Welcome back to How’d They Do That! Each week we check out behind the scenes stills and video from the making of some of cinema’s greatest!
Recently, at the 2016 Golden Globes, Ridley Scott was asked about his next film ‘Alien: Covenant” – his Prometheus sequel/Alien prequel. When asked what to expect from the film, he stated:
“I always remember walking down the edge in Saint Louis when we were previewing [Alien], Scott recalls. “I couldn’t sit through the film one more time. I walked down the edge into the kitchen scene when John Hurt started to bring up his breakfast. That moment, I realized how pretty scary the film was… I felt a sense of responsibility that I had gone too far because it was extreme. I’m going to try and do that again this year, but much worse.
Based on this, I thought it would be fun to go back and have a look at the film that started this franchise – 1979’s Alien. As I’m sure you can attest, Alien is filled with amazing design work, a fantastic creature and awesome visual effects. The below photos/video are a few of my favourites from the making of this sci-fi/horror classic!
The below picture features Bolaji Badejo the actor that bought the titular character to life. Baedjo, a design student, was found by casting agents in a bar. His narrow frame was exactly what the production team were looking for to bring their creature to life.
What else is fascinating about the above picture is the visible human-like skull at the front of the headpiece. Eventually, a dome was added to the top of the headpiece which obscures this detail. The skull is not very clear (if at all) in the final film, but is very prominent in a lot of the behind-the-scenes photos.
Next, lets have a look at this test footage of Bolaji Badejo walking around the set wearing a stand in head prop. There’s something truly creepy about his movements as he slowly stalks the corridors of the Nostromo.
Below is Giger posing (creepily…) with the final build of the Space Jockey – the pilot of the derelict ship the Nostromo crew members investigate. This figure would later feature heavily in the expansion of the Alien universe, in 2012’s Prometheus. Giger airbrushed the entire Space Jockey set by hand to ensure it lived up to his designs.
The Space Jockey set below almost didn’t get built. 20th Century Fox didn’t want to spend the money on building such a large prop that would only feature in one scene, but conceptual artist Ron Cobb convinced them to keep it in the film, stating it would be the film’s ‘Cecil B. DeMille shot’ – proving to the audience this was more than a B-grade science fiction film.
To show the jockey as bigger than he actually was, Ridley Scott had his own children dress up in the Nostromo spacesuits to film the sequence when the crew are checking out the deceased pilot.
Actor Ian Holm is wonderful in the film as Ash, the creepy synthetic crew member whose devotion to the company ultimately finds his head on a table. The below photo shows Mr Holm having some final touches applied on his milky makeup before his final scene opposite Sigourney Weaver.
Finally, lets look at some of the models used throughout the production. First, the large refinery type vessel the USCSS Nostromo is tugging at the beginning of the film. Though this design is only featured early on in the film, this large citadel – like structure adds to the overall gothic nature of the flick.
Below is a large model of the Nostromo on LV-426. Whilst the spaceship design is fairly standard, the rock work on the planet is incredibly alien, and correlates well with Giger’s bio-mechanical designs found throughout the rest of the film.
Finally, the model of the derelict spacecraft found on LV-426, and the start of all the problems for Ellen Ripley.
The design and effects work on Alien is only apart of why this works so well. The acting, photography and music all work with the effects to create one of the best sci-fi horror films ever, and a creature that will forever breathe terror into the hearts of cinema goer’s everywhere
Whilst Ridley Scott’s’ return to this universe in Promotheus didn’t excite all fans of the franchise, with the word ‘alien’ in the title, fans can only hope that Alien:Covenant proves to be the Alien prequel we’ve all dreamed of. Alien:Covenant starts shooting here in Australia within the next few months.
Next week, when we return, we’ll take a look behind the scenes of one of cinema’s most beloved classics – feel free to guess away in the comments below. Hint: there are some similar thematic elements to both films!