Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

Original Alien Star Tom Skerritt Talks Deleted Scene, Legacy of Ridley Scott's Sci-Fi Classic and Chest-Burster Moment

SYFY WIRE sits down with the intrepid captain of the Nostromo.

By Josh Weiss
Dallas (Tom Skerritt) wears a headset in Alien (1979) .

Tom Skerritt knew Alien was going to be a hit about halfway into production. He turned to co-star Yaphet Kotto (Parker) at one point and said, "We’re making a classic, you know that?" Without missing a beat, Kotto replied, "I sure as hell do." Skerritt — who played intrepid Nostromo captain, Dallas —  is one of three surviving cast members of director Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi/horror classic along with Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) and Veronica Cartwright (Lambert).

Now that the film is streaming on Peacock for the very first time, SYFY WIRE got ahold of the actor to discuss his involvement with the immortal genre masterpiece that helped lay the body horror groundwork for the likes of John Carpenter's The Thing and David Cronenberg's The Fly. "It was something that had never been done before and not over-thought as they were doing it," Skerritt tells us over the phone. "If you have to analyze things, you’re not gonna be successful." He goes on to credit the effectiveness of the "Jaws in space" idea originally conceived by Alien masterminds, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

Original Alien Cast Member Tom Skerritt Looks Back on Sci-Fi Classic

Dallas (Tom Skerritt) wears a spacesuit with a light in Alien (1979)

"You’re right on the edge of something happening that’s gonna come and get you," Skerritt explains. "It’s sort of like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where you don’t see this awful, horrible person, but you just know he’s there. What is he gonna do? Who is he gonna take? What is going on here? So the audience has that thrill through the whole thing because it was intelligently done and original as could be."

While Alien is all about the cold, unfeeling, and uncaring nature of outer space — as well as the unspeakable, borderline Lovecraftian horrors that may be hiding out in the great unknown of the cosmos — the cast and crew never let the atmosphere on set get too dour. "There was a lot of laughter going on," Skerritt remembers. "I don’t know whether that’s just letting yourself get back to a level or not, but I think sometimes, scary moments give you more laughter."

For More on Alien:

Game Over, Man! The 13 Scariest and Most Iconic Moments From the Alien Franchise
Noah Hawley's long-awaited 'Alien' TV series finally in pre-production at FX
Sigourney Weaver visits NJ high school cast of Alien to tell them to break a leg and burst a chest

One light-hearted moment that stands out particularly vivid in the actor's memory is the sight of Bolaji Badejo (the lanky, Nigerian actor who played the fully-grown Xenomorph) heading to lunch in full costume without the alien's signature head in place. "The creature walking off to lunch with its head off and blue tennis shoes. Still wearing the outfit, so he didn’t have to put it back on after lunch," the actor recalls. "He’s [6 foot 10 inches] and walking with a five-foot wardrobe lady having this conversation about British economics … That’s a photo I wish I could’ve taken and made a million dollars selling the damn thing."

Tom Skerritt On Filming Alien's Iconic Chestburster Scene

Alien (1979) Chestburster YT

Getting back to the topic of "scary moments," no scene is more demonstrative of the Alien's impact on the world of horror than the infamous arrival of the Chestburster, which violently ripped open John Hurt's sternum and a brand-new era of cinematic terror. The grisly demise of poor Kane was in the script, of course, but the cast didn't know just how graphic the final effect was going to be.

"I knew we were gonna have a mess with that one, which we did," Skerritt says. "I was listening to everything that was going on to build this production and, in so doing, had knowledge of what was gonna happen. I didn’t know what it would look or how we would react. And when we reacted, it was real, because I hadn’t seen the dummy that came out. But I knew how they were gonna do that. It was effective."

Cartwright was apparently so taken aback by the surprise, "she almost passed out," he adds. "When it happened, she just slid down the wall. She actually almost fainted." This pseudo-prank (or a director lying by omission, if you prefer) intended to get a more genuine reaction out of the actors was all part of Scott's grounded approach to the movie. "He was giving you the reality all the time."

The up and coming filmmaker — who only had one other feature under his belt at the time — was also quite meticulous, sketching highly-detailed storyboards that Skerritt wishes he could've taken home as a souvenir once filming had wrapped. "Page after page. The work that he put in to these sketches was remarkable and I thought, ‘God, can you give me these afterwards?’"

Tom Skerritt Talks Alien Deleted Scene That Reveals Dallas's Fate

Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) use an electric stick in Alien (1979)

And now we come to the deleted Eggmorphing scene, which provides a concrete answer of what happened to Captain Dallas after he mysteriously disappeared while trying to chase the creature out of the ship's air ducts with a makeshift flamethrower.

Set just before the Nostromo self-destructs, the axed sequence finds Ripley coming across a truly bizarre scene: Dallas and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) have essentially been glued to the wall are currently in the slow process of transforming into new Facehugger eggs that will allow the whole process to begin afresh (remember: this was before James Cameron thought of the Alien Queen). Clearly in a state of unimaginable agony, the erstwhile captain implores Ripley to put him out of his misery, and she reluctantly obliges. Depending on where you stand, the concept of Eggmorphing either complicates or enhances the mythology surrounding the Xenomorph life cycle. In any case, Skerritt doesn't regret its excision from the final cut.

"There wasn’t any purpose other than to say, ‘This is what happened to Dallas,'" he notes. "Part of the whole mystery … is not knowing quite what happened to him, but you have a pretty good idea that he isn’t alive. Now we see the process of the alien character taking over your life, basically. He was gonna be put in an egg. You don’t get into all of that when you know the [ship] is gonna blow up in a few seconds. You gotta get the hell out of there. And if you suddenly stop [the story cold], it’s just not the way you edit a film."

What's Next For The Alien Franchise?

The cast of Alien (1979) pose in uniform.

When considering the longevity and adaptability of the Alien franchise over the last 45 years, one can't help but think of Ash's (Ian Holm) famous last words: "A perfect organism." Just like a gestating Xenomorph is able to take on the physical characteristics of any viable host, the series has displayed an uncanny ability to thrive in almost any medium: film, television, comics, novels, video games, action figures, Funko Pop! figures, and everything in between. As of this writing, two more Alien projects — a movie directed by Don't Breathe's Fede Álvarez and a TV series hailing from Fargo's Noah Hawley — are coming down the pipeline. 

"You don’t try to make a classic, you just try to put something together when you’re editing the damn thing," Skerritt concludes, musing on the runaway success of the 1979 original. "Shoot enough footage that you can play with the edit to make a film that’s maybe not what the studio wanted or anticipated, but becomes a larger experience for an audience [so] that they are moved by this film in a way they never experienced and never will again."

Alien is now streaming on Peacock.

Read more about: