Alien: Setting up the Chestburster shot

leading from

a) The previous shot
On 2nd August, 1978, the footage preceding the actual effect they'd already shot, involving the chatting and eating and then John Hurt chokes and falls across the table with everybody yelling and grabbing his arms and legs was done the previous afternoon.


Ridley Scott and assistant director Paul Ibbotson (?) with John Hurt


b) Slaughterhouse truck's arrival
On the morning of the 3rd of August , the slaughterhouse truck pulled in to Shepperton Studios early that morning. Its gruesome cargo of blood and entrails was transferred to the hydraulic tanks outside the soundstage. Several large hoses were run inside to the set of the Nostromo's dining area

c) Dan gets his ringside seat
Dan O'Bannon arrived as the hoses were being secured and planted himself on the set, out of camera range, but where he could still see all the action. A lot of other people on the crew who really weren't involved in the scene started showing up, all staking out their strategic spots around the set and waiting. This was where the real show was, and everybody wanted a ringside seat. Ron Cobb felt as if it were like being packed into a room as if on location on the Nostromo as if it were really a spaceship. This was a pivotal scene, just about the most perverse thing that he could cook up, with all the changes that they had made, he hoped that they weren't going to mess with it and luckily they didn't. As Ron Cobb looked around he noticed how everyone seemed to be involuntarily shaking with fear. His idea was that it was frightening, not because of what they were going to see rip its way out of John Hurt's chest but because they were scared to death it wouldn't work and if this scene looked ridiculous, the film production would surely have collapsed.


Spectators in the distance


d) Setting up and protecting the cameras
Ridley Scott, the cameramen and the special effects team were rigging the scene for an afternoon shoot. Three camera setups were necessary to cover the shot simultaneously from different angles. This was going to be one of those things that couldn't be done twice. Each camera was then covered with plastic tarpaulins for protection and each lens covered with optical flat glass. The entire process took all morning, but by the time the actors were brought in after lunch, everything was in place, the machinery had been turned on and the entire crew had put coveralls over their clothes.

John Hurt preparing for the shot armed with a glass of wine and a Gauloises cigarette


e) John Hurt's arrival
John Hurt was taken down from the dressing room in the morning to be prepared for the shot perhaps for four hours, while Art Director Les Dilley prepared the chestburster.

They were removing the dressing on the table, careful to Polaroid exactly as it was left after the previous setup. They had to replace everything around John to match the last take, or objects would jump in the cut. The panel in the top of the table was removed and they set the false chest into place. John kind of lounged on the chair under it on a cushion so that he was correctly positioned. He lay there throughout the long process of the setup. He had to be in position the entire time as everything was geared to him being able to move his arms and head, while the effects boys moved the false chest piece in sync with him. The assistants plied him with glasses of wine and kept lighting up his favourite Gauloises cigarettes. He kept smoking and drinking, unable to see what they were doing below the table, smiling and joking as the assistant filled his tumbler to keep him happy. (Years later, SFX magazine were keen to spread the extreme story that he had been required to lay still for nearly 24 hours while. He was spoon-fed and attached to a genuine astronaut's waste disposal unit as he lay waiting for the scene to be shot.) Hurt remembered that it was a long long lighting job and finally the scene was shot in one morning.

f) John in an S shape bend
John had his head pushed up with foam rubber cushions behind him which weren't very comfortable as his body is bent in an S shape underneath the table with his head canted back at an angle, sticking out from the head end of an artificial chest made from fibreglass with a hole in it which is screwed to the table and his t-shirt stretched over it. The chest cavity allowed the special effects people enough freedom of movement to get the mechanisms in there. They needed quite of lot of leverage because they they had to actually burst through the fabric and the layers of structures, bones and all the other things that were in there. Nicky Alder had fixed it on top of a hydraulic ram and so they would use a series of pneumatic arms and levers which had tremendous force
 
g) Chestburster in a Bag
Roger Dicken walked in with the chestburster puppet in a bag under his arm because Ridley didn't want anyone to see the alien. Roger Dicken in overalls and goggles had to crush beneath the table with John Hurt, squeezing in with other members of the team controlling the blood lines and pumps, and felt as if they were all legs and feet and kicking each other in the teeth and there was little alien chestburster, and lying on John's lap, Roger was supposed to push the puppet through the hole in the chest.

Roger Dicken under the table with chestburster, while drinking his tea


h) Actors waiting upstairs
Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm were kept upstairs in the dressing rooms for four or five hours, Harry Dean played his guitar in the hallway, while somehow Tom Skerrit came down to watch Ridley and his crew setting it up. The rest of them knew because of the script that the alien was going to be born now, but they didn't exactly know how it was going to happen.

i) Preparing for Mount Vesuvius
Ridley had four cameras running. Two guys, technicians, were under the table with a compressed blood machine.

Dan noticed all the actors looked real uneasy when they walked onto the set with dazed expressions, eyes suddenly became big, and their faces dropped with their mouths gaping, looking from the hoses to the pipes, plastic sheeting and coveralls, listening to the roar of the pump, it looked like they were trying to prepare for an erupting mount Vesuvius. Yaphet wondered why the production crew were looking at them the way they were and why they were wearing plastic covers, plastic goggles and medical caps. Veronica was wary of what was going on too.


j) The Stench
Ridley, Nicky Allder and Roger Christian talked about making this scene more shocking, Ridley had decided to add bits of intestines, liver, stomachs, and any offal that they could source around the baby alien. Nicky had done this before, and Roger had too when trying to make an operation look authentic using a false prosthetic. Ridley immediately wanted it to look like the baby alien had launched its way out of Kane’s chest through his lungs and heart if he could, and knew that adding bits of fat and gristle around the puppet would further disguise the possibility it could be seen as just that – a puppet. Roger sent one of the team to the local abattoir to fetch a bag full of bloody animal innards. The buyer returned clutching a plastic bag full of liver, intestines, kidneys, and lungs – whatever organs they could find. This was washed so that it was sanitary, but still smelt. It was sanitised in formaldehyde, which in itself smelt bad, making the set smell like an operating theatre. And so around the place there were buckets filled with kidneys, livers and intestines of a cow that they used to stuff the chest of the chest piece under which John Hurt lay. And the stench was terrible . Sigourney couldn't bear it, it made Veronica gag, and the formaldehyde stench hit Yaphet like a fist.

They redressed the table as it was. Then, when that was approved by the continuity lady, they made sure everything matched the dinner table contents to the Polaroids she had taken. Ridley was ready to film. The chestburster rig was primed and set. Paul Ibbetson called the actors down, ready in makeup and costume to shoot right away.


k) Sigourney's horror
Nobody said a word, but Sigourney looked really scared. Dan O'Bannon looked at Sigourney, he saw her face as she looked at the tarpaulin, coveralls, cameras and the people wearing black raincoats, she seemed to go a little shaky. Roger was sure that they actors suspected something, he could see that they were nervous and unsure what to expect.

There was also the fact that she saw John Hurt was half buried in the table with cameras set up all around him, while his false body was was lying spread out across the table with a blood stained t-shirt from the last setup, and seeing him not whole upset Sigourney, and there were all of these hoses. he special-effects crew was bent under the table, and the set was pretty hot already from the lights setup. 

Sigourney could see that both Dan and Ron sitting in the back in corner were grinning excitedly like kids before Christmas. Roger noticed the two were there watching, talking, as were other people, adding to the sense that something was about to happen.

Ron could see that Sigourney looked very scared and he thought "Boy, she's really getting in character"

Ron Shusett spoke out to Sigourney "You're really getting into character."

She replied, "No, I have a feeling I'm going to be pretty repulsed right now. I know what's going to happen live because the cameras have cellophane over them. There's going to be a lot of blood, isn't there"

"Yes" replied Ron



Quote sources
  1. Dan O'Bannon: It took a long time to set up the shot, and except for John Hurt, none of the actors were allowed on the set. The footage preceding the actual effect they'd already shot - all yakkety-yak and eating, and then John Hurt choking and falling across the table with everybody yelling and grabbing his arms and legs. They did all that the previous afternoon. The next day they were going to take it from that point on, and a lot of people on the crew who really weren't involved in the scene started showing up, myself included. We all staked out strategic spots around the set and waited - everybody wanted to watch. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  2. The slaughterhouse truck pulled in to Shepperton Studios early that morning. Its gruesome cargo of blood and entrails was transferred to the hydraulic tanks outside the soundstage. Several large hoses were run inside to the set of the Nostromo's dining area.(Alien Portfolio)
  3. Dan O'Bannon arrived as the hoses were being secured and planted himself on the set, out of camera range, but where he could still see all the action. "I wanted a ringside seat. This was a pivotal scene, just about the most perverse thing I could cook up. "O'Bannon remembers gleefully" and I was hoping against hope they weren't going to mess with it."(Alien Portfolio)
  4. Ridley Scott, the cameramen and the special effects team were rigging the scene for an afternoon shoot. Three camera setups were necessary to cover the shot simultaneously from different angles. This was going to be one of those things that couldn't be done twice. Each camera was then covered with plastic tarps for protection and each lens covered with optical flat glass. The entire process took all morning, but by the time the actors were brought in after lunch, everything was in place, the machinery had been turned on and the entire crew had put coveralls over their clothes.(Alien Portfolio)
  5. Dan O'Bannon: The actors were overwhelmed, it was only the fourth week of shooting and nothing of much consequence has been filmed. The script was still in a state of flux and the actors hadn't yet gotten a firm hold on what was happening with their characters... Well , they walked onto the set with dazed expressions, mouths gaping, looking from the hoses to the pipes, plastics , coveralls... listening to the roar of the pump. It looked as if Vesuvius was about to erupt. " (Alien Portfolio)
  6. Brian Johnson: Poor John Hurt, had to lay on foam rubber pads which weren't very comfortable, with his head canted back at an angle. We used John Hurt's real head and built up a chest cavity that allowed us enough freedom of movement to get the mechanisms in there. You had to have quite a lot of leverage because we had to actually burst through the fabric and the layers of structure, bones and all the other things that were in there. We used a series of pneumatic arms and levers which had tremendous force. (Starlog, October 1979)  
  7. SFX: Hurt had been required to lay still for nearly 24 hours, while Art Director Les Dilley prepared the chest-burster. He was spoon-fed and attached to a genuine astronaut's waste disposal unit as he lay waiting for the scene to be shot (SFX Magazine, Oxtober 1999, p50)  
  8. Sigourney Weaver: As I walked on the set, I remember everyone was wearing raincoats, which should have given me a hint that something horrible was going to happen (SFX Magazine, Oxtober 1999, p50) 
  9. Ron Shusett (executive producer/ screenwriter): Ridley didn't tell the cast. He said, "They're just going to see it."  ( Empireonline)
  10. Veronica Cartwright (Lambert): We read the script. They showed us a mock-up, but they didn't show how it was going to work. They just said, "Its head will move and it's going to have teeth." ( Empireonline)
  11. Weaver: All it said in the script was, "This thing emerges."( Empireonline)
  12. Ridley Scott (director): The reactions were going to be the most difficult thing. If an actor is just acting terrified, you can't get the genuine look of raw, animal fear.( Empireonline)
  13. Cartwright: They take John down in the morning to prep him and we're upstairs for four hours. We're sitting upstairs and nobody knows what the hell is going on. Harry Dean [Stanton] is sitting in the hall playing his guitar.( Empireonline)
  14. Scott: Prosthetics in those days weren't that good. I figured the best thing to do was to get stuff from a butcher's shop and a fishmonger. ( Empireonline)
  15. Dan O'Bannon (executive producer/screenwriter): Once the creature was rigged up, they stuffed the chest cavity full of organs from the butcher's. Then they ran a couple of big hoses to pump the stage blood. During all this Ridley moved about, tending to the finest detail. I remember easily half an hour was spent with him draping this little piece of beef organ so it would hang out of the creature's mouth.( Empireonline)
  16. Scott: We had an artificial chest screwed to the table. John was underneath: it was an illusion his neck was attached to the body( Empireonline)
  17. Cartwright: When they finally take us down, the whole set is in a big plastic bag and everybody is wearing raingear and there are huge buckets around. The formaldehyde smell automatically made you queasy. And John is lying there.( Empireonline)
  18. Weaver: Everyone was wearing raincoats - we should have been a little suspicious. And, oh God, the smell. It was just awful.( Empireonline)
  19. Shusett: He had four cameras running. Two guys, technicians, were under the table with a compressed blood machine. Nobody said a word, but Sigourney looked really scared. I said, "You're really getting into character." She said, "No, I have a feeling I'm going to be pretty repulsed right now." ( Empireonline)
  20. Ron Shusett: And I see Sigourney looks really scared, I thought "Boy, she's really getting in character" I said "Good, Sigourney, you're really up for this. " She said "No, I'm pretty scared. I know what's going to happen live because the cameras have cellophane over them. There's going to be a lot of blood, isn't there?" "yes" (Alien Saga documentary)
  21. Yaphet Kotto (Parker): We were all wondering what the hell was going on. Why is the crew looking at us the way they're looking at us right now? Why are they wearing plastic shields?
  22. (52:52 / 55:59) Tom Skerrit: I remember coming in to watching Ridley setting this thing up with John, so I kind of some idea of what the mechanics were, and I don't think that (00:53:00) anybody else and you guys had gone in there.
    (53:02 / 56:08) Veronica Cartwright: No, they wouldn't let us, they kept us upstairs in those dressing rooms for hours

    (53:05 / 56:11) Tom Skerrit:Well, I was down there watching it and er, the look you get on Veronica's face is the real thing, she had no idea what was going to happen. Ridley used some rather uncomplimentary intestines of animals I think (Harry Dean Stanton chuckles)

    (53:20 / 56:27) Veronica Cartwright:Well, there were huge buckets of offal around and...
    (53:23 / 56:30) Tom Skerrit: Yeaaaaah,
    (53:23 / 56:31) Veronica Cartwright: But what was there, three cameras? Three or four cameras.
    (53:25 / 56:34) Tom Skerrit: Yeah. This is
    (53:27 / 56:35) Veronica Cartwright: Then they rigged them.
    (Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy)
  23. DGA Quarterly: That great shot in Alien (1979), when the monster erupts out of John Hurt's stomach, how did you do that?
    Ridley Scott: It was basically a glove puppet. [Designer] Roger Dicken walked in with it in a bag under his arm, because I didn't want anyone to see the alien. In the scene John Hurt is having his breakfast and chokes and they flop him onto the table. I had a chest made out of fiberglass with a hole in the middle and a T-shirt on it, and I screwed it to the table. John was there with his head pushed up with rubber cushions behind him, and at some point Roger, lying in his lap, was supposed to push the puppet through the hole.
    DGA Quarterly: Seriously?
    Ridley Scott: Believe me, it's pretty basic. Roger goes wham, and the T-shirt doesn't go. And I'm saying, 'Cut Cut Cut,' because I've got air lines with pipes everywhere to shoot blood all over the cast. It's five cameras and one shot. One take. That's it. And I have one camera above and I said, make sure 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. And then I go in and I have to slit the T-shirt on the surface with a razor blade. And John's lying there going, 'Come on, mate.' He's drinking white wine, so I give him a drink to keep him calm. I go again and it was historical. I've got all the continuity books of that, every page has got Polaroids of what's going on, plus all the handwritten line changes, and there's blood all over the scripts. These are incredible documents. (http://www.dga.org/)
  24. Tom Skerrit: I remember the... the indigestion scene, and watching them light this thing and set it up, it was president setting there was nothing else  quite like this, I saw the simplicity of the design, how it was doing, simple ramp, guy underneath, pushing the, this up,  the eruption occurred, so I saw how all that was going to happen. This one (Veronica Cartwright sitting next to him) kept herself innocent of it. The other guys had some kind of odd idea of what was going to happen, so I knew what was going to happen. Now I also knew that Ridley had ordered new entrails of a cow and the blood to go with it
    Veronica: And there were buckets of formaldehyde
    Jay the Stingray: And you didn't know that you were going to get the blood splattered on you, correct?
    Veronica: Well, what happened was, we were up in the room for five hours, or at least I was, we were up, and and, Harry Dean Stanton was playing guitar, we didn't quite know what was going on, and it seemed like hours that we were up there, and we came downstairs and everything was covered in plastic and they were wearing raincoats and there was plastic on the cameras and you gagged when you walked into that plastic room, I mean with all the guts and stuff that they stuffed John with that was sitting in buckets that were all over the thing. Erm, we, we read the scripts, we knew something was coming out of his chest. Erm, they told me I'd get a little blood on myself. I did not know that I had a jet pointed at my face, and myself being so intrigued by what was going on leaned directly into it. Yes, that was a shock.
    Jay the Stingray: And that scene goes down in history as one of the most iconic scenes of all time.
    (Alien Panel Discussion With Tom Skerritt & Veronica Cartwright)
  25. Dan O'Bannon: It took a long time to set up the shot, and except for John Hurt, none of the actors were allowed on the set. The footage preceding the actual effect they'd already shot - all yakkety-yak and eating, and then John Hurt choking and falling across the table with everybody yelling and grabbing his arms and legs. They did all that the previous afternoon. The next day they were going to take it from that point on, and a lot of people on the crew who really weren't involved in the scene started showing up, myself included. We all staked out strategic spots around the set and waited - everybody wanted to watch. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  26. Dan O'Bannon: They'd already cut a hole in the table so John Hurt could get underneath and put his head and arms out. They they put his false chest up over him that was made of fiberglass, with a big round hole cut in the middle of it and slots to fit over his shoulders. For John to get himself into a configuration where it looked natural - his shoulders and arms and head in relation to that chest - he really had to twist his back into a pretty uncomfortable position. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  27. Brian Johnson: Roger wanted to do the whole thing by hand from under the table, but we figured by the time we got John Hurt into position along with all the other other gear we'd be needing, there just wasn't going to be enough room for Roger to get in there and exert the kind of pressure we wanted. He wouldn't have the leverage. So we decided what we needed was some kind of a hydraulic-type mechanism to get that initial violent thrust through the chest. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  28. Cinefex: Too, since Scott anticipated a number of retakes, he preferred the predictability of a device which could guarantee precision and repeatability, take after take. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  29. Cinefex: So Roger Dicken was contacted and asked to prepare a rigid version of the articulated ches-burster then under construction. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  30. Roger Dicken: I'm a loner, I like to work on my own: and I liked to do the effect on my own, if I can. And this kind of thing's been a source of friction on some other shows I've done. It seems the special effects guys who are overloading the rest of the picture always want to jump on the bandwagon. But I didn't want to be a bastard to work with, so I said okay. I made a slush rubber cast of the chestburster - without the tail - and filled it up with plaster and put a metal rod in it which had a hole on the bottom so they could bolt it into something. There was also a loose lower jaw with a pin through it, and a piece of wire to pull it open; but that's all. It couldn't do anything else. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  31. Cinefex: Nick Allder, meanwhile, fashioned a cantilever device designed to thrust the plaster chestburster upwards with considerable force. This, in turn, was positioned beneath a cutaway table, sandwiched in between John Hurt's contorted body and the underside of the fake chest which had been bolted securely into place. (Cinefex 1, p51)
  32. Dan O'Bannon: Once the creature was rigged up, they stuffed the chest cavity full of organs from the butcher shop. They ran in a couple of big hoses - may(be) an inch in in diameter or a little less - to pump artificial stage blood. And during all this, Ridley movied about attending to the finest detail. I remember, easily half an hour was spent with him draping this little piece of beef organ so that it would hang out of the creature's mouth. Once that was done, they took a tee shirt that they'd cut back off of, and then very carefully put John in it and draped it over the chest. (Cinefex 1, p51) 
  33. Nick Allder: The tee shirt was one of the things that gave us the most problems. Obviously , the creature had to be able to burst through it, so we experimented with various kinds of chemicals and diluted battery acids to weaken the fabric. But Ridley didn't want it to just go splat through. What he wanted was for the fabric to withstand the force of the mechanism for two or three quick punches before it finally burst, so we had to be very careful to rot the fabric just enough, but not too much. (Cinefex 1, p52) 
  34. Cinefex: Preparations continued until noon, at which time a call went out to the rest of the cast.  The sight that greeted them was disconcerting , to say the least. John Hurt - or half of him, since the false chest ended abruptly at the waistline - lay on the table smoking a cigarette: the director and crew were bustling about in white overalls: and three Panavision cameras, all shrouded in clear plastic, had been squeezed into position within the confines of the ship's mess. (Cinefex 1, p52)
  35. Dan O'Bannon: The actors were a little uneasy. Normally, you don't use that many cameras unless something's unrepeatable, and it looked like some incredible explosion was going to occur. (Cinefex 1, p52) 
  36. Ridley Scott: What happened on the table was, after all, just an effect, and we couldn't reproduce it as many times as we needed to get it right. It was simply a matter of fiddling with it and shooting it again and again and again until it was perfect. The reactions to it were going to be the most difficult thing. If the actors just acting terrified, he never quite goes over the top and you don't get that genuine look of raw animal fear.  What I wanted was sort of a hard core reaction, and I thought it was best to give the actors an edge by not familiarizing them totally with what was going to happen. So when we started the scene, all three cameras on the actors rather than the table. (Cinefex 1, p52)
  37. Roger Dicken: That was quite an experience. I was in overalls and goggles; there were air hoses and blood lines running all over; and John Hurt was kind of half-crammed in there, too - so we were all legs and feet and kicking each other in the teeth. I worked the pistol grip and the jaw, and various effects guys helped out with the appendages, and the saliva and all. Forcing it through the lacerated shirt wasn't a problem at all because it had the metal armature running through it; so far as I could see, the whole business with the plaster chestburster and the ram was just to make things more involved. Obviously it was only going to work for the initial thrust anyway - once it came out, it couldn't do anything. So what was the purpose? I would have preferred to have seen it come out much more slowly - kind of struggling to pull itself free. But they wanted the shock effect of the sudden burst, so that's what they got. (Cinefex 1, p53)
  38. Roger Dicken: The table was a circular one, slit through the middle: and they raised one half up a couple of inches camera-side so they could shoot from a low angle without the gap being seen. I was lying on my back on a trolley underneath holding the chestburster through the crack; and then during the take, they'd just whip the trolley across the floor. The original tail was hanging straight down through all of this. What you saw was another one I had made up which was fitted with a piece of polythene tubing, and then just simply tied around the bottom of the model and around my wrist. Effects technician Allan Bryce connected the tube up to a compressed air bottle and when the air was turned on, the tail thrashed  about as the creature made its exit, knocking over cups and food containers placed along its path. (Cinefex 1, p53) 
  39. Fantastic Films: Ron said that during some of the dailies, especially during some of the bloody sequences, people who had been working on the film were dumbfounded.
    O'Bannon: It didn't bother me (laughs)
    Fantastic Films:  What I'm getting at is, from a purient interest I hear it's pretty bloody and gory and... when you see a set and all the technicians are in coveralls and the cameras are covered in plastic... there has to be something going on
    O'Bannon: That was great. The day that they shot that, I reserved myself a box seat. I went to the seat very early in the morning and I looked around where they had the cameras places, and I picked the best possible spot for myself where I'd be out of the way and I sat there and didn't move. There was a pretty big audience for that shooting, a lot of the people involved in the film came and look on that day and just basically stayed and waited. A lot of people were interested.
    Fox had been giving Ridley a lot of hassle because he gotten a slow start, the first couple of weeks of shooting were slow, they were jumping all over. The reason they were slow was because they had allowed inadequate time to design and build the sets, and on the first day of shooting no single set was fully completed so Ridley had to shoot around the sets for a couple of weeks, And they still jumped all over him, they said he was too slow. So fairly early in the shoot they got to that scene, a very bloody scene, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't actually give the point away in the interview, you know, allude to it without letting them know what's going to happen. You know what scene we're talking about?
    Fantastic Films:  It hasn't been described
    O'Bannon: Good. Okay , I thought you knew about it. Well, I'm going to stay vague 'cause I want to alude to it but I don't want anybody to know exactly what it is until they see it
    Fantastic Films:  Sure
    O'Bannon: For obvious reasons, I want the audience to get it straight in the face without any preparation. And the producers also want to keep it quite but for what I think is a somewhat pettier reason. They don't want it stolen for TV. I just want the audience to get it fresh. I don't want it getting out in advance. But I was there watching that thing and at a time when Fox was putting enormous pressure on him for being too slow, he took an entire day to shoot one sequence. I was there and they had three cameras set up 'cause they wanted to catch it from all angles and all of the cameras were covered with clear plastic tarps. The lenses were covered with flat optical glass like underwater cameras and Ridley and the D.P. and all the main technicians were all wearing coveralls up to their necks.  It took them three to four hours to get the actor who was going to do the stunt rigged because there was mechanical stuff involved. Meanwhile the other actors didn't come on the set, I don't know where they were, they had a room where the actors could hang out and talk to each other. Then they brought them in when they were ready for it, they hadn't seen the preparation. All they did was they walked on, they saw all these tarps, and they saw these huge hydraulic machines with hoses leading to this rigged man, and they saw everybody wearing coveralls. I looked at Sigourney Weaver, whose the lead, I saw her face as she looked at the tarp, coveralls and cameras, she seemed to go a little shakey. The actors looked real uneasy when they saw that set-up because it looked like they were trying to prepare for Vesuvius. (Fantastic Films 10, p17)
  40. Fantastic Films: How did you get through the scene where the alien pops through John Hurt's chest
    Weaver: What affected me the most was the way John Hurt was lying on the table, with his false body - most of him was underneath the table and there was a hollow cavity that the baby alien was supposed to come out of. Just to see John not whole was upsetting to me. But by the time it actually came out of his chest, it was especially awful.

    Plus I know that the special effects me were trying to rig the blood so that it would hit me. I was absolutely green. There had been a huge vat of kidneys and livers and intestines floating around on set for two days and the stench was awful. All the cameramen was covered in blood. By the time we had been filming for two days it was awful. (Fantastic Films #12, p34)
  41. Dan O'Bannon: I saw their faces when they brought them in. What they saw was John Hurt, spread out on this table, with all of these hoses, Everybody is covered up in suits. The actors walk in and they see that waiting for them, and I saw them, their faces all sort of dropped, they all suddenly went xxxxx and their eyes got big and roamed around all over this stuff. (Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
  42. Sigourney Weaver: When we came down to the set, erm, there was going to be a rehearsal which I think is great, and everyone was in black raincoats and Ron Shusett and Dan O'Bannon, the original writers of the chestburster idea were over in the corner going (grinning excitedly) you know like kids before Christmas.(Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
  43. Nicky Allder: It was kind of really kind of strange actually loaded poor John Hurt up over lunch time and he had his false fiberglass chest piece over the top of that. There's one of my guys actually supplying him with a cigarette and in the other hand he's got a glass of white... dry white wine. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
  44. Brian Johnson:We had all the shapes of the body and things with the t-shirt on, and Nickey built er, the rig which original you know, burst through the t-shirt. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
  45. Ron Cobb: Poor John on the table you know, er, with the puppet all ready to go and the actors brought in, erm, in this long set where you couldn't see it was a set, you know you were all packed into this room like on location on the Nostromo, you're shooting this scene. Erm, I was looking around and everybody, we were all shaking, we were all shaking just like this, I mean really involuntarily shaking, (Alien Legacy Documentary)
  46.  Nicky Allder: The artist at that stage really did not know what was going to happen on the first take, likewise a lot of the camera... a lot of the crew didn't because nobody had ever seen what we were physically going to achieve and what we were going to go for.(Alien Legacy Documentary)
  47. Ron Cobb: It was frightening what we were going to see, no matter what, we knew how it was done but it was frightening and we were scared to death that it wouldn't work or would look silly and where were we if that, if this scene looked ridiculous, you know, we're screwed. nothing else will work. (Alien Legacy Documentary)
  48. Roger Christian: Nick Allder set up the next stage. Roger Dicken had prepared the solid baby alien and Nick had fixed it on top of the hydraulic ram. Nick went to work with his team to set it into position under the table, and set up the separate blood lines and pumps. It was a bit of a squeeze to get everyone in under the table, around John Hurt’s body and legs. John still parodies this moment.(http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
  49. Roger Christian:We removed the dressing on the table, careful to Polaroid exactly as it was left after the previous setup. We had to replace everything around John to match the last take, or objects would jump in the cut. The panel in the top of the table was removed and they set the false chest into place. John kind of lounged on the chair under it on a cushion so that he was correctly positioned. He lay there throughout the long process of the setup. He had to be in position the entire time as everything was geared to him being able to move his arms and head, while the effects boys moved the false chest piece in sync with him. The assistants plied him with glasses of wine and kept lighting up his favourite Gauloises cigarettes. He kept smoking and drinking, unable to see what they were doing below the table, smiling and joking as the assistant filled his tumbler to keep him happy.(http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
  50. Roger Christian: Ridley kept the other actors at bay throughout all of this setting up on purpose, so the surprise would be real, and their reactions would not be acted but look genuinely horrified. They knew the scene, of course. They knew what was called for but had no idea what everyone around this table where Kane was lying, were planning. Ridley knew full well this was the moment in the film when he got the audience or lost them.(http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
  51. Roger Christian: In conversation with Ridley, Nick Allder and me about making this scene more shocking, Ridley had decided to add bits of intestines, liver, stomachs, and any offal we could source around the baby alien. Nick had done this before, and I had too when trying to make an operation look authentic using a false prosthetic. Ridley immediately wanted it to look like the baby alien had launched its way out of Kane’s chest through his lungs and heart if he could, and knew that adding bits of fat and gristle around the puppet would further disguise the possibility it could be seen as just that – a puppet. I sent one of the team to the local abattoir to fetch a bag full of bloody animal innards. The buyer returned clutching a plastic bag full of liver, intestines, kidneys, and lungs – whatever organs they could find. This was washed so that it was sanitary, but still smelt. It was sanitised in formaldehyde, which in itself smelt bad, making the set smell like an operating theatre.
    (http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/)
  52. Roger Christian: We redressed the table as it was. Then, when that was approved by the continuity lady, we made sure everything matched the dinner table contents to the Polaroids she had taken. Ridley was ready to film. The chestburster rig was primed and set. Paul Ibbetson called the actors down, ready in makeup and costume to shoot right away. I think they suspected something, as the cameras were all covered in plastic, and most of the crew were wearing plastic rain macs. They gathered around the table in the positions they were in for the last take, and prepared themselves to carry on with John writhing and screaming and them trying to help him. You could see they were all nervous; no one knew quite what to expect. I think that seeing John half-buried in the table with cameras set up all round him, and the blood-stained T-shirt from the last setup, made them a little nervous. The special-effects crew was bent under the table, and the set was pretty hot already from the lights setup. Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett were there in the back, watching and talking, as were other people, adding to the sense that something was about to happen.(http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/alien-chestburster-scene/) 
  53. Ridley Scott: Among the bacon and eggs. (Am Alien Invasion, Ian Nathan) 
  54. Yaphet Kotto: When I first walked on the set that day, I noticed that everything was covered with plastic. and the entire crew were wearing raingear, plastic goggles, medical caps and there were huge buckets around. The smell of formaldehyde hit me like a fist and made me nauseous. Four cameras were being used for shooting the scene. Two technicians were under the table operating the compressed blood machine that would spray blood everywhere upon the alien’s emergence. ( Source: https://www.facebook.com/kyaphet/posts/1325812447442433?pnref=story)

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