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'A great talent and a great man': Alien's Ridley Scott, Tom Skerritt, and more pay tribute to Ian Holm

By Josh Weiss
Ian Holm in Alien

The world lost Ian Holm Friday, but the actor's incredible legacy lives on in history-making films like Alien, Ridley Scott's sci-fi/horror masterpiece about a blue-collar space crew being hunted down by an unknown life form. Holm's portrayal of scheming android Ash set the stage for the franchise's gallery of "milk-blooded," humanoid robots with varying moralities: Aliens' Bishop (Lance Henriksen), Alien Resurrection's Annalee Call (Winona Ryder), and Prometheus' David (Michael Fassbender).

"I had such a good time and fruitful one with Ian, and my only regret was not to have worked with him once again," Scott said in a statement provided to SYFY WIRE by Slate PR. "Ian talked to me during production quite a lot, which I found to be very helpful. A great talent and a great man — we’ll miss him."

Ian Holm

As Holm mentions in his autobiography, Acting My Life, Scott requested that Ash (the Nostromo's shady science officer, who allows the xenomporh to board the ship and run afoul of its human occupants) be played as "realistic" as possible. "Realistic human, it's the same for the monster. The realism will make it work — not fantasy," the filmmaker reportedly told the actor.

Series producer David Giler (who, along with fellow producer Walter Hill, did an uncredited rewrite of Dan O'Bannon's original screenplay) sent us this exclusive tribute: "I was just thinking about him. Doubtless, Walter will remember he and I wrote the part of Ash for Ian after seeing him in Zeffereli’s Jesus, in which he was brilliant. Great actor. Great guy. And very funny. RIP."

Giler and Hill's production company added: "Brandywine Productions, producers of the Alien franchise, mourns the loss of our friend Ian Holm, whose unforgettable performance as Ash in the first Alien delivered one of the the most iconic movie villains of all time."

Ian Holm Alien

Tom Skerritt, who played the Nostromo's Captain Dallas, also responded to our request for comment.

"I was honored to be in Ian Holm’s presence!" he said. "I dined with Ian in his 400-year-old farmhouse east of London and enjoyed every moment we had together! Ian was quite special! Thanks for the memory, Mister Holm!"

Dallas and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) bring the impregnated Kane (John Hurt) back onto the ship after he's attacked by a facehugger on LV-426. Dallas demands Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) let them in, but she cites safety protocol, informing them that they must quarantine for 24 hours.

Disobeying the health directive, Ash — acting on secret orders from "The Company" — opens the hatch instead. After Dallas is killed by the fully grown xenomorph in the Nostromo's air vents later in the movie, Ripley assumes command and learns the sinister purpose behind their mining mission: "Investigate life-form. Gather specimen. Priority one: ensure return of organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew Expendable."

Ian Holm Sigourney Weaver Alien

Ash tries to assassinate Ripley to keep her quiet, but is subdued by Lambert and Parker (Yaphet Kotto), the skirmish revealing him to be a robot. Reduced to a head on a table, the android — his voice now a creepy mechanical echo — tells the surviving crew members that the alien is "a perfect organism," whose "structural perfection is matched only by its hostility." Giving them one last smirk of infinite smugness, Ash gives them his "sympathies" before Parker sets the traitor's lifeless remains ablaze with a flamethrower.