7 Things You Never Knew About ‘Alien’

7 Things You Never Knew About ‘Alien’

Alien, 20th Century Fox, 042616

It’s 4/26, the lesser-known little brother of 4/20. Except instead of celebrating weed and all things smokeable, today we celebrate horrifying aliens with acid for blood that impregnate your face and burst out of your chest. Fun times!

That’s right, it’s Alien Day, which we’ve somehow done without until now. Why 4/26? That’s down to the franchise’s central planet, LV426, where all the trouble really kicks off. To help fill your day with abject horror, we’ve decided to revisit Ridley Scott’s stunning 1979 original Alien and draw out a few tidbits you might not have heard before.

1. How to Scare a Cat

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Jones the cat – actually played by four very similar looking moggies – has to look understandably alarmed a few times through the film. Unfortunately, cats apparently aren’t naturally scared by hideous space beasts, so director Ridley Scott had to go for the next big thing – he hid a German Shepherd behind a screen, suddenly removing it whenever poor Jonesy was required to hiss.

2. What’s In an Egg

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Ever wondered how to make an alien egg? The ingredients are pretty simple: cattle hearts and stomachs. What about those charming facehuggers? Even more appealing: fresh shellfish, four oysters, a sheep’s kidney, and sheep intestine for the tail. Feeling peckish yet?

3. Literary Spaceships

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Scott may have set out to make a low-brow, straightforward thriller, but that didn’t stop him from making some high-brow literary allusions. The ship’s name, ‘Nostromo’, comes from the title of a Joseph Conrad novel, while the shuttle, ‘Narcissus’, references another Conrad novella. James Cameron even carried the trend forwards in sequel Aliens, titling that film’s ship ‘Sulaco’ after a town in Nostromo.

4. Thank The Who

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When the Nostromo crew first enter the alien ship and find the egg chamber, there are some pretty nifty blue lasers shining across the room. That was the invention of production designer Anton Furst, but he had some help too – he borrowed the lasers from rock legends The Who, as the band were in the soundstage next door testing out lighting gear for an upcoming tour.

5. Creeping Out Customs

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The late HR Giger’s xenomorph and facehugger designs are rightly regarded as some of cinema’s most horrifying yet – and apparently US Customs agreed. When the Swiss artist first sent photographic transparencies of his designs to screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, customs officials were horrified and held them up, worried by what on earth they’d just found. It took O’Bannon visiting LAX to explain that the images were for a horror film before they were willing to release them to him.

6. Running Out of Air

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Remember those big, bulky spacesuits? The cast sure as hell do. They were lined with nylon, with no outlets for air, and working under the hot studio lights the actors spent most of their time in them passing out. The production even had to keep a nurse on hand to supply them with oxygen – though only sprung for modifications to the design after Ridley Scott’s and cinematographer Derek Vanlint’s kids wore them for a few long-distance shots and passed out too.

7. Real-Life Chestbursting

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OK, so you’ve no doubt heard (again and again) that the main cast had no idea about that terrifying chestburster scene before it happened. But did you know what inspired it in the first place? Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon suffered from Crohn’s disease, which causes some pretty extreme gastrointestinal pain. After waking up one night in agony during the writing process, the idea was born.

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