a) Mount Vesuvius explodes
Paul Ibbetson or Ibbo for short, called for a reset.
Ridley knew he had the breakthrough moment okay; the baby alien was nicely soaked in blood and so looked correct for the first moment as the T-shirt rose and the head appeared and could work if cut quickly.
They closed up the T-shirt so only a tiny hole was left, but it meant that the baby alien head would burst through now.
Ridley quietly asked Nicky to add another blood line pointing at the crew at the back, and Nick told him this time he’d make sure the pressure was fully ramped up.
Ridley's idea was to add a second blood line and focus it on the actors and Veronica Cartwright, and it would pay off better than expected.
He was aiming for a hardcore reaction of raw animal fear rather than just actors acting terrified.
The actors perhaps were feeling a little more comfortable now that they had seen the baby alien but they didn't quite know what Ridley had up his sleeve for the next part of the shot
There were five cameras and only a chance for one shot. Ridley had one camera above and so before hand he said to the others "Make sure that no pipe hits the camera, that's the key. Because I can always shoot reactions again, but the blood, I'm not going to do that again"
The cameras rolled when Nick had the setup ready and the dressing was placed to match.
And so the next take, Dallas and Parker are grabbing Kane by the arms to steady him as he lets out a scream.
He has a small hole in his t-shirt about a couple of inches wide
Parker "Just come on"
Dallas defeatedly ask " Just what do we do?"
Ash screeches "Try and control it!"
Dallas says "Get that out of the way" as he shoves a tin can aside from the other side of Kane
A stream of blood runs across Kane's already bloodied t-shirt and then the creature erupts through the shirt splattering John Hurt's face with blood
Dallas yells "Oh shit! "
There was an airline firing off blood from inside the false chest, getting caught in the T-shirt, it splattered John Hurt's face with blood, and when the chest burster was pulled back into the chest, the jet of blood was unimpeded.
Veronica was so interested in what was going on that she leaned too close and suddenly got hit on the face with the blood from the arcing jet, Veronica was informed before hand that she'd get a little blood on her face, but they caught her completely off guard. She just opened her mouth when the blood hit her square in the face.
"Just look at!"
Ian Holm backs away, stepping over the back of the banquette, probably terrified about getting covered in blood, taking cover behind Veronica, but she freaks out waving her hands around screaming to high heavens.
Ian Holm cries out "My god!"
Ridley screams out out "And again Nick! and Again!"
The chestburster goes in and comes out again with another jet of blood coming out in Veronica's direction as she begins screaming in hysterics
Parker cries " Just come on!"
Dallas aimlessly asks "Just what do we do?"
As the blood splatters profusely about the set, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley screams and Captain Dallas who should have been the strong sturdy captain throws himself against the wall, both hands covering his mouth, his eyes wide in terror.
b) Veronica in Trouble
The chestburster came through again. Ian Holm probably feels helpless about helping Veronica and then she recoils in horror, her knees suddenly hit the back of the banquette.
She flipped upside down and her boots were sticking in the air.
The other members of the ships crew are recoiling in horror as they too get splattered with blood which is now spattered all over the wall
A member of the crew calls out " Just check on Veronica that she's alright?"
Afterwards, perhaps Veronica got up by herself or two people pick Veronica up and she was weak-kneed and they had to help her off the set.
She was drenched, all her clothes, sticking to her, and her hair sticking to her with the fake blood.
She was in hysterics, looking white and shaken and was crying as more blood kept flying around.
John's face is absolutely covered in blood, but kept on acting until Ridley called cut
A jet of blood spurts out. The little alien sticks out of the chest and then goes back in again and out
One crew member says "Cut" and then another crew member says "Don't cut! Keep running"
Ridley cries out " And again Nick! Ram it out! Ram it out!", blood spurts across the room one more time.
He was still looking for the perfect moment of creature and blood squirting.
Veronica gets to her feet and staggers out of the direction of the jet.
Someone is calling to Veronica "Veronica, that's right you did it"
Then Ridley yells "Cut it! Cut it! Cut it! Cut it! Cut it! Cut it!"
This was a real reaction from Veronica, a true moment of method acting, as she was beyond playing the character – she was in distress.
Yaphet was mentally blown away, left in shock having been caught off guard by the sudden outburst and explosion of blood.
He noticed how Veronica had been covered in the pig's blood.
John Hatt who was controlling a valve for the blood jets, having witnessed what happened to Veronica, also observed how Harry Dean Stanton was hit , staggered to the back wall and was promptly sick. Surely the actors would have wanted to kill him for the next few minutes since they had no idea how bloody it would be.
With the shot was completed, Ridly softly whispers "cut" and the crew applauds spontaneously.
After Ridley cut the cameras they all stood around in shock, covered in splattered blood.
Two technicians rush over to help Veronica, they lead her slowly off the set like some painful accident victim visibly shaken.
And the actors all went back to their dressing rooms as Nicky set up the next scene in the sequence.
c) After the event
20 minutes later the actors came back, Veronica Cartwright had showered, they fixed her up, put a duplicate costume on her and she looked the same, but a little spooked.
Dan O'Bannon went up to her at a point in time when either she was off to the dressing room to clean up or after she had come back cleaned up and so he said to her, beaming away "That was fantastic, Ronnie. What you did was incredible. Was that all acting?"
Veronica glared at him somewhat spooked "Thanks Dan," she quavers, perhaps even wiping blood from her mouth, "but I really was sort of freaked out"
The stench permeated the set for days. Veronica would gag whenever she would walk in. It was awful, but it definitely helped them remember what was supposed to be happening.
Yaphet went back to his trailer unable to speak, telling himself that his career would be over once the public saw the movie.
The chest burster scene brought tears to his eyes because he couldn't believe this event was happening.
For a couple of weeks since the shooting of the scene, his wife would witness that he would come home having the creeps and he would sit in the room for a couple of hours before he talked to anyone.
Curiously Ron Shusett could look at this response as being that was the moment when they were so into the movie that they were actually scared by this alien's presence and they knew that this wasn't some rubbish movie, and it was going to scare the hell out of everybody.
- O'Bannon: I
don't even know if they're going to leave it in the picture. I
understand they're getting a little bit chicken-hearted in the cut. But
the amount of blood was just unparalleled. I saw Veronica Cartwright
get drenched from head to toe in blood and scream her fool head off and
fall backwards over a table and brain herself
FF: What were they using
O'Bannon: I don't know, artificial blood, not real blood. Then afterwards these two people pick Veronica Cartwright up and she was weak-kneed and they had to help her off the set. She was drenched, all her clothes sticking to her, and her hair sticking to her with red dye and she was near hysterics And 20 minutes later they came back and they had showered her and fixed her up and put a duplicate costume on her and she looked the same, but a little spooked, and I went up to her and said "That was really terrific. Was that all acting?" And she looked at me and she said kind of spooked, she said "Well, I was a little freaked out." I just saw her in Body Snatchers, they just released it, I hadn't been able to see it even though she did it before she did Alien. She was one of the best people in Body Snatchers. (Fantastic Films 10, p29)
- Luke Y. Thompson: Do you remember what it was like doing Alien?
Harry Dean Stanton: Oh, yeah.
Luke Y. Thompson: The story goes, and I never know if this is a true story or not, that when they did the scene where it bursts out of John Hurt, that they didn't tell you guys what was going to happen. Was that true - they didn't tell you?
Harry Dean Stanton: Yeah, that was - that was - actually that was traumatic. Blood running all over everybody...it was - it was a trauma, in real life, as an actor - on screen or off. (www.toplessrobot.com/2013/09/)
- Nick Allder: I
was pumping something in the range of six gallons of blood on each
take, and it went literally all over the set. In fact, it took a good
hour and a half to clean up between takes.
(Cinefex 1, p53)
- Dan O'Bannon: They did about four takes. One of them, one of the blood hoses happened to be angled straight at Veronica Cartwright's face; and as soon as that thing came out of there, this jet of blood, about three feet long, caught her smack in the kisser and knocked her right off her feet. She was drenched from head to toe with artificial blood, and she was screaming - it was pretty convincing. (Cinefex 1, p53)
- Charlie Burkett: And er, I noticed, I noticed the... the scene with the er,
chestburster, the first time we see it, er, the thing, the thing pops
out of there and blood spatters. You were the only one that got hit, it
got all over your face.
Veronica Cartwright: Yes, it did. I leaned right into it.
Charlie Burkett: Bam, I'm sure
Veronica Cartwright: I know
Charlie Burkett: I'm sure
Veronica Cartwright: That was a one off, so, yes, I was told I'd get a little blood on, but of course I didn't know that I would be leaning into it, so
Charlie Burkett: Did you know that that was going to happen?
Veronica Cartwright: Well, I knew that things were happening, I mean, we had all read the script
Charlie Burkett: Right
Veronica Cartwright: So, we , you know, John was downstairs and prepped for four or five hours before we ever went downstairs, and everything was covered in plastic and everyone was wearing raincoats, and big buckets of offal around, so, it was kind of, you were leary going in. So added to it I guess (www.youtube.com/)
- (55:15) John Hurt: You notice when all the blood splashed everywhere that was done with caps, explosive caps, which the cast didn't know about, so they didn't know they were going to be splashed with blood from that distance. They knew that the alien was going to be born now, naturally as I said it was in the script, but they didn't know how it was going to happen. And so there were about five cameras on that. So all those quick cuts from everywhere, were as I said, it was a long long lighting job. But the whole thing was shot in one morning, the whole sequence. But a lot of preparation went into it. (Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy)
- (53:27 / 56:36) Tom Skerrit: This is some serious indigestion going on here
(53:31 / 56:38) Harry Dean Stanton: Yuh, aeroplane food (chuckle)
(53:33 / 56:41) Veronica Cartwright: Remember they had, the, they had the , um, the shirt slightly slit
(53:37 / 56:45) Tom Skerrit: Yeah
(53:38 / 56:46) Veronica Cartwright: And, erm,
(53:38 / 56:46) Tom Skerrit: Yeah
(53:39 / 56:46) Veronica Cartwright: And then they stopped it because it wasn't cut enough and they told me I'd get a little blood on my face and they had an entire jet pointed at me
(53:45 / 56:54) Harry Dean Stanton: And that was the... the strongest
(53:46 / 56:54) Tom Skerrit: Yeah
(53:46 / 56:56) Harry Dean Stanton: Strongest vision I had in the movie when I looked up and saw blood on her face
(53:47 / 56:56) Tom Skerrit: They're off
(53:51 / 57:00) Tom Skerrit: Yuh, yuh. They were out to get her. They were out to get Veronica. Look this
(53:53 / 57:02) Harry Dean Stanton: Then I thought that was for real. Only once I thought was real
(53:56 / 57:05) Tom Skerrit: Look at this, look at the look on Veronica's face, I love this, (00:54:00) she was saying, "what am i doing here?"
(54:03 / 57:12) Harry Dean Stanton: That now, right in there, that's
(54:05 / 57:15) Tom Skerrit: Whoa.... Whoa (sharp intake of breath)
(54:10 / 56:19) Veronica Cartwright: It's those little teeth with the little projectiles.
(54:12 / 57:21) Tom Skerrit: Oh, the smile it had. I'm a scientist, don't touch it
(54:21 / 57:29) Harry Dean Stanton: That Ian
(54:23 / 57:32) Veronica Cartwright: And there.. remember there was a guy on a skateboard, underneath that table
(54:27 / 57:35) Tom Skerrit: Yuh.
(54:27 / 57:35) Veronica Cartwright: There was a cut in the table, and then they had him on a dolly and they WHIPPED him out.
(54:32 / 57:41) Tom Skerrit: Yuh. yuh
(54:34 / 57:42) Veronica Cartwright: It was just, it was like simple stuff, but it just looks so unbelievable
(54:39 / 57:47) Harry Dean Stanton: How many times did we do that?
(54:40 / 57:48) Veronica Cartwright: Remember that
(54:41 / 57:50) Harry Dean Stanton: Two or three
(54:42 / 57:51) Veronica Cartwright: Well no, one time! one time!
(54:42 / 57:52) Tom Skerrit: That was just one time. Yep
(54:44 / 57:53) Veronica Cartwright: It was a one off deal. they started to do it, they realised that the shirt wasn't cut enough, so they needed to go back and do that and that was a one time, and, well like, four cameras, and ah,,,
(54:54 / 58:03) Tom Skerrit: and You were ...
(54:54 / 58:03) Veronica Cartwright: And I got hit in that face, remember, I, I backed up and went like this
(54:57 / 58:06) Harry Dean Stanton: yes, that was my strongest vision in the movie, with blood on her face
(54:58 / 58:07) Veronica Cartwright: And my knees hit the back (00:55:00) of that erm, banquette and I flipped upsidedown and my boots were sticking up in the air.
(55:01 / 58:13)Tom Skerrit: Yeah And you were.....immobile. You were immobilized for four days,
(55:07 / 58:16) Harry Dean Stanton: and I thought it was real
(all three chuckle)(Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy)
- Ron Shusett: Veronica Cartwright - when the blood hit her, she passed out. I heard from Yaphet Kotto's wife that after that scene he went to his room and wouldn't talk to anybody. (Alien Quadrilogy DVD/Blu-Ray commentary)
- Dan O'Bannon: This jet of blood, about 3ft long, caught her smack in the kisser.(Alien Quadrilogy DVD/Blu-Ray commentary)
- Ron Shusett: From that moment on, they were really into it. It wasn't a game. (Alien Quadrilogy DVD/Blu-Ray commentary)
- Yaphet Kotto: Oh man! It was real, man. We didn't see that coming. We were freaked. The actors were all frightened. And Veronica nutted out. (Alien Quadrilogy DVD/Blu-Ray commentary)
- HR Giger: She's xxxxx "Aaaagh!" like that and she, and she, I think she falls. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
- Nicky Allder: And that's where she disappears over the back of the seat, but she got up actually quite green. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
- HR Giger: huh, huh, that was strong. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
- Roger Christian: Ibbo called for a reset. Ridley knew he had the breakthrough moment okay; the baby alien was nicely soaked in blood so looked correct for the first moment as the T-shirt rose and the head appeared and could work if cut quickly. They closed up the T-shirt so only a tiny hole was left, but it meant that the baby alien head would burst through now. He quietly asked Nick to add another blood line pointing at the crew at the back, and Nick told him this time he’d make sure the pressure was fully ramped up.(http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
- Roger Christian: What happened next is better watched on the film than described. Suffice it to say that Ridley’s idea to add a second blood line and focus it on the actors and Veronica Cartwright paid off better than he could ever have expected. The actors were feeling a little more comfortable, as they had now seen the baby alien. The cameras rolled when Nick had the setup ready and the dressing was placed to match. On ‘action’, as the bloody baby alien head burst through Kane’s T-shirt, a massive spurt of blood shot into the air with it. Then another came out like a stream, and horrible as this bloody snarling head was, that one spurt of blood that caught Veronica in the face was far more horrible for her. She screamed in shock, recoiled back against the set, and dropped to the floor out of the shot. The others also got splattered in the fountain of blood, and they all recoiled. Ridley kept on instructing Nick to keep ramming the head through the T-shirt, searching for that perfect moment of creature and blood squirting. Veronica appeared again as she stood up, but looked white and shaken and she was crying as more blood kept flying around. Poor John Hurt was soaked in it, but kept on acting until Ridley called cut. This was a real reaction from Veronica, a true moment of method acting, as she was beyond playing the character – she was in distress. After Ridley cut the cameras they all stood around in shock, covered in splattered blood. And they all went back to their dressing rooms as Nick set up the next scene in the sequence. (http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
- Dan O'Bannon: Veronica Cartwright hadn't noticed that the blood hose was pointing right at her face, and she was just going about her business, saying her lines, sitting on the back of the couch. A split second after Ridley secretly gave the signal, she was drenched, covered head to toe with genuine blood and guts. She balled up her fists, screamed at the top of her lungs and then fell backward behind the couch. For the rest of the scene, all that was visible were her bots with bits of viscera hanging off them. (chuckling) I was delighted. (Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31)
- As the blood splatters profusely about the set, the warrent officer (Sigourney Weaver) screams and the strong sturdy captain (Tom Skerrit) throws himself against the wall, both hands covering his mouth, his eyes wide in terror. (Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31
- The shot completed, Ridly softly whispers "cut" and the crew applauds spontaneously. Two technicians rush over to help Veronica up. They lead her slowly off the set like some painful accident victim visibly shaken. One of the cameramen, Derek Van Lint, rushes to the bathroom clutching his stomach. O'Bannon walks up to Veronica beaming "That was fantastic, Ronnie. What you did was incredible." Veronica glares at him "Thanks Dan" she quavers, wiping blood from her mouth, " but I really was sort of freaked out"(Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31
- Veronica Cartwright: None of us had any idea of what the hell we were supposed to be uptight about. All Ridley told me was that some blood might splatter. They caught me completely off guard. I just opened my mouth when the blood hit me square in the face. It was revolting... disgusting. Derek complimented me later by saying none of it bothered him until he saw my face, then he ran off to throw up. (Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31
- Veronica Cartwright: It was amazing and after that scene the actors reached their performance level . Apparently it put the whole picture in perspective. One told me he didn't understand what the film was about until that moment. The stench permeated the set for days. I would gag whenever I walked in. It was awful, but it sure helped us remember what was supposed to be happening. (Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31
- Ridley Scott: If an actor just acts terrified , he never quite goes over-the-top, and you don't get that look of raw, animal fear. I wanted a hardcore reaction. (The Times, An Alien Invasion, The Times, Interview with Ian Nathan, Saturday, November 29, 2003)
- Yaphet Kotto: When the alien finally emerged it did so in a shower of blood and guts, I was blown away. The sudden outburst and explosion of blood caught me off guard and I was shocked. Veronica was sprayed directly in the face with the pig’s blood, everyone else was stunned, when the scene was over and the cameras stopped. I walked away from all the blood and gore, went to my trailer and was unable to speak. (Source: https://www.facebook.com/kyaphet/posts/1325812447442433?pnref=story)
- Yaphet Kotto: I was certain my career would be over after the public saw the movie. Thank God the movie laid some righteous coins on me. It would help me buy a house and maybe help me to find a new career. But hell what could I do, all I know is acting. The chest scene brought tears to my eyes, you know, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening to me. The end of my career just as it was getting started.(Source: https://www.facebook.com/kyaphet/posts/1325812447442433?pnref=story)
- Ron Shusett: I remember Yaphet Kotto's wife telling me for two weeks after that, he'd come home and he would have the creeps. He would sit in the room for a couple of hours before he talked to any body. That was the moment when they were so into this movie that they could....were scared by the alien's presence, they knew this wasn't some schlock movie, this was going to scare the hell out of anybody. (Alien Saga documentary)
- John Hatt: The rest of the artists did not like the special effects department after this, I think it would be quite fair to say. John Hurt was the only person who knew what was going on and er we had a split table, John sitting in the chair leaning back and a false chest on him, false legs. He had a, while, while he was being set up, he had a glass of red wine on the table beside him and he was probably smoking his Gaulois cigarettes or whatever they were. Erm, he was rigged up with the chest burster and when it came to the filming of it, I was given a little task by a certain Mr Allder, little did I realise that it would make the actors really dislike me for a few minutes, I was in control of the valve with the blood and it was a container about that diameter (nine inches wide?) and about that height (two feet?), probably a bit higher (two and a half feet?) pressurised with the theatrical blood in it. Dave Watkins had been to "Sivilans" (?) Slaughter House and purchased their freshest offal of the day, it was all dressed into the chest cavity and when the little monster came out, I got my tap on the shoulder, open the valve, and gallons of this stuff shot out, all over the set. Veronica Cartwright was sitting literally, instead of sitting in the seat, she was sitting in the background and got about a pint of it in her face and just went straight over the back onto the floor. Harry Dean Stanton copped a fair amount of blood and staggered to the back wall of the set and promptly was rather sick erm, I think, if they could have killed us, they would have at that point because it was a one off shot. They had not been told what was going to happen and how bloody it was going to be, but it was, it was brilliant, erm, and I think just turning that valve on, that was probably one of the whole personal highlights, other than the fact that I actually liked the people. If I had not got on with any of them, it would have been an absolute bonus, but that was good, that was a great shot, great cinema. (Alien Makers documentary)
- CS: And then, a year later, Ridley Scott did that to you again in Alien…
Cartwright: Yeah, with the chestburster scene. That was crazy. We all knew there was going to be a chestburster scene, because it was in the script, but we didn’t know how it was going to be done. So we were left in the dressing rooms upstairs while the FX people got John all packed and ready with all the stuff, you know. So then we came down, everything was covered in plastic and there were these big buckets of offal around; ugh, the smell was just repulsive. Anyway, we were just so fascinated, there were four cameras around us and we all kind of just leaned in to watch it. I was told I might get a little blood on me but I had no idea and I leaned right into a blood jet and, um, my reaction was “Oh my God!” and then I backed up and flipped over the these upright cowboy boots…it was just hysterical really. But I kept going. But it was literally like something out of a Mack Sennett film or something.
Coming Soon: You gotta watch out for those blood jets…
Cartwright: I know, I know. And years later I worked with the special effects guy in another film and he apologized to me (laughs).
Coming Soon: Did you stay in touch with the late John Hurt?
Cartwright: A bit. I saw him in LA doing a play at The Douglas not too long ago and I got to go back and see him. And once in a while I’d get to see him when he came to town. He was a lovely person and it was very sad to hear that he had passed. I’m going to a convention in England and it’s sad that he won’t be there.