Sunday, April 27, 2014

Live Goods: Aliens EXPOsed

The real reason that I wanted to go to Calgary Expo this year was because they were putting on a cast reunion of 1986's Aliens, one of my all time favorite films.  They've done these kinds of things before as Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen are regulars on the convention circuit, someone from the cast will pop up to talk at a screening, etc but this time was even more special.  This would be the largest assembling of the movie's cast since production at Pinewood Studios in England 27 years ago.  Calgary Expo would mark Sigourney Weaver's first appearance at a show like this with a signing joining Con newbies Paul Reiser and Bill Paxton.  After seeing the previous night's Middle Earth EXPOsed, I really wondered how Aliens would play out.  Middle Earth was a two part chat with the casts from two different franchises in the same universe then ended with a three segment improve show.  With Aliens, I knew they wouldn't be doing any singing or dancing for us and figured it would roll out as a typical comic con panel only on a grander scale.  I thought it would be better if they brought out a few guests at a time so everyone got their spotlight and because bringing out 10 people at one time just gets messy.
Looks like organizer Emily Expo and company were on the same page as Star Trek: Voyager actor and Aliens fanatic Garrett Wang welcomed us to the Corral before Wang took over as host and showed a clip highlighting Drake, Vasquez and Frost; three of the Colonial Space Marines.  Actors Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein and Ricco Ross were trotted out to stage that was set up with alien eggs, a leaping xenomorph, pulse rifes and flamethrower courtesty of a local prop maker as they spoke about getting involved ,the training required, Rolston and Ross' competition in the gym and nightly pose offs which culminated in Ross showing the crowd he still had abs.  Rolston and Goldstein mentioned that the script had a short backstory for their characters; that they were conscripted for duty and would be serving for life, hence their strong bond in the film.

The second clip was all about Hicks and Hudson, the cool, reluctant hero thrown into command and the squawking comic relief.  I feel a disservice was done to Hicks' character though as they didn't show the APC wreckage/escape where he screams "Drake, we are leaving!" then blasts an alien in the mouth with a shotgun.  Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton came out to huge applause and it was just too much fun watching them with each other as they have worked together several times (this, NAVY SEALS, TOMBSTONE) and have some of the best parts in the film.  Wang was a pretty solid host but here I thought things got a little iffy as his inner fanboy took over and most of the spotlight went to Paxton.  We had already seen Paxton earlier and knew the guy had stories for days and he continued to tell them here.  One that was particularly great was that Mad Magazine did a feature spoof on Aliens and Paxton, being a huge fan, ran out to get the issue only to find that instead of making a caricature of his face, the artists just put a chicken head on his body.  Biehn was only asked a couple of direct questions, one about coming in late to replace James Remar thus playing the character softer and more vulnerable as well as being able to miss out on all the bullshit physical and military tactics training the rest of the cast had to endure.  The other was about his character in Cameron's follow up The Abyss and Biehn vigorously schooled Wang, with an assist from Paxton, that Navy SEAL Hiram Coffey was not a villain, just a misunderstood guy who was cut off from his chain of command, told aliens were going to attack and was suffering from deep pressure sickness.

In the third clip of the evening, we see company man Carter Burke and artificial person Bishop.  Paul Reiser was very funny and talked about not being a villain but a company man looking out for their best interests, not having any cool props like the Marines and being ostracized from the group which still happens to this day as Biehn lovingly gave him the middle finger.  Here again, Wang focused more on one guest than the other so the great Lance Henriksen was only asked one question and more or less looked uninterested in what was going on around him.  In the next clip, the audience was reintroduced to colony survivor Newt, played by 9 year old Carrie Henn who is now a school teacher.  Henn lamented that acting in the film was like her secret life as she never set out to be an actor and after the film's success was the victim of constant bullying from jealous classmates.  Henn went through high school and college without her closest friends knowing about her past until a story in People magazine hit newsstands.

Lastly, it was time for Ripley; Sigourney Weaver's signature role that lead her to being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.  Which was news she found out while in a room with producers of Gorillas in the Mist meeting about the role.  Weaver was stunning and gracious while reminiscing
about the natural bond she had with Henn, working with brilliant yet Mr. Intense James Cameron, getting over her fear/objection of guns for the role and the fact that it's a good and bad sign that Ripley is still such a trailblazing character for strong leading women nearly 3 decades later.  Paxton told the audience how great a leader and calming an influence Weaver was on set while Ross will never forget when she urged him to call long distance to his wife in England at their impromptu cast party in her hotel room following the premiere.  Weaver revealed that she gave each cast member a bouquet of flowers on the day of their death scenes during production.  Her Galaxy Quest co-star Tim Allen is a huge science fiction fan and somehow bought part of the Aliens set for his screening room.  When Weaver put a jokey message on it, Allen was enraged.

A few audience questions and one from special guest Danny Glover!  From Predator 2!  Co-starring Bill Paxton! made the rounds asking what the cast kept from the production.  Rolston kept the bust of his scarred face, parts of his armor and whatnot that a collector offered him $100,000 smackers for but everything was sadly thrown out by his ex-wife.  Ross held onto his dog tags which he gave to a fan who wrote to him saying she was dressing up as him for Halloween.  Biehn says he wasn't smart enough to keep anything while Lance Henriksen has his original script with his tons of notes scribbled throughout.  When asked about the best piece of advice they'd ever received, most of the cast mentioned their father and basic advice like being who you are, getting back up after being knocked down and the like.  It was a fantastic evening and event, I just wish the people in Calgary weren't so large and that the seats weren't so small and zip-tied together.  My aching back!

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