Aliens (1986)

R | 137 mins | Science fiction | 1986

Full page view
HISTORY

According to a 24 Jul 1986 LAT article, the sequel to Alien (1979, see entry) was delayed by a legal dispute between the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Alien producers David Giler, Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll, who sued the studio over the distribution of profits made on the 1979 film. In spring 1983, Fox settled the lawsuit by agreeing to put the Alien sequel into development, thereby giving the production team the opportunity to generate more income from the venture, but various Fox producers claimed that the studio was furtively opposed to producing the film for fear it would be too expensive. However, Fox executives denied their reluctance to finance the picture after the successful release of Aliens , which cost nearly $18.5 million before prints and promotion, but generated over $10 million in its opening weekend, alone, according to a 23 Jul 1986 HR article.
       As stated in LAT , writer-director James Cameron was hired to write a treatment for the Alien sequel in the summer of 1983 after a filmmaker at executive producer David Giler’s company, Phoenix Co., read Cameron’s screenplay for The Terminator (1984, see entry). According to an 11 Jul 1986 LAT article, Cameron saw Alien on its opening night at a theater in Orange County, CA, where he worked as a truck driver. Cameron told LAT that he was struck with the audience’s response to the picture and dreamed of being able to evoke such emotion through his own work. Although Cameron was ... More Less

According to a 24 Jul 1986 LAT article, the sequel to Alien (1979, see entry) was delayed by a legal dispute between the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Alien producers David Giler, Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll, who sued the studio over the distribution of profits made on the 1979 film. In spring 1983, Fox settled the lawsuit by agreeing to put the Alien sequel into development, thereby giving the production team the opportunity to generate more income from the venture, but various Fox producers claimed that the studio was furtively opposed to producing the film for fear it would be too expensive. However, Fox executives denied their reluctance to finance the picture after the successful release of Aliens , which cost nearly $18.5 million before prints and promotion, but generated over $10 million in its opening weekend, alone, according to a 23 Jul 1986 HR article.
       As stated in LAT , writer-director James Cameron was hired to write a treatment for the Alien sequel in the summer of 1983 after a filmmaker at executive producer David Giler’s company, Phoenix Co., read Cameron’s screenplay for The Terminator (1984, see entry). According to an 11 Jul 1986 LAT article, Cameron saw Alien on its opening night at a theater in Orange County, CA, where he worked as a truck driver. Cameron told LAT that he was struck with the audience’s response to the picture and dreamed of being able to evoke such emotion through his own work. Although Cameron was a movie fan, he had never before worked in production, but soon found a job at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures as a special effects technician, and, eventually, an art director, for Battle Beyond the Stars (1980, see entry). While working on the picture, Cameron met producer Gayle Anne Hurd, who was a production executive at New World.
       When Cameron was approached by Fox to write a treatment for an Alien sequel, he was reluctant because he considered the original a “’perfect movie,’” and told the studio that instead of duplicating Alien , he would create a “stylistic hybrid” between Alien and The Terminator . As noted in LAT , The Terminator had not been produced at this time and Fox was hesitant to hire Cameron as a director. He had only recently made his directorial debut with Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), an Italian picture that had a limited release in the United States, and had not yet proved his marketability. Cameron told LAT that directing Piranha II was such an unpleasant experience, it made him physically ill, and as he suffered a 106 degree fever in Rome, he had a dream that inspired The Terminator . After selling The Terminator script to Hurd, the production was put on hold as they waited for actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to complete work on another picture, and, in the interim, Cameron wrote the Aliens treatment while negotiating a “conditional deal” with Fox to direct it.
       According to the 24 Jul 1986 LAT article, Cameron completed a forty-two page treatment in three days, then delivered his vision for the Alien sequel to Fox in the fall of 1983, but the studio did not move forward on the project. Cameron told LAT that a Fox executive complained there was too much “horror” and not enough “character development” in the treatment, and the studio nearly sold the Alien sequel rights to Mario Kassar and Andrew Vanja, producers of the Rambo series.
       Cameron noted in the 11 Jul 1986 LAT article that he was preoccupied with Aliens while working on The Terminator , and stated: “I was thinking of Terminator as a movie no one would see, so I could work on some of the things that I would use on Aliens .” Cameron added that he saw The Terminator as a “good dry run” to get scenes “worked out so I’ll know how to do it.” Much to Cameron’s surprise, The Terminator was a success and his directorial role in Aliens was secured.
       When producer Lawrence Gordon became president of Fox, the project was revived in Jul 1984. Gordon previously worked with Aliens executive producer Walter Hill on 48 Hrs. (1982), which Hill wrote and directed, and, after reading The Terminator script, he followed Hill’s recommendation of hiring Cameron for Aliens . According to LAT , Cameron’s completed script for Aliens was submitted to Fox only hours before a Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike was set to begin, and although it was approved, the film’s budget was disputed by Fox and Hurd. Although Hurd budgeted the picture for $15.5 million, Fox determined her plan would cost $35 million and tried to impose their own $12 million budget. In response, Cameron and Hurd left the project, but Cameron told LAT that Gordon convinced Fox chairman Barry Diller to accept Hurd’s proposal and noted: “Unquestionably, this was Larry’s picture.”
       Despite their victory over the film’s budget, Cameron and Hurd quit the project again in Apr 1985 when Fox refused to publicly announce that actress Sigourney Weaver was the only person under consideration for the role of “Ripley,” which she played in Alien . While Fox feared that Weaver’s salary would be highly inflated if her agent knew she was irreplaceable, Cameron and Hurd maintained that they would not make the film without her. Meanwhile, Cameron and Hurd married and honeymooned in Hawaii, and, when they returned, Weaver was hired at the highest rate of her career, according to LAT , with a salary of $1 million plus a percentage of the film’s grosses.
       As stated in studio production notes from AMPAS library files, production began 30 Sep 1985 at Pinewood Studios in London, UK, and at the Acton Lane Power Station, which was a large, vacated building in West London. A Screen International news item, however, reported that principal photography started on the day of its publication, 5 Oct 1985, and noted that Weaver had completed work on Half Moon Street (1986, see entry) two days prior to starting Aliens . According to production notes, the Acton Lane Power Station was a former coal generator and provided the set for the film’s Atmosphere Processing Station as well as housing the set for the Armored Personnel Carrier. Hurd insisted on keeping the production centralized in London in order to ensure the film would be completed in time for a 1986 release. Although Var stated on 12 Feb 1986 that principal photography was complete, a 26 Mar 1986 Var news item reported that the film was still in production as an explosion on a set at Pinewood injured two special effects technicians.
       A 13 Nov 1985 Var news item announced that James Renmar was set to star in the role of “Corporal Hicks,” but he was later replaced by Michael Biehn, who had played a lead in The Terminator .
       According to the 24 Jul 1986 LAT article, Fox was troubled by the two hour, seventeen minute duration of the finished film because it would reduce the number of possible daily screenings from five to four, significantly cutting into the film’s potential box-office gross. However, Cameron and Hurd refused to edit twelve minutes from the film, the minimum amount of time required to make the picture accessible for an additional daily screening. LAT stipulated that although Fox lost income on the film’s screenings, their acquiescence encouraged Cameron to sign a two picture deal with the studio before Aliens was released. As Cameron was entitled to negotiate a more lucrative contract in the wake of the film’s box-office success, Fox ultimately benefitted financially from allowing Cameron to maintain the disputed twelve minutes of screen time. As reported in HR on 23 Jul 1986, the opening weekend grosses would have been increased by over $4 million if the picture had a shorter running time.
       Shortly before the film’s release, Fox boosted its circulation of 70 mm prints to 151, causing the larger format copies to represent 11% of the 1,400 prints booked at theatres nationwide. As stated in a 14 Jul 1986 HR news item, a Fox executive called the decision “one of the largest commitments ever made by a studio to release in 70 mm format.”
       A 7 Feb 1986 DV news item reported that Fox filed a lawsuit against special effects company L. A. Effects Group, Inc., alleging that the company failed to complete the effects stipulated in their $2 million contract. On 20 Jun 1986, just weeks before the film’s release, HR announced that L. A. Effects Group was suing Fox for $20 million, accusing the studio of copyright infringement of a model they built for the “colony complex.” A 1 Aug 1990 DV news item reported another lawsuit filed against Fox, this time by Weaver, Cameron, Hurd, and the film’s executive producers Hill, Giler and Carroll. The claimants alleged that Fox avoided paying their full compensations by excluding a portion of the film’s revenues in banking statements and by making “improper expense deductions.” Additionally, Fox allegedly provided faulty account information and withheld “improper and/or excess reserves” of the film’s profits. As Weaver, Cameron, Hurd and the executive producers had negotiated a percentage of the film’s total box office gross in their contracts, they claimed that Fox intentionally denied them compensation to which they were entitled.
       Although Cameron told LAT on 24 Jul 1986 that he did not intend to make another film in the Alien series, Fox reportedly started development on a third picture as early as Jul 1986. Director David Fincher’s Alien 3 (see entry) was released in 1992 with Carroll, Giler and Hill producing.
       Aliens was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Actress in a Leading Role, Art Direction, Film Editing, Music (Original Score) and Sound. The film won two Academy Awards: Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. Weaver was also nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.
       The end credits include the following text: “The Producers gratefully acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of: Seiko, Recaro, Grid Systems Corp., Lasergage, Mel + Philips USFA, ESAB Automation, Wes Containers, Thorn-EMI Electronics, BOC, Omega, Effects Associates, Vickers Medical, Ferranti Defense Systems, Caterpillar, Peter Aston/Model Effects Ltd., E.M.A. Model Supplies, Karamya Components, The Central Electricity Generating Board.”
       When the end credits conclude, the following text appears onscreen: “Made by Twentieth Century Fox Productions Ltd. at Pinewood Studios, London, England, with location sequences filmed at Acton Lane Power Station, London, England.”



The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Austin Hodaie, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1986.
---
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1986
p. 3, 33.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1986
p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1986
p. 1, 26.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1986
p. 1, 6.
New York Times
18 Jul 1986
p. 11.
Screen International
5 Oct 1985.
---
Variety
13 Nov 1985.
---
Variety
12 Feb 1986.
---
Variety
26 Mar 1986.
---
Variety
9 Jul 1986
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A James Cameron Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills photog
Cam op
Cam op
Gaffer
Cam focus
Cam focus
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Conceptual des
Conceptual artist
Supv art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Prop master
Prod buyer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus rec eng
Addl synthesizer eff
Addl synthesizer eff
Addl synthesizer eff
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd rec
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Chief dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Sd re-rec by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Alien effects created by
Certain spec visual eff created by
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv, Post prod
Orig alien des
Spec eff supv
Video eff supv
Workshop supv, Spec eff
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Senior spec eff tech
Coord, Creature eff
Coord, Creature eff
Coord, Creature eff
Coord, Creature eff
Coord, Creature eff
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Creature eff crew
Unit prod mgr, Visual eff
Prod secy, Visual eff
Miniatures tech supv, Visual eff
Asst dir, Visual eff
Asst dir, Visual eff
Mechanical armature des, Visual eff
Mechanical armature des, Visual eff
Art dir, Visual eff
Titles and video graphics des, Visual eff
Cam, Visual eff
Cam, Visual eff
Process photog, Visual eff
Process photog, Visual eff
Cam op, Visual eff
Cam op, Visual eff
Spec eff ed, Visual eff
Miniature floor eff supv, Visual eff
Gaffer, Visual eff
Senior spec eff tech, Visual eff
Senior spec eff tech, Visual eff
Senior spec eff tech, Visual eff
Const mgr, Visual eff
Motion control by
Motion control by
Cable-rod actuated puppets by
Teslacoil eff provided by
MAKEUP
Make-up supv
Chief hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, U.S.
Casting, U.S.
Casting, U.S.
Casting, U.K.
Prod supv
Prod controller
Prod accountant
Loc auditor
Unit pub
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod's asst
STAND INS
Double for Newt
Double for Newt
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett.
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 July 1986
Production Date:
began 5 October 1985 in London
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 June 1986
Copyright Number:
PA290806
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
Color
Color by Eastman Kodak; Processing by Rank Film Laboratories
Lenses/Prints
Camera and lenses by Moviecam® supplied by Cinefocus London; Prints by DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
137
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27850
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ripley, a pilot officer, hibernates inside a spacecraft as it docks at Gateway space station. Later, when Ripley wakes, an employee of the “Company” named Carter Burke explains that she was in “hypersleep” for fifty-seven years. At a Company board meeting, Ripley is interrogated about her decision to destroy a $42 million starfreighter. Although Ripley claims she blew up the ship to annihilate the alien that killed her crew, the flight recorder does not corroborate her explanation, and the board is skeptical. Ripley says the alien, which gestates inside human bodies, laid thousands of eggs on the spaceship after it landed on the planet LV-426. When Ripley’s case is closed, she suggests that chairman Van Leuwen send a mission to LV-426 for proof, but he tells her that settlers have populated the planet for twenty years, developing atmospheric processers, and they have never encountered aliens. Sometime later, Burke tells Ripley that the Company has lost contact with the LV-426 colony and asks her to return to the planet with a brigade of marines. Although Ripley initially refuses, she wakes from a recurring nightmare and calls Burke to agree under the condition that the aliens are annihilated, not retained for research. Later, the rescue mission crew, including Ripley and Burke, approach LV-426 and are awakened from hibernation. During their briefing about the mission, the marines are eager for an alien “bug hunt,” but Ripley warns about the impending danger. The crew is dropped to the surface of LV-426 in a transport spaceship furnished with weapons and an armored vehicle. As they approach the deserted central atmospheric processing plant, Burke informs ... +


Ripley, a pilot officer, hibernates inside a spacecraft as it docks at Gateway space station. Later, when Ripley wakes, an employee of the “Company” named Carter Burke explains that she was in “hypersleep” for fifty-seven years. At a Company board meeting, Ripley is interrogated about her decision to destroy a $42 million starfreighter. Although Ripley claims she blew up the ship to annihilate the alien that killed her crew, the flight recorder does not corroborate her explanation, and the board is skeptical. Ripley says the alien, which gestates inside human bodies, laid thousands of eggs on the spaceship after it landed on the planet LV-426. When Ripley’s case is closed, she suggests that chairman Van Leuwen send a mission to LV-426 for proof, but he tells her that settlers have populated the planet for twenty years, developing atmospheric processers, and they have never encountered aliens. Sometime later, Burke tells Ripley that the Company has lost contact with the LV-426 colony and asks her to return to the planet with a brigade of marines. Although Ripley initially refuses, she wakes from a recurring nightmare and calls Burke to agree under the condition that the aliens are annihilated, not retained for research. Later, the rescue mission crew, including Ripley and Burke, approach LV-426 and are awakened from hibernation. During their briefing about the mission, the marines are eager for an alien “bug hunt,” but Ripley warns about the impending danger. The crew is dropped to the surface of LV-426 in a transport spaceship furnished with weapons and an armored vehicle. As they approach the deserted central atmospheric processing plant, Burke informs Ripley that the Company has made a vast investment in the planet’s industry. Heavily armed, the first squad of marines, including Private Vasquez, Private Hudson, Corporal Hicks and Sergeant Apone, enter the building as Ripley surveys video footage transmitted by eye-level cameras attached to their helmets. The soldiers soon find evidence of aliens, but Hicks fails to detect signs of life in his motion sensor. Despite Ripley’s warning, Lieutenant Gorman determines the aliens are gone and commands the remaining crew to enter the building. Inside, they find a “medlab” with aliens preserved in glass. When motion is detected outside, the soldiers prepare for an attack, but instead discover a frightened little girl named Newt. Back in the medlab, Bishop dissects an alien while Hudson detects a congregation of life forms at a nearby processing station. After driving the armored vehicle to the site, a team of marines, including Vasquez, Hudson, Hicks and Apone, find the building covered in a “secreted resin” and soon discover human bodies embalmed within it. One woman, still alive, begs to be killed as an alien bursts from her chest. As Hudson detects another alien, the soldiers are attacked and their communication with Gorman is cut off. Frustrated by Gorman’s incompetence, Ripley takes control of the vehicle and narrowly rescues the few surviving soldiers: Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez. Meanwhile, Gorman hits his head and becomes unconscious. Ripley suggests that they incinerate the planet with a nuclear explosion, but Burke refuses to authorize the plan. When Ripley points out that the mission is a military operation and Hicks is in charge, the corporal orders immediate evacuation and destruction of the plant. Before they can return to the transport spacecraft, however, the ship is attacked by an alien and explodes, leaving the crew stranded. Back at the central plant, Ripley learns it will take seventeen days for a rescue mission to reach them and orders Hudson to find blueprints of the building so they can barricade themselves. Reviewing the plans, the team discovers that aliens are moving from the processing station to the plant through a service tunnel and, after welding the tunnel door shut, Hicks gives Ripley a wristband “locator,” so he can remotely detect her. That night, Ripley puts Newt to sleep in the medlab and gives her the locator, promising not to leave without her. When Bishop tells Ripley about his research, she orders him to kill the alien specimens, but he reports that Burke wants the creatures returned to Company labs alive. Later, Burke explains that the specimens are highly lucrative. Opposing his plan, Ripley says the colony log revealed Burke’s willful neglect to warn settlers about the danger on LV-426 and threatens to implicate him in their deaths. Later, Bishop, an android crew member, shows Ripley and Hicks a malfunctioning ventilation system that will cause the planet to explode in four hours. In a last chance for survival, Bishop offers to commandeer a nearby transmitter so he can remote-pilot a rescue spaceship. After Gorman revives from his injury, Ripley falls asleep with Newt in the medlab, but wakes to find an escaped alien locked inside with them. When Ripley motions for help on the security camera, Burke turns off the monitor. Ripley then uses her cigarette lighter to trigger the fire alarm and as she fights off the alien, Hicks smashes through the window to rescue her. Ripley tells the crew that Burke released the aliens so they would impregnate her and Newt, thereby allowing him to smuggle embryos back to Gateway. Although Hicks wants to kill Burke, the lights go out and Ripley announces that the aliens have cut off the electricity. Using a motion sensor, Hudson detects approaching aliens, and the creatures attack from the ceiling. A battle ensues, leaving Hudson and Burke dead. Following Newt’s directions, the crew escapes through air ducts and Hicks receives a report from Bishop that the rescue ship will land in sixteen minutes. Meanwhile, Vasquez, who is defending the team from behind, is injured and Gorman runs to her aid. Realizing he and Vasquez are surrounded, Gorman detonates a grenade, sacrificing their lives to help the others. Further along in the duct, Newt falls down a shaft and Ripley and Hicks follow the signal from her locator. However, before they rescue Newt, an alien captures the girl and Hicks is wounded. As Ripley helps Hicks to the dock, the spacecraft arrives. Ripley orders Bishop to pilot the ship back to the processing plant where the settlers’ bodies were discovered, convinced that it contains the queen alien’s nest and that Newt is still alive within it. With only minutes to spare before the planet explodes, Ripley follows the locator’s signal into the alien nest but only finds the detached wristband until Newt screams for help. After peeling the girl from the resin, Ripley encounters the queen alien, laying eggs. Ripley backs away, setting fire to the nest. As the queen pursues them, Ripley and Newt return to the dock only to find the ship gone. However, Bishop pilots the spacecraft back to his companions and they escape LV-426 as it explodes. Back at the space station, as Ripley commends Bishop, he is impaled and torn in half by the alien queen, who attached herself to the spaceship as it flew away. Unarmed, Ripley attempts to distract the alien from Newt, then fights the creature by operating a human-shaped mechanical loader. Grabbing the alien with the loader’s arm, Ripley tries to throw the beast into an airlock chamber to eject it from the spaceship, but the alien pulls Ripley inside with her. As Ripley climbs out, she opens the outer door of the chamber and the alien is sucked into space. Later, the three survivors, Hicks, Newt and Ripley, hibernate peacefully as the spaceship returns home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.