Actor Lance Henriksen has appeared in some big, high profile films before and after Aliens, including such classics as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and The Right Stuff, yet his role as the "artificial person" Bishop remains one of his most recognizable. Henriksen even reprised Bishop in David Fincher's critically panned 1992 sequel Alien 3, and this year appears in the long discussed Aliens Vs Predator.
Henriksen, who worked with Cameron on Piranha II: The Spawning and The Terminator, saw the role as a fascinating challenge. "I see him as someone who is basically a servant without being servile," he said. "A companion to labor. At this time in history, it would be demoralizing for a human to be around someone is being subservient. That's why they call Bishop an Executive Officer, which is just a fancy title for planetary manoeuvrer. He's not a Marine, he's part of the ship. He doesn't carry a weapon, there's no way. Because if you give an android a weapon, you're getting into another area entirely. You can make a weapon that can shoot itself, like the smart gun, but you don't give an android a weapon. There's a vast difference."
One of the most appealing elements of Bishop to the actor, who recently starred in TVs Millennium, is the character's innocence. "I felt that he was only eight to ten years old, mechanically, so I gave him the emotional life of a 14-year old. I was basically playing myself at that age. There's the knowledge that you have your whole life ahead of you to learn, yet there's always that vulnerability to the powers that be.
There was a fair amount of discussion before filming as to how to present Bishop to the audience. "Jim and I talked for a month on the phone -- he was already in London -- to try to figure out the best way to introduce Bishop," Henriksen explained. "We had an idea about him being alone, while everyone else was in hypersleep, tending to meters and buttons and doing a thousand, thousand push ups. You see this lonely figure in this ship by himself. We realized that doesn't do much storywise, and then we came up with the knife."
The sequence, involving Bishop's robotic identity coming out for the first time to Ripley and the audience, featured his character performing an impressive, risky knife trick. "I practiced that quite a bit. Then, when we got onto the set and finally were ready to shoot the scene, I dragged one of the other guys into it [Paxton]. I said, 'Jim, this is a little bit stagey, why don't I put my hand over somebody else's hand and that involves more people. It makes it an event."
Like Bill Paxton's Hudson, Henriksen's work as Bishop won over audiences, and gave the actor his first real brush with fame. Henriksen was well aware that the role would be a major boost for his career. "I guess the biggest deal with this whole thing, is I'm not going to be cut from this movie. I've done many movies in the last 10 years where the cutting has just wiped my parts out. They were, however, not pivotal characters. So, when something has to go, that's not going to be it. Aliens is a big, big benefit to an actor like me. I've always known if I just hang on, I'll have the chance -- and I'm getting it." *
Paxton, who previously appeared in James Cameron's acclaimed The Terminator, and later in the director's huge hits True Lies and Titanic (not to mention the documentary Ghosts Of The Abyss), landed the role of Private Hudson, the smart ass marine who fell apart once things turned to shit. Hudson became the cult fave of Aliens, and provided the film with it's most quotable catch phrases. Paxton actually turned down a major part in Police Academy 2 for the supporting role of Hudson. It turned out to be good career move.
Paxton, who's major credits include Mighty Joe Young, Twister, Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan and 2004's live action Thunderbirds, has fond memories of his experiences on the 1986 sequel. "Aliens was an incredible project to have been associated with. It continues to reap nice dividends for me in terms of recognition; it's the most recognizable character I've played."
The actor's portrayal of hair-trigger Hudson trickled down into the actor's other work. "When I did Trespass with Walter Hill, he said 'Do it with a warble in your voice. I want a little bit of it, but not too much, this isn't Aliens now!' " The role was also an interesting variation on his cop character (Jerry) in Predator 2, who was equally wiseass and cocky, yet in that film, Jerry ultimately became more heroic when the chips came down.
Paxton provided the most outrageous showing from the cast, which is exactly what he and Cameron had in mind. "[Cameron] knew that I love acting up for my audience, and wanted me to go all the way in Aliens," Paxton said. "Hudson embodies the insane fear that something's going to implant this horrible creature in your body. That made mine the most notable character, since Ripley and Hicks are always trying to be so cool. I was that pressure valve for people to scream with, and there's nothing like a good supporting actor to make a film. I've built my career on roles like that. Jim did a great job, but when I did it, I was worried. Playing the hysterical guy, big and operatic, is a strain. I wish I had relaxed more and kinda gone with it. I wanted to be good in the movie, because I didn't want to let Jim down. He commands respect, and I'm fortunate to get his.
"That one was so weird to make because, as we shot at Pinewood Studios in England, we'd show up on set and blast the crap out of these roaring Aliens all day, shooting them left and right, explosions, the works and then at the stroke of ten and four an old lady would push this tea trolley around, and all the Marines and all the guys playing the Aliens would take their costumes off and have cups of tea and scones."
The production was indeed a complex one, crammed with pyrotechnics and live FX. However, such elements proved to be rather hazardous for the cast. "We were doing the sequence," Paxton recalled, "Where Drake has just be hit and his flame thrower shoots an arc of butane right into the ship and it's total anarchy. Well, part of the set caught on fire, and it was this plastic stuff. Now, sometimes, we would improvise. There would be certain dialogue that we would have to say, and then the cameras would still be rolling and they would want us to keep playing the moment. So, I heard Jenette [Goldstein] next to me go, ' I can't breathe, cough, cough!' and I thought, 'Wow, she's really going into the whole smoke thinking. That's good!' But the very next second, I took a breath and was like something had just -- whoosh! -- taken my breath away."
Of the legendarily intense and rough Cameron, Paxton gives him high marks. The mutual admiration between them has resulted in a successful working relationship over the years. "Yes, he unrelenting. And yes, he's uncompromising, and yes, he's a tough SOB. But he has more integrity and loyalty than just about than just about anybody I've ever met in Hollywood. He's been incredibly loyal to me." *