With “Alien: Covenant” slithering into theaters next month and Alien Day just weeks away, Ridley Scott and the franchise he helped built are finding plenty of appreciation lately. One of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, 1979’s “Alien” paved the way and turned the sci-fi/horror genre on its head.
One of the “Alien’s” noteworthy achievements was flipping the trope of the male hero and instead replacing it with a female one. While the character was originally supposed to be a man, Sigourney Weaver played the part of Ripley. Weaver wasn’t top-billed, so it came as a surprise when the “main characters,” including the ship’s captain played by Tom Skerritt, all ended up being killed off. Leaving Ripley to face down the xenomorph alone, she does what none of her crew mates were able to: survive.
For 1979, the idea was pretty revolutionary and it changed the landscape for films of many genres for years to come. What if things had gone differently? While iconic in its entirety, the ending of “Alien” is a beautiful sequence in its own right and works all but perfectly. Turns out, there was a different ending that never got filmed.
Instead of Ripley duking it out with the xenomorph, both physically and in a battle of wills, and recording a captain’s log entry before grabbing hero cat Jones and tucking into hypersleep, Ridley Scott suggested the following in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
“I thought that the alien should come in, and Ripley harpoons it and it makes no difference, so it slams through her mask and rips her head off.” Next, Scott says, he’d have cut to the tentacles of the alien pressing buttons on the dashboard. “It would mimic Captain Dallas [Skerritt] saying, ‘I’m signing off.’”
When Scott pitched this idea from Shepperton Studios outside London to the suits at 20th Century Fox, he didn’t receive the enthusiasm he was hoping for:
“The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot,” says Scott with a laugh. “So we didn’t do that [ending].” We — and surely Weaver, who went on to play the role of Ellen Ripley three more times — are grateful.
Opening May 19, “Alien: Covenant” is Directed by Ridley Scott and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby.