It’s nearly 30 years since James Cameron’s much celebrated Aliens (1986) hit our screens. A film which built on the premise pioneered in the first instalment, Aliens still represents the high watermark for many sci-fi action thrillers. But what has become of the cast members who brought us this visual treat?
Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley)
Sigourney Weaver’s name will forever be remembered alongside that of her cinematic, alien-busting alter-ego, Ripley. Though she’d appeared on-screen before, the first Alien (1979) gave Weaver her first big break in the movie business and it was a universe she would return to a further three times over the next twenty years. During that time, Weaver has become one of Hollywood’s best-known actors, featuring in the cult classic Ghostbusters (1984) as well as receiving critical praise for roles in Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl (both 1988). In recent years she has reunited with Aliens director James Cameron to make the ground-breaking Avatar and made a memorable cameo in 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods.
Michael Biehn (Cpl. Dwayne Hicks)
Michael Biehn has come a long way since playing an uncredited basketball player in Grease (1978). The 1980s saw him star in three of the decade’s most seminal films. A regular in James Cameron’s work, he excelled as Ripley’s loyal companion Corporal Dwayne Hicks in Aliens, as well as turning in memorable performances in The Terminator (1984) and The Abyss (1989). But to pigeonhole Biehn as one-trick pony, only capable of portraying military personnel, would do him a disservice. In recent years, he’s turned his attention to directing and 2011 saw the release of The Victim, which he wrote, produced and even starred in.
Janette Goldstein (Pvt. Vasquez)
Best remembered for the red bandanna she sported while mowing down extra-terrestrial assailants, Goldstein’s film career began (and arguably peaked) with the release of Aliens. Though she went on to feature in some of the biggest films of the time, namely Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Goldstein has since found other productive uses of her time besides mowing down pesky aliens. She now runs a specialist brassiere shop in LA called ‘Janette Bras’.
Bill Paxton (Pvt. Hudson)
Forever immortalised when he uttered one of the great improvised lines in movie history, the man who proclaimed “Game over, man! Game over!” has led a long and successful career since his big breakthrough in Aliens. Like many of his co-stars, Paxton has featured in a number of James Cameron’s films, most notably True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997). Paxton also holds the dubious honour of being one of the few individuals to have been killed by a Terminator, an alien, and a Predator on screen. Take pride in that Bill. Since those heady days, Paxton has had a low movie profile but made a welcome return to the blockbuster in this year’s Edge of Tomorrow, in which he played the gung-ho Sergeant Farrell Bartolome.
Lance Henriksen (Bishop)
Though perhaps best known for playing the role of the android Bishop, Lance Henriksen has led perhaps the most interesting and diverse career of anyone on this list. Coming from a humble Norwegian background, Henriksen taught himself to read aged 30 and, having graduated from the famous Actors Studio in New York, went on to feature in a number of great works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) before landing the role in Cameron’s classic. Since then, Henriksen has gone on to work with some of the great names of Hollywood, such as John Woo and Jean-Claude Van Damme. In the last decade or so, he has carved out a niche as a noted voiceover actor, lending his distinctive larynx to video games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Paul Reiser (Carter Burke)
Despite his comedic background, Paul Reiser excelled as the unscrupulous human antagonist, revealed to be the architect of plans to recover alien specimens irrespective of lives which may be forfeit. Things don’t end so well for Burke, but Reiser has continued to enjoy a varied career since his brush with some angry extra-terrestrials. Aside from a string of film and TV appearances, including his own show which ran from 2010-11, Reiser has had books published on the subjects of relationships and fatherhood.
William Hope (Lieutenant Gorman)
Having primarily honed his acting craft onstage in English theatres, William Hope landed a milestone role as Lieutenant Gorman in Cameron’s seminal work having turned down Stanley Kubrick’s offer of a significant role in Full Metal Jacket (1987). As you might expect, such a high-profile role led to a string of chances to appear alongside some of the great names of modern film. The last decade has seen Hope feature in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009), 2002’s xXx and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Al Matthews (Sergeant Apone)
Best known for uttering the line “Look into my eye” when responding to some banter from Bill Paxton’s character, Al Matthews is a man of multiple talents. Having served with distinction in Vietnam, Matthews arrived in England with a guitar and worked as a folk singer. His 1976 song ‘Fool’ reached number 16 in the UK charts and he has worked as a presenter on BBC Radio 1 and Capital Radio. Since his breakthrough acting role in Aliens, Matthews has appeared in other military roles in films such as The Fifth Element and Tomorrow Never Dies (both released in 1997). On his official website, he proclaims that he writes music for his children but acts for himself. God speed Al.
Carrie Henn (Newt)
The mother-daughter relationship between Ripley and Newt was a key part of what made Aliens so unique. The role of Newt was Carrie Henn’s one and only foray into the world of acting and she has since become an elementary school teacher having graduated from California State University in 2000. It is said that she and Sigourney Weaver still keep in contact by letter. Now isn’t that a nice thought?