One month before filming began on Alien, Ripley still hadn’t been cast.
When Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett wrote Alien, they didn’t specify which members of the ill-fated Nostromo crew were male and which were female; all of the parts were written unisex, allowing Ridley Scott and his team the unique freedom of deciding the sex of each character during the casting process. Even Ripley, the Nostromo’s sole survivor, was not a female character until Scott came aboard the project. Of course, he cast 29-year-old Sigourney Weaver as the film’s heroine, and it’s impossible to imagine any other actor (male or female) doing the part more justice.
Weaver IS the Alien franchise… but she wasn’t the first choice to helm the series.
Other actresses considered for the role included Helen Mirren (who auditioned) and even Meryl Streep (who was never actually approached), but it was Weaver who won over Ridley Scott during a New York audition that took place just about one month before filming was to begin. Scott was set on casting Weaver as Ripley based on her audition alone, but the producers insisted on her first completing a screen test.
And so, in May on ’78, the young Weaver flew to London to read through her lines on actual pieces of the Nostromo set that had already been constructed. That screen test, which was thankfully filmed and preserved, brought the iconic character of Ellen Ripley to life for the very first time.
Enjoy this delightful piece of Alien history below!