July 18th, 1986. Seven years after Alien had its release, its worthy successor Aliens hit theater screens for the first time, making quite a splash and eventually grossing $180,000,000 worldwide.
We all know the story, now a classic. It’s Jaws in space. Ellen Ripley, survivor of the terror campaign of a stowaway alien on her employers’ (Weyland-Yutani Corporation) ship, now can’t escape the mental horrors she’s become host to. She agrees to return to the aliens’ planet only when a distress call comes from a human colony there. Ripley and her new team of skeptics arrive, finding only one unlikely survivor and, of course, aliens. But more than this, they start to find corruption among their own people that puts their lives, and those of all humanity, at jeopardy.
We love these tales, (with the exception of the franchise’s horrid third film. But let’s not go there). So it’s hard to believe that these films may not have happened were it not for the persistence of a few key figures.
To celebrate, here’s a little more on the crazy production Aliens survived to become a reality:
- Fear of Aliens‘s costs outweighing its profit put production off for years. It took two changes of leadership at Fox before interest in Aliens rekindled and turned into production.
- From the first, Aliens was set to release in 1986. Shooting was scheduled to last 10 months. Only problem? It was happening in the UK, where tea breaks constantly ground production to a halt. Following the firing of director of photography, Dick Bush, the entire crew walked out and had to be enticed back to the set.
- Only by James Cameron’s, writer and director, insistence did 20th Century Fox sign Sigourney Weaver onto the project. Fox had attempted before that to persuade Cameron to write a version without Ellen Ripley. Cameron wouldn’t have it. (Thank goodness!)
- James Horner, the recently-late composer, was put under unreasonable time restrictions and given four weeks to produce the film’s score. His access to the film was limited and the equipment not up to his standards. He stuck it out like a champ.
It’s hard to not be grateful for the Alien franchise on a day like this. After all, it gave us all those kick-ass, practical special effects, the quote, “In space, no one can hear you scream,” and led to the video game Alien Isolation. No one can complain about that.
Share your favorite Alien(s) moments in the comments, and go rewatch those classics!
T. Cooley is a scriptwriting/ production student at university. If there’s a story, visual or textual, you can bet she’ll want to talk about it. So pull up a chair, and let’s dig into those stories we love!