Alien: Sex and the Alien

fish eye lens photo of the Narcissus set during filming

a) Questions about nudity
Originally, in the scene where the crew rise from their cryotubes, everyone was naked, and one of the things that Sigourney thought was very interesting about the film, coming from her theatre background, without thinking about the markets, the Catholics, ratings and censorshop, was this very striking idea about pink vulnerable creatures moving through a very hard metallic environment, it offered a nice contract and this was not shot because Fox said " We'll lose Spain and we'll lose Italy, so you have to wear cloths". But still there was this idea of filling as much flesh as possible within the environment to show what a human being was, in space. Sigourney did realise it was erotic but it was something very important.

Ripley stripping off in Alien

Ripley stripping off in Alien

Ripley stripping off in Alien

Ripley stripping off in Alien

b) The Strip
So the other side of the fourth act is the fact that Ridley stripped the Ripley character down, Sigourney Weaver in the part is strong, capable and attractive and he wanted to increase the sense of her peril by showing her undressed, Ripley does a modest strip down to her underwear. It not only made this ballsy sort of lady vulnerable - but sexy too. Sigourney's understanding about the intentions behind the strip was that it wasn't about sex, not for her or for Ridley either, and Ripley  obviously didn't want to go into hypersleep covered in blood and god know what else, she just wants to take her clothes off and have a bath, also she is relaxing, thinks it's over, goes about her business and suddenly the worst possible thing happens, she's not prepared and is vulnerable as can be.

Later she would have people say to her ‘Aw, how could you demean yourself by doing a striptease?’ 
And she would respond ‘Are you kidding? After five days of blood and guts, and fear, and sweat and urine, do you think Ripley wouldn’t take off her clothes?’"

It never occurred to her for a second that people would think that her strip was exploitative. However she thought it was provocative

Sigourney in her underwear between takes
Sigourney in her underwear between takes



c) Possibilities of the alien's sensuous nature
Ridley appeared to Sigourney to have thought that there were great erotic possibilities for the scene in which the alien comes out of its hiding place to watch Ripley in the closet as she's shedding her clothes, perhaps as if she was a snake shedding its skin or just another creature suddenly removing its shell, so that it looked as if she was going from a dark green and crusty looking animal in her clothes to a pink and white, soft animal. 

Because it saw skin, the alien would not attack because it was being drawn to her, finding what she was doing amazing and it would be moved or emotionally touched in some way, perhaps with sexual fascination, and because she was so different to itself. She was thinking along the lines of the idea of beauty and the beast.

So she discussed on the set the possibility of this creature watching Ripley with voyeuristic passion, but on the other hand Sigourney knew that the Alien was resting. As an actress she remained inspired to think about the alien’s sensual side, (and found in the later Alien sequel, Alien Resurrection, eighteen years later a way to experience a kind of a sexual interaction with the alien creature in one of its manifestations.)

Ridley and Sigourney had also discussed an ending where she is still dressed and is surprised by the alien, so she would run into the closet, take one suit off and put another one on and there would be the moment where the Alien would see her in between suits and be fascinated, because the Alien wasn't evil, it just followed its natural instincts to reproduce through whatever living things were around it.

After the movie, every now and then a reporter would ask "How could you have been part of a film about such evil?"

And Sigourney would respond  ‘Good Lord! You take this very seriously, don’t you?’

the alien's jaw tongue

d) Further questions about Sigourney's point of view
From Ridley's point of view, he only tended to talk about an interest in the erotic possibilities of Ripley shedding her clothes rather than have a point about what the Alien was thinking in a sensuous way. He further looked at Sigourney Weaver's idea some years later in hindsight, and thought that perhaps she has a touch of sympathy for the creatures because she looks at it from the viewpoint of her character. Ripley was part crew member and part scientist, someone who thought in logical terms. And maybe at that moment, her scientist side emerged and she began to study the creature like a scientist would and started to get a perspective on what it may have been thinking and previous to this scene, one should remember that there had been absolutely no communication between the alien and the crew members, other than violent experiences, but Sigourney was aware that they always wanted an erotic undercurrent in the film, where the audience might ask "What would it do to her?"

Ripley climbing into her space suit


Ripley climbing into her space suit

e) Questions about nudity
Sigourney felt that since the creature had been naked all the way through the movie, she at least ought to find herself completely naked before this creature at the end of it all, but this didn’t go down well with the studio bosses concerns about selling the film to Catholic countries, so she went ahead and wore her underwear which she thought was a cop out. However, she felt that seeing what kind of response she was going to have from the audience, she thinks it was just as well she had some clothes on as since then she would think twice about taking off all her clothes in a movie and scampering around for an hour.
Sigourney posing in her helmet

f) Smallest Pair of Knickers
They were looking for a pair of knickers of Sigourney to wear back on the set, they held the shoot up by a couple of hours, the first pair that the costume designers came back with looked to Ridley like a pair of diapers, he wanted something very sex and so he went himself to find something and whatever the smallest pair were, those he came back with. Sigourney was a tall healthy woman with long legs who did a lot of running. Ivor Powell was impressed by how sexy they made her look. However Sigourney wasn't thinking about this being the scene where she shows her underwear, she was trying to present the most utilitarian knickers she could find.

Sigourney posing in her white suit

g) White Knight vs Futuristic Dragon
The last twenty minutes are treated in a very lyrical style, Scott sees this as a reflection of the way he looks at reality. Ripley is happy to find a space suit and puts it on. so she can get on with what she needs to do. It was more than whether Ripley will triumph, it becomes a situation with an undercurrent of sexuality where she dons the virginal white space suit and she takes up a fight with a futuristic dragon. (see also: The alien as a dragon)

expelling the alien from the Narcissus

Source Quotes
  1. Danny Peary: Was there discussion over your famous strip toward the end of the film?
    Sigourney Weaver: Originally there was going to be a lot of nudity in the film. Of the matter-of-fact variety. There were going to be lots of shots of naked people walking around, which I thought was a good idea because it was such a harsh environment. It would have been a nice contrast. As for my strip… people have said, "Aw, how could you demean yourself by doing a striptease?" And I say, "Are you kidding? After five days of blood and guts, and fear, and sweat and urine, do you think Ripley wouldn’t take off her clothes?" It never occurred to me for a second that people would think my strip exploitive. I think it’s kind of provocative – you’re almost seeing me through the Alien’s eyes. Suddenly I go from dark green animal to a pink and white animal. Ridley and I had so much fun working out the ending. There were so many different endings. One of them was that the alien would surprise me and I would run into the closet where I’d take off my suit and put on another. So there would've been a moment when the alien would see me between suits and be fascinated. Because the alien isn’t evil. It’s just following its natural instincts to reproduce through whatever living things are around it. Every now and then a reporter would ask, ‘How could you have been part of a film about such evil?’ And I’d go, "Good Lord! You take this very seriously, don’t you?" So I liked all this stuff. You see the Alien in its birthday suit the entire film; so I thought it was a cop out having me wear the underwear, and not stripping entirely. Fox is always concerned about losing Spain, losing Italy, etc. But I must say, having received the mail I have, I would now think twice about taking off all my clothes in a movie and scampering around for an hour. (Omni screen flights/screen fantasy,, Playing Ripley In Alien p162)
  2. Sigourney Weaver: Ridley thought there were great erotic possibilities for that scene which the alien, watching Ripley go from green and crusty-looking to something pink and soft, would find amazing. But face it, if you were in that situation would you want to go into hypersleep covered and in blood and god knows what? She just wants to take off what she’s wearing and have a bath  (Photoplay - v30 n12 December 1979)
  3. Ridley : Oddly enough there's a sensuality to this whole scene, errrrrrr, partly the silence. It's, um, subtly sexual, right, or is it just me, huh.(alien 20th anniversary dvd, between 1hour 42mins - 44mins)
  4. Ridley : Ripley does a modest strip once in the shuttle, but we kept that to stress the vulnerability of a lady who’s pretty much a ballsy sort (Ridley Scott interview by David Lewin, Daily Mail 1/10/79)
  5. Ridley Scott: Sigourney has a touch of sympathy for the creature because she looks at it from the viewpoint of her character. Ripley was part crew member and part scientist, someone who thought in logical terms. Maybe at that moment, her scientist side emerged and she began to study the creature like a scientist would and started to get a perspective on what it may have been thinking. Previous to this scene, remember, there had been absolutely no communication between the alien and the crew members, other than violent experiences. (Omni: ScreenFlights / Screen Fantasies)
  6. Interviewer The Last Twenty Minutes are treated in a very lyrical style.
    Ridley Scott: This is how I like to look at reality. It's not simply a question of knowing whether or not Ripley will triumph. I wanted to introduce another dimension. She takes up the fight against some futuristic dragon - that's why I made her put on the white spacesuit. At the same time, this has something carnal. She is possessed by the idea of this confrontation and her behaviour changes completely. (Films Illustrated, vol. 9 no. 99 , "Duelling with Death")
  7. Ivor Powell: I mean, I remember Ridley, 'cause again, this is with his , like commercial hat on, before we shot that sequence, we like held up shooting for a couple of hours where I set out one of the costume designers to go, 'cause the first pair of knickers that they turned up with for Sigourney to wear, as far as Ridley was concerned looked like a pair of diapers and they weren't sexy enough, so we all waited while he went out and came back, and whatever the smallest pair were, those were the ones that got chosen as you can see etc, I mean, Sigourney's a , you know was a very healthy girl, and big sort of legs, she did a lot of running, etc, but they made her look amazing, sexy, and the whole thing was this undercurrent of sexuality and that end sequence of her changing into that virginal white space suit, and then now the alien Wayne Imms: yeah, yeah, absolutely
    Ivor Powell: All of that, talk about Freudian. It was beauty and the beast really., so. (Alien Q &A, Genesis Cinema, August 23rd 2014)
  8. Sigourney Weaver : Originally, in the movie, everyone was naked, and one of the things I thought was very interesting about the film, because, again, I was coming from theater, I wasn't thinking about markets and Catholics and ratings and censorship, was it was so striking to think of these pink creatures, very vulnerable creatures, moving through this very harsh, metallic environment. That was in the script at the beginning. We didn't shoot it that way because Fox said "We'll lose Spain and we'll lose Italy, so you have to wear [clothes]."  There was still this idea of filling as much flesh as possible within the environment to show what a human being was, in space. I think it was erotic but that was something I thought was terribly important. Not the girl strips down, but the girl relaxes, thinks it's over, goes about her business and suddenly the worst possible thing happens and she's not prepared, she's as vulnerable as she can be. And happily she finds this space suit and puts it on, so she can get on with it. But it was not about sex to me, and I think, to Ridley. Although, again, we always wanted an erotic undercurrent in the film, because [you'd think]  'what would he do to her?' So that was the genesis of the idea. I was all for it. I didn't even think 'this is a scene where I show my underwear.' I was trying to show the most utilitarian underwear I could find." (Alien The Archive, p96)
  9. Fantastic Films: How did you feel about the scene on the shuttle where Ripley doffs her clothes not knowing the alien is on board
    Sigourney Weaver: What could be more natural that to take off sweaty things I was wearing, like a snake shedding its skin. Actually there was some nudity in the script in the beginning of the movie. When we all wake up, we're supposed to be naked. It was a very provocative visual concept to see these people moving through such a harsh environment in just their natural state. But that was changed later. (Fantastic Films #11:, p35)
  10. Ridley Scott: Ripley does a modest strip once in the shuttle, but we kept that in to stress the vulnerability of a lady who's pretty much a ballsy sort. (Cinefantastique, vol 9, no.1)
  11. Questar: There is unusual sexual bias presented in Alien.

    Sigourney Weaver: I think the creature is very sensuous, Ridley always referred to the alien as "he". At one point when we were discussing the scene at the end where Ripley is shedding her clothes, there was an idea that came up which relates to this sexual fascination - but we discussed the possibility of this creature watching Ripley with a voyeuristic passion. The alien would not attack because it was fascinated by the fact it suddenly saw skin. To see another creature without its shell would move it, touch it in some way. We talked about things like that (Questar magazine #5, November 1979)
  12. Sigourney weaver: I think there was [a romantic element] from the very first. The alien coming out of its hiding place and seeing this pink creature in the closet. Ridley really wanted to go in that direction – that it was drawn to me because I was so different to it. Sort of beauty and the beast, I suppose. That was such a strong image to me at the time, it is so sexual; I've never been able to forget it.(http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/25/sigourney-weaver-fifth-instalment-alien-saga)

2 comments:

  1. I actually tend to think that her underwear are slightly UN-sexy, because they almost appear to be falling off of her butt, rather than accentuating it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I suppose quite honestly, the idea would have been that they should look almost as if they're "falling off her butt" and this would grab the attention of a good portion of the male audience.

    ReplyDelete