Aliens 30th Anniversary panel (Comic Con 2016)
Only a few days ago, James Cameron's sci-fi horror classic ALIENS enjoyed its 30th Anniversary. So what better place to talk about and celebrate the film than at San Diego Comic-Con, where movie geeks reign supreme? A good chunk of the main cast was at the panel, as were Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd. While of course no major revelations were to be had, the hour-long panel was just a feel-good time for all appreciators of that classic film. Here are the highlights:
Moderator Anthony Breznican from EW introduced the guests: Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Carrie Henn (Newt), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Paul Reiser (Burke), James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and, of course, Sigourney Weaver, who was absolutely the main focus throughout the panel. Only major figure missing? The Alien Queen herself, who couldn't make it.
- Talking about creating the Alien Queen, Cameron said he and Stan Winston got together in Stan's parking lot to figure out if such a thing could work; the first version of the queen was made with ski polls and garbage bags. The final version ended up being 14 feet tall. This crude test was done only a few months before they all moved to England to begin shooting.
- After noting that she had received an Oscar nomination for playing Ripley in ALIENS, Breznican wondered how much Ripley was in Sigourney and how much of her performance was just "acting?" Apparently, it was all acting. Sigourney can't watch 5 minutes of The Walking Dead (produced by Hurd) because she's so suggestible, she'll start worrying there are zombies in the streets. The character's toughness was partially based on a friend of hers who's an activist, who is unsentimental about things.
- Bill Paxton gave us a "game over, man!" Naturally, that was very much appreciated. Paxton maintains Hudson isn't a coward, Burke is the real coward. He said it was hard to sustain playing a guy who's always scared. He didn't embrace the character at first, he thought Hudson was going to wear out his welcome. Cameron said Hudson was something of comic relief. For his final moments ("You want some of this? C'mon, you bastards!") Bill made up different dialogue on every take, but because of all the machine gun fire they could never figure out what he was actually saying. They spent four hours in ADR trying to recreate his dialogue during post-production.
- The famous knife scene where Bishop takes Hudson's hand and pokes in between all of his fingers was was actually done by Lance Henriksen. That bit - at least where Bishop takes Hudson's hand - was decided on set.
- Noting the previous actor cast as Hicks didn't work out, Biehn was brought in very late to the game. Michael had a comfort level on TERMINATOR. Gale called him and asked if his passport was in order, then asked if he could fly to London and play Hicks. The cast made him feel very welcome. He credits Sigourney with this. Biehn saw the movie a year ago and noted what a nice relationship Ellen and Hicks had. As an actor, he's always wanted to support leading ladies, and he felt that's just what he did in ALIENS.
- Cameron made a joke about Fincher killing off Hicks, said Hicks and Weaver could have gone somewhere in part three.
- Henriksen said he was shaking the first time he saw it. He couldn't even put it into words, so he wanted to write Cameron a letter explaining his thoughts but ultimately never got to it. Cameron joked that's why he hasn't been in another one of his movies.
- Reiser thought his task as an actor was "don't screw the movie up"; he didn't want to be the guy people pointed at for messing it up. He joked Burke was misunderstood when Breznican called Burke one of the all time great villains. Reiser thought it was a little alienating to not be in the boot camp with the rest of the cast during pre-production. He wished he could have had all the cool gear.
- Why was Reiser, generally known for being a stand-up coming, cast as Burke? According to Cameron, Reiser hadn't yet defined himself as a funny actor yet, plus he had done dramatic work; they saw at the audition that he could be sympathetic and charismatic. Reiser didn't think he had the role because he didn't hear anything for four months, but that was only because the production was forced to look at almost every American actor living in England for the role before they could give it to Reiser.
- Oddly, Hurd said they got more notes from the studio about costumes than anything else. (For some reason, Reiser's costume was of particular concern.) It was probably because they couldn't do anything about the rest of what was going on.
- Carrie is a teacher and some of her students watch the movie. She got the role because someone took her picture in a cafeteria. Someone eventually contacted her father and told her that they wanted Carrie to be in a movie. She did a lot of auditions. She got to meet Sigourney already being a fan of GHOSTBUSTERS. They formed a bond quickly and she got the part. Cameron saw in her what we see in the film. He wanted someone who hadn't been "contaminated by the system."
- Cameron evidently never trusted anyone to put blood or slime on the actors' faces but himself. In the scene where Newt is encased in the cocoon and about to get facehuggered (Cameron's word), she apparently said to him: "It should be illegal for you to do this to little kids." The young actress suffered no permanent trauma, thankfully.
- Of course the subject of Neill Blomkamp's proposed ALIENS sequel came up. Blomkamp loved the movies so much. Weaver said four months after she and Blomkamp talked about a new ALIEN movie on the set of CHAPPIE, she received a script. Gives the fans everything they want. She hopes once they do the work they're currently doing they'll return to it.
- Asked why the film has stood the test of time so well, Cameron remarked that there was a perfect synchronicity on set between the cast and their roles. He also said it was a perfect ensemble film and at the center of it all is Sigourney Weaver.
- Hurd claimed the film legitimized sci-fi horror. Without it, so much of what comes to Comic-Con wouldn't exist. (And we can't really argue.)
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