a) Casting John Hurt
That day Ridley had to reconvene at lunchtime in the office thinking about who they could get and he knew that John Hurt was in London at the time. Two days earlier John Hurt had been contracted to do Zulu Dawn in South Africa, and he was about to get a taxi to the airport when he received a phonecall saying that they weren't going to let him into South Africa and when they had to try and find out the reason, it seemed that he had been confused with the actor John Herd who was a political activist who had gone down on the South African books as an undesirable because he didn't believe in Apartheid, and so he then came back to England. And so Ridley drove to John Hurt's home in Hampstead village to see him . They sat down with a drink, they talked until after midnight and Ridley gave a long and interesting pitch and John wouldn't have time to mull over it or decide this that or the other.
It came to a point where Ridley said to him "Do you want this?"
John replied, "Yeah, I trust you, when do I start"
Ridley said ''Tomorrow morning."
John's response was "You'd better send the car round to take me down to the studio."
Ridley's replied "A car will come for you"
John was in the studio the next morning at 7.30
As Brian Johnson, the special effects supervisor recalled, it two weeks before John Hurt actually come on board and in that time Brian got to work on lowering the ceiling of the Nostromo cockpit to bring the ceiling details into the shot and the result would make it more claustrophobic
- John Hurt: What I understand was that I was intended to be in the film originally, but I was at that time not available and I was going to be doing a film in South Africa but I wasn't allowed to go to South Africa and then of course we had to try and find out what the reason was. It turned out in the end that I was probably confused with that very wonderful actor John Herd who is a political activist, and had gone down on the South African books as an undesirable because he didn't believe in Apartheid, well, none of us agree with Apartheid, (15:00) but fortunately some of us were not on the books at that particular time. Er, so I came back, I didn't do that , and then Jon Finch who was going to do , be playing Kane in Alien became sick and so therefore the inquiry came in again, I was available this time. I remember coming around to talk to me, and we were talking until twelve o'clock at night, and er he was pitching for me and er, at seven o'clock that morning I was on the set. So erm it all happened very quickly. (Alien Blu-ray commentary)
- John Hurt: I had been asked if l'd like to do Alien, but I had already committed to the South African film, so that was dropped. And the actor that was going to play Kane later, for one reason or another, dropped out. (Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
- Ridley Scott: That night we had a quick regroup in the office, and that night l drove to Hampstead Village and met with John Hurt.Then they heard that I was then free, so Ridley Scott came to me and we talked till gone midnight, say on the Monday. Il prepared him, of course, for what it was, and he said ''So when do l start?'' I said ''Tomorrow morning.''(Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
- John Hurt: And on the Tuesday morning I was on the set at 7.30.(Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
- John Hurt: So it was not a usual film for me - the script didn't arrive, I didn't mull it over, I didn't decide this, that and the other.l had a long pitch from Ridley - and a very interesting one, too. By the end of it l said ''You'd better send the car round to take me down to the studio.'' l think life and acting and everything is so full of those things. ''What if it hadn't happened?'' Nobody knows.(Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
- John Hurt: I was contracted to do Zulu Dawn in South Africa. I was about to get into the taxi to the airport when I got a call saying they weren't going to let me into South Africa. It was mistaken identity. They'd confused me with an American called John Hurd, who was an anti-apartheid activist. Ridley come to see me two days later. He sat up until 12 o'clock at night pitching the film to me. I was at 7.30 the next morning. (Neon, DECEMBER 1997)
- Ridley Scott: John lived in Hampstead, so we called and I drove up there. We sat down with a drink. I said "Do you want to do this?" He said, "Yeah.... I trust you, when do I start?" "Tomorrow morning, a car will come for you?" (Empire November 2009 p109)