BOOK REVIEW – Aliens: The Set Photography by Simon Ward

By Marty Mulrooney

Aliens The Set Photography

Aliens: The Set Photography is a new hardback photography book that documents the making of director James Cameron’s 1986 science fiction classic Aliens. Released today in the UK (9th August 2016) by Titan Books to coincide with the film’s thirtieth anniversary, this beautiful tome takes fans behind-the-scenes for a ‘visual celebration’ that includes a wealth of never-before-seen pictures, along with a new interview with Carrie Henn (Newt) and new quotes from Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez).

“Everyone always asks me if this scene scared me… The stuntman in the alien suit and I would sit on the pipes between takes, drinking tea and practicing our swim kicks.”
Carrie Henn on the alien kidnap scene

Aliens The Set Photography 1

Aliens, the blockbuster sequel to Alien, blew cinemagoers away when it first burst onto cinema screens around the world in 1986. With a cast of memorable characters (Ripley is now joined by a squad of space marines and a resourceful little girl), a gripping story and incredible special effects, it has since become and remained a cinematic classic for a reason.

Aliens: The Set Photography is the perfect way for fans to celebrate their enduring love and appreciation of this iconic masterpiece. When first opening the book, it becomes immediately apparent that the photography throughout is not only excellently reproduced; it reveals a fresh perspective on the filmmaking process, with the director, cast and crew all captured on set.

Aliens The Set Photography 2

In today’s filmmaking world of ever-increasing reliance on CGI, these photographs might have amounted to little more than actors standing in front of a green screen. Here, it’s like stepping right into the world of the film. Sometimes literally – it certainly takes a moment to get your head around why giant men are walking across LV-426 (it was built in its entirety in miniature on Pinewood stages)!

Of course, the scene-stealer in the film has always been the queen alien and she does exactly the same thing here. A puppet standing 14 feet tall (the precursor to the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park), her scenes in the film’s finale looked so real because in large part, they actually were. The artistry and filmmaking on display throughout this book is absolutely incredible.

Aliens The Set Photography 3

There are some interesting quotes included from Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez), but the most valuable insights come from Carrie Henn (Newt). Her ‘Memories Of Filming’ open the book and give a lovely account of how an 8-year-old girl in the UK was found by a casting agent in her school cafeteria. She was 9 when the film was shot and 10 when it was released. She had never acted before and she’s never acted since!

As the experience must have been so alien (pardon the pun) and exciting to Henn, she has remembered some wonderful details that would have otherwise been lost to time. This is a photography book first and foremost (there has already been so much written about Aliens elsewhere) but continual quotes from Henn are always a delight to read. After all, what better way to experience the magic of a film set than through the eyes of a child?

Aliens The Set Photography 4

Aliens: The Set Photography is a wonderful book that successfully showcases why Aliens is a classic film – they just don’t make them like this anymore. The text is well written and informative throughout, but the stunning images remain the focus and rightly so. It’s a cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t make it any less true here.

As a celebration of the film’s thirtieth anniversary, Aliens: The Set Photography is an essential and unmissable treat. It’s a treasure-trove of behind-the-scenes photographs that will delight fans of Aliens and the filmmaking process alike.

10 OUT OF 10

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