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Five Fun Facts: Alien

Alien

If there ever was a week to reflect on 1979’s Alien it’s this one, which unfortunately kicked off with the passing of artist H.R. Giger, whose contributions to the film could never possibly be overstated.

Today, we continue our week-long tribute to Giger here on Halloween Love by giving Alien the ‘Five Fun Facts’ treatment, which just might tell you a few things about the film that you never knew. At least, we hope it does!

H.R. Giger

1) Not only did H.R. Giger design the titular Alien but his art in fact served as one of the main inspirations for writer Dan O’Bannon‘s screenplay. O’Bannon was looking to make a film about an alien creature and though he came up with the basic premise for the film that would become Alien – a crew of astronauts investigate a mysterious planet, after a distress signal comes in – it wasn’t until he met Giger, and saw his artwork, that the story really became the one we all know and love. “His paintings had a profound effect on me. I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work,” said the late O’Bannon. “And so I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster.”

Star Wars Alien

2) If it weren’t for Star Wars, released two years prior to Alien, it’s likely that Alien never would’ve been made. Story goes that 20th Century Fox initially wasn’t into the idea of spending so much money on a science-fiction film, though that all changed when Star Wars came out, and pulled in huge numbers at the box office. Suddenly, sci-fi was hot in Hollywood, and since Alien was the only script in the Fox offices that dealt with spaceships, they were all over it. That’s how things tend to work, in Hollywood!

On a related note, Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in Star Wars, was at one point up for the role of the alien!

Xenomorph

3) Before Fox was sold on the idea of Giger designing the Xenomorph – they originally felt that his artwork was too ‘ghastly’ – concept artist Ron Cobb whipped up a conceptual drawing of his own, which is depicted by the fan-made model kit seen above. Of course, nothing about the design made its way into the movie – thank god! – though Cobb must be given credit for coming up with the idea of the alien creature bleeding acid, which solved the ‘why don’t they just shoot it?’ issue that O’Bannon couldn’t come up with a resolution for.

Sigourney Weaver

4) In the original script for the film, Ripley was a male character, as O’Bannon apparently wasn’t interested in playing into the genre convention of having a ‘final girl.’ He did, however, specifically write all the characters as being unisex, leaving the filmmakers free to interpret them as they saw fit, and it was director Ridley Scott‘s idea to turn Ripley into Ellen Ripley. Hard to imagine Alien without a female Ripley, isn’t it?!

It’s also hard to imagine Ripley being played by anyone other than Sigourney Weaver, so it might surprise you to learn that Meryl Streep was at one point considered for the role, before Weaver blew everyone away with her audition!

Ellen Ripley

5) Ridley Scott had a couple alternate endings in mind for the film, one of which would see the Xenomorph becoming sexually aroused by the sight of Ripley, touching itself and comparing its body to hers. Another even wilder ending would’ve seen the creature biting Ripley’s head off, and communicating with Earth in her voice. The latter idea was scrapped because the producers insisted that the alien had to die at the end of the film, while I can only imagine the former was scrapped for just plain being way too creepy!

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.