Here's What It Was Like For Paul Reiser To Be Cast In James Cameron's Aliens

Before Paul Reiser met with James Cameron for the role of Burke in "Aliens," he had to find a proper pair of pants.

Reiser was no babe in the Hollywood woods when Cameron came calling in the mid-1980s. He'd earned raves for his portrayal of the menschy Modell in "Diner," and stole a scene from Eddie Murphy as Detective Jeffrey Friedman in "Beverly Hills Cop" ("This is not my locker!"). He was also one of the most promising young stand-up comics in a loaded class that included Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, and Roseanne Barr.

And yet, because he was moving into his first house with his then-girlfriend Paula Ravets, he was sans appropriate pants for a big-time Hollywood meeting. Spoiler: he rifled through the moving truck, found pants, and took the meeting. This led to him reading the script, which led to him realizing he was about to be a part of something monumental.

Perfect casting for a perfectly detestable villain

Reiser recently dropped by the Lights, Camera, Barstool podcast, and shared a few of his "Aliens" memories. "I read the script and it's clear this is a mega-hit," he said. "It was the first script I've ever read, only script I've ever read, that I had to put down, [...] it was intense on the page and then you know [Cameron] has the skill to bring it to life."

The character of Burke is a slimy corporate climber whose naked ambition for advancement compels him to unleash xenomorph facehuggers on Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Newt (Carrie Henn). He knew Cameron wanted him for the part because he was funny and likable, but Reiser understood precisely how these qualities could be used against him.

"I didn't question it like, 'You know Mr. Cameron, I'm generally known as a comedic actor.' But, by the way, that was also his thinking. As I understand [...] part of his thing was 'let me get somebody that the audience won't suspect, there'll be a lightness or a jovialness to him.' I don't know how successfully that worked because I think the minute I showed up people go, 'This guy's no good. This guy. Something's not right with this guy.' It's like the guest star on 'Star Trek.' Like, 'He'll be dead soon. He's not going to be back next week, this guy.'"

Nuke every Yuppie from orbit

Personally, I think Reiser was perfect casting for the moment. As a child brought up in a small Northwestern Ohio town during the 1980s, Reiser's Burke reminded me of a cool teacher or the friend of my parents' who'd always pull a quarter out of my ear. In my world, people like this were trustworthy. They were Yuppies, and Yuppies were harmless.

Nowadays, Burke's eager-to-please act comes off as the reddest of flags. He's an unctuous twerp who'd happily kill the only two people to survive a xenomorph encounter for his own corporate good. He is an immensely detestable jerk, which is why his death is easily the most satisfying kill in the movie. Reiser wasn't typecast moving forward, but I had a hard time liking him in his hit sitcom "Mad About You." I didn't feel like he found his groove until he took on the role of a New Jersey country club power broker in the underrated Showtime series "Red Oaks." Here, he was able to be a charming a**hole, the kind of guy you want to impress because anyone that upfront about their prickliness is far more trustworthy than a flatter-happy dillweed like Burke.

At the age of 66, Reiser's never been better. Welcome to the Reiser-ssance. Pants required.