Stanley Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the titans of the sci-fi genre of movies. The unconventional genius and notorious perfectionist always went above and beyond while making his movies, and appreciated other filmmakers who also did the same. In a recent interview, director Ridley Scott revealed that one particular scene in his 1979 movie Alien featuring a xenomorph bursting out of actor John Hurt’s chest impressed and confused Kubrick to such an extent that he personally called up Scott to clear his confusion.
“I remember Stanley Kubrick called me up saying, ‘How’d you do that?’ He 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 scene in question takes place after the Xenomorph eggs are first discovered, one of which hatches and the creature latches on to Hurt’s face, laying fresh eggs inside his body.
During a subsequent meal, Hurt experiences convulsions, and lays out on the table. Moments later, the iconic Chestburster springs from his body cavity. It is widely considered one of the most iconic scenes in science fiction and had audiences screaming and questioning, just like Kubrick, how Scott managed to pull off the scene so realistically before the era of CGI.
In truth, like the greatest of magic tricks, the effect was relatively simple to achieve with a little misdirection. In the scene, Hurt was actually hiding under the table, with a hole cut in it to stick his face through. The rest of the actor’s body that audiences saw was a fake torso, and it was a simple matter to have the alien burst through it, splattering blood everywhere and introducing the world to the menace of the Xenomorph.
The scene had to be shot in a single take since the blood splatters would be difficult to clean up for a second shot. Ridley Scott also kept the design of the Xenomorph hidden from the cast of the movie as much as possible, so their reaction to seeing the creature for the first time would be more genuine.
With Alien, Scott proved he, along with Spielberg and James Cameron, was at the front of the special effects boom Hollywood was experiencing at the time. But there is one other major filmmaker whose work Scott regards as a major game changer for sci-fi in general and Alien in particular. George Lucas’s original Star Wars, which had come out two years earlier.
“It opened the gate for me feeling comfortable that science fiction was no longer silly fantasy but actually had a reality to it. … So I was blown away. I think I was depressed for a month when I saw it, ’cause I thought, ‘How on Earth could he have done that?’ My hat still comes off to George. Without question, his was by far the best, still.”
A sentiment that many Star Wars fans will no doubt agree with. Scott is presently working on The Last Duel, with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver, but the filmmaker still looks back fondly on his time spent making Alien and believes the next evolution for the space franchise would be to try to answer the question of where the Xenomorph eggs were being taken in the cargo ship in the first film. Los Angeles Times was the first to share this news.