We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of the most influential space films ever made, Alien. Imagine if you will, a world where Ridley Scott DIDN’T direct the 1979 science fiction-horror classic, because it almost happened. He was actually the 4th choice to tackle the movie, which was his second feature-length film.
“I was the fourth choice,” Scott told Variety during a recent chat about the 40th anniversary of the film.“You don’t offer Bob [Robert Altman, who was offered the film before Ridley was] ‘Alien’. It’s not his thing, you know?”
“They sent me a script and I read it. I loved it. I was in Hollywood within 32 hours. Once I was there, they said ‘Look, the budget is hovering just under $4 million.’ I did The Duelists for $850,000, so the figures sounded right to me. I said, ‘Well, what I will do first is go back [to London], look at this carefully to see if there’s anything I need to adjust.'”
“I was drawing all day. Then I flew back to L.A. with the boards, and they suddenly saw they had a different kind of movie. The boards told them that. So, that’s the power of being able to visualize. It went up to $8.2, I think. Then we went to $8.6 by the time we finished.”
Obviously you can see from the above doodles that Ridley’s rich imagination translated directly from his page to his screen, especially with the Xenomorph and the space jockey scenes.
“You don’t show the monster too many times because you’ll get used to him and you never want to get used to him — ever. That’s always been my thesis. The best screening room in the world is the space between your ears, which is your brain. So, it’s learning to tap into the human brain to show just so much. Let the brain do a lot of the work. That’s where you start to tap into people’s anxieties.”
A masterful decision that has had lasting resonation for almost all genre films that use this mentality.
“I think ‘Alien’ captured our most primordial fears,” Scott says. “It’s particularly special because it’s not gilded with any characterization other than what you see is what you get — minute by minute with these people. That’s really why a lot of people were scared to death. It’s because they are living in it, minute by minute, and eventually, second by second.”