I love ensemble casts in films (particularly war films), and the ragtag group from James Cameron's Aliens (1986) are one of the best. Even as a kid I knew every Space Marine's name, which shows how much impact they had as a dynamic, cohesive team. Every character refused to be pushed into the background by all the monsters on display (except perhaps Wierzbowski).
And, while it's pretty obvious what happened to the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen since the film's release, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what the whole cast got up to -- 22 years after battling extra-terrestrials with Pulse Rifles on LV-426...
SIGOURNEY WEAVER as Ellen Ripley (now aged 58) The civilian with first-hand experience
Already a big star when Aliens was released in 1986, having starred in the seminal Alien('79) and global smash-hit Ghostbusters ('84), Weaver went on to become one of the 1980s most famous faces -- with memorable roles in Gorillas In The Mist, Working Girl and Ghostbusters II.
In addition to starring in Alien's other sequels -- Alien3 ('93) and Alien Resurrection ('97) -- Weaver also appeared in the comedy Dave ('93), thriller Copycat ('95) and drama The Ice Storm ('97), before combining her geek/comedy/sex-appeal for Galaxy Quest ('99). She more recently starred in rom-com Heartbreakers ('01), The Village ('04), and provided the US narration for BBC documentary Planet Earth. She is currently filming Avatar – a 3-D sci-fi epic that reunites her with Aliens' director James Cameron – which is due for release in 2009.
Sigourney had married theatre director Jim Simpson in 1984 and the couple had a daughter, Charlotte Simpson, in 1990.
LANCE HENRIKSEN as Bishop (now aged 67) The resident "synthetic person"
James Cameron cast Henriksen as android Bishop after working with the actor on Piranha II and The Terminator (where Henriksen was the original choice for Schwarzenegger's cyborg role). Following Aliens, Henriksen has had a very busy career, alternating between low-budget films ('89s Pumpkinhead, '05s Hellraiser: Hellworld), mainstream disappointments ('93s Hard Target, '94s The Color Of Night, '95s The Quick & The Dead), and voice-over work ('99s Tarzan, '06s Superman: Brainiac Attacks). He is also the only actor, other than Sigourney Weaver, to appear in more than one Alien film – with a small role in Alien3.
Still a popular character actor today, Henriksen has been steadily employed since Aliens, racking up an extensive (if not exactly glittering) filmography. An attempt to break into television with X-Files follow-up Millennium ('96-'99) introduced him to new fans, but the show wasn't a hit with the general public. More recently, he appeared in Alien spin-off Alien Vs Predator ('04) playing the originator of his Bishop android, and has a slew of low-budget films ready to roll out in 2008/9.
Henriksen is an accomplished painter and potter, and lives in Southern California with his wife Jane Pollack (whom he married in 1995) and their 8-year-old daughter Sage. He married his first wife Mary Jane Evans a year before starring in Aliens, but they divorced in 1988. He has one 21-year-old daughter, Alcamy, from that first marriage.
MICHAEL BIEHN as Cpl Dwayne Hicks (now aged 51) The laidback marine with a crush on Ripley
Another actor brought onto Aliens from The Terminator by James Cameron, Biehn subsequently starred in Cameron's The Abyss ('89) and Terminator 2 ('91), although his scene was cut from the theatrical release. After appearing in a run of mainstream duds ('93s Tombstone, '95s Jade), Biehn has mostly focused on straight-to-video fare ('97s Asteroid, '01s Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, '05s Dragon Squad), although he sometimes gets small roles in bigger films ('96s The Rock, '00s Cherry Falls).
More recently, Biehn's cult appeal got him a role in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror ('07) and he is in talks to appear in Avatar, where he'd reunite with Aliens co-star Sigourney Weaver and James Cameron.
At the time of making Aliens, Biehn was in a 6-year-long marriage to Carlene Olson, but they divorced in 1987. He married Gina Marsh in 1988, but they divorced in 2004. He has a total of four children from both marriages -- twins Devon and Taylor (now aged 24) with Carlene, and Caelan Michael (now aged 16) and Alexander (now aged 5) with Marsh. He is now in a relationship with actress Jennifer Blanc. Interestingly, he's good friends with actor Brian Austin Green – who is playing his Terminator character's brother in Terminator TV spin-off The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
PAUL REISER as Carter Burke (now aged 50) The greedy corporate slimeball
After playing corporate creep Carter in Aliens, Reiser's only notable big-screen roles of the past 20 years have been Beverly Hills Cop II ('87), The Story Of Us ('99) and One Night At McCool's ('01). Instead, he chose to work steadily in a range of comedy-dramas that went straight-to-video, or had limited distribution, and has recently appeared in some original movies on cable channel Showtime.
Reiser's failure to capitalize on Aliens' success was probably down to his decision to focus on TV work. A year after Aliens he starred in the popular sitcom My Two Dads ('87-'90) and followed that hit with Mad About You ('92-'99), co-starring Helen Hunt.
His last screen credit was for The Thing About My Folks ('05), which he also wrote the screenplay for. His development company Nuance is currently trying to get projects going for NBC. He recently made his theatrical debut as a director of Woody Allen's Writer's Block and had a Mad About You reunion in '05.
CARRIE HENN as Rebecca "Newt" Jorden (now aged 31) The sole survivor of the colony
Despite making a memorable impression in Aliens, which was her acting debut, Henn chose not pursue an acting career. Instead, she earned a degree in liberal studies and child development in 2000, married a fellow student in 2005, and now works as a school teacher in Atwater, California. She still keeps in touch with her Aliens co-star Sigourney Weaver.
BILL PAXTON as Pvt. Hudson (now aged 53) The highly-strung marine
Paxton has arguably had more success than Sigourney Weaver, if not as much critical acclaim. Following Aliens, he has never stopped working and starred alongside co-stars Lance Henriksen in Near Dark ('87) and Michael Biehn in Tombstone ('93). He has also had roles in a mix of popular films, including: Predator 2 ('90), Apollo 13 ('95), Twister ('96), Mighty Joe Young ('98), U-571 ('00), Spy Kids 2 ('02) and Thunderbirds ('04).
Having had a small role in The Terminator (he was the mouthy street punk Arnie got his clothes from) before Aliens, and became something of a "lucky charm" for director James Cameron -- who has cast him in most of his subsequent films: True Lies ('94), Titanic ('97) and Ghosts Of The Abyss ('03). In 2006, Paxton moved into TV to star in Big Love – a HBO drama about a Mormon family, which has earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
He married Louise Newbury in '87 and they now have two children (James, 14, and Lydia, 11).
WILLIAM HOPE as Lt. Gorman (now aged 53) The insecure rookie commander
After playing cowardly Gorman in Aliens, Canadian-born Hope went on to appear in a number of flop films, with his most notable credit being Hellraiser II ('88). He moved into television in the 90s, appearing on many British shows such as The Vanishing Man ('96), sitcoms Drop The Dead Donkey ('96) and Gimme, Gimme, Gimme ('99), before dividing his time between occasional screen roles ('04s Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow) and voice work in video-games. More recently, Hope continues to appear in straight-to-video films and television series like Ultimate Force ('06) and Midsomer Murders ('07). Outside of his acting, he is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
JENETTE GOLDSTEIN as Pvt. Vasquez (now aged 48) The butch female marine
After playing macho Vasquez in Aliens (her film debut), Goldstein joined her Aliens co-stars Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton in Near Dark ('87), before going on to star in various films and television series. Her credits include small roles in Lethal Weapon 2 ('89), Star Trek Generations ('94), Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas ('98) and Clockstoppers ('02). Aliens director James Cameron also cast her as John Connor's stepmother in Terminator 2 ('91) and as an Irish mother in Titanic ('97).
The majority of Goldstein's work has been on the small screen, with blink-and-miss-it roles on shows like MacGyver ('91), L.A Law ('94), 7th Heaven ('98), ER ('98-00), Six Feet Under ('01), Alias ('03) and 24 ('04).
She has worked in theatre throughout her entire career, appearing in plays in New York, Los Angeles and London. She is currently writing a one-woman show for herself.
AL MATTHEWS as Sgt. Apone (now aged 66) The cigar-chomping team leader
Matthews' career after playing gruff Sgt Apone was restricted to a handful of films you've never heard of ('88s Stormy Monday and American Roulette), and small roles in The Fifth Element ('97) and Tomorrow Never Dies ('97). Since then, he has maintained an interest in folk singing, writing music, and was last known to be living in Spain in 2005. His website makes it clear he's not dead, anyway!
MARK ROLSTON as Pvt. Drake (now aged 52) The tough guy
After appearing in Aliens, Rolston went on to have an incredibly busy career, appearing in all manner of films and TV shows, such as: RoboCop 2, Body Of Evidence, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Scanner Cop, The Shawshank Redemption, Lois & Clark, ER, Babylon 5, Strange Luck, Profit, Hard Rain, Rush Hour, The X-Files, Angel, Dark Angel, Alias, The Shield, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 24, Enterprise and CSI:NY.
His roles are usually fairly minor and he usually appears in just a few episodes of each series. More recently he has appeared in TVs Reaper, Cold Case and provided a voice in a Turko video-game out this year. He is also appearing in Saw V later this year. Away from acting, he likes to play golf and enjoys yoga.
RICCO ROSS as Pvt. Frost (now aged 48) The reliable marine
Ross, born in Chicago, has enjoyed a career on both sides of the Atlantic after Aliens, appearing in US films/TV (Highlander, Mission: Impossible, Wishmaster, Beverly Hills 90210, The Pretender, Babylon 5, JAG) and UK TV (Doctor Who, The Bill, Murder Most Horrid, Jeeves & Wooster, The Tomorrow People). He recently appeared in ER ('06) and is currently filming The Least Among You.
COLETTE HILLER as Cpl. Ferro (age unknown) The Drop Ship Pilot
Appearing in Aliens actually marked the end of Hiller's career. She instead chose to focus on theatre, and now has two teenage children. Just recently, Hiller finished a project in London called Sing-London (Jun-Jul '07), which was a week of singing celebration.
DANIEL KASH as Pvt. Spunkmeyer (now aged 49) The blink-and-miss him marine
Aliens was Canadian Kash's first movie. He went on to star in Street Legal ('91-92), 3 episodes of the RoboCop TV series, Law & Order, had a recurring role in Due South, appeared in 3 episodes of Goosebumps ('98), Relic Hunter ('01), Mutant X ('03) and was a bodyguard in Lucky Number Slevin ('06). He recently appeared in 4 episodes of The Dresden Files ('07) and just finished filming Magic Flute Diaries. He also made his directorial debut in 2001 with an award-winning short film about a phobic superhero called Germgirl, following it up with the shorts Flip Phone ('03) and For Lease ('07).
Daniel is a fitness fanatic and channels that into running, lifting weights and playing basketball, has been married to actress/producer Hayley Tyson since the mid-80s and they divides their time between L.A and Toronto.
CYNTHIA DALE SCOTT as Cpl Dietrich (age unknown) The plucky marine
After receiving a degree in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, Cynthia joined a theatre/dance company which later fell apart. She moved to London and became involved in the post-punk indie music scene, before getting an Equity card to work in the British entertainment industry and supplement her music work. Aliens was her big break, and its success led her back to the US. Sadly, her filmography after Aliens only contains an episode of 1987 TV series Mr Belvedere, Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here ('88) and Rush ('91).
TIP TIPPING as Pvt. Crowe (13 Feb 1958 – 5 Feb 1993, aged 35) The cool-headed marine
Originally a Royal Marine Commando and SAS soldier, Tipping became a stuntman by trade and only had a few acting credits before Aliens. Before then, he performed stunts in movies such as Octopussy ('83), Krull ('83), Never Say Never Again ('83), Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom ('84), Lifeforce ('85) and Death Wish 3 ('85).
After appearing in Aliens as Private Crowe, Tipping embraced both aspects of his job: he helped with stunt-work on Willow ('88), Batman ('89), 7 episodes of Doctor Who ('88-'89), Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves ('91) and dozens more. He also appeared in front of the camera in small roles on Doctor Who ('88), Casualty, The Bill, Boon, Inspector Morse, Bergerac, Chancer, and Bottom (he was that burglar Richie and Eddie captured in one episode!)
Tipping tragically died while filming for BBC rescue reconstruction series 999in 1993, after his parachute failed to open during a skydive over Alnwick, England.
TREVOR STEEDMAN as Pvt. Wierzbowski (age unknown) The illusive marine
As with the aforementioned Tip Tipping, Trevor Steedman divided his time as a stuntman and a supporting actor. After Aliens, he had minor roles in Rumpole Of The Bailey ('87), Dangerfield ('96), Crime Traveller ('97), Snatch('00) and Deadmeat ('07). His stunt-work before Aliens had only included A View To A Kill ('85), but he went on to perform and coordinate stunts on many projects, including: London's Burning, Rob Roy ('95), Tomorrow Never Dies ('97), Rebus, Hustle, Children Of Men, and the upcoming Daylight Robbery.
His character in Aliens has become something of a cult, as Wierzbowski was rarely seen throughout the film.
As you can see, some of the cast are missing photos (either because I couldn't find one, or the ones I did find are too small). If you can help plug the gaps, please e-mail me and I'll credit you below. It would be nice to see a completed line-up, wouldn't it? But good luck finding a photo of Cynthia Dale Scott! Update: 28 Oct 08; Dom Beaudoin kindly sent a link to some photos of Cynthia, so I have been able to fill that space. Thanks! Update: 6 Nov 08; Matthews Hollingshead has provided a recent photo of Colette Hiller, so thanks very much!