Alien: Initial casting of Jon Finch as Kane

leading from 


Jon Finch in Roman Polanski's Macbeth
a) Letting go of Jon Finch
John Hurt had been asked if he'd like to do Alien, but he had already committed to the South African film, so that was dropped.


So Ridley approached Jon Finch to play the role as he had been impressed by his work for Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Ridley was impressed both by the work of Polanski and Job Finch.

So Finch had been cast as Kane, and on the very first day on the bridge, Ridley noticed that Jon started to look extremely pail that day. H R Giger wrote that this even took place on July the 4th when Jon Finch would be found to be sick again and then taken to hospital

Ridley went over to Jon and said "Do you feel alright?"

Jon said "No, I feel terrible, in face, I feel really bad. How do l look?'"

Ridley replied ''Terrible.''

And so he revealed to Ridley "I'm a diabetic"

Jon Finch as Kane

b) Brian Johnson's slightly different memory of the event
However Brian Johnson remembered that Jon Finch when into the sculptors place to have his life mask done and of course he hadn't told anyone he was diabetic but while he was having it done, he passed out, perhaps he had gone into a diabetic coma and there he was with two straws sticking out of his nostrils, they said to him "Okay Jon?" and there was no response. So one way or another, they got the medic there, they had to lift him out of the seat and carry him to a dressing room where he was checked up and taken to hospital to findout out that it was an extreme case of diabetes and that was the last they saw of Jon Finch for Alien.

As far as Ridley could make out, Jon had been drinking too much coca-cola and had not been taking his insulin. Brian understood that because he hadn’t declared his diabetes on his insurance, the company couldn’t go on using him. Jon Finch would reveal years later, he actually was suffering from a case of pneumonia

c) Peter Beale's concerns
Peter Beale, the UK  executive in charge of production for Fox meanwhile was very concerned about it and expressed that concern to the main offices, wondering if the production should continue because Ridley's first film The Duellists lacked commercial success and so did not warrant full confidence

d) Michael Seymour's delight
Curiously Michael Seymour seemed to Giger delighted by Jon Finch being taken ill because he imagined that this meant three more days to build set. Roger Christian would acknowledge that Jon Finch had done three days of filming before he was taken ill, and that Ridley was using incense smoke being puffed around with a bee-puffer which caused a problem for Jon Finch

Source Quotes
  1. (11:21 / 00:11:40) Ridley: John Finch had been cast as Kane, and on the very first day on the bridge which we're about to come to, the scene that we're about to come to is the first time on the bridge, apart from the tracking shot, I did the tracking shot first and I noticed that he started to look extremely... he didn't look well, I didn't   ask him, (00:12:00) I thought he was just naturally pale that day, we got into, I think the first slate, and I did er  action and then cut when I went over to him and said "do you feel alright?" and he said "No, I feel terrible", he said" in fact, I really feel bad", and so we got the medic there. They had to lift him out of the seat, and carry him to a dressing room where he was checked up and taken to the hospital to (00:12:00) finding out that  it's an extreme case of diabetes and er, that's in fact was the last of Jon Finch for the Alien and er I had to literally reconvene at lunchtime thinking about who we could get and I knew that John Hurt was in London, so I pitched to John and er, went and saw John Hurt that night and cast him that night. He was there at the studio the next morning.  (Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD and Alien Anthology Blu-Ray combined)
  2. Ridley Scott: I had cast Jon Finch, who was Polanski's Macbeth, as Kane. First day, first shot, Jon Collapsed. I talked to him, he said, "I'm a diabetic..." He had gone yellow and couldn't get up - we had to lift him out of the scene. He was fine, but he had to recuperate. He hadn't taken his insulin and was drinking too much Coca-Cola. That night we looked at the book and came across John Hurt who I have always liked. (Empire November 2009 p109)
  3. Ridley Scott: I think it is known that there was another actor originally playing that part, Jon Finch, who became ill, and we had to recast. Probably identified at that moment very strongly by playing Macbeth for Polanski. I'd been impressed by Polanski's work anyway, and also by Finch. He said ''Yes, l'd love to do this.'' He came on board. The first day, the first shot, he starts to look as yellow as this pencil. I thought ''God, what's wrong?'' We did a couple of takes and he seemed absolutely lacklustre, no energy. We cut, and l got up and went over to him and said ''What's up? Are you all right?'' He said ''No, l'm terrible. I feel terrible.'' He said ''How do l look?''
    I said ''Terrible.''
    We had to lift him out of his seat, and he was carried away, and it turns out that he was a diabetic. (Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
  4. Brian Johnson: We started off, and we had – Jon Finch was the character that John Hurt took over. And Jon Finch went into the sculptors place to have his life mask done, and he hadn’t told anybody he was a diabetic, and he had to discover while he was inside his life mask. And he actually passed out. And they went, okay John, and there was no response. And they got the ambulance out there and dragged him out. Because he hadn’t declared that on his insurance, the company couldn’t go on using him.  So we had a 2 week period – we’d been filming on the interior of the Nostromo, in the cabin. The set was probably 4 or 5 feet higher than how you see it on the film. Because Ridley was shooting, in 2.35 or whatever it was, I can’t remember the format now. It was letterbox, anamorphic. He couldn’t get the roof of the set, and the actors and everything else in. He was getting really frustrated. John Finch was out and they had to wait two weeks for John Hurt to come on board, and in that time they got a saw and cut four or five feet out of the set, to make it neat. (http://www.originalprop.com/)
  5. Brian Johnson (31:14) I don't know if you remember, but  originally, erm, John Hurt's character was played by Jon Finch, did you know that, oh right, well Jon Finch was contracted to do the... to do the show and they took him down to the plasterers shop to do the life cast and he hadn't told anybody he was diabetic and he went into a diabetic coma in the cast just with two straws sticking out of his nostrils erm and they had... he had to be rushed off to hospital and as far as I remember, because they had to wait for John Hurt to start, that was the time when the set was changed, the dimensions of the Nostromo interior were cut down by three or four feet so Ridley could get all the ceiling bits that were hanging down in the shot because of using the format we were using, a lot of the stuff was out of the top of the frame so, um he used it to his advantage. No questions about that. And we got John Hurt who was superb (Alien Makers 2)
  6. HR Giger ; Jon Finch the main actor, is sick again and had to go to hospital. Michael Seymour is delighted because this gives him at least three more days to build sets (Giger's Diaries, p81)
  7. Shadowlocked: Did you have anything to do with Finch's initial casting as Kane in Alien? Roger Christian: No. But I'd constantly seen him and kept up with him. He looked really ill [on the Alien set]. Despite what the books and the other sites say, he actually did three days of shooting.
    Shadowlocked: Most places say that he only did one shot - even the Quadrilogy documentary, which includes the shot where he looks so unwell.
    Roger Christian: No, he did more than that. But the smoke, after the first two or three days…Ridley loves smoke, and that was when we were using the bee-puffer, the incense smoke. At that stage, that was really upsetting him. Plus there was the diabetes, as it transpired. But no, he did more than one shot - he was there for the first couple of days. He was really trying, and he looked great, actually, as the character. And then he got so ill he just couldn't carry on, and Hurt just took over and Ridley didn't have to re-shoot that much; just the parts with [Finch].(http://www.shadowlocked.com/)
  8. (In response to David J Schow picture of John Finch on Facebook) Charles Lippincott:  Wow, I was just talking about him tonight! Peter Beale, who was the UK Exec in Charge of Prod. for Fox, was worried and concerned about Ridley Scott and Alien because Jon Finch diabetes raged out of control and he had to be replaced by John Hurt. Beale was really concerned about it and expressed that concern to the main offices, wondering if the production should continue as Ridley's 1st film was not a tried and true blockbuster to warrant full confidence. (Facebook Saturday 2nd May, 2015)

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