20 Things You Didn’t Know About the ‘Alien’ Franchise

Some fun and fascinating facts from 'Alien,' 'Aliens,' and more.

This weekend, the second chapter in Ridley Scott’s prequel/sequel Alien franchise arrived in theaters. Alien: Covenant finds the crew of a colony ship bound for a remote planet, but their journey is disrupted when a strange signal beckons them to a planet that seems too good to be true. Scott’s alien world can seem a little complicated given the original films, Scott’s prequel plans, and the short films that were part of a viral marketing campaign. We break down some fun and fascinating facts from Alien, Aliens, and Prometheus to help you go deeper into the Alien myth.

1. Some of the facehuggers in Alien were made from shellfish, oysters, and sheep kidneys. Shredded condoms were used for the tendons of the alien’s giant jaws. The alien eggs were made from cattle hearts, stomachs, and sheep intestine. The alien slime was made from K-Y jelly. The crew created 130 alien eggs for the egg chamber inside the spacecraft.

2. Creature designer H.R. Giger’s original illustrations of the aliens had eyes, but he removed them for the film giving them a terrifying appearance.

3. It took only one take, but four cameras to film the chestbursting scene in Alien.

4. H.R. Giger’s first designs for the facehugger were detained by US Customs, because they were so scary. The final design for the facehugger was actually created by screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. Giger’s initial design for the chestburster didn’t fly with director Ridley Scott who felt it looked like a “plucked turkey” instead of the phallic, birdlike creature Giger intended — which he based on Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.

5. Ellen Ripley was almost played by Meryl Streep instead of Sigourney Weaver. From Blastr:

Alien franchise producer Gordon Carroll says, in an interview segment that never made it into the main documentaries either on the DVD or Blu-ray editions, that “We had a casting girl working for us named Mary Goldberg—she told us that there were two women we should see in New York that she thought would be perfect [for ‘Ripley’]. One who had done some films, but had not broken through as yet, and the other was a young girl who had not made a movie as yet. The first woman was Meryl Streep. Meryl’s long-time companion had just died, and I did not feel that she should be asked to come in from the country. It had just happened the day before … we could see her another time. The other woman was, of course, Sigourney Weaver.”

Weaver nailed the part thanks to her successful screen test performance of the films’ speech in the final scene.