Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
This isn’t my first trip into a science fiction setting. Still somehow this one looks different from the others. In the Star Trek and Star Wars settings everything seemed so pristine and so perfect. Here everything looks so utilitarian. More like something you would actually use for a job, rather than looking like a movie prop. The bridge of the Nostromo looks like there is real people would work here. Sitting in a seat towards the back in the woman I am here to interview. Ellen Ripley. The sole survivor of the Nostromos’s ill-fated finial flight.
She is sitting in the large swivel chair petting a tabby cat called Jones. Though the synthetic leather chairs are plush and comfy she is obviously not comfortable here. I thank her for meting me as I take a seat
“Not a problem.” She says shrugging still focusing on the cat. “This placed has a lot of memories, not all of them bad.”
“I can imagine, there are a lot of traumatic ones.” I say apologetically for having chosen this particular venue for our meeting.
“Yeah, let’s just get this over.” She mumbles not looking up.
“Well originally you character wasn’t designed as a female, could you tell me about that?” I ask.
“That is true.” She says briefly looking up. “In the original script the parts were all written as gender neutral, so they could be performed by either a male or a female actor. Originally Tom Skerritt got my part. But when the dissension was made to go with a female in my role, Skerritt was given the part of Captain Dallas. So yes I could easily have been Elroy Ripley, but I think that in ways making me female has both a stronger emotional element for the ending of the first movie, and showed that woman could pull of the lead in an action adventure movie in Aliens.”
“So is the original movie science fiction or is it a horror movie?” I ask.
She scratches the cat’s ears and thinks about the question for a moment. “It is a science fiction setting but it is truly a horror movie. The monster kills off the cast one by one. Then the hero in her underwear kills it with a spear gun.” Ripley laughs. “That it the embodiment of a seventies horror movie.”
“When Alien came out it was the scariest thing audiences had seen in a long while, why is it so scary?”
“There are a ton of reasons.” She replies. “On the surface it is classic slasher movie 101, you meet chachters become emotionally invested in them and they start getting knocked off randomly without warning. Then you have a very claustrophobic feeling inside the ship itself, the audience feels trapped with the crew. Also the monster in so alien, I mean different from what we have encountered on the earth. Ridley Scott did a great job at keeping the xenomorph mysterious. The adult Alien is actually fully on the screen for about five minutes but it dominates the show. The less you know about the monster the scarier it is. Also the whole able to rape a man thing strikes a primal cord of fear in most guys.”
“There is a legend that the cast didn’t know about what was going to happen in the John Hurt chest-buster scene, is it true?” I ask.
She looks up from the feline and laughs. “Well not exactly, the whole cast had read the script. So they knew what was going to happen…In theory at least. Sigourney Weaver my actress and the woman who played Lambert, Veronica Cartwright, had even gone to a prop warehouse and had seen the actual chest buster that would be used in the scene. But no one was allowed to see Hurt get set up with the prosthetics, so everyone was taken back by amount of blood that was used, and how shockingly realistic it was. They knew what was coming but did not really know what to suspect. So yes in a lot of ways the cast actions are authentic…That scene by the way was done in one take with four camera rolling simultaneously.”
“Now the ending was not the one originally written right?”
“No it wasn’t” She explains. “Originally the alien kills me and then records my ‘sole survivor’ message on the radio using my voice. This would have changed things greatly. It would have changed the aliens form shark like beast forced to kill because of their genetics, too well… super criminals.” She then laughed. “And would have prevented me from being n any of the sequels.”
I cough not sure how to phrase the next question. “In the end of the original movie, you dart of from the escape pod to get the cat. Well isn’t it kind of out character?”
Ripley shrugs and goes back to petting Jones. “Yes, honestly it is kind of duse ex machima. It is a reason for me not getting killed off with the rest of the surviving crew. People said the same thing when I risked aborting the escape to go back for Newt, in Aliens. But that makes more sense, her being a child and all, also there is a deleted scene, where I talk about my daughter who would have been Newts age when I left on the Nostromo. So yes it is a little out of chachters but it needed to be there to continue the story.”
“OK, another thing I never understood is how did all of a sudden in Alein3, you become a lieutenant in the Navy?”
Again she laughs. “OK, the Nostromo was obviously a civilian ship. In the Allen Dean Foster novelization I was a warrant officer. That is presumably a position not a rank, as the book describes a warrant officer’s responsibly is for the ship’s cargo. I am the Third officer that puts me pretty much smack in the middle of the crew’s totem pole, somewhere between the officers and the workers. In Aliens I am reinstated to flight status, but still a civilian. It is obvious when it comes to command that Hicks outranks me and he is only a corporal. The lieutenant rank was obviously something given me as a courtesy rank for that mission and had no authority with the title, the Marines didn’t even acknowledge it. The ex-prisoners on the planet where we crashed into just found it in my data and assumed the title was real.”
“In the eighties and nineties Dark Horse comics created a very rich EU for the Alien franchise, what are some of your feelings about that?”
“Well it was very complete. It took off from where the movie Aliens left off. It created this dark universe where a corporations are so in bed with the government that they practically run the show. The Earth gets over run by Aliens but eventually it is taken back. It tells the story of not only me, but Hicks and Newt as well as a whole new cast of chachters. Unfortunately with all three of us being killed off in Alien3, the whole thing got relegated to an alternitve universe. Eventually DH changed Newt and Hicks into different chachters named Billie and Wilkes in new stories and reprints. And some of my stories make me an android clone, but all in all it was a great world that fell apart when interest in the movies declined. But Dark Horse is in some ways resurrecting it now that their big EU is going back to Marvel.”
“How did Aliens and Predator get put together?” I ask. “I mean one is set in the future in space and the other on present day Earth.”
“Well.” She muses. “It really was Dark Horse. Comics. They owned the listens for both and thought they could get two fandoms buying the same comic. They eventually even through in Terminator into the mix.”
“Of everything you done, isn’t the greatest getting your own automtronic robot in a Disney Ride?” I ask.
She smiles and says. ”Well that is pretty cool. I am a featured in the Disney Great Movie Ride an honor I share with the likes of Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz, so yes it is pretty cool.”
“So tell me about Operation:Aliens?” I ask.
She laughs hardily. “Ok in the eighties they made a whole bunch of Alien inspirited action figures. This was during the time of GI Joe and The Transformers, so you couldn’t make a toy line without a cartoon. So someone thought it would be a good idea to make a kids cartoon based on the Alien franchise. It had everyone from Aliens even those who were killed. But get this it had Alpone and Hudson talking about the LV-426 mission like it happened but they didn’t get killed. Eventually someone got a brain and decided an R rated horror/action movie was not the best idea for a kid’s Saturday morning cartoon and the whole thing but the toy line got scraped.”
“OK, this really bothers me. The chest busters don’t eat but they grow in size how can an organism increase in mass without taking on more bio matter to grow?”
She looks shocked and replies. “I think you are way over thinking this. It is a movie. Yes they breathe in space and have an absurdly complicated growth cycle, but it is a movie. Sure dark Horse came up with some theories about who they could exist in our world like they are a living battery with a silicone exo-sckelton and acid blood. But the honest answer is it is a movie, it doesn’t have…”
Then a red light comes on an alarm. Wordily she looks at the cat. “We got intruders we need to get out of here.”
Not wanting a face hugger to ram a chest buster in to my gut, I stop the interview and follow her off to the life pod.