In the space of three short years, Ridley Scott redefined sci-fi cinema twice with Alien and Blade Runner. In the nearly 40 years since, countless films from a range of genres have owed enormous debts to these two. As Scott finally returns to the Xenomorph monster that made his name, in this year’s Alien: Covenant, what better time to look over the careers of the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo?
Ridley Scott (Director)
Following on from Alien, the Britsh auteur became one of Hollywood’s most prolific and influential directors. Blade Runner came next, in 1982, crafting a new visual style for dystopia on film, before Scott helmed Apple’s iconic ‘1984’ advert. 1991’s Thelma and Louise cemented Scott’s status alongside James Cameron as one of the best directors for three-dimensional female action heroes, and in the new millennium Gladiator (which nabbed the Best Picture Oscar) and Kingdom of Heaven showed that he was just as comfortable with ancient warfare as futuristic horror.
Recently, Scott’s directorial output has been more hit-and-miss; 2015’s The Martian won major plaudits, but entries like The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings have earned nothing but derision. As a producer, he’s been behind some enormous TV series, including The Good Wife and Taboo. With true-story movies based on the Battle of Britain and the J. Paul Getty III kidnapping on the horizon following Covenant, there’s no sign of the 79-year-old director slowing down.
Sigourney Weaver (Ripley)
Ghostbusters, the Alien sequels, Wall-E, Avatar – Sigourney Weaver has been a mainstay of genre cinema ever since her first appearance as Ellen Ripley, one of the greatest action heroes of all time. An instant icon thanks to Alien, her status was then elevated into “indisputable queen badass” by Aliens, an (astoundingly) Oscar-nominated career highlight that has been inescapable for Weaver. She is Ripley, the only survivor of the original film, and the authority that this constantly provides her on screen has also made way for some really great, winking cameos in films like Paul and Cabin in the Woods. Recent years have brought on some really schlocky work (The Assignment, Abduction, and Cold Light of Day spring to mind), but A Monster Calls reiterated her range, and we can’t wait to see her leap into action against Marvel’s Defenders this August.
John Hurt (Kane)
What can we possibly say about John Hurt to illuminate his jaw-droppingly illustrious career? Just one year after playing the first casualty of the Xenomorph, Kane, he delivered one of the all-time great screen performances as John Merrick in David Lynch’s Elephant Man, and ever since, he’s been one of the most reliable providers of gravitas in the business. He helped bring Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Fourto cinematic life, gave a voice to Watership Down, and, like most of the Alien cast, continued to appear in plenty of genre pieces, on both the big and small screens.
Harry Potter, Hellboy, and Dr Who brought him plenty of mainstream love recently, but that didn’t get in the way of him doing supremely good prestige cinema, from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to Jackie. His death earlier this year was a tragic loss, but his last performance, as Neville Chamberlain in Joe Wright’s Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, should give us something great to hold on to.
Tom Skerritt (Dallas)
Nostromo captain Dallas ended up being a career-defining role for character Tom Skerritt, who had already been acting in TV and film for nearly two decades before Alien came along. Skerritt didn’t follow some of his fellow crew members into superstardom, though he did appear in Top Gun for Ridley Scott’s brother Tony, instead continuing as a reliable and ever-busy supporting player, including turns in Cheers and The West Wing. I’m also pretty sure he wrote his own IMDB profile:
Veronica Cartwright (Lambert)
Like Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright’s post-Alien career is almost entirely made up of supporting, character actor roles (that the Nostromo crew was decidedly not movie star-y was one of Alien’s key strengths). Her biggest movie role after 1979 was in The Right Stuff, and she’s made an impression in TV series as varied as ER, The X-Files, Six Feet Under, and recent Amazon cop drama Bosch. She’s also leant her voice to a few videogames – appearing in (alongside the rest of the original cast) the phenomenal Alien Isolation as well as Fallout 4.
Harry Dean Stanton (Brett)
Harry Dean Stanton’s combination of massive acting talent and his immediately recognisable hangdog looks have made him consistently sought after by all sorts of directors in all genres of film. He appeared in the mainstream blockbusters Escape From New York, Stephen King adaptation Christine, Red Dawn, and Pretty In Pink in the decade following Alien, and still always found time to work with some of the best filmmakers around.
Starring for Wim Wenders in the beautiful Paris, Texas, Martin Scorsese in The Last Temptation of Christ, and David Lynch for both Wild At Heart and the Twin Peaks movie, Dean Stanton has had one of the most versatile and exciting careers of any actor, even if the mid-90s brought a lull. Since then, he’s been in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Green Mile, Inland Empire (for Lynch again), and HBO’s Big Love, alongside fellow Alien franchise alumnus, the late, great Bill Paxton. Recently, Stanton’s film output has consisted mainly of cameos, none more enjoyable than his brief appearance in Marvel’s Avengers.
Ian Holm (Ash)
One of Alien’s most fascinating characters, Ian Holm, is now best known as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Alien clearly gave Holm a taste for visionary/horrifying sci-fi, appearing in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch and Existenz, and two Terry Gilliam films, Time Bandits and all-time classic Brazil. Roles in Chariots of Fire, Big Night, and The Aviator allowed him to do magnificent things with more down-to-earth material while also doing plenty of on-screen Shakespeare. The last decade hasn’t been particularly busy for Holm, but he’s made his appearances count, reprising the role of Bilbo for the Hobbit films and lending his voice to Pixar’s Ratatouille.
Yaphet Kotto (Parker)
Immediately following up Alien with the title role in Othello and plenty of TV work, Kotto returned to sci-fi with 1987’s The Running Man before starring alongside Robert de Niro and Charles Grodin in one of my personal favourites, Midnight Run. Kotto hasn’t done much in the 2000s, but was busy all through the ‘90s with Homicide: Life on the Street, David Simon’s first (excellent) real stab at TV, and the precursor to The Wire. Plus, Childish Gambino named a song after him, so that’s pretty cool.