Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jordan was the scrappy youngster in James Cameron’s groundbreaking sci-fi sequel ‘Aliens’ who set the bar high for totally-not-annoying child characters in blockbuster movies. Find it strange you’ve heard neither hide nor hair of actress Carrie Henn since?
Not only had Henn never acted before – not even in a school play – she has never acted since. ‘Aliens’ was her only movie role ever, and apart from a few convention appearances here and there, Carrie Henn shunned the showbusiness life that claimed the sanity of so many of her child star contemporaries.
Despite her total lack of acting experience, James Cameron knew he’d found his Newt when attending casting sessions at Lakenheath in the UK, near where Henn’s military father was stationed.
The director marvelled at Carrie’s “great face and expressive eyes” and cast her on the spot: “There was a quiet, soulful quality that I was looking for with the character,” said Cameron. “Carrie had it.” Aged nine, Carrie landed the role of a lifetime opposite Sigourney Weaver in the most eagerly anticipated sci-fi sequel ever made.
Henn wasn’t phased by the scary monsters, creatures which have given full-blown adults a lifetime of nightmares. Long hours spent making buddies on the set meant she took the more distressing scenes in her stride. “They were just my friends in an alien suit,” Carrie says. “I used to have to pretend the monster was a dog chasing after me.” Henn bonded with co-star Sigourney Weaver and the pair still exchange letters to this day. “Gosh, she is just the most beautiful and wonderful young woman,” says Weaver of the Carrie of today. “She escaped the business!”
So why didn’t Carrie Henn stay in the limelight? Simple, really: she wasn’t ready to be wrenched away from her family. Although her father was restationed in Northern California just as ‘Aliens’ was being released in 1986, Henn decided she’d really rather give the simple life a try. “My family is really close,” says Henn. “I didn’t want to live away from them in Los Angeles. Not only was I a foreign student coming into an American school, I had a funny accent, and I was in a movie. I never was sure who wanted to be my friend because I was in a movie and who really wanted to be my friend.”
Carrie’s mother, Roseleen, agrees that Henn was mostly popular because of ‘Aliens’. Mostly. “People would call up and leave messages saying, ‘You should never have gotten that part.’ She put up with a lot of spiteful jealousy.” Proof if you needed it that trolls have been around since long before the internet gave them a platform.
Though she decided that Hollywood wasn’t for her, Henn has always kept ‘Aliens’ close to her heart. Newt returned in ‘Alien3’, although seeing as the character is killed off screen before the opening credits have finished rolling, Henn wasn’t required to return. She did, however, attend the film’s premiere as Sigourney Weaver’s guest. “She made sure I was sitting next to her,” Carrie recalls. She’s shown no signs of reversing her decision to steer clear of acting, but Henn still makes the odd appearance at sci-fi conventions. Most recently, she attended the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo with the rest of the cast of ‘Aliens’, making it the first time they have been fully reunited since the film’s release (see below).
Henn turned to education and received degrees in child development and liberal studies at Stanislaus, California State University in June 2000. She married her fellow college graduate Nathan Kutcher (a cousin of Tommy Lee Jones) in 2005 and the couple have a daughter. She has been an elementary school teacher in Atwater, California since 2011.
It’s up to the child stars of today to make sure the legacy of Carrie Henn’s Newt continues – by not sucking.
Photos: Getty/Rex Features