12 Behind The Scenes Stories From 'Alien'

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In space, no one can hear you scream. 

With such a killer tagline, Alien had high expectations around its debut in 1979. And boy did it live up to them.

Regarded as one of the best sci-fi/horror films of all time, Alien gives us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of seven crew members aboard the Nostromo. When a distress call leads to an unwelcome visitor boarding their ship, the crew has to give their everything to survive against this ever-changing creature. 

While people from all generations adore this film, there are some interesting behind-the-scenes stories that make the movie even more impressive - from Ridley Scott's brilliant approaches to scale and special effects, to the types of meat used to give the aliens lifelike qualities.

After reading all these behind-the-scenes tidbits, we'll be impressed if you don't go home and watch Alien tonight.  


  • The Infamous Chestburster Scene Was Done In Just One Take
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    The Infamous Chestburster Scene Was Done In Just One Take

    Is there a more iconic Alien scene than the creature bursting from Kane's chest? To achieve this classic scene, Ridley Scott knew he only had one good shot at it. As he explained

    I knew once that happens, the white set will be decimated and will take probably two weeks to clean up. So there was no second take.

    The actors were not shown what the Xenomorph looked like or told exactly what was going to happen, to get their genuine response to seeing it for the first time. 

    With John Hurt (Kane) strapped down, everyone prepared themselves for this essential take. However, in the first take, the Xenomorph wasn't able to break through Hurt's t-shirt. Sending the actors out of the room, Scott rapidly cut the shirt open more. 

    With four or five cameras covering all the angles, on the next take they had success - the horrifying creature plunged out of Hurt's chest - along with "a shower of animal entrails" - legitimately horrifying the actors.

  • Ridley Scott's And A Cameraman’s Kids Were Shot In Spacesuits To Make The Set Look Bigger
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    Ridley Scott's And A Cameraman’s Kids Were Shot In Spacesuits To Make The Set Look Bigger

    Near the beginning of the movie, when Dallas, Lamber, and Kane exit the Nostromo it's hard not to gasp at the sheer scale of the colossal ship.

    When filming, the landing leg of the Nostromo was nearly 50 feet tall - but that wasn't big enough for Ridley Scott. So he devised a sneaky way of tipping the scale in his favor.

    He had three cheap spacesuits made up, and put his two kids and a cameraman's child in them. Now, the ship seemed almost three times as large - and Scott was happy. 

  • A German Shepherd Was Used To Make Jonesy Hiss
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    A German Shepherd Was Used To Make Jonesy Hiss

    Jonesy has got to be up there with some of the most famous space-exploring cats. Before serving as Ripley's final companion, Jonesy inadvertently led Brett to his untimely end with the Alien. 

    In this scene, we see Jonesy hissing and hissing, before we realize that the Alien is the target of his anger. So how did they get the cat to hiss on demand? 

    The crew had a German Shepherd behind a blacked-out screen, just opposite the cat. When the cat started advancing toward it, they pulled out the screen - stopping and cat dead in its tracks (and seriously p*ssing it off.)

  • The Facehugger's Insides Were Made From Oysters
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    The Facehugger's Insides Were Made From Oysters

    While each phase of the Alien's life is grotesque in its own right, the Facehugger that latched on to Kane's face especially gave us the heebie-jeebies.

    A fair part of this was because of the intimate view we get of this creature. After it removes itself from Kane's face (and nearly falls on Ripley), Ash dissects the Facehugger's corpse a few inches from the camera's lens. 

    The squishy organism on display was actually rotten oysters and shellfish from a local fish restaurant and the stench was apparently even more horrifying than its appearance. 

  • The Alien Was Purposely Kept Hidden For Most Of The Film
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    The Alien Was Purposely Kept Hidden For Most Of The Film

    One of the reasons Alien has held up so well over the decades is because of its extremely effective special effects. In fact, Alien won the 1980 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

    Remember, Alien came out in 1979 - long before the CGI we're used to today. Because of this, Ridley Scott was very particular about how much they actually showed the alien:

    I’ve never liked horror films before, because in the end it’s always been a man in a rubber suit. Well, there’s one way to deal with that. The most important thing in a film of this type is not what you see, but the effect of what you think you saw.

    Scott also said that he purposely had the Alien alter shape so "so you never really know exactly what he looks like."

  • The Blue Lights Seen In The Derelict Ship Were Borrowed From The Who
    Photo: Alien / 20th Century Fox
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    The Blue Lights Seen In The Derelict Ship Were Borrowed From The Who

    In Alien, we're not just treated to seeing the inside of one spaceship, but two. When Dallas, Lambert, and Kane go into the abandoned alien spaceship, there is a spooky blue glow to the internal caverns. 

    Well, it turns out we can thank The Who for that creepy atmosphere. 

    Yes, the rock superstars. The band was testing out the blue lights on the soundstage next door to where they were filming Alien, and they generously loaned the lights out for the scene.