Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019) Movie Script

Every film
is a product of its time.
And every successful
film tells you something
about the time it was made.
It's successful
because it resonates
with stories and images
that people need to see
at that particular point.
is a radical break
with science fiction.
This is not the
notion of the alien
that we were building
toward in something
like "Close Encounters."
Wars" comes out,
we have a fun space adventure.
And then "Alien" comes
out, and people embrace it.
And then just a couple
of years later, "E.T."
and John Carpenter's
"The Thing" come out,
and audiences resoundingly
are like, no, thank you.
We want our aliens to
be nice and squishy
and cool and eat candy.
I think there's a special
status that comes to some films
that lodge in the audience's
collective imagination,
and I think "Alien" is
certainly one of those films.
Tolkien talked
about the cauldron of stories,
and certainly,
"Alien" is an example
of a story drawing from a
real global set of myths.
If you look at a somatics
experiment, what you're going
to see is sand that
vibrates in a shape,
and the shape changes based
on the different vibrations.
A myth is like something
that vibrated from something
deeper that you can't see.
You see a major
curse in the form
of the alien, who
is very much a fury,
responding to an imbalance.
We're looking at a
story where there
is a piece of material
prop that is now completely
alive in our imaginations.
It lives in our dreams.
It lives in our
cultural conversation.
It's one of the biggest
cultural dreams we've ever had.
I met Dan at USC.
He was a real standout.
You couldn't miss him.
He was a wild man, unbounded
by conventional reality.
You couldn't call him an
iconoclast, because he
didn't have icons to break.
He could be very offensive,
and was frequently
offensive on purpose.
He was hot, you know,
emotionally hot, emotionally
responsive, very angry.
He was born and raised in rural
Missouri and had no television.
They didn't even have a
telephone till he was 10.
They lived in the middle
of nowhere on 24 acres.
And yet he knew
all these things.
They didn't even have
a library in the town.
His mother used to send
off for boxes of books,
and they would come,
and he would read them,
and then they'd send them back.
Dan was always sneaking
science fiction.
His mother always wanted
him to read good literature.
And his mother would
always say, you
haven't got any of that science
fiction in your backpack,
have you?
You're not taking that
science fiction to school.
His father owned a curio
shop, it was called Odd Acres.
There was a sort of screwy
Louie room, you know,
where things were
sort of off kilter,
and everything looks
like it's leaning.
That was growing
up in Odd Acres.
One time his father
faked a UFO landing.
And Dan helped him, and then
he had the press out there,
you know?
By direction of the
President of the United States,
stay in your homes.
I repeat, stay in your homes.
Because in one moment
of history-making violence,
nature, mad, rampant, roared
its most awesome creation.
a lot of bugs there.
And he was always very
frightened, in a way,
by the sudden
appearance of bugs,
like a stick insect and
cicadas, massive invasions
in southern Missouri, they
would have hundreds of thousands
of them come out of the ground
and swarm over everything
and then vanish and die.
So these things really
gave him the creeps.
And he wanted to creep
everybody else out too.
But he was quite an artist.
And when he was thinking
of his monsters,
he would sketch them out.
Before "Alien," Dan had
written a screenplay called
"They Bite."
It was "Alien" before "Alien."
And it involved a
cicada-like creature,
but instead of being
13 years underground,
it was several million
years underground,
and gradually picks off the
people in the encampment one
by one.
It's a version of
an alien creature
evolving, needing an
evolution, and being
destructive in that evolution.
O'Bannon has this
great line, says,
"I didn't steal from anybody.
I stole from everybody."
And one of the places
that he happily
admitted that he stole
from was a 1951 EC Comic
called "Seeds of Jupiter."
There's just eight pages.
It starts on an
aircraft carrier,
and this orb crashes onto the
aircraft carrier, breaks apart,
small orb, and it's
got like, 50 seeds.
And there are three
Navy guys on the ship,
and they're
wondering what it is.
One of them's called Peach Pit,
and he likes to put peach pits
in his mouth, and
the other two guys
sort of trick him into
putting one of these seeds
into his mouth.
And then they slap the guy on
the back, it's all good fun
and he swallows.
He gets terribly sick.
He's dehydrated.
It's emergency surgery.
He's going die.
The Navy surgeon
takes a scalpel,
cuts open his chest,
everybody shocked,
and out pops this hideous,
scaly, disgusting mini octopus.
And then it literally
scamper across the deck
and plunges into the sea.
And they go, well, we're
never going to see that again.
Guaranteeing that they'll
be seeing that again.
The origin
of "Death Rattle" was
in a farmhouse in Minnesota.
The story itself is
some sort of astronaut
coming across an object.
It's the kind of statuary
that you might see in a temple
in some ancient civilization.
In the process of sending
it back, he drops it,
he breaks it, and he
releases something
that's about to change his
life in a very horrible way.
He is attacked by this thing
that gets into his body.
He is effectively raped.
His eyes are gouged out and
something goes into his head.
And from that point
on, he becomes
a receptacle for something
that's taking him over.
Something is
transforming a person
into something very,
very different,
very unfortunate, shall we say.
As a healthy young kid growing
up in the Midwest in the 1950s
and '60s, there were things
going on in the world
that didn't quite make sense.
Television was very
safe and cleaned up,
so I clamored for
things that I wasn't
getting from my civilization,
from my culture.
Dan O'Bannon drew
upon his experiences
as a person from the Midwest,
reading comic books at the drug
store, like I did, and brought
that kind of sensibility
and that outlook on the
world to this major science
fiction horror epic.
The Midwest may seem tranquil
and civilized and so forth,
but the fact is, you never
know who's next door.
You never know who's going
to roll into town, you know,
when the wheels are
going to come off.
It's like we're all, you
know, one cough, one kiss,
one scratch away
from global disaster.
influence of Lovecraft on Dan
was considerable.
The eggs lying dormant
on the planetoid
is comparable to
the cicada's million
year life cycle, isn't it?
Creatures coming out of
the ground after being
dormant for millions
of years is superbly
Lovecraftian, completely.
I think that's a pretty
straight line between the two.
in his own day,
was a pioneer of
science fiction.
More specifically, his brand
of horror fiction, which he
called weird fiction.
He felt that the essence
of horror is the unknown,
and what is most
unknown, it is what
is out there in the
depths of space,
and what has happened
in the far distant past.
Many of the features
of "Alien" have a lot
to do with Lovecraft's
short novel,
"At the Mountains of Madness."
This is a novel
he wrote in 1931.
And it's something
that he'd wanted
to write for a long
time, because he
had been fascinated with the
Antarctic since he was a boy.
An expedition from
Massachusetts goes down there,
and come upon fossilized
remains of alien entities, which
this expedition
labels The Old Ones.
It's been
dead a long time.
In the
course of this novel,
they become unfrozen
and come to life.
They cannot be defined by normal
human or terrestrial biology.
I have confirmed that
he's got an outer layer
of protein polysaccharides.
Has funny habit of
shedding his cells
and replacing them
with polarized silicon.
In fact, the
explorers find this immense city
that The Old Ones built
hundreds of millions
of years ago in
the Antarctic, full
of very bizarre architecture.
There are these
alien creatures that
are virtually indestructible.
They simply cannot die.
How do we kill it, Ash?
There's gotta be a
way of killing it.
How do we do it?
You can't.
Classical science
is based on the idea
that matter is dead and inert.
And this is true throughout
Western consciousness,
from Prometheus and
Pandora to Adam and Eve.
Space is empty and quiet.
Is it?
That's a perspective
that we have.
And I think "Alien" is
very much the nightmare
to that perspective.
And you see this in the
Coptic jars where they move.
And you see this when you get
out into the depths of space
where it's supposed
to be quiet and dead,
and instead, you
find the boogeyman.
I cannot think of
a film out there that comes
anywhere close to "Alien"
capturing that overall
Lovecraftian atmosphere.
That planetoid
where the ship lands
is a prototypical
instance of what Lovecraft
called the fear of the unknown.
It is a place completely
uncharted by human expeditions.
No big budget studio wanted
to put a lot of money
into making a pure
Lovecraft film,
and so people like O'Bannon
and John Carpenter and others
had to sort of use
Lovecraftian elements
covertly to infuse
Lovecraftian themes
into works that
were not explicitly
based on any of the stories.
"Alien" didn't
come out of a creative vacuum.
It drew on a whole heritage
of American science fiction.
You could make the
argument that "Alien"
certainly borrows from "It,
The Terror from Beyond Space"
from 1958.
A crew of 10 goes to Mars
to recover the lone survivor
of a previous expedition.
The rest of his crew
has been wiped out.
Today, of all my crew,
I, Colonel Edward Carothers
of the United States Space
Command, am the only one alive.
obviously think he did it.
He says, no, an alien did it.
What are you thinking about?
Those nine bodies
you left down there?
But I didn't kill them.
Spoiler, it was an alien.
The alien stows away on
the ship and starts picking
the crew off one by one.
It's hiding in the air ducts.
Bullets, grenades,
nothing stops it.
What do we do now?
And it's
killed by an air lock.
Thing" from 1951
is very present with the
idea of this creature
that kind of
hatches, that mimics,
that is in a
working environment.
You can go to the 60s and look
at "Planet of the Vampires,"
where they find this
giant alien corpse.
Doesn't look like any
ship I've ever seen.
Do you think it
belongs to the Orients?
I doubt it.
I doubt if the Orients
ever built any spaceships.
If they...
- ...we would have...
- Look, Mark.
One of the films that "Alien"
draws quite heavily from
is a 1966 film produced by Roger
Corman called "Queen of Blood."
We've been picking up these
signals now for three days.
An alien distress
signal is received by Earth.
Astronauts go out to find
the source of the signal.
They land on a planetoid.
There's this strange sandstorm.
They go into an alien vessel.
They find a dead alien
sitting in a chair,
encounter an alien who they're
bringing back to Earth,
and the alien
begins individually
attacking members of the crew.
And at the end of the film, the
humans are left quite literally
holding a tray of her eggs.
Is this the beginning
of the end for humanity?
John Carpenter
roped in Dan O'Bannon
to helping him make the
student science fiction
film called "Dark Star."
And it was about the
crew of a spaceship...
this might sound familiar...
who then is assailed
by an alien who
sort of stows away on the ship.
"Dark Star," that's
the comic version of "Alien."
One makes you laugh,
and the other one's
going to eat you alive.
Carpenter wanted
sole directing credit,
and O'Bannon felt he'd done
enough to get cowriting credit.
So they had this kind
of big falling out.
And O'Bannon's first
thought is that, well,
I can go and do this on my own.
I will write a story,
a science fiction story
that will beat "Dark Star."
Wouldn't you consider
another course of action?
For example, just waiting around
a while so we can disarm you?
Because I'm not
going to do a comedy,
I'm going to do it
as a horror movie.
The ship will
automatically destruct
in T-minus five minutes.
You bitch!
A lot of things bother
me about "Dark Star."
We had an alien in it,
which was a beach ball.
It was our second
try on that alien.
I went away from "Dark
Star" really wanting to do
an alien that looked real.
Jodorowsky saw
"Dark Star," which is how he
found out about Dan O'Bannon.
Nobody in Hollywood was
impressed with Jodorowsky.
So he said, well,
to hell with you.
So he found Dan and said,
come work on "Dune" with me.
If you want to look
to the first magic,
I think you have to
go back to Jodorowsky.
Jodorowsky was his guru.
He adored him.
I've never met him
and I adore him.
Not only is there a
synchronicity that connects
"Dune" and "Alien," there's
almost an archetypal
counterbalance between the two.
If "Dune" is the Tower of
Babel, "Alien" is exactly what
brings down that tower.
In the same way that "Alien"
is the response to Prometheus
trying to steal fire
from the heavens,
the movie "Alien" is also
a response, energetically,
archetypally, to the Tower of
Babel project that was "Dune."
"Dune" collapsed in Paris,
Dan came back and actually
crashed on the couch
in the house I was living
in with a bunch of people
because he didn't
have anywhere to go.
And it... he...
he was completely at a loss.
Eventually, he... we
said, you got to go.
So somehow, he wound up
on Ron Shusett's couch.
I went back to storage, got
my typewriter out, took it over
to Ronnie Shusett's living room,
and over the days and nights
of the next three
months, Ron keeping me
alive by feeding me hot dogs.
We were both starving.
My wife was supporting us.
We had two rooms,
that's all we had.
made up a board game
called Poverty, sort of
the opposite of Monopoly.
You've got to land on enough
spaces to pay the rent.
You're out on the street if
you can't afford to stay.
It's absolutely a scream.
In 1971, Dan was working on
a story he called "Memory."
It's basically the first
30 pages of "Alien."
- I
- had this opening.
I didn't know where
it was gonna go.
I wanted to do a scary movie on
a spaceship with a small number
of astronauts.
They're receiving a signal
in an alien language.
They go down to investigate.
Their ship breaks down.
called it "Memory,"
because some influence
in the planet
gradually made them
lose their memory.
But that's where
this story ends.
says, OK, I'm going
to give you the first act I've
got to this original horror
movie I wrote.
I can't get past page 29.
Maybe you can help me do that.
So I read it.
29 pages was almost exactly like
you saw in the final finished
product of the "Alien" movie.
It was fantastic.
Dan said, there's a
key to everything.
The key is how does
the alien get on board?
His concept was always it
would come out of your stomach.
Dan had a very
bad case of Crohn's
disease, which basically
appeared while he
was filming "Dark Star."
So he was, what, 24, 25?
And it eventually killed him.
But it was an
intestinal disorder
that sometimes felt like it
was devouring him, I think.
Linda and I would
sometimes have to take him
to the emergency center
in the middle of the night
when the pain was so great.
And at the same time, he'd
been having conversations
with Ron Shusett about wasps
that procreate by planting
that eggs into other insects.
It was kind of all these things
sort of come together and were
being sown into the script.
Ron in a way was
really fascinated
with the idea of human
beings being a host for...
for an embryo, that
human beings were
the nutrition for an embryo.
He didn't have
it in the script at all
that it would implant
something in his stomach
and it would grow there.
So I went to sleep.
And I'm aware... it
wasn't dreaming.
It was something else.
It was when your mind
is in the subconscious.
I was wrestling with a
property in my sleep.
I woke him up, I went right
into his studio and I said,
I have it.
I have it.
He said, what?
You have the answer?
I said, I have the answer.
The alien fucks.
He said, what?
What are you talking about?
I said, jumps on his face,
it's a little creature then,
little baby squid-like,
sticks a tube down his throat,
starts feeding him air, but
he's implanting his seed.
And it's going to
grow inside him
and burst out of his chest
in the middle of the movie.
are over a million
species of parasitic wasps.
That means that of all the
animals in the animal kingdom,
the number one form of
animal is a parasitic wasp.
There are wasps that like to
make caterpillars their host.
They can also release
chemicals that control
the behavior of their host.
And everything it
eats is going to feed
these larvae that are growing
inside of its body cavity.
On the outside, they
look completely normal.
So John Hurt having breakfast,
that's a caterpillar with
wasps inside of it.
And then once those
wasps are ready,
they just blast their
way out of their host.
And if that's lethal
to the host, fine.
It doesn't matter.
Ridley Scott liked to show film
footage of one species of wasp
in particular to his crew,
and this is something
known as the wood wasp.
These wasps have to
basically find a way
to stick their wasp bags
inside of beetle larvae that
can be deep inside of wood.
So there are all
these alien things
that parasites are
doing all around us,
and scientists are trying to
make sense of that in the way
that the crew Nostromo was
trying to make sense of it
with the alien.
That's amazing.
What is it?
Why, yes, it is.
Um, I don't know yet.
inside something else
and feeding on it from
within is a really great way
to survive and evolve.
The alien is just fitting into
this fundamental basic pattern
that you find on life, probably
the most successful way
to be alive on Earth.
Giger really came
from Dan O'Bannon.
Dan suggested him on
a stroke of genius.
Giger consolidates
every monster
from every mythology around the
world into a single creature.
He embodies the mythic other.
Jodorowsky rescue
went to an opening of some
of Giger's artwork in Paris
and brought the book back.
Dan looked at it and was just
knocked dead by the artwork.
They were fantastic,
sexual, mechanical,
biological amalgamation
that was completely new.
It does express
Giger's own admiration
for Lovecraft as a pioneer
in envisioning creatures
far beyond human conception.
I think Dan
and Giger met at the Lovecraft
level, that sort of creeping
horror and unnamed horror
that you are free
yourself to define.
Dan and Giger both
had similar interests
in the "Necronomicon."
While Giger was doing
paintings on that theme,
Dan was also writing his
version of the "Necronomicon,"
which I still have.
Its unpublished.
It's a... a printed work.
Giger was a mystic.
He had his own mythology,
his own cosmology.
He took like a bee
from different flowers
to feed his own imagination
and make his own honey with it.
He's the mythology
of the future.
Of course, there is an
Egyptian touch to "Alien."
Hans, his favorite
culture was Egypt.
When he was five years old,
he went with his sister
to the museum.
In the cellar, there
was this mummy,
an Egyptian mummy, and Hans,
he was quite afraid of it.
He was so deeply impressed
by the black bones
and the black skin.
From then on, he went
almost every Sunday.
He was absolutely
fascinated by the pyramids.
early storyboards,
you can actually see that
the derelict was a pyramid.
And then later, Ridley
Scott envisions this kind
of ritual area of ruins.
This ship is an
emblem, is a remnant
of a formerly great culture,
an ancient civilization
that's been long lost to time.
That tells us that we should
think of the spaceship,
the derelict, as a temple.
I think the derelict is a
crescent moon, and ultimately,
a symbol of death.
You see crescents all
throughout the story.
In the original
screenplay, the pods
were in a kind of pyramid
structure called the temple.
That was removed because
of budget considerations
in the production.
Three stages
of the alien, you know,
where the hole was put into a
pyramid, and on top of it all,
is Nut, the Egyptian
goddess of the night
sky with stars in her belly.
And I think that was
really beautiful.
You see being
born from her the heavens.
And in many ways,
this becomes an image
of the alien giving
birth to this species
that could devour the heavens.
Nut represents the duad
itself, the realm of the dead,
the realm of night,
the realm of the stars.
This is where the
Sun goes every night.
This is where the soul goes
between life and death.
We are in the aliens
domain in this whole story.
The first I saw of the "Alien"
script was an early version.
Dan O'Bannon brought it to me.
And as I recall, the original
title was "Star Beast."
I liked the script, and I wanted
to make it, but I said to Dan,
this really requires
a bigger budget
than what I'm able to spend.
Why don't you shop
it around and see
if you can get a big budget.
If you can't get the big
budget, come back to me
and I will buy the script
and make the picture.
a guy called Mark
Hager got this script into the
pile at Walter Hill's office.
And it must have been a day when
Walter Hill was at a loose end.
He happened upon "Star Beast."
Now, he thought "Star
beast" was one of the worst
scripts he'd ever read.
He just thought it was awful.
But he stopped, page whatever,
30, whatever it was, and went,
what the hell?
When Brandywine showed
interest and optioned "Alien,"
Dan was, of course, being a
pest and insistent that they
use Giger for the creature.
This is the letter to Geiger
from Dan dated July 1, 1977.
"Dear Giger, this week
I've moved into offices
of Brandywine
Productions where we
are beginning to make the
design decisions for our film.
The producers, Gordon
Carroll and David Giler,
and the director,
Walter Hill, are
as excited as I am
about the possibilities
of your lending your unique
talents to our picture.
Look over the enclosed
description of the designs we
need, then let us know
how much you would
ask for the paintings involved.
When we agree, we send you a
check for $1,000 as an advance
against future payments.
Yeah, well, Brandywine didn't
want to pay the $1,000,
so Dan sent him a
personal check for $1,000.
The face hugger,
that was my first thing
I did for Dan O'Bannon.
He gave me explanation
and drawings,
and he said that he's
jumping on a big egg,
this egg is about that, so.
And I thought that must be
quite a big monster, so I
did an enormous facehugger.
And then he was
jumping, I thought
he could jump when his tail is
like, it's curved like a spring
of the Jack in the box.
from those sketches,
he went ahead and
did the paintings.
And that's why the paintings
say Dan O'Bannon's Alien,
because Dan paid for them.
Fox hierarchy come in to
see some of the designs,
and they fired him.
Gordon Carroll finally
said, this guy is just sick.
Get him off our lot.
Send him back to Switzerland.
We're having none of it.
So Giger was gone.
Fox is full speed
ahead with Brandywine.
They're in preproduction
Walter Hill is going to direct
the film, and all of
a sudden, the studio
gets a call from Walter Hill,
basically, where he says, yeah,
I'm not going to...
I'm not going to
make this movie.
I never really believed in it.
I don't think it's that great,
and I got another picture
I'm going to do here.
So good luck.
I'm out.
And that other picture
was "Southern Comfort."
Not a bad movie.
Not "Alien."
I read the script, and
I thought, well, this is
very solid, very interesting.
It's not really
an actor's script.
There was no one else
attached, and they're
asking me to get
involved in what was then
a budgeted film for $2 million.
$2 million sounds
like an Ed Wood movie.
So I turned it down.
Ridley and I had just
finished off the do list.
There was this
thing between Ridley
and I about sci-fi, and that
I was the sci-fi fanatic.
And all the films that
I used to show him,
he would completely
disparage and say,
no, that's a pile of shit.
He had the script through
the door called the "Alien,"
and I tried to say, well,
let me read it, et cetera,
and for some reason
or other, this time,
he said, no, no, no,
no, I'll read it first.
And so he was in
the next door office
where we made commercials,
and I remember him
sitting there going, fuck me.
I got a
call a few weeks later,
and they said, well, the
budget's up to $10 million,
and a director named Ridley
Scott is going to direct it.
I said, sold.
I got a phone call
from Ridley saying,
get your backside down
to Shepperton now.
So I drove straight down there.
When Brandywine
brought Ridley on was when Dan
really got an ally
in a lot of what
he wanted for "Alien" to be.
Very, very rare occurrence
when the writer can
have that amount of influence.
thought he was gonna
be the wrong director
for it, and he
turned out to be the
greatest visual stylist
since Kubrick's prime.
And he's
such a visual guy
that the first thing he did
was kind of to break it down
into storyboards, draws his
own storyboard, extraordinary
artist, these fantastic images.
But what it doesn't really have
is a clear idea of the alien.
It's not quite there.
O'Bannon says look,
I've got this book.
Dan showed Ridley
the "Necronomicon,"
Ridley instantly said,
yes, this is it.
I was shown the book, Necro...
"Necronomicon," OK, in Los
Angeles, in fact, by O'Bannon.
He brought it in.
And I nearly fell off the desk.
Said, that's it.
And why look further?
And so that's how I saw it.
It was as simple as that.
I've never been so certain
about anything in my life.
There were many
arguments at that stage.
Fox were really quite troubled.
But it was an early sign of how
strong Scott was on that film
that he won so many battles.
And the most fundamental
and important one
was he got Giger back on.
And I just thought
it was stunning,
and I just stuck to
my guns saying, no.
No, that's it.
They said, let's bring him
in and talk some concepts.
I said, no.
You can't do that.
That's it.
We want to be
shooting by so and so.
That's it.
Just to get this right is
gonna be incredibly difficult.
This is beautiful,
not just threatening.
And also has very
sexual connotations.
So in everything, it's
like a rather beautiful
humanoid biomechanoid insect.
Giger talks about
intentionally drawing imagery
from his own dreams,
that means coming
from a place where
he didn't have
agency over what came to him.
When he painted, he was
in this sort of trance.
He was possessed, like
a seer, a blind seer.
Would go like that,
and like in a Polaroid,
an image would appear
and take shape.
images existed in a universe
of their own in Switzerland.
And they really found their
place in space, the xenomorph
and the space jockey.
Giger's images really
found a home in "Alien."
Part of what you're seeing
with the character of "Alien"
is this gorgeous synchrony,
this incredible synthesis
of multiple
mythological characters,
Sekhmet, Pazuzu, Kali.
You can see
the medieval dragon,
the Renaissance demons, the
work of Heironymous Bosch.
And it's a synthesis that
wasn't done consciously.
It was a synthesis that happened
in the cauldron of stories
that was Giger's imagination.
This is a character with which
all three of these artists
And because they all
resonated with this pattern,
they were drawn
together, this coming
from a much deeper place.
Such a brilliant
choice that in the end,
you could say separates "Alien"
from anything else was you've
got this extraordinary
artist with this sort
of mind-blowing imagery,
and you inject it
straight into the film.
In the hands
of perhaps an aficionados who
loved horror movies
and science fiction,
it might have turned out to be
a completely different movie.
The triptych of Dan
O'Bannon, Ridley Scott,
and Hans Rudi Giger
was the gift from the gods.
They were on the
same wavelength.
And they were all
thinking about this
is more than a science fiction
adventure into the future.
This was just as
much an exploration
of the ancient past,
of the repressed
and forgotten that
the alien represents.
When a story comes
from multiple people,
and beyond the agency
of multiple people,
it has a special existence.
It is a symbiosis.
"Alien" is a symbiosis
of a few people
who had that sensibility.
If Dan had gone off
and been in charge,
it would have been
a different film.
It would have had more
of the "Dark Star."
Ron Cobb would have been pure
sci-fi, all perfectly done,
more Star Trekky in
a way, or "2001."
I came on board and made
everything look grungy and real
and like a space
truck, you know?
"Alien", I would say
we got the sets right.
The audience didn't
ever question
that we just found
some old space craft
and gone in and filmed in it.
That was different to the
world that had gone before.
There was "Robby the Robot,"
there was "Barbarella."
It's both very tangible, and
a completely different world
at the same time.
There's something almost
perennial about the way
that yes, those ships are
a completely different
environment from what
we're used to now
and what we would have
seen 1,000 years ago,
but human beings
haven't changed,
and they still behave
in the same way.
I place the hub of
the wheel at Ridley,
because he's a visionary, and he
knew what to do with this film
and how to marshal all
these different elements
into "Alien."
He was
running the camera,
during a lot of the
lighting, everything
was going on at
once, and he was just
conducting it so splendidly.
Ridley shot, yeah, a
good 80% of the film,
and it was a panel
vision camera.
I mean, these aren't light.
He wanted... he wanted
anamorphic on purpose.
We were contained in a space,
and that wide-angle lens
made it seem much
more claustrophobic.
The costume designer
who worked with Ridley
said to me once,
you know, Ridley's
got a camera for a head.
He knows where to put
the camera automatically.
When your hand-held, your
breathing with the actors,
you're just part of
what you're filming.
You're not distanced.
I think that's one of the
best operated films ever seen.
It's not wobbly cam.
It was very beautifully
There's a great
opening sequences where
the camera drifts through
the empty Nostromo,
and he had this wonderful
sense of movement in the frame.
Even though they're all
in their cryo chambers,
there's a strange sense
of life about the vessel.
It's all kind of
presaging what's coming.
But it's a haunted quality
that flutter in the frame.
And he talks a
lot about the fact
that he never let
the camera sit still,
that it has to keep moving,
because you want the audience
on edge the whole time.
You never let the
film settle down.
And even around the scenes
where they're kind of just
having these kind of rather
sort of squabbling sequences
between the crew, just
normal ship stuff,
this there's slight air of
agitation about how he frames
and how he moves the camera.
He's getting
the heartbeat
of the film, this kind of
growing throb that it has.
The reason
he wanted the ship in one path
was he wanted to film like the
Mary Celeste at the opening.
He was tracking around
the ship, and there
were eerie little
things going on,
the pecking birds that I
put in there for Ridley,
and everyone said,
you can't do that.
I thought it's a great idea.
The annoying thing, yeah,
that was a Ridley realism,
the little nodding... the
little nodding things.
He had a thing about
that for whatever reason
back from childhood.
I loved it.
They were
in all the cars in England.
Everyone had these blooming
things that were nodding.
And they always was a joke.
You know, America had
dice hanging and stuff,
but England had
these nodding birds.
It's perpetual motion.
How do you illustrate that
this thing is just carrying on,
and there's no
human beings on it?
It just worked to me.
And that quite kind of
going around the ship
and the eeriness of
it, to me, said a lot.
The little papers rustling.
It's all illogical.
What would make these
pages flit around?
Where's the wind coming from?
All that stuff.
It didn't make
sense, but it did.
You know, it was
like Ridley's vision.
His eye prevails over...
perhaps he'll forgive me
saying... the scientific logic
of something, which is hence
why we had rain pissing
down when Brett gets killed
in that sort of chain
hanging room.
And I had several discussions.
Having worked on
"2001," where everything
was meticulous and
real, but rain in space?
You know, where...
where's it coming from?
He said, I don't care.
It looks great.
It does.
That was it.
A thing that we
got from Ben Burtt,
we got this sort of
kept going throughout the film.
It was
almost like a breathing,
a sort of an alien
breath, breathing
in, exhaling and inhaling.
And I think it gave a
kind of, just a kind
of feeling that something
was breathing down your neck
all the time.
Kind of gave you an
organic feel to the ship.
then the computer
chatter that comes on in the
helmet, it makes you think,
what's going on here?
Everything that
Ridley built up was
building on this
fear of the unknown,
of something happening.
Everybody's now waiting
for something to happen,
but it doesn't.
When I started
working on the film,
I just realized that this...
this film was going to be
virtually in slow motion.
Everything was slow, except
for these stabs that you've
got at various points.
And you thought, how can
I sort of push someone
into a corner from the
editing point of view,
and how far do you go before the
audience says enough's enough?
was a lot of, I think,
studio concern about
the fact that it
was 45 minutes before anything,
in their opinion, happened.
Before the facehugger
jumps out of the egg and...
and hits John Hurt on
the... on the old visage.
But that was its strength.
That really was
its strength, to be
able to hold it back
that long before you
really gave it to the audience.
They all found it very
hard to cope with that.
Dan O'Bannon had
conceptualized very early
on in his script that they
wouldn't find the eggs
in the derelict spacecraft.
They would find
the space jockey.
Extraordinary vision,
and it came from Giger.
It was a Giger picture.
And it did something
brilliant in the sense
that it showed you that the
universe was extraordinary.
It was haunting.
It was almost certainly benign.
You felt almost sort of
a loss when you saw it.
It was a kind of creature
ossified to a chair.
You never quite understood what
was creature what was chair,
and it was just brilliant.
It's another thing that
Scott had to fight for.
Because Fox just went, well, it
doesn't have any plot function,
you know?
They just go through the
floor and find the eggs.
Ridley said, you can't just
have a hole in the ground.
You've got to suggest something.
In the chest of what
was then the space
jockey, which we now know to be
the engineer, there's a hole.
Bones are bent outward,
like he exploded from inside.
So you get an instance
of what is a hint,
a tiny little drop of maybe
what these... these things do.
And they lower Kane
in on like, a wench.
Can you see anything?
I don't... a cave.
A cave of some sort, but I...
I don't know, but it's like
the goddamn tropics in here.
And he sees in
there this great sort of tableau
that Giger had actually painted.
When we got that onto that
set and saw what they had done,
I mean, it was just...
it was mind-boggling.
Everything was actual size.
There was no CGI.
So you were inside of
these big huge caverns
that look like big
vaginas, you know?
I mean, everything had a sort
of a very sexual orientation.
So you've
landed on the planet,
and you've had this
ethereal sequence.
Kane is almost guided
via the signal,
some voice is
calling him onwards.
And it's kind of wonderful
to think that there's
something there, you know,
that the alien spacecraft
is calling him.
We get finally to the
belly of the derelict,
and we get the egg chamber.
That's the wake-up moment.
That whole tactic of the
beginning, the openness,
and the kind of
hauntingness, suddenly, it
gets sucked inward.
Up until that
point, the film has
been a kind of strange
hybrid between a Kubrickian
serious science fiction
and this almost kind
of fairy tale-like atmosphere.
It's kind of strange
sort of hauntingness.
It's not, strictly
speaking, entirely realistic
up until the point
they have dinner.
The chestburster
changes the complexion
of the film from a kind of
epic to a kind of horribly,
horribly intimate and sort
of claustrophobic and inward.
It's kind of an inward movement,
even though the creature
comes out of him.
Suddenly, everybody's trapped.
Suddenly, the spaceship is small
and confined, where before,
it being this kind
of fast vessel.
And what the film does is
make that hyper leap jump
into a primal survival
story about many more things
than we realize.
Ridley always says
that this... this
was the scene that
stood out that
would make or break the film.
It was just some craziness
that came out of Ron Shusett
and Dan O'Bannon's mind.
When you read it in the script,
there's so many different ways
to approach it.
And Ridley was so
constrained with the scene.
It's a very significant
moment in film history.
The idea came from a
painting from Francis Bacon.
Ridley Scott told me that
this painting, it's just
a crucification, and
one of the member
has just teeth and red
flesh, and he liked to have
the chestburster like that.
always been very moved
by the movements of
the mouth and the shape
of the mouth and the teeth.
And I like the, you may
say, the glitter and color
that comes from the mouth.
When I was first went to Paris,
I found in an old bookshop
a book on diseases of mouth.
The plates were
hand-colored, and that it
had a tremendous effect on me.
The three studies
for figures at the
base of the crucifixion
is the real point of
departure for Bacon.
He thought of that picture
as his first picture.
He was 35, and that's late,
of course, for an artist
to have a first work.
This is his breakthrough work.
And it's full of contradictions,
full of paradoxes.
How did suddenly this
enormously challenging,
unbelievably horrific
and ugly imagery arise?
The imagery is Christian.
And Bacon, even by then,
was a very violent atheist.
You get the crucifixion
in the title,
but it is a mixture of Greek
myths and Christianity.
The Greek influence
was very deep,
and I think he
thought of himself
as somebody hounded by furies.
And I think he felt their
talons in his flesh.
He said, oh, yes, the
furies visit me very often.
temple of Apollo at Delphi
was one of the major
sanctuaries of the Greek world.
It is really important in
the story of the furies.
The furies in
Greek mythology are
avengers of crimes, usually
committed by children
against their parents.
And they first appear
in Aeschylus' trilogy
when Orestes murders his
mother, Clytemnestra,
and her lover, Aegisthus.
When Orestes finds refuge at
the temple of Apollo at Delphi,
the ghost of Clytemnestra tries
to wake them up and rouse them
so that they can fulfill
their purpose, which
is to hound down
Orestes and take revenge
for Clytemnestra's murder.
The violence of the
brings up the...
the... the images.
I mean, if you remember
that wonderful translation
of one of his lines,
"the reek of human blood
smiles out at me."
Well, what could be
more amazing than that?
That immediately brings up
the most astonishing images.
The furies are
a common torment to a creator,
and here's why.
To create is inherently a
rebellion against creation.
The fact
that his father kicked him out
of the house when he discovered
he was homosexual was
a lasting wound in Bacon.
I think the furies,
to some extent,
are actually his
father, his father
pursuing him, chasing him
out of the family home
and branding him as an outsider.
This image came fully formed
out of Bacon's imagination.
It's like Athena springing fully
formed from the head of Zeus.
I see it as the monster
coming out of Bacon,
and the monster coming
out of the world.
Myths are thought to be
messages from the divine.
When Ridley Scott puts
this image of Bacon
into Giger's hands, that's
an odd synchronicity.
And when you see the
importance of the story,
and you're looking back on it
with the power and magnitude
with which that story landed,
all the synchronicities
that brought it to
that point seem all the
more important and stunning.
It's crazy that these scenes
that are... a word I hate using,
but they are so iconic.
It seems like that
page should be...
you know, obviously,
there should be
like the Constitution, right?
I mean, at some point at the
end of "Citizen Kane," it says,
and the camera turns
and focuses and the...
it's a sled, Rosebud.
Fade to black.
It's not like, you know, you
know, you think and you go,
But the chest buster scene is
just a one-page description.
Broussard's face is screwed
up into a mask of agony,
and he's trembling
violently from head to foot.
There's an incoherent shriek
from Broussard, oh my god!
A red smear of blood blossoms on
the chest of Broussard's tunic.
Their eyes are all riveted
to Broussard's chest
as the fabric of his
tunic is ripped open,
and a horrible, nasty little
head the size of a man's fist
pushes out.
Everybody screams and
leaps back from the table.
The cat spits and bolts.
The disgusting little head
lunges, comes spurting out
of Broussard's chest, trailing
a thick worm-like tail,
splattering fluids and blood.
Lands in the middle
of the dishes
and food on the table and
screws away while the men
are stampeding for safe ground.
When they finally regain control
of themselves, it has escaped.
Broussard lies slumped
in his chair, a huge hole
in his chest spouting blood.
The dishes are scattered
and the food is
covered with blood and slime.
I'd make that movie.
The chestburster made
everything possible for us.
It wouldn't have
been the magic it was
without the chestburster scene.
Everything rested on that
scene from beginning to end,
from getting the film made,
to how the audience responds,
to whether those
monsters continue to live
in our imagination today.
It's that moment
we finally assert
that science fiction
isn't only about minds,
It's about our bodies.
It's continuous
with the directions
horror was taking over the
preceding decade, right?
Horror is moving
toward body horror,
through David Cronenberg
in particular.
It's part of the
texture of a film
that to me, is one of the
most tactile movies ever made.
The sense of goo
and grime, of things
spurting at us, the sense
of heat and steam and sweat.
There is a tendency to think
about the chestburster sequence
as a scene or even a moment.
But it really takes a
while to build up to it.
The Nostromo moving in.
It's funny, isn't it,
how all these, you know,
outer space shots now have a
certain sort of like, you know,
generalization about them.
You know, when you think about
"2001," how gob-smacking that
was at the time, and now we just
take it completely for granted.
Why is
it called the Nostromo?
The shuttle craft is
called the Narcissus.
Narcissus and Nostromo
are both words
that are used in book titles
by Joseph Conrad, who wrote
about the evils of imperialism.
By allusion to the
works of Conrad,
there's a strand within "Alien"
which is about a concern
as to what humanity
might find as it
ventures into the dark places.
In the case of
Conrad, he's thinking
about the heart of darkness,
the dark places of empire.
At the same moment that Ridley
Scott is making "Alien,"
you have Francis Ford Coppola
adapting "Heart of Darkness"
to be "Apocalypse Now,"
and explicitly commenting
on parallels between
the Vietnam War
and the encounter with evil in
the British and Belgian empire.
"Alien" directs our
attention or reminds us
of the dangers of
imperialism and conquest
of other places,
what we might find
in these uncharted regions,
especially if we attempt
to exploit those regions.
I hate to bring this up, but
this is a commercial ship, not
a rescue ship.
It's not in my contract
to do this kind of duty.
The 1970s was
a time of economic downturn,
of threat, threat
coming from new places.
Ash, can you see this?
Yes, I can.
I've never seen
anything like it.
Particularly the
first stirrings of terrorism.
There were enemies within.
There was political corruption.
People had doubts,
were feeling isolated,
were feeling disillusioned.
I say that we
abandon this ship.
We get the shuttle and just
get the hell out of here.
We take our chances and
just hope that somebody...
...picks us up.
This is
a consequence of Watergate.
This is a consequence
of the Vietnam War.
This is a consequence of the
political corruption in Europe.
And I think that
that uncertainty
plays out in all kinds of
movies from that period.
If you look at '78,
you get Ted Bundy's captured,
John Wayne Gacy's captured, the
Hillside Strangler's out there.
So there's this kind
of new phenomenon
out there, right,
the serial killer,
and what does that mean?
There's this kind
of idea that there's
something out there that
can be completely evil
and illogical and horrible.
And there's no
reasoning with it,
and there's nothing you
can do to really stop it.
At no point in
the "Alien" movies,
and definitely not
in the first one,
do you feel like
what makes us human
is the thing that allows
us to beat this creature.
I admire its
purity, a survivor,
unclouded by
conscience, remorse,
or delusions of morality.
There is a commentary in there
about the way that things are
going right now, and about what
we're doing as human beings,
and how we're taking
those strengths,
and those emotions, those
things that make us human,
and we're turning
our backs on them.
You have
in these, in the 1970s,
tremendous fear over
what's happening
to the American family.
And I don't love you anymore.
Where you going?
I don't know.
Panic about divorce,
panic about family breakdowns.
Here's what I
don't understand,
all the time... where are
you... where are you running?
All the times I come over
here, I can't understand
how you can prefer her to me.
You can't understand that?
It's a mystery.
Well, you knew my history
when you married me.
I think you can
see that the crew
of the space ship
operate like a kind
of family, and there
are sort of family-type
tensions between them.
Before we dock,
I think we oughta
discuss the bonus situation.
- Right, right.
- We think we ought...
One of the things
that that strikes me
about this movie in
general is the way
that it's connecting what's
gonna happen with 80s movies
and what has happened
in 70s movies.
Because sonically, it feels
like a Robert Altman movie.
You have this scene of
all of these characters
sitting around talking before
they find out that Kane is OK.
How about a little something
to lower your spirits?
Thrill me, will you, please?
The way that
it's blocked and staged,
five or six people in the frame
who are all doing something.
Just give me
the short version.
talking on top of each other
at once at equal volumes, where
you have to sort of decide
who you want to
listen to, and they're
all mumbling and talking
extremely naturalistically.
It's doing the thing
that cinema in America
was doing in the 70s,
which was to try to point
the lens at a more
naturalistic working class
reality of America.
The future of blue
collar workers
is something that's
wholly revolutionary.
And the movie, in a
way, is about that.
It's about the exploitation
of these blue collar workers
by the corporation.
Hey, Ripley, I wanna
ask you a question.
If they find what they're
looking for out there,
does that mean we
get full shares?
Don't worry, Parker.
Yeah, you'll get
whatever's coming to you.
Look, I'm not gonna
do any more work till we
get this straightened out.
"Alien," to me, makes more
sense if it were made in 1974,
'75, '76 than after "Star Wars."
"Alien" is a smaller movie.
"Alien"... I can't
believe I'm saying this...
is a realistic movie.
Part of it was just
getting away from that
sanitized view of space that
had dominated science
fiction from the 60s and much
of the 70s, and
coming to something
that felt like a real
lived-in environment.
It was continuous
with the world we
knew outside the movie theater.
Harry Dean Stanton
and Yaphet Kotto
are the two most
working class guys on the ship.
And they, unwittingly maybe,
but maybe intuitively,
know that if they
just freeze Kane,
everything's going to be OK.
How come they
don't freeze him?
How come you guys
don't freeze him?
What I think we should
do is just freeze him.
I mean, he's got a disease.
Why don't we stop
it where it is?
He can always get to a
doctor when we get back home.
They're speaking the
truth in this kind of almost
Greek chorus kind
of prophet way,
but nobody really wants
to listen to them,
and they're just
making fun of them.
Whenever he says
anything, you say
right, Brett, you know that?
What they're making
fun of them for
is that Harry Dean Stanton keeps
saying right, right, right,
but it's because they are right.
And in the staging
of this scene,
Dallas, the ship captain,
is sitting closest to us,
and there's this wall of the two
working class guys between him
and the two women, who are
scientists and flight officers.
And when he gets
frustrated with this sense
that, even jokingly, his
authority is being undermined
by these two guys,
who are his employees,
he crosses to the
far depth of the shot
to talk to Lambert,
who immediately
starts talking this sort
of elevated, educated way.
Well, according to my
calculations, based on time
spent getting to and
from the planet...
Just give me
the short version.
How far to Earth?
10 months.
And you
can really see visually
in this incredibly subtle
way that there really
is this war about the movement
between the classes on the ship
and who has the
right to be heard.
We now know
that Hollywood in the 1970s
was a very oppressive
place for women.
Do you find, in
fact, that this, what
could be best described as
your equipment, in fact,
hinders you perhaps?
think about the sexism,
the misogyny that was implicit
within the industry that
made this film.
You mean my fingers?
No, I meant your...
Come on, spit it out.
I meant your...
your figure.
My figure?
And there's
no way of looking at "Alien"
without seeing it as a
male fantasy of the kind
of oppression that have been
being handed out to women
over the centuries, a guilt
that was part of masculinity
in the 1970s, and should
be part of masculinity now.
"Alien" has within it fantasies
of male pregnancy, fantasies
of male rape, fantasies
of male penetration.
And it's all tied up with that
amazing chest buster scene.
I don't know how
explicitly they
realized what they were doing.
I can't imagine that any
studio would be like,
yes, you're making a
male rape movie in space.
For sure, let's go for it.
It's wonderful that
the unconscious works
in so many mysterious ways.
It feels like a
summoning in a major way,
an accidental awakening
of some repressed spirit.
The furies certainly speak
for the repressed feminine.
And "Alien" certainly
represents the repressed
feminine's retribution.
"Alien" touched a nerve
with a lot of people
because it was talking
about something,
that even in 2019, we're still
not comfortable addressing.
The idea that
"Alien" is addressing
the guilt that a
patriarchal society feels
makes perfect sense to me.
We'll move in pairs.
We'll go step by step and cut
off every bulkhead and every
vent until we have it cornered,
and then we'll blow it
the fuck out into space.
Is that acceptable to you?
Ripley was created
in 1979, and it's
insane that we don't have that
many great female characters
And especially in a
genre like horror,
that's given so many female
characters throughout time,
and yet, there's not
one that strikes us
as being as developed and as
complex and as interesting
as Ripley was.
And isn't it ironic
that she ends up
being that way because she
was written to be a man?
Ripley is the only
maternal character
within her Promethean crew.
Her transformation
gives us direction
for the transformation that
we need to take as a culture
to avoid self-destruction.
She's a new example.
When we start
off this sequence with Kane,
this very strange
shot that's low angle,
and he's all the
way to the side...
And maybe at that point,
for want of a better term,
there's kind of this something's
being buried inside you,
something's been
planted in your brain,
and you're not sure what.
How you doing?
seems all right.
He's even smiling a bit.
He's not at his best, but
he's... he's looking a bit peaky,
but he's starting
to kind of cough.
Before you realize
what really happens,
your brain is
already ahead of you.
Your brain is going, it's
in him, and it's coming out.
One thing
that he's certainly
taking advantage of is
the incredible width
of the anamorphic frame.
The entire cast is in
this one wide shot.
What could be safer
than every single cast
member in a brightly lit
white room in a horror movie?
Everything in that
ship is so dark.
I mean, the light Ridley
Scott uses is literally
the light from the torches.
That's it, right?
But that scene, oh my god, you
could operate in that scene.
And you needed to
operate in that scene,
but they couldn't
save the patient.
go to Ash's reaction.
I think that really,
the key to the tension
here is tracking Ash, because
he's always in opposition
to everybody else.
It's a very short shot,
and you wouldn't notice it
the first time, but
when you go back
and rewatch it you
realize, he knows
that this is going to happen.
There's so many more
single one shots of him
in this very strange off-kilter
framing that really gives him
this sinister
surveillance kind of vibe,
whereas most of the
other characters, you're
seeing them in groups, because
they're all on the same team.
You believe that this is because
he has a better intuition
than the rest of them about how
dangerous it is and he's trying
to protect them,
but in fact, he's
trying to protect this
baby monster that he's
allowed to come into the world.
This son of a bitch is huge.
I mean, it's like a man.
It's big.
Kane's son.
Ash is such a dick.
Ash, you
hear or see anything?
When you think about it,
he's not an authentic being.
So someone, a human person had
to program him, educate him.
Not only is he supposed
to look like a person,
he's supposed to
pass as a person,
because the crew didn't know.
And that's what
makes him the worse.
That misogyny was built-in.
Could kill him.
looks at Dallas,
like, what do you think?
I'm willing to
take that chance.
Just cut it off of him.
You take responsibility?
Yes, yes, I'll
take responsibility.
Now get it off of him.
Ripley, on
the other hand, is saying,
I am making this call.
It's my job to make this call.
this is an order.
You hear me?
I read you.
The answer is negative.
Inner hatch opened.
And he says, nope,
that's not gonna happen.
I override you.
Where does he get the idea to
penetrate this woman forcibly?
You know, but it
doesn't logically
make sense for an artificial
life form to do that.
He would choke her.
He would suffocate her.
The final choice that
he makes is to just
put this woman in her place.
The programming... think,
if we think about that,
if we really unpack that,
it's so frustrating.
I hate him.
thing that I think
about is the tradition of
dramatizations that happen
over dinners, which
you can see in anything
from Chekov, to Ibsen,
going back to Shakespeare.
And I can't help but think of
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
And in this case, it's the
alien who's coming to dinner
and shreds the social
fabric of the dinner table.
But the text and the subtext
is totally about food, right?
The first thing that I'm
gonna do when I get back
is to get some decent food.
I can dig it, man.
I'm telling you I've
eaten worse food...
when it comes to...
there's this shot
across the table,
and you can see the cat in
the background, soft focus,
it's eating dinner too.
Usually you know
what it's made of.
No, man, I don't want to
talk about what it's made of.
I'm eating...
What's the food made of?
It's made out of your
fucking insides of your body.
And there's just this
cluster of noise.
And it's almost like you're
hearing it from the point
of view of the chestburster.
It's inside of Kane.
It's fully conscious.
It's about to come through him.
It's first impressions
of the universe
are hearing these
indistinct voices
of all of these human beings.
It's like you're in
this sort of sonic womb.
Now, from the
laughter, comes of first sign
that something is wrong.
That is John brilliantly
portraying the beginning
of the pain within him.
The reaction of everybody
is so precise, so right.
As soon
as this guy gets sick,
and he flips hand-held
behind his head,
you feel like you're in this
completely different world.
To me, Ridley's really
pulling a Kubrick here.
You see this in
"Clockwork Orange,"
you see this in "Barry Lyndon."
In all of these movies, you
have Kubrick approaching
sets and characters
with a very squared
off and rigid formal style.
But when violence
happens, Kubrick
will drastically change the
kind of visual vocabulary
of the scene.
this amazing choice
to not see Kane's face
at the very moment
that he's going
through the most agony.
It's incredibly
unnerving, and it's
sort of a taste of
what's about to happen
25 seconds later when it becomes
one of the messiest scenes
in film history.
Roger, and cut, push out.
was kind of looming
at us this scene, you know?
Everyone was a bit
worried about it for sure,
because A, it'd never
been done before,
and there was so much
preparation around it.
Like much of the
design work for the film,
it had taken a long while
to get to where they were.
And I don't know how fully
satisfied Ridley was.
I think the egg
and the facehugger
worked very clearly for him.
You'd have the kind of
witch's fingers element
of the facehugger, it's
slightly kind of sort
of insectile nature of it.
But the chestburster was
difficult, because it
had to appear childlike.
It had to at least
kind of function.
It had to be able to
come out of his chest,
it had to suggest
the creature to come.
So in a way, the design of the
chestburster was governed most,
I think, by function
and practicality,
the need the sequence as much by
the flamboyance of Giger's work
and then Scott's desire to
create something extraordinary.
They couldn't
solve the look of it.
Giger had a go at
the chestburster,
and he says he
never got it right.
It wasn't working.
I did some design they looked
like chicken, something like...
like chicken without feathers.
But I was not happy with.
And then build up
the thing, and it
looked like a small dinosaur.
It had versions that
kind of looked like a turkey
that had been sort of plucked.
Just were laughable.
They couldn't come up with
something that was genuinely
terrifying in its own right.
Roger Dicken went away
and developed it on his own.
He was able to make it work.
They had made
this little puppet.
Frankly, it looked
like a penis and...
with teeth.
And they had, like,
they said, and we're
going to have it so
that it'll just blow up,
and then these
teeth will come out.
They were like, describing this.
It's just a thing.
We were going, oh, OK.
I mean, they were so excited,
these puppeteer people.
They were... it was
just hysterical.
The fundamental math
of the chestburster sequence
is that the cast didn't know.
Course, this isn't quite true.
We knew that there was going
to be a chestburster scene,
we just didn't know how
it was going to be done.
Hurt obviously knew,
so they just kept him plied with
red wine and cigarettes all day
They knew they were
relying on his patience
to stay in that position
while everything was set up.
The atmosphere on the
set had a certain frisson,
you know, in the morning,
because everybody
knew that this was filmically,
a sort of major scene.
I don't think anybody had
any idea that it would
become a kind of film classic.
Roger Dicken brought
the chestburster to the set
in a carrier bag.
Blood was being loaded.
All the crew was sort of donning
these rain jackets because they
kind of knew what was coming.
In the
morning, Ridley said, let's put
some bits of gristle and stuff.
So I sent the buyer
down to the abattoir
to buy a load of offal,
which stank terrible.
And they put it in formaldehyde
for you, but it was worse.
But we packed it round.
And Ridley was doing
it himself too.
We were sticking it
all around underneath.
all up in our dressing rooms
at Shepperton Studios.
Harry Dean Stanton is
sitting in the hall
singing and playing guitar.
We're up there for hours.
We kept wondering, what
the... what was going on?
But at a
certain point in time,
some assistant is sent
to bring them to set.
And what greets them isn't
a vision, it's a smell.
Because over these
hours, this kind
of offal and
produce has just
been cooking under the lights.
Literally, you gagged when
you walked onto the set.
It was so disgusting.
Ridley wasn't certain how
that was going to happen,
how... how... how's
that gonna manifest?
All this... this innards
of a cow and the blood,
and thinking, my.
they saw was John
Hurt spread out on this table
with all of these hoses.
Everybody is
covered up in suits.
The actors walk in, and they
see that waiting for them.
And I saw them, their
faces all sort of dropped.
They all sort of went like
this, and their eyes got big
and roamed around
all over this stuff.
started to shoot the scene,
and I was told I'd get
a little blood on me.
So we start to roll.
And then what
happens is brilliant.
There's just this splat, almost
like a bullet has hit him.
He puts a pause in.
You've got to kind of
give the audience a chance
to realize what's happened.
The whole thing
was really a trick in the cut.
And there was a cut
to the other side
of the table where by
which time I had been
replaced by a replica body.
His t-shirt pulled
you know, tightly on it,
and then there's gonna be blood
lines on high pressure pumps.
They're going to blow
blood everywhere.
So we start to roll,
and then all of a sudden,
Ridley shouts, cut.
It didn't work
on the first take.
There wasn't much
of a chestburster.
It couldn't get through
the damn t-shirt.
Well, we found ourselves
leaning in to see
what the hell was going on.
Second time,
it still didn't go through,
but it came up
like that, and then
went down and covered in blood.
And the actors were all kind of
looking like that and curious.
So it was a stroke of
genius that it went wrong.
They still didn't
know what was coming.
And it reset again.
Ridley just said to Nick
Allder and to Roger Dicken,
just get it through this time.
And they added more
blood, more pipelines.
And this thing
goes up through, splat.
They fire all the pumps.
When it went through,
I mean, that blood
just went everywhere.
It was just exactly
what Scott wanted.
It was just this absolutely
immediate visceral response.
When it happened, of
course, it stills you.
So that's how it manifests, huh?
And again, Nick, and again!
I had
leaned into a blood jet.
That little blood shot
me square in the face.
And that's when I jumped
back and I went, oh my god.
And my knees hit the
back of those banquette
where we were all sitting,
and it flipped me upside down.
And I said, oh my gosh,
we're still shooting.
So I rolled over
and I got back up,
and I ran around and
got back into the scene.
So there were different... there
were different reactions to it.
And action.
Push it out.
Pump it.
Roger Dicken had
built little lungs in as well.
It was a lot of stuff
going on under the table
to make it look so real, hung
bits of stuff all over it so
that it looked like it
broke through the flesh
and heart and muscles.
That was part of Ridley wanting
this to be unquestionably real.
And I think that
scream, when it screams,
there's the Bacon shot.
There's something really
strange in those paintings that
connects to the phobias that
we carry with us to this day,
and they come from
our ancient past.
So I think, you
know, particularly
the "Incubus" is
one that was struck
me when I read the script.
Because that chestburster
it comes out and sits there
for a moment and screams,
and that's just as you
imagine an incubus would do.
It would come out,
sit, and scream at you.
I loved that image
so much, and what
I see in it is something
that's like a material
object trying to come to life.
And that's what "Alien" is.
OK, and the head back.
Slow, Go!
Cut it.
Cut it.
Save the blood.
When I'm watching
the chestburster scene
on the Nostromo, and I'm
thinking about how brilliantly
staged it is because it doesn't
take place in a dark corridor
with a guy all by himself.
And then decades
later, Ridley Scott
restages a chestburster scene
and does it exactly in that way
that's so much more tropey.
In the dark, a guy
alone being watched over
only by the malevolent David,
and with this smoke and lights
behind him, it's almost
like it's the first draft
of the original scene
that was rejected
and then for some
reason, revisited later.
But on the other hand,
there is something really
delightful if you give into it.
I feel like Ridley Scott
can't find a better way
to talk about his own
mortality than by going back
over and over to the origin
side of the height of his powers
and the height of
his creativity.
If you look at
where Ridley Scott is currently
taking the "Alien"
cycle, he's using
it explicitly to
explore questions
of where did life come from?
What does it mean to be human?
He seems fascinated by the idea
that the child would destroy
the parent, that the created
would destroy the creator, that
things we make come back and
destroy us, which I suppose
are variations on the
Frankenstein story.
But the repeated recurrence
of this in his work
suggests, I think, a major
autistic obsession, actually.
People often talk of
Hollywood as the dream factory
but I think the dreams that
Hollywood puts on the screens
are not just the
dream of one person,
they're collective dreams.
Cinema is a window on our
collective unconscious.
And in that way, I
think that "Alien"
is an incredibly
important window
on what people were thinking
about as of the late 1970s.
When you look back an
alien 40 years later,
it seems prophetic
of where we've gone.
We're still going
in the same direction
that it seemed to be indicating
at the time, which makes
the world of "Alien," if not
probable, at least, you know,
looking like a
possibility in the way
that "Star Wars" could never be.
The last act of "Alien" is
escaping self-destruction.
That's the myth of our times.
Part of what makes "Alien"
so powerful is it's
so much more than an allegory.
It taps into a deep set
of patterns that can
mean many, many, many things.
I don't think we can get
to the bottom of "Alien."
Like a piece of sand vibrating
in a somatic experiment,
in touch with something deeper,
Dan O'Bannon must have been
on the frequency for this myth.
He seems to have been a
stenograph for a larger song.
My husband
was out of time, in a way,
out of specific time.
But he lives on.
And when he was dying,
that's what I said to him.
He was not conscious.
I said, you moved the world.
You did it.
You moved the world.
And he did.
In a way, I don't think Dan
O'Bannon is finished yet.
When he died, I had
a strange feeling
that he'd gone back to the
future from whence he'd come.
And there's still things there
that are emerging from him
and things that I
have that are just
now becoming relevant today.
And there's more there.
There's more there.
Don't ask me why he
had this connection
to the past and the
future, but he sure did.
He came from a place that had
no telephone or television
and went to the stars.
Went to the stars.
It's inexplicable.