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Alien Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

For over 40 years, Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic "Alien" has terrified, excited, and proven to be fertile ground for expansion. Not counting the "Predator" crossovers, there have been six "Alien" films with a reboot on the way as well as a television series. The franchise is as stubborn about going away as the xenomorphs that have made it so popular, with no end in sight. 

Unfortunately, with a franchise spanning over four decades and not only recruiting so much incredible talent, but laying the groundwork for some legendary entertainment careers, there are bound to be at least a few actors who are no longer with us. By our count, sadly, between the original 1979 film and the 2017 release of "Alien: Covenant," over a dozen "Alien" actors have passed away since Scott's first film used a new setting and revolutionary visuals to thrill audiences. Those who are no longer with us include actors who played heroes, hapless victims, antagonists, and even the aliens themselves. Here are the "Alien" actors who have died that you may not know about.

Harry Dean Stanton was a beloved character actor

Harry Dean Stantion plays Brett in "Alien," the first crew member of the Nostromo to be killed by the fully grown xenomorph. In a film with some extremely memorable death scenes, his stands out. Expecting to find, at worst, a rabbit-sized monster, he finds a nightmare that could swallow his head with its hand. He looks as if the terror has completely shocked the human emotion out of him, and when the camera cuts away his fate is clear. 

Stanton worked for decades in Hollywood as one of its most recognizable character actors, ready to steal just about any scene. He gives Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner a pair of pants in 2012's "The Avengers," played a corrupt polygamist in HBO's "Big Love," and was a regular in the singular films of David Lynch. 

As reported by the New York Times, Stanton died of heart failure in 2017 at the age of 91. Before his passing, Stanton got the chance to lead his final film — "Lucky," a drama in which he played the titular hero. Logan Sparks — Stanton's friend and co-writer of "Lucky" — told the Independent in 2018 that making "Lucky" both scared Stanton and gave him a sense of peace. Sparks said Stanton knew it would be his last film and that the subject matter of "Lucky," a 90-year-old facing his mortality, sometimes hit a little too close to home.

John Hurt kept working until the end

The first victim of the xenomorphs in "Alien" is Kane — played by the late Sir John Hurt — whose grisly death remains one of the most memorable scenes in the entire franchise. Kane survives being the captive of the so-called face-hugger, only to later die when the young xenomorph few suspected had been implanted in him bursts out of his chest. He survives long enough to see the little monster, and then dies.

The years bookending his "Alien" appearance were good ones for Hurt as far as the critics were concerned. In 1978 he was nominated for his role as a heroin addict in the prison drama "Midnight Express," and in 1980 he was honored with a nomination for best leading actor for playing the tragic role of John Merrick in "The Elephant Man." Hurt always brought an unforgettable presence to his roles — helped greatly by a memorable voice — including the spiritual leader Gilliam in "Snowpiercer," a devilish billionaire in "Contact," and an expert wand maker in the Harry Potter films. 

In 2015, Hurt revealed he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that he would continue his work during treatment. He died in early 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. 

Yaphet Kotto was almost in space a lot more

Yaphet Kotto appears in "Alien" as Parker, one of the final Nostromo crew members to fall victim to the xenomorph. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Parker was the first of a few high-profile spacefaring roles he was offered. Kotto turned down the chance to play Lando Calrissian in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" and later said no to becoming the captain of the new Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." While he expressed some regret over passing on "Star Trek," he was apparently fine with his "Star Wars" decision. In 2003, he told IGN that after "Alien" he "wanted to get back down to Earth" and was concerned about being typecast.  

Kotto didn't suffer too badly for leaving the stars. He is perhaps best remembered as Al Giardello on the acclaimed police drama "Homicide: Life on the Street." Some of his other memorable roles include a Bond villain in 1973's "Live and Let Die," an intimidating FBI agent in 1988's "Midnight Run," and one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's sidekicks in 1987's "The Running Man." Kotto died in March 2021 at the age of 81. 

Ian Holm was one of the best

it is a testament to the acting talent of the late Ian Holm that his portrayal of Ash — the android who tries to murder Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) — gives us arguably the most disturbing character in "Alien," even when compared to the xenomorph. It's precisely because of the trauma Ash deals her that Ripley is so hostile toward Lance Henriksen's Bishop (also an android) in 1986's "Aliens." 

Ian Holm was a revered actor for decades, and was nominated for Best Supporting Oscar for his turn as the outcast running coach Mussabini in the 1981 sports drama "Chariots of Fire." Fans of Peter Jackson's J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations should certainly know his name, since he played the iconic role of Bilbo Baggins in 2001's "The Fellowship of the Ring" and 2003's "The Return of the King," while reprising the role briefly for two of the three "The Hobbit" films. He made memorable turns in too many beloved films to name, including "The Fifth Element," "Ratatouille," "The Aviator," "Garden State," and "Brazil."

Per The Guardian, Holm died in June 2020 of a Parkinson's-related illness. He was 88 years old. 

Helen Horton gave an insidious voice to Alien

In "Alien," the xenomorph isn't the only threat. Before the end of the film, we learn that Weyland-Yutani wants the Alien brought back to Earth to be dissected and doesn't care if the entire human crew dies in the process. The company delivers its directives through the super computer "Mother," who was voiced by an actress you never see in the film, Helen Horton. 

As far as live-action roles, Horton didn't land a lot of major parts. She began her screen career with the 1949 TV movie "The Long Christmas Dinner," an adaptation of the 1931 Thornton Wilder play of the same name. In more recent years, her most memorable appearance was as Miss Henderson in 1983's "Superman III." Before her death in 2007, she would help to bring another promising actor into the world: Her granddaughter is Lily James of "Downton Abbey" and "Pam and Tommy" fame.

Bolaji Badejo is one of Alien's unsung heroes

One of the "Alien" actors many don't know about — in at least one sense — played the most important role. Standing at 6-foot-10 according to CNN, the Nigerian actor Bolaji Badejo did much of the physical work of the adult xenomorph. 

While other actors such as Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca of "Star Wars" fame) were considered to play the xenomorph, the filmmakers needed someone who wasn't just extremely tall but also very thin. Associate producer Ivan Powell said they were thinking specifically of a "praying mantis" look to the villain. It was casting agent Peter Abram who discovered Badejo in a London pub. He called Powell right away and told him Badejo looked exactly like what the film needed.

The titular monster of "Alien" proved to be Badejo's only screen performance. He died of sickle cell disease in 1992 at the age of 39.

Eddie Powell spent years shadowing Christopher Lee

Bolaji Badejo wasn't the only guy wearing the xenomorph suit in "Alien." In some sequences, that job went to Hollywood veteran Eddie Powell, who returned as one of the beasts for "Aliens."  

Powell worked chiefly as a stuntman since the '50s. In particular, Powell became known as a regular stunt double for Christopher Lee in many of the horror films Lee made with Hammer Films. For example, he doubled for Lee in many of his films as Count Dracula, like "Taste the Blood of Dracula," "Scars of Dracula" and "Dracula A.D. 1972." He also had a few, mostly small, acting roles under his belt. Most memorably he co-starred with Lee as the Goat of Mendes in the 1968 British horror flick "The Devil Rides Out."

Powell's last stunt work was in 1996, on the Sylvester Stallone-led disaster flick "Daylight." According to his IMDb biography, Powell died four years later in England.

Bill Paxton boasted a unique sci-fi honor

Whether we want to admit it or not, finding ourselves in the kinds of deadly situations that the characters of the "Alien" franchise endure would test our courage, which has at least something to do with why Bill Paxton's Private Hudson of "Aliens" is so beloved. It's Hudson who yells the famous, "Game over, man!" when the dropship crashes and leaves the survivors on LV-426, and who constantly fights against his dread and fear to help his comrades.

Paxton left us far too soon, in 2017 at the age of 61, when he suffered a stroke after open heart surgery. The actor left behind an impressive body of work including playing the storm-chasing hero of "Twister," astronaut Fred Haise in "Apollo 13," and one of the most chilling villains to ever appear on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." He also boasts the unique honor of being the only actor to play characters killed by a xenomorph, a terminator, and one of the hunters of the "Predator" franchise. Along with making a crazed last stand in "Aliens" as Hudson, he's killed early by Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 in 1984's "The Terminator," and plays a cop who falls victim to the title monster in 1990's "Predator 2."

Al Matthews brought his real life experience to Aliens

Perhaps one of the most surprising early casualties in "Aliens" is that of the cigar-chomping Sgt. Apone, played by the late Al Matthews. As a marine sergeant who's chewing on his cigar literally seconds after waking from hypersleep, and who delivers the kind of classic drill sergeant verbal brow-beating R. Lee Ermey became famous for after "Full Metal Jacket," you don't expect much to be able to take down Apone. But he's one of the first to be captured and impregnated by the face-huggers, when the xenomorphs ambush the Marines early in the sequel.

One of the reasons Matthews was so good in the role of Apone is because it was familiar to him. According to THR, Matthews spent six years in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, receiving two Purple Hearts and over a dozen combat awards for his service. In a 2006 interview, he said he helped teach the rest of the actors how to believably act like Marines, and that director James Cameron said he would have made Matthews' part bigger if he knew he would be so effective.

Matthews passed away in 2018 at the age of 75. 

Tip Tipping died doing what he loved

There are a couple of Marines in "Aliens" whose faces you see only briefly. In fact, you hear their names mentioned more after they've gone the way of most "Alien" characters than while they're alive. One example is Private Crowe, played by the late Tip Tipping. Crowe is one of the Marines who falls during the early ambush scene, and the only clear shot we get of his face is before the descent to LV-426 when the Marines are gearing up.

Tipping may have not had the most famous face in "Aliens," but according to The Independent he was one of the most well-respected stunt coordinators in the entertainment industry. The former Royal Marine Commando had been doing stunt work since the late '70s, including on the second and third Indiana Jones films, "Willow," Tim Burton's "Batman," a number of James Bond films, and plenty of other movies and TV shows. 

Tipping died in 1993 while performing a stunt meant to reproduce a skydiving accident for the BBC docudrama series "999." He was 34 years old.

Trevor Steedman's character was relatively lucky

If you're an character in an "Alien" film, there's an exceptionally good chance you won't make it to the end credits. While Trevor Steedman's Private Wierzbowski is not lucky enough to survive "Aliens," he's comparatively lucky. While he dies in the early ambush scene, Steedman's Wierzbowski is killed quickly after a bag of ammunition catches fire and explodes — unlike many of his comrades who are captured by the aliens and used as hosts.

Like Tip Tipping, Steedman's main profession was in stunt work, though that afforded him the occasional acting credit. Unlike Tipping, Steedman landed a few acting roles before working in stunts, in British programs like "Doctor Who" and "Minder." He worked steadily up through the mid-2010's, with credits on films like "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," "Children of Men," and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." Steedman passed away in 2016 after suffering a stroke. He was 62 years old. 

Paul Maxwell was the American of Britain

One villain who survives the events of "Aliens" is Van Leuwen: the corporate jerk heading the tribunal early in the movie who either refuses to believe Ripley's version of what happened on the Nostromo or perhaps — considering the company's hopes for the xenomorphs — pretends to not believe. 

Fittingly, there's a good chance you also know Maxwell from another movie in which he plays a villain but only early in the film; Maxwell plays the bad guy credited as "Panama Hat" in 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." He's the one who responds to the grown Indy's famous "It belongs in a museum" with "So do you!"

A Canadian-born actor, Maxwell was known earlier in his career for appearing often in British television series, usually portraying American characters. Five years after appearing in "Aliens," in 1991, Maxwell passed away at the age of 70.

Brian Glover was one of Britain's most beloved actors

Of the various corporate and bureaucratic characters who act as foils to Ripley throughout the "Alien" series, perhaps the most sympathetic is Harry Andrews of 1992's "Alien 3," played by the late Brian Glover. As much of a narrow-minded jerk as he comes off as, unlike other Weyland-Yutani stooges interested only in profit or learning from the xenomorph at the cost of human lives, Andrews is the warden of a prison and it's tough to blame him for wanting to keep the peace. Of course, that doesn't save him.

Brian Glover was one of a couple of actors in "Alien 3" who weren't well known in the United States, but enjoyed much more recognition in the UK. A former professional wrestler and fan-favorite actor, Glover was beloved across the pond, particularly for films like the 1969 drama "Kes" and the 1992 comedy "Leon the Pig Farmer." 

Glover died in his sleep in 1997. He'd had surgery for a brain tumor the year before and was thought to be on the mend, but sadly the illness returned and got the better of him. 

Pete Postlethwaite was way below his pay grade in Alien 3

One of the more surprising castings in "Alien 3" is that of Pete Postlethwaite. Like Brian Glover, Postlethwaite was much better known in the UK. Unlike Glover, his character in "Alien 3" — the inmate David — doesn't even have many lines. Like most of the characters, David is taken out by the xenomorph while being used as bait by Ripley and the prisoners. 

After "Alien 3," Postlethwaite made some much bigger splashes with American audiences. He played a formidable big game hunter in 1997's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," a British officer in 1992's "Last of the Mohicans," and the villainous Kobayashi (if that was his real name) in 1995's "The Usual Suspects." He earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination in 1994 for his role as the wrongly convicted Giuseppe Conlon in "In the Name of the Father."

According to the New York Times, Postlethwaite died in 2011 at the age of 64. A friend said the actor died from cancer.

J.E. Freeman was at Stonewall

In spite of her death in "Alien 3," Ripley returns in 1997's "Alien: Resurrection" as a kind of human-xenomorph hybrid clone. That's thanks to the efforts of mad scientist Dr. Mason Wren, played by the late J.E. Freeman. 

Freeman's final screen work — the pilot episode of the Canadian dramedy "Heartland" — aired in 2007. He retired from acting after that and dove into poetry. Before his retirement, he had enjoyed memorable roles such as Harrison Ford's boss Marty in "Patriot Games," Santos in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart," and the chilling button man Eddie Dane in the early Cohen brothers film "Miller's Crossing."

In a letter to the editor at SFGate, Freeman wrote that he'd been discharged from the Marines at the age of 22 for being openly gay. He also painted a vivid description of his experience at the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Freeman had been HIV-positive since the '80s and died in 2014 of AIDS. He was 68.