Alien 3 Filming Locations: The Real-Life Setting of Fury 161 at Blast Beach

Exploring the coasts of Northern England to find one of the only real-life filming locations for the early Alien trilogy.

Alien 3 filming locations

Alien 3‘s storied production is well-documented. The sequel’s troublesome shoot was a result of its revolving door of writers and directors, all coming and going as sets were constructed and torn down.

By the time Fox settled on its final choice, an upcoming music video director with no feature films to his name, the end result felt inevitable. How couldn’t it? Having sunk millions into production design that would no longer appear onscreen, Fox had to protect its prized creature. And so, studio interference made David Fincher’s feature debut arrive with not a fearful shriek but a damp squelch. 

Fincher went on to disown the movie despite its reappraisals by fans and critics. When asked to contribute with the team creating special editions of the Alien franchise, he told them to do what they liked, it wasn’t his film anyway.

And while he’s never warmed to the end product, that team — led by documentary filmmaker Charles De Lauzirika— attempted to recut a version of Alien 3 more in line with Fincher’s intended vision. With hours of footage and reams of shooting and editing notes, they crafted the Assembly Cut which debuted on the Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset in 2003.

Part of this cut includes a different opening sequence that establishes the planet Fiorina 161 and its prison complex. It’s these sequences I’ll focus on for this piece— although the regular theatrical cut also includes flashes of shots from these location shoots. 

Oh, and in case I didn’t make it clear: I love Alien 3

Why England was chosen for Alien 3

The bulk of principal photography took place on the sound stages and backlots of Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, and later at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. But one particular location was shot entirely in the wilds of nature. 

Blast Beach near Seaham, County Durham
Blast Beach, April 2024.

Blast Beach sits along what’s referred to as the Coal Coast in County Durham, northern England. Four coal-mining pits, known as collieries, sat atop its cliffs and for decades dumped their waste onto the beaches below.

As you might expect, dumping 2.5 million tonnes of waste every year decimated the beaches, transforming the landscape into a dystopian, befouled place. The long-term effects of toxic chemical byproducts formed exotic-looking pools, a stark contrast to the tarry, black sludge coating the sand and stones.

Of course, the strange, otherworldly look of the beach, its blackened shores against the bright white waves, made it the perfect locale for an alien encounter.

An image of the shoreline at Blast Beach near Seaham, County Durham
The shore at Blast Beach, April 2024.

In fact, it became the place for the Sulaco’s Emergency Escape Vehicle to crash land onto Fury 161. “It was a terrific looking spot,” Boss Effects Co-Supervisor Rick Fichter told Cinefex. “There had been a colliery nearby and they had dropped all their slag onto the beach. So the sand was black and the water had a real brackish look to it.”

Where was Alien 3 filmed?

Alien 3 was filmed at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, Fox Studios, Los Angeles, and Blast Beach (also known as Dawdon Beach), near Seaham, County Durham. 

Alien 3 filming locations at Blast Beach, Durham

Coordinates: 54.81564369802475, -1.3179215450050625

54.813523197902164, -1.3154163617917356

Nose’s Point Car Park and Viewpoint, E Cliff Rd, Seaham, England SR7 7PR, United Kingdom

The beach scenes shot in Durham are spliced together with footage shot on the Pinewood Studios backlot in London. I’ll try to separate those as best I can as we explore the specific scenes. 

As mentioned above, the Assembly Cut of includes an extended opening sequence. Here are the main differences:

  • Theatrical: The EEV crashes in the water. We cut to the prisoners opening the vessel, before retrieving it with a crane to return to the prison.
  • Assembly: The EEV crashes into the water. We see cliffs before fading in on Clemens (Charles Dance) as he strolls the beaches of Fiorina. He spies the downed EEV, then spots Ripley – out of her cryopod – on the beach. He rushes her inside and the prisoners retrieve the EEV from the shore with help from oxen.
Charles Dance as Clemens in Alien 3 walks the shore of Fiorina 161 on the Pinewood backlot
Charles Dance as Clemens in the assembly cut opening sequence. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.

I love this introduction, it cultivates a sense of place that implies – even if you escaped this hellhole, the outside ain’t much better. Ripley’s battered body a sign of her continued battles, her hair infested with lice a nice touch only referenced in the theatrical cut in a line of dialogue.

Here are editor Terry Rawlings’ thoughts on its excision, taken from the Blu-ray’s extensive documentary:

“I thought it [the excised intro] made a major difference, because the beach scene set up these inmates and the environment and the fact that the doctor was a loner. 

All those things were very important, and the fact that you saw the way they worked, and that it was very barren, and it was just these odd moments that they could get outside and that they used Stone Age type gear – those scenes at the front were invaluable to the film. 

To see her [Ripley] brought into the place, you saw what it was like, you saw all those bugs and other stuff. It just set the whole place up and what it was. And we never had that.”

Wreckage and Rage: The Making of Alien 3.
The second trailer included shots later snipped from the theatrical release.

Cinemagoers back in 1992 glimpsed these scenes in the second theatrical trailer but they were unavailable until 2003.

1. The EEV crashes onto the beach (Limestone Stack)

Features in: The theatrical cut, the assembly cut

Screenshot of the EEV crashing into the water in Alien 3
The EEV crashes into the water during the assembly cut opening sequence. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.
A photo of Blast Beach, Seaham, one of the Alien 3 filming locations
Highway to Horror, April 2024

From a shot of the planet’s industrial terrain, we cut to a mid-shot from the shore looking out to water. It’s here we see the Sulaco EEV crash into the ocean.

This shot was designed as a composite, using real-life footage of Seaham along with a miniature of the EEV crafted by production designer Norman Reynolds. The EEV was added in post-production but the crash of the waves was not CGI-generated. 

In fact, George Gibbs, who led the visual effects team, orchestrated a series of explosions to simulate the impact. “The director wanted enormous explosions,” Gibbs told Cinefex. “Some were as big as eighteen hundred feet wide, with water towers that went one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty feet in the air. We were using about three hundred pounds of dynamite and four reels of primer cord for each blast. It was difficult, because Fincher wanted a really rough sea and it was nearly impossible to work in those conditions.” 

According to that same issue of Cinefex, it was Fichter who helped to record the effects with a newly developed field recorder motion control system.

This location is easy to find because to the right of the frame sits a limestone stack. It stands at the southern end of the beach, so you can’t miss it.

Looking closer at the images I took and the screenshots, the stack appears as a mirror of the actual view you get looking out onto the beach!

2. Establishing shots of the Fiorina 161 Cliffs (Nose’s Point)

Features in: Assembly Cut

The cliffs of Fiorina 161 in the Alien 3 Assembly Cut
The cliffs of Fiorina “Fury” 161. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.
Blast Beach in Seaham, a filming location from Alien 3
Highway to Horror, April 2024

Following the crash, we fade in to establishing views of the Fiorina coastline, a string of cranes dotted along the rugged clifftop, detritus littering the sands.

Parts of the shot are a blend of real-life footage captured at Nose’s Point with matte paintings by Paul Lasaine adding in the cranes.

According to director of photography Alex Thomson on the Assembly Cut commentary, the footage at Blast Beach was “shot by the second unit, by Tony Spratling up in the north of England.”

3. Ripley washes up on the beach (South of the Limestone stack)

Features in: Assembly cut

Ripley's body washes ashore in the Alien 3 assembly cut
Ripley washes up on shore. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.
Looking toward Chourdon Point at Blast Beach, Seaham
Highway to Horror, April 2024

After Clemens spies the EEV, his attention is diverted to the outline of a body in the tide– it’s Ripley. Charles Dance was not at Seaham for these shots, instead, he filmed his scenes at Pinewood which were interspersed with the location footage.

As you may have guessed, Sigourney Weaver did not get tossed around in the waves. The body in the shallows was a dummy based on her likeness. Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics revealed on the Assembly Cut commentary that his US and British crew designed the replica based only on Weaver’s head. 

Because the actress had recently given birth and was in the process of toning up for the role, the Amalgamated team guessed what she’d look like once on set. The final product created by British sculptor Gary Pollard paid off; the dummy is a dead ringer.

This shot was lensed a few steps south of the limestone stack. It’s simple to find if you follow the bend of the cliffs known as Chourdon Point.

Alien 3 filming locations at Pinewood Studios, London

With the cost of location shooting piled on top of the escalating costs sunk into unused sets, Fox shot down the idea of filming the entire opening on the shores of north England’s beaches. 

The Fiorina 161 prison surface in the opening shots of the Alien 3 assembly cut
Clemens wanders the planet’s surface. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.

“The movie originally began with me walking along this strange, weird, desolate beach, with a lot of huge derrick-like constructions all around. We were going to shoot it in Newcastle, ” Charles Dance told Fangoria, “but Fox decided they couldn’t afford it, so in the end we built this wonderful, great big beach on the backlot of Pinewood. It was very cold, and we had these huge wind machines, so I was breathing in dust all the time.”

That beach replicating the Seaham location was built on Pinewood’s North Lot

The remainder of the film was shot indoors at Pinewood Studios with later reshoots taking place at Fox Studios.

1. Clemens walks along the beach and discovers Ripley’s body (North Lot)

Charles Dance as Clemens in the alternate opening of Alien 3
Clemens spots Ripley on the shore. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.

As he walks between cranes, swinging chains, across an industrial landscape, Clemens finds himself at the water’s edge. 

We see his reaction to the EEV half sticking out of the water, then his subsequent reaction to seeing Ripley’s body on the beach. 

2. Clemens runs to the complex carrying Ripley (North Lot)

Clemens runs across Fiorina carrying Ripley in a scene from the Alien 3 Assembly Cut
Clemens carries Ripley. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.

These next shots in the Assembly Cut show Clemens carrying Ripley to the safety of the complex. “I was running along this ridge carrying Sigourney, having just rescued her from the crashed ship,” Dance explained to Fangoria. “The scene was shot over two days and was very uncomfortable.”

3. Prisoners retrieve the EEV with help from the oxen

The prisoners descend upon the beach in Alien 3.
The prisoners descend upon the Fiorina beach with oxen. Screenshot from the movie “Alien 3” (1992). © 20th Century Fox.

The shots of the prisoners running down the cliffs onto the beach may have been lensed at Blast Beach, however, the footage of the prisoners guiding oxen as they drag the EEV onto shore was filmed on the North Lot at Pinewood. 

Behind-the-scenes photos show the full-size EEV at Pinewood with several images that show the prisoners and the oxen with greenery (from the fields surrounding Pinewood) in the distance. 

While the Cinefex article specifies that this sequence was lensed at Seaham too many components don’t add up. In addition to the shots of the full-size EEV at Pinewood, Charles De Lauzirika confirms that he added the digital shot of the waves lapping at the vehicle on the beach. 

What made me stop and ponder was something Alex Gillis, co-designer of the creature effects, said on the Assembly Cut commentary when talking about this scene:

“This scene makes me laugh a little bit as in the preproduction meetings David Fincher was joking that he didn’t want any miscommunications, that this is a team of OXEN not dachshunds. He said ‘I don’t wanna show up on the beaches in northern England with 12 little dachshunds I want oxen.” 

Thing is, Alec Gillis and his Amalgamated Dynamics co-designer Tom Woodruff Jr. both admitted that they cooked up a lot of silliness when discussing Alien 3. From AVP Galaxy

“There was a period there where we were having such a great time with David Fincher because it was fun. We’re all about the same age and we thought it would be funny if we made stuff up. Where we did interviews and then he would read it later and go “what the hell?”  So Tom had a few good ones.”

AVP Galaxy

So was that comment about dachshunds another bout of Amalgamated shenanigans? Who can say! Am I doing too deep a dive on this? Probably! After scouring local newspaper archives, back issues of genre magazines, I cannot find any call sheets, or behind-the-scenes photographs of the oxen and the EEV at Seaham.

If anyone happens to know of a source where I might find this very specific piece of information, I’d be delighted. 

Our visit to the Alien 3 filming locations in Durham

If you want to visit the Blast Beach locations, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a day at the seaside? 

Our journey started in Durham. Me (Gem), my partner Glenna, my brother Chris, sister-in-law Beck and niece Cara. The five of us left Durham and drove east until we reached the A182 and followed it until we reached Nose’s Point. Our GPS was set to Nose’s Point Car Park II as that’s closer to the actual beach.

Our car ambled along the pebbled car park until the cliffs came into view, the sun sparkling off the ocean. It was spectacular. 

Blast Beach in Durham, the filming location for Alien 3
Highway to Horror, April 2024

In the decades since Alien 3 filmed at the location, the National Trust embarked on a clean-up of the site which is now part of the newly-branded Durham Heritage Coast. Those black sands no longer stretch out to meet the tide. It’s albeit less dangerous to stroll there but signs still suggest you take care.

A sign at Blast Beach discussing the history of the location
In the bottom left corner, Alien 3 is mentioned!

Parked at Nose’s Point, we took in the view and the phenomenal wind. I stood at this spot where the second unit crew would have captured those establishing shots to capture footage. Of course, it was so windy you couldn’t hear my voice. 

Gem from Highway to Horror filming the Alien 3 filming locations at Blast Beach, Seaham
Me, Gem, recording on the cliffs at Blast Beach, April 2024.

From here our route ventured down a treacherous path. This direct route to the beach below is steep, rocky, and without railings– my personal fave! So, while Glenna walked gracefully downhill like a normal person I scuttered down a grassy crevasse on my hands and feet, a little like Regan in The Exorcist

Luckily it’s a brief skirmish down to the sand. Once we finished our descent we split up to explore and wow, it was an unexpectedly beautiful place to spend an hour.

Blast Beach, Seaham in Durham, filming location for Alien 3
Highway to Horror, April 2024
The beautiful pools at Blast Beach, Seaham in Durham, filming location for Alien 3
Highway to Horror, April 2024

Towards the cliffs lies several pools that can also be spotted in the opening shots of Fiorina. Up close they appear like shimmering lakes of gold. Further along, we found the limestone stack. I dubbed this Ripley’s rock. I felt a distant connection to a fictional character who has meant so much to me all throughout my life.

The wild, unexpected landscape that Ripley crashes onto is bleak, dirty, laden with infestation, but the day we visited it looked pristine. I only wish she had had the chance to experience anything outside of a Weyland-Yutani compound or a military ship, but alas; this marks the final moment in the cinematic franchise that Ripley is outdoors. And for whatever reason, that thumped me right in the heart. 

Gem and Glenna of Highway to Horror taking a selfie on Blast Beach
Glenna and Gem having a…. blast, at Blast Beach? No? Ok, I’ll edit.

We were on a time crunch, and so ran up the stairs at Frenchman’s Cove directly behind the stack that leads to the beach access trail. Every step upwards, I turned back to look, Ripley’s rock growing smaller and smaller. In this moment, the soaring gulls, the cliffs, the wash of the waves, all felt more than what I could see – that’s the purpose of travel isn’t it? The thrum inside of us when something means more. Well, either that or I’m an overemotional dork. Whatever the case, I felt so delighted to have visited Fiorina, a memory that will be tightly knitted to me forever I think.

The view from the stairs at Frenchman's Cove looking down at Blast Beach
The view of the beach from the stairs. Gem getting emotional just out of frame.

Travel tips

When to visit: This shakes down to whether or not you like autumn and winter weather. If dramatic skies are your bag – and to be fair, that brooding aesthetic is more in line with the film – then I’d venture out between September and March. We visited in April and happened to land a beautifully sunny spot of weather. 

Fees: The beach is free but the car park is £1 an hour or £3 all day. If you don’t mind a longer walk, there are free car parks around Seaham town centre.

Access information: 

  • Park at Nose’s Point Car Park II
  • Take the path down to the beach
  • When finished, take stairs up by the stack 
  • Walk the beach access trail north back to the car park

If you’re not a fan of sliding down a hill on your butt, I’d recommend walking from the car park to the trail along the cliffs until you reach the steps then return that way once you’ve finished. 

A photo of the National Trust trailhead sign to Blast Beach
Love that little star on the sign.

Nearby filming locations

The Last Kingdom (2017)

The Netflix series filmed on Blast Beach itself during the second season. In the show, it stands in for an Icelandic beach. This is one of the few scenes lensed in the UK, despite the show being set in Saxon England, it mostly films in Hungaria. A slave traders camp was built on the beach which Uhtred escapes from in a dramatic scene.

If you’ve checked out the Alien 3 filming locations at Blast Beach in Seaham let us know how you got along, and share your photos in the comments below! 

Also, if you have any information and sources to confirm what was filmed at Blast Beach, who filmed it, which DoP, I’d be hugely grateful. Thank you.

Librarian by day and scribbler by night, Gem Seddon is a Seattle-based freelance entertainment writer with bylines at Vulture, Digital Spy, TechRadar, Regal Cinemas, Total Film, and more. Gem especially loves writing about horror movies. When not visiting her native England, she enjoys traveling to spooky film locales. Alien and Scream are tied as her all-time favourite movie – please don't make her choose.

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