Guillermo Del Toro and the Alien films

Leading from 
Guillermo del Toro 
Alien: Echoes

Guillermo Del Toro with Giger's Space Jockey painting on the computer screen

a) Seeing Alien

Guillermo Del Toro saw Alien when it came out in the opening weekend in the USA.
He was fourteen at the time and it wouldn't open in Mexico until November.

He recalled that he literally went under the seat. 
Then he went back to school and no one believed him when he tried to describe the movie with its alien and a human who turns out to be a robot.

  1. Guillermo Del Toro: I was extremely scared of er, the first Alien, when I saw it on the theatre, I saw it opening, opening weekend. I'm not old, and I, for a while, movies back then took about a year to get from the States to Mexico and I went back to school and nobody believed me, you know, that there was a movie like that, i was explaining alien, and this guy, and this happens, and then he's a robot, and they went like, you're crazy. (, Total Film 13 Oct 2015)
  2. Guillermo Del Toro: Well I saw it as a kid. I literally… When I was a kid the TV stuff is probably what had the biggest impression on me like THE SHINING, ALIEN, and JAWS all freaked me out in the theater… ALIEN literally I went under the seat, literally, it’s not a figure of speech in the same way that it’s not a figure out speech when I was watching NIGHT GALLERY as a kid I saw an episode called THE DOLL and I literally… I’m not making this up, I peed.
    [Everyone Laughs]
    Guillermo Del Toro
    I started screaming and I lost control of my finger and my father had to tranquilize me, like pop-pop, but literally I could get that scared only once, but I think this movie was one of the scariest things I saw as a kid and my brothers and I used to chase each other saying “Sally…” and I always wanted to recreate it, but recreate it like a dark fairytale and honor the little designs. The creatures were so funkily deranged and beautiful, we wanted to honor that, so it’s very much that spirit of the classic spooky movie with moments of great intensity.
    Question: I think we have a couple brief teases of the movie here, just really quick stuff. Can we roll those clips?
    Guillermo Del Toro: Pump up the volume… I’ll watch my language.
    [A trailer is screened.]

    Jon Favreau: We saw that online and the full trailer or it was one that just started off with “Just don’t be afraid of the dark…” My kids were watching it on YouTube and hiding their heads and then when that little guy comes out at the end, that’s the payoff to I think was the first teaser, it flipped everybody out and I had to go back and freeze frame; it’s only on for a couple of frames, but I had to show them what it was, but it just shows you…
    Guillermo Del Toro: 
    And then they were screaming.
    Jon Favreau: 
    What’s cool is, and what I learned from Guillermo and also the people that came before us is one of the problems with CGI as Guillermo says “It’s lazy,” but it’s also.. Before you had CG you were forced to use other tools, because if you just showed your monster right off the bat it would look… If you saw Jaws right from the beginning of JAWS, you would not be scared of that movie. It’s the music, the cutting, the tension, the acting, the filmmaking that builds you to a point where you are so tense that by the time you see that puppet pop out of the water you just shit yourself.
    [Everyone Laughs]
    Jon FavreauI have five coming my way, I’ve been keeping track. Four now… And so what’s interesting about what Guillermo does, even if it’s not a horror movie, even in the HELLBOY films is using the same techniques that you would use before there was CG, so just because it’s easy to show it doesn’t mean you should and so if you have… You use the puppet when the puppet looks better and then you switch it up and use the computergenerated one when that looks better, but you never use either of them if you can do it through the face or the suggestion of the cinematography and I think that that’s becoming more of a lost art.

Guillermo De Toro: It's a moment of man in front of a totemic god

b) Interests in the alien suit

b.i) The rule breaker

He thought that the Alien beast suit along with the Gill Man from The Creature of the Black Lagoon was one of the two most perfect suits.

He loved how the movie broke every rule with the use of a man in a suit.

He was impressed about how the way they did the alien broke every rule about how to shoot a man in a suit, and how the suit was designed to break the silhouette of the man inside.

He had his thoughts about how Ridley had Bolaji Badejo in the suit, walking on all fours and backwards. 
Bolaji as a monster suit performer was amazing to him.
b.ii)  The Alien as  Totemic God 
A key moment of horror cinema for De Toro was when Harry Dean Stanton's Brett is being killed.

Del Toro perceived Brett as being unable to run because he is in awe of the creature when it is lowering itself in front of him.

He made a very enigmatic statement about how "it's a moment of man in front of a totemic god", and where this might go becomes another question.

  1. The first time he noticed a movie monster Guillermo Del Toro: I think the earliest time was when I saw the Gill-man in Creature From The Black Lagoon. That shot of the Gill-man swimming under Julie Adams, which was at the same time for a kid my age, mysteriously sexy, because I didn’t know what sexy was. [Laughs.] And enchanting and magical and powerful in a way that only monster movies can be. Still, to this day, I think it’s the perfect creature suit. In the history of film, there are two perfect creature suits: that and the Xenomorph in Alien. 
    The A.V. Club: What do you think makes it so perfect?
    GDT: It’s just the marriage of the performer, the design, and the director. The way the environment allows them to exist is amazing. Creature From The Black Lagoon, the way they shot it, where they shot it, who shot it, everything is perfect. These are perfect occurrences. And Ridley Scott shooting Alien the way he shot it. The performer, Bolaji Badejo, is just amazing.  (
  2. For del Toro, one of the key moments of horror cinema is in “Alien,” when Harry Dean Stanton “cannot run because he is in awe of the creature when it’s lowering itself in front of him. It’s a moment of man in front of a totemic god.”  (
  3. Jon Landis: You grew up in Guadalajara. What were your favourite monsters as a child?
    Guillermo Del Toro: Frankenstein's creature - the Boris Karloff version [1931] - The Gill-Man, and the monster in Alien [Ridley Scott, 1979]. In fact, these are still my favourite monsters

    Jon Landis: Why do you love the Alien monster?
    Guillermo Del Toro: Because it broke every rule about how to shoot a man in a suit. The suite was designed to break the silhouette of the man inside, and Ridley Scott had him walking on all fours, or backwards.

    Jon Landis: I love that monster, but I didn't like that metallic tongue with teeth thing that came out of its mouth. It just didn't feel organic to me. ( Monsters in the Movies By John Landis)
Paul Reiser as Burke in Aliens

c) The Company

He would see how the Company that would come to be known as "Weyland-Yutani" in Jim Cameron's Alien would show itself to be the macro evil of it all.

The company man Burke (Played by Paul Reiser) in Aliens, played by Paul Reiser would reveal himself to be a greater monster than the actual alien creatures.

The alien drones were hardwired to be what they were, and when Burke decides to close the door, trapping the heroes with the alien creatures, that was the true evil, and the ultimate will was the will of the corporation.

The alien monsters are always more valuable to the company than the humans

  1. Guillermo Del Toro: Somebody broke down or horror movies into three structures: the horror within, the horror from outside, and the horror that either gets within from outside - or goes out into the world from within. That's every horror movie ever made. In Alien the threat is from the outside in
    Matt Zoller: And yet the xenomorph also reflects the sickness in that society. This corporation wants to use alien of the weapon
    Guillermo Del Toro:
    Yes, and the monsters are always more valuable to the company than the humans
    Matt Zoller:
    The alien stands in for the capitalist system that runs everything in the Galaxy
    Guillermo Del Toro:
    and want to devour it all
    Matt Zoller:
    It's a remorseless devouring creature that just wants to replicate more of its own kind. Alien's a political film
    Guillermo Del Toro:
    It is. Every film is a political film (Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, (2017) by Simon Abrans and Matt Zoller)
  2. James Cameron: The monster is not the evil character.  The evil character looks completely human, is human, but is a monster on the inside. It's not about appearance, it's about soul or spirit
    Guillermo De Toro:
    I used to say that in order to design a great monster, you should design a great monster in repose. The lion who looks majestic and gorgeous in repose, when it's on top of you, is completely terrifying.  You use in your movies the same [idea] - the difference of human and a monster is the will. Because obviously [in Aliens] Paul Reiser is more of a monster than a [xenomorph] drone. The drone is hardwired. Paul Reiser decides to close the door [and trap the heroes with the xenomorphs]. And that's true evil. The ultimate will is the will of the corporation . In both the first Alien and Aliens, that's the macro evil of it all
    (James Cameron's story of science fiction p174)

d) Enjoying Alien 3

He also enjoyed what Fincher did with Alien 3, curiously because Fincher took the rod puppet, and integrated it with the tools of compositing that were available.

  1. Jon Favreau: If you look at ALIEN and then ALIENS, two films made pre-CG, and then you look at ALIEN 3 you will see that they thought since you could use it, you should and ALIEN 3 felt a lot less scarier than the other two which seemed to share…?
    Guillermo Del Toro:
    Great puppets though.
    Jon Favreau: For 2?
    Guillermo Del Toro: 
    For 3.
    Jon Favreau: 
    Which is the one where they are swimming? Was that 3?
    Guillermo Del Toro: 
    Jon Favreau:
    ALIEN 4. Was that 4? I can’t keep track. The one where they are swimming wasn’t that scary I guess is what I’m trying to say, but yeah I think the puppet worked when you are using darkness to help hide it, but then when the CG takes over it feels like it’s lost something. It’s almost like when film went to sound…
    Guillermo Del Toro: 
    I thought Fincher did great in ALIEN 3, because he took the rod puppet and integrated it with the tools of compositing that were available. I think that if we had our way, I think that’s a great way to go, to use rod puppets digitally composited on backgrounds. It’s a great way to go. (

Mimic (1997)

e) Mimic as an Alien 3 1/2 

However when Guillermo came to make the film Mimic, Miramax wanted him to make the film like Aliens and he wasn't happy with the fact that at the end because he wanted to make Mimic as he envisioned it.

It got to a point where the final scene copied the end of Aliens where Ripley finds herself in the egg chamber, which was not the ending that he intended at all.

What he ended up making, in light of the fact it was after Alien 3, might as well have been to him Alien 3 1/2.
  1. Guillermo Del Toro: Le studio voulait just un autre Alien  (translation: The studio wanted just another alien.) 
    Mad Movies:  Alien, la résurrection est d'ailleurs sorti au même moment, (translation: Alien, the resurrection is also released at the same time)  
    Guillermo Del Toro: Oui, à quelque mois de difference..  (translation: Yes , some months difference .) (Mad Movies Hors-Serie 27, p18) 
  2. Guillermo Del Toro: As well as being hard for me, it was also a hard movie for Miramex to make and I didn't make it any easier on them. At the end of the day, with a cold head and a cool heart, I see they wanted to do Alien and I wanted to do Mimic, and so we ended up with Alien 3 1/2 (Talking Movies: Contemporary World Filmmakers in Interview, By Jason Wood)
  3. Guillermo Del Toro: Ils venaient me voir tous les quatre jours. Le studio voulait un Aliens, le retour, et moi, je voulais juste tourner Mimic. (Translation: They came to see me every four days. The studio wanted an Aliens, the return, and me, I wanted to just turn Mimic.)(Mad Movies Hors-Serie 27, p17)
    Mad Movies: La scène finale est d'ailleurs recopiée sur celle d'Aliens, lorsque Ripley se retrouve par hasard dans la salle des œufs. (Translation:The final scene is also copied on that of Aliens, when Ripley is found by chance in the egg Chamber.)
    Guillermo Del Toro: Ça,  ça n'était pas du tout dans le script. la fin originale était excellent.   (Translation: That was not at all in the script. the original ending was excellent.)(Mad Movies Hors-Serie 27, p17)

f) On making an Alien movie

Although he had an affinity towards Alien, if Fox came towards him and asked him to make an Alien movie, he thought that he would think it unwise since it was playing in somebody else's sandbox.
When a movie series is so established it would be a little bit harder for him to do something.
  1. Still, whether it's personal or studio, del Toro maintains that "the movie has to have some essence where you connect with it. The reason I'm doing Blade 2 and not Alien 4 is because I connect with the universe of Blade. I don't connect with the universe of Alien." He adds with a chuckle: "Besides, I already did Alien 4: It's called Mimic." (
  2. Collider: You obviously have an affinity towards Alien  
    Guillermo Del Toro: Yuh 
    Collider: And er, erm, obviously that's a franchise that still goes. If Fox ever came to you, if, if they were doing  prequel, er, sequel for Prometheus, you could ever play in that universe, is that something you'd be willing to do  
    Guillermo Del Toro: You know, honestly I think that playing in somebody else’s sandbox is not, is not, er, is not the best possibility. You know I think that when something is so established—I mean like when we were doing Hellboy, especially during the first one, I was very prudish to run everything by [comic creator] Mike [Mignola], and Mike was very generous and said, ‘Do what you want, it’s your movie, it’s my comic.’  But I think to do something established in film, that’s a little harder. (

g) Offered an Alien film

Concept artist Ty Ruben Ellingson found out about how Jim Cameron had seen Cronos and so it came to a point where he said Guillermo Del Toro "You should do Alien 3" and his response might well have been "no, another time" as if he had the sense to not make his first film a Hollywood sequel
However because of the time, it sounds as if this was most likely was Alien Resurrection that was being offered and because of that Del Toro was developing Mimic at the time.

  1. Ty Ruben Ellingson: I left ILM to work with Guillermo del Toro on Mimic and Jim [Cameron] and Guillermo are friends. Because believe it or not, Jim offered Guillermo Alien 3 before Alien 3 became Alien 3 when Jim had some control over the franchise. (
  2. Ty Ruben Ellingson: I left ILM to work with Guillermo del Toro on Mimic and Jim [Cameron] and Guillermo are friends. Because believe it or not, Guillermo was, Jim offered Guillermo Alien 3, erm, before Alien 3 became Alien 3 when Jim still had I think acc... he had some control over the franchise. And Guillermo, he had seen Cronos, um, um, Jim had seen Cronos, and and really said did Del Toro like, "you should do Alien 3" and del Toro I bet, I mean, I don't know if del Toro shared this story, I would imagine he had, he kind of said "No," you know like, I think he had the sense to do, you know, do his first Hollywood film as a sequel to Jim's, with Jim might be a, might be a you know maybe a challenge or a big hurdle, or a, I'm sure del Toro could pull it off but for whatever reasons let's leave it at that, he, he kind of um said you know, "maybe not this time" (
h) Offered Alien vs Predator?

The films Blade Trinity and Alien vs Predaor went to directors David S Goyer and Paul W.S.Anderson respectively. 
But according to film journalist  Richard Crouse later,  Guillermo declined because he was too busy getting his version of Hellboy to the screen. 
Had he turned down both or just Blade Trinity?

  1. Horror hits Blade: Trinity and AVP: Alien vs. Predator went to directors David S. Goyer and Paul W.S. Anderson respectively when Guillermo declined because he was too busy getting his version of Hellboy to the screen.(


1 comment:

  1. "Guillermo Del Toro and the Alien films" was slightly re-edited on 15th January 2022 with additional information about Jim Cameron suggesting to Guillermo Del Toro that he direct an Alien film, but which one is really being talked about?