The beautiful thing about Comic-Con is that it's a safe space for absolute, utter geekdom. It's the kind of event where you can express your love for a story, character, or TV show with zero fear of being judged. And sometimes, it's a place where people actually express love for each other, right in front of the cast and crew of their favorite film. That's what happened Saturday in San Diego at a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Aliens, James Cameron's seminal sci-fi action flick.
The panel brought together Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and the majority of the film's cast: Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Carrie Henn (Newt), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Paul Reiser (Burke), and Lance Henriksen (the android Bishop, who just coincidentally has the best character name in film history). There's a souped-up anniversary Blu-ray coming that helped spur the reunion, and the group took the opportunity to reminisce about their time making the film.
Early tests for the Alien Queen involved ski poles and trash bags
Giving credit to the make-up effects by the late Stan Winston, Cameron described how the early tests for the Alien Queen were done in a parking lot, using nothing more than ski poles and black garbage bags to prove that the puppeteering system they had in mind would actually work. (The movie came out in 1986, long before green screen or computer-generated imagery was even an option.) And despite Cameron's reputation as a notorious taskmaster on set, Biehn pointed out that Aliens is one of the few films in his career where everybody pretty much got along, and in the years since there's been no trash talk from the actors about each other — and certainly no rancor aimed at Cameron.
A lone exception was an anecdote the director himself relayed about working with Henn, who at the time was just an elementary school student that had been plucked from obscurity by a casting director. In one particular scene, Henn's character is trapped by the alien creatures and held in place by a sticky resin. As Cameron recounted, he would often take a brush and add the fine detailing to makeup and effects before the cameras would roll. But while he added the final touches on Henn for this particular shot, the actress — who was immobilized — decided to tell him how she really felt: "It should be illegal for you to do this to little kids."
The question and answer session of the evening kicked off with a fan asking about the sequel director Neill Blomkamp's been trying to get going, which reportedly picks right up from Aliens and pretends the other sequels don't even exist. Weaver said Blomkamp's script was "amazing and gives the fans everything they’re looking for, plus innovates in a lot of ways," although it didn't sound like the film was any closer to coming together than it did last October. Regardless, the highlight of the night — other than hearing Bill Paxton say "Game over, man!" live in the room — was the surprise proposal.
A young man named Chris Naylor took the microphone, thanking Cameron and the cast for making the film, explaining that Aliens was the movie that had inspired him to move to Los Angeles — the city where he met his girlfriend, Britt. With his face blasted across the massive video screens that line Hall H, he opened up a ring box, and proposed to his girlfriend (herself a cosplayer) in the most Aliens way possible. "If you'll nuke the site from orbit with me," he said, "that would be great."
Now, you could say it was cheesy. You could say it was over the top. You could say that it was awfully strange that the only clip from Aliens that Cameron and his cast played during their discussion was the very scene that line was pulled from. But watching the newly engaged couple walk up on stage and meet the cast and crew of their favorite movie, and take a group photo with them, I could only think of one thing.
This was Comic-Con.