sixth attempt. Despite being fairly confident she could do it, other members of the cast weren’t so sure. In fact if you watch the scene, you’ll notice that it cuts away the second the ball goes in. This is because when Weaver made the basket, every member of the cast (except Weaver) broke character to celebrate, which almost ruined the take. Thankfully they were able to use it, and that’s the shot that made it into the final film.
6. The Xenomorph Doesn’t Have Eyes, for a Fairly Terrifying Reason
The physical appearance of the Xenomorph varies greatly throughout the films, a fact that is hand-waved away with a piece of dialogue explaining that an individual Xenomorph will take on the physical characteristics of the host it’s birthed from, due to its fluid genetic make-up. Xenomorphs birthed from human hosts in the films vary in size and even have different numbers of fingers on each hand, if you look closely enough.
This is largely the result of different designers taking artistic liberties with the original design from the first film by HR Giger. One thing that has remained consistent throughout all Alien media, though, is that the Xenomorph doesn’t have eyes. Well, one specific Xenomorph does, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
The reasoning why is fairly simple. Giger didn’t want anyone coming face to face with the creature to be able to tell when it’s looking at them. The idea was the the Xenomorph would be more unsettling to a viewer if, rather than looking at you, it just knew where you were… somehow. True to Giger’s original vision, while the extended universe has revealed a lot about the Xenomorph species, how it observes its surroundings is still a total mystery.
5. Ripley Died in the Original Ending to the First Film
Yep, according to director Ridley Scott, in his first treatment of Alien the film’s climax was going to have Ellen Ripley getting her head ripped off by the alien. That’s a move that would have killed the entire franchise, and resulted in a complete lack of footage of Sigourney Weaver sinking effortless three pointers from 25 feet away.
In a rare example of corporate meddling to sully artistic vision actually going right, Fox sent an executive to the studio the second news of this ending reached them and told Scott to change it or he’d be fired on the spot. He complied, and as a result, we got the Alien movie we all know and love, including the now-classic climax up in the clip above, in which Ripley takes down the xenomorph. Speaking of which…
4. The Alien From the First Movie Knows Tai Chi… Sort of
The Xenomorph in Alien was famously portrayed by a 6-foot-10 Nigerian student named Bolaji Badejo, who one of the production crew met in a bar. Badejo was hired due to a combination of his massive size and his almost unnaturally long limbs, which Giger praised as being perfect to portray his creature.
Despite having no background in film and no apparent desire to be an actor (Alien was the only film he ever did), Badejo was committed to being the best alien he could be. To this end, he deliberately distanced himself from the crew so that his size would be more intimidating in costume, and he took tai chi classes to help create the gliding, deliberate movements of the creature. So if you go back and watch any scenes from that movie, you can ruin it for yourself by remembering that when the Xenomorph is waving its hands around to be all scary, it’s actually just showing off its sick tai chi moves.
3. The Alien Only Has One Natural Predator, and its Not the One You Think
The Alien and Predator franchises have been closely linked for many years now, and the two creatures have faced off in everything from movies to board games. With this in mind, you’d think that if any creature could consider itself to be the natural predator of the Xenomorph, it would be something literally called the Predator.
As it turns out, the Xenomorph has only one known natural predator, and there’s probably a reason it’s never appeared in a film. It looks all kinds of stupid. Mentioned briefly in a single comic and said to live on the supposed homeworld of the Xenomorph species, Xenomorph Prime, the only creature in the entire Alien universe known to prey on the Xenomorph doesn’t even have a name, only being identified by the admittedly a badass moniker of “Unnamed Predatory Species.”
Roughly the same size as an adult Xenomorph, with weird pinkish skin reminiscent of an old person’s elbows, the unnamed predators are lizard-like in appearance and are seemingly immune to the acidic effect of Xenomorph blood, allowing them to just bite their heads off like it isn’t a big deal.
2. The Newborn had a Big Ol’ Wang (at first)
“The Newborn” is the canon name of the god-awful Xenomorph-human hybrid seen at the climax of Alien: Resurrection. It looks stupid, every fan of the series hates it, and it almost had a huge, pendulous dong swinging around between its legs.
According to a documentary about the film’s production, during the design process that created the Newborn, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet insisted that it have both a penis and a vagina. The effects crew resisted against adding the penis for as long as the could, but eventually gave in and crafted it right onto the animatronic model. Thankfully, when Jeunet saw it he kind of changed his mind about slapping a penis onto a creature that was already a giant penis metaphor, famously saying “even for a Frenchman, it’s too much.” They then used CGI to remove the genitals, a sentence we can’t believe we get to type without it being a joke.
1. Sigourney Weaver’s Audition to Play Ripley was About 3 Seconds Long
We started with a story about an amazing first impression, so let’s end with one. Specifically, the one Sigourney Weaver made on Ridley Scott when she auditioned to play the incredibly badass hero of the Alien franchise, Ellen Ripley.
Now, Sigourney Weaver is a tall woman, standing just shy of 6-feet, with a particular fondness for high heels. According to Weaver, this fact often resulted in her being passed over for roles early in her career when male co-stars reported feeling uncomfortable standing next to her. Weaver, to her credit, has never let this get her down and would frequently respond to requests to not be so tall early in her career by sarcastically offering to paint her feet to look like shoes, if it was such a big deal to the tiny baby man complaining about it.
When Weaver went to audition for the role of Ripley, she was similarly advised by well-meaning friends to not wear heels and dress conservatively, so as to not intimidate the director with her womanly wiles and statuesque physique. Weaver responded by putting on the the tightest pair of hotpants she could, a pair of thigh high leather boots with 3-inch heels, and strutting straight into the audition.
Ridley Scott took one look at Weaver and hired her immediately because, to quote Weaver, “He’s a real secure guy” who didn’t feel intimidated, or like less of a man because a woman was taller than him. When asked what she thought the director’s first impression of her was in an interview, Weaver thought for a moment and simply responded, “He loved it. I think he was quite impressed, really.” As anyone would be with a person having the confidence to do that. Hell, we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how Michael Fassbender got his role in Prometheus.