How to Get Cast in an ‘Alien’ Production

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When Ridley Scott’s “Alien” debuted in 1979, it changed the game for sci-fi horror films. The extraterrestrial-themed movie, written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, transformed aliens into nightmares and cemented the careers of Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skeritt. With a legacy that includes numerous sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, the “Alien” franchise is a (supernatural) force to be reckoned with. And now, it's making its mark on the small screen with its first television series in the works for FX on Hulu. 

For those hoping to land a role in an upcoming “Alien” production, we’re here to help. Let this guide be your go-to resource for insight into the casting process and advice on standing out during your audition.

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What is “Alien” about?

Set in 2122, the “Alien” franchise begins with the interplanetary tale of the Nostromo crew, as its members are tasked with investigating a transmission coming from a nearby moon. When they discover a derelict alien spaceship and what seems to be a crop of abandoned eggs on said ship, the mission turns dangerous as a creature emerges, latching onto one crew member’s face and knocking him out in the process. Once the crew retrieves their fallen teammate, returning him to the ship, the aptly named “face hugger” ultimately dies, allowing the crew member to awake and return to his duties. However, the Nostromo team soon learns said creature took up residence within their teammate’s body, as an alien bursts from his chest, systematically hunting and killing everyone aboard, except Ellen Ripley, played by Weaver. 

The film’s sequels—“Aliens” (1986), “Alien 3” (1992), and “Alien Resurrection” (1997)—span more than 200 years from Ripley’s first encounter and explore what happens when humans have increasingly fraught interactions with the seemingly unstoppable creatures. (The franchise received the crossover treatment with 2004’s “Alien vs. Predator,” and 2007’s “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.”) However, the franchise took it back to the beginning with 2012’s “Prometheus” and 2017’s “Alien: Covenant,” which focus on the origin story of the alien life-forms. “Prometheus” takes place 30 years before the original film, shining light on an extinct civilization as explorers work to learn the origins of human life; “Covenant”  details the experiments that birthed the creatures who became the name and face of the enduring films. And 2024’s upcoming film release, “Alien: Romulus,” will take place in the years between the original 1979 film and its 1986 follow-up.

Who’s in the casts of the “Alien” films and TV series?

The original “Alien” cast starred some serious Hollywood heavyweights: Weaver (Ripley), Skerritt (Dallas), John Hurt (Kane), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), Ian Holm (Ash), and Yaphet Kotto (Parker).

“Aliens” saw Weaver return as Ripley, with Paul Reiser (Burke) and Bill Paxton (Private Hudson) appearing in supporting roles. Weaver also starred in “Aliens 3” and “Alien Resurrection,” though in “Resurrection” she played a clone of her former character. Winona Ryder (Annalee Call) and Ron Perlman (Johner) also starred. “Prometheus” ushered in a new cast, welcoming Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Idris Elba (Janek), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway), and Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland) to the franchise. Fassbender returned for “Alien: Covenant,” alongside Katherine Waterston (Daniels), Billy Crudup (Oram), and Danny McBride (Tennessee).

“Alien: Romulus” stars Cailee Spaeny (Rain Carradine), David Jonsson (Andy), Archie Renaux (Tyler), and Isabela Merced (Kay). And the untitled “Alien” series will feature Sydney Chandler (Wendy), Alex Lawther (CJ), Samuel Blenkin (Boy Kavalier), Essie Davis (Dame Silvia), and Timothy Olyphant (Kirsh).

Alien Romulus

“Alien Romulus” Credit: Murray Close

Who are the casting directors for the “Alien” franchise?

While the late Mary Goldberg (“Amadeus,” “The Siege”) cast the inaugural entry of the “Alien” franchise, many followed in her wake. Most recently, Nina Gold (“Game of Thrones”) and Avy Kaufman (“Succession”) cast “Prometheus”; Carmen Cuba (“Stranger Things”) cast “Covenant”; and Sydney Shircliff (“Air”) and Mary Vernieu (“Knives Out”) cast “Romulus.”

As Gold told us, nothing’s off-limits in her audition room. “I guess it’s a kind of safe space to try stuff out, so, theoretically, everything is fine, really. As long as everybody is respecting each other, it’s the time to try different things out,” she said. Similarly, Kaufman wants to be surprised. “It is so much fun when an actor brings something in that I didn’t think of and that the creative team probably didn’t think of, most likely. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you just nailed it,’” she told us. “The thing is, I want people to be great, so when they surprise us and do something that wows us, it’s very exciting.”

Cuba, on the contrary, prefers to do the surprising—she wants actors to know very little about what goes into her audition process. “It’s better if I’m a blank slate to them so that they can focus on the audition. I have things that I do that I’ve heard are very particular to me, but if I shared them with you they would lose their spontaneity for the actor in the room and defeat the whole point!” she emphasized.

Alien

Courtesy 20th Century Studios

How does the casting process work for “Alien” projects?

For Scott, who directed “Alien” and its prequels, “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant,” landing the best talent doesn’t hinge on auditions. In fact, as he told us, coffee with prospective actors often does the trick. “I’ll talk to them about anything but the film; I’ll talk to them about themselves, who they are,” Scott shared. “I want to know who they are as a person, how inventive they’re gonna be, and how relaxed they’re gonna be. If you’re relaxed, that’s when the best work comes.”

But as writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset once shared, casting the original film was particularly interesting because they were so focused on the alien that the Nostromo crew became generic—specific details were minimal. “The crew is unisex, and all parts are interchangeable for men or women,” Shusset said. This gave Scott the freedom to mold the characters as he saw fit.

Scott told The Hollywood Reporter he’d considered a number of up-and-comers to play Ripley, including Meryl Streep, already a rising star, but the death of her partner, John Cazale, sent Scott in another direction. Scott said of his casting team, “I think I drove them crazy by saying, ‘Nah, nah, nah, yes, yes, yes, yes, yeah,’” he shared. “Then one day—I believe I could be wrong, but you can quote it because he’d probably be quite happy—Warren Beatty had called up David Giler and said, ‘Listen, I’ve seen this young woman onstage Off-Broadway called Sigourney Weaver, you should see her.’ I believe that’s what happened. Because then the next thing is I’m going to meet Sigourney and in walks somebody who’s got to be at least six foot one and dwarfed me. And that’s how I met Sigourney.”

When Scott asked McBride to join “Covenant,” however, the comedic actor was seemingly confused. “It was just surreal,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News. “The chance to work with someone like [director] Ridley Scott on a franchise he started, it was just mind-boggling…. Initially, I had no idea what Ridley [Scott] wanted me to be in this film,” he continued. “I thought I might be comic relief, but when I read the script I was really stoked to be given the opportunity to do something different than what I’ve done in other films, tackle heavier things. It was a cool opportunity to be in a film where I don’t have to do a lot of dancing around and just make jokes. I got to do real stuff!”

Alien Romulus

Courtesy 20th Century Studios

What “Alien” projects are currently filming?

While there’s no word yet on whether FX’s “Alien” series has wrapped, TV Guide noted that Olyphant was photographed in Thailand in March—where the show was slated to film—posing alongside former “Justified” costar Walter Goggins, who was also there to film his next project, “The White Lotus.” With the series set to debut in 2025, filming has likely wrapped—but showrunners assured Deadline that the show has the potential to run for numerous seasons (if ratings allow), so keep an eye on this page for updates on the series’ future opportunities!

As for “Alien: Romulus,” the movie will be released in theaters on August 16, 2024, although we wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood decides to add even more installments to the franchise’s impressive catalog.

Alien

Courtesy 20th Century Studios

Where can you find “Alien” casting calls and auditions?

While there aren’t any “Alien” productions currently seeking talent, we recommend bookmarking our main horror casting page for updates on the latest listings.

If you’re looking for more audition advice, we suggest checking out our guide to auditioning for Hulu as you await news of the series’ potential second season.

To help you build up your résumé‎‎, you can also always check out our casting roundups, which are updated weekly with gigs hiring talent now:

Alien

Courtesy 20th Century Studios

What are the best audition tips for landing a role in an “Alien” project?

Have fun with the process. When asked the advice she’d give her younger self, Rapace told us she’d tell young Noomi to “relax, chill.” She continued, “Don’t take yourself so bloody, deadly serious. I was so serious. I was so unkind to myself. I was very unforgiving toward myself. Now I try to have more fun with myself. I’m actually quite nerdy, and I’m stupid most of the day, and I allow myself to be.” When you walk into the audition room, CDs want to see the real you and what you can bring to the table. It clearly worked for Rapace, and it can work for you, too.

Be prepared (but be flexible, too). While Vernieu wants actors to know that there are countless reasons behind why they might not land a specific role, she emphasizes that a healthy mixture of preparation and flexibility can go a long way during an audition. “I try to let an actor have as much freedom as they need to get to where they want to be artistically. But if the casting director in the room is saying to you, ‘Could you just do it this way,’ there’s a reason why: The producers are asking for something in particular,” she said. “Don’t argue. Sometimes, people get a little bit set on the way they’ve prepared it, and they need to be able to be flexible once they’re in the room.”

Disregard the naysayers. Believe it or not, Weaver spent much of her drama school days being told she had no talent, leaving her to feel rather insecure. “[D]espite the fact that I always seemed to be getting as much work as everyone else, sometimes more, I used to think, Well, I'm not really an actor,” she told us. “Finally, I realized—being paid for it, etc.—I guess I'm an actor. But that was a long time coming.… And I swear to you, as stupid as it is, until after my daughter was born, I never thought, Why do I continue to hear these evil voices in my ears telling me to stay away from these kinds of projects?” But once Weaver began challenging herself, she proved negative talk meant nothing as she continued to excel at her craft.