The upcoming issue of Details has a nice interview with Ridley Scott, who seems refreshingly not full of shit. One of the highlights is his story about surprising the actors on Alien.
Every director devises their own methodology. By the time I got to do my first feature, in ’77, The Duellists, which was with a certain tough guy called Harvey Keitel … He was what they call Actors Studio and all that—Method acting and that kind of thing. Method? I told him I have a method too. I had absolutely no idea what the f-ck he was talking about, and I think he had no idea what the f-ck I was talking about.
By the time I got to the chest-bursting scene in Alien, I figured if they see the little bastard lying there on the table it’s going to look pretty pathetic, so I’m going to hold it back from them. I knew it would only work once, but I only wanted one take anyway. The ship doctor says, “This is serious,” and jumps on the table, because he thinks he’s got food in his gullet. We’ve got the air lines filled with blood, and then suddenly the chest goes BAM! Wallop—the son of a bitch came out. And they all go, “F-ck!” They thought it had gone wrong, because there was blood spurting everywhere, but they just kept running with it, until one of them started to shriek with laughter, and then it was over. [Source]
Ahh yes, the old surprise-the-cast-with-an-alien-in-the-chest-cavity trick. It’s something Harvey Keitel must’ve taken to heart, since he surprised the audience with his cock in pretty much every movie he was in after The Duellists.