The gruesome chestburster centerpiece of Ridley Scott’s 1979 “Alien” remains a marvel of practical-effects movie magic. Outside of John Hurt, who played the victim of the scene, Scott famously kept his actors in the dark as to what was about to go down, making for a genuinely shocked reaction as Hurt’s chest rips open and a snarling alien emerges. According to Scott, in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, the mechanics of the scene impressed even Stanley Kubrick, who phoned him up after seeing the movie to ask how he pulled it off.
“I remember Stanley Kubrick called me up saying, ‘How’d you do that?'” Scott said. “[Kubrick] said, ‘I’ve run it through slowly, I can’t see the cut.’ And I just said that much. He said, ‘OK, I got it. I got it, it worked.’”
The effect was achieved by placing Hurt, from the neck down, below a table, with a false torso on top of it. Scott said the scene was captured by multiple cameras, and only once, “because once I blew blood all over that set there was no cleaning it up…I kept it very much from the actors and I kept the actual little creature, whatever that would be, from the actors. I never wanted them to see it. Remember there was no digital effects in those days at all. I’m going to somehow bring that creature out of his chest.”
Just as quarantine hit Scott was in production on his upcoming epic “The Last Duel,” written by Affleck, Damon, and Nicole Holofcener, centered on best friends turned rivals Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) who are ordered to battle to the death after Carrouges accuses Le Gris of raping his wife.
The film is currently still set for a December 25 release from 20th Century Studios, but it’s unclear whether the film can finish in time at this stage, even to the director. “We still have to work out when we’re returning to finish it off, whenever,” Scott told the LA Times.
As for the future of moviegoing and filmmaking after the pandemic, Scott said, “There’s something in part of the job that we do, I think, because to make a movie and shoot it is an entirely illogical process where you’re bringing a whole bunch of people together to a blueprint called the script. You all meet in the morning, frequently for the first time, and somehow you put it together. So if you’re not an optimist, you shouldn’t be actually in the film industry. So I guess I’m an optimist. We’ll find a way. This too will pass.”
Read the full interview over at the Los Angeles Times.