The book Giger's Alien by H.R. Giger is a great read. It's full of marvelous concept art and great stories. I learned a lot about the film industry and a lot about Giger. It's a collection of diary entries he wrote making the film.
He admits in the foreword that he didn't understand the challenges of film-making at the time. Since then, he's come to respect everyone and the effort it took to make the film.
Here are the
1. The Alien Was Almost A Giant Baby
Originally, the producers suggested the alien look like a big baby.
THE ALIEN, THIRD (NATURE) PHASE. Having left its victim, the Alien promptly grows to Man-size, whereupon it is terrifically dangerous. It is very mobile. strong, and capable of tearing a man to pieces. It feeds on human flesh. This creature should be a profane abomination. Some producers have suggested that something resembling an over-sized, deformed baby night be sufficiently loathsome - In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design.
2. The Original Eggs Were Hilarious
I had heard that the original design of the Alien egg opening looked like a vagina, but Giger's storytelling skills are phenomenal.
1 September 1978, Shepperton Studios
Scott, Carroll, Dilley and Powell appear to Inspect my work. I had just started to apply a texture. The lid of the egg, which in O'Bannon's sketch sprang up at a touch, I changed it into an organic, vagina-like opening. When I take off the plastic cloths in which my work is draped, there is a howl of laughter from the whole group. I had lovingly endowed this egg with an inner and outer vulva To make it all look more organic, I filled some more preservatives with clay and arranged these semi-transparent little sausages on the pink aperture.
When the gentlemen are beginning to get over it, I allow myself to ask whether they like it. Scott thinks It's too good, and Carroll too specific. He's afraid it will get them into trouble, especially in Catholic countries. Dilley would rather have something more like a flower opening. This suggestion gives me the idea of doubling the bud effect and laying the two one across the other. Seen from above, they would form the cross that people in Catholic countries are so fond of looking at. Once again I can satisfy the producers, myself and the public at home and abroad.
3. Secretaries in Switzerland Are Well Paid
At one point, H.R. Giger complains about the amount of money the studio is offering him. As a professional artist he's insulted and says secretaries in Switzerland are paid more. If he was serious, I can't imagine how much lawyers are paid there.
4. If O'Bannon Had Stayed In Town The Alien Ship Would Have Been Traditional
Giger and the producer had a numerous fights with Giger about the designs. Most left his concepts and designs behind. One big fight was over the design of the derelict ship the crew find. Dan O'Bannon, who wrote the screenplay, was adamant that they should have a traditional ship with tail fins sticking in the air. Gordon Carroll, one of the producers, insisted the derelict will blend in with the landscape. He won the argument.
19 July 1978, Shepperton StudiosBut, when Giger came on set the next day, they were building the ship the way he designed them. He concludes that it's because O'Bannon went back to America and they didn't have enough time to develop another design.
They ask me to go to the office, where Scott, Seymour and Carroll are waiting for me. Carroll says, please will I design another derelict. The entrance passage and the landscape can stay the same as those that have been built in Sound Stage H, but the rest will have to be changed. As it is now (plate 378) it is too reminiscent of a bone and might make people think it was an organic part of the landscape. There will also be technical difficulties In building it. I am absolutely astounded to hear this from Carroll, of all people, who had been so enthusiastic about my derelict when he first saw It. I suspect that Shusett and O'Bannon are behind it. Even good friends can often infuriate one. I try to convince Carroll that the dimensions and the aerodynamic shape are enough in themselves to distinguish the derelict from the landscape, and moreover that technical details ought not to be too obvious in case they spoil the biomechanical character of a spaceship built by non-humans. I simply can't see how I can improve on it; I regard it as one of my best pictures. Carroll proves unyielding and finally practically orders me to conjure up something else out of the ground. They seem to think I can just shake good ideas out of my sleeve— the bitter fate of the creative artist. Scott keeps quiet during the discussion, and in silent opposition demonstrates a quite ordinary, banal crashed aircraft, its tall fin pointing skyward. I understand and, promising to try something different, go back to my work. This is an occasion when time will work for me.
5. A Surprising Number of Children Were Involved
The scene with Lambert, Dallas, and Kane in the "Space Jockey" cockpit was filmed with children in the space suits. This increased the scale. Two were Ridley Scott's children.
26 September 1978, Shepperton Studios
Yesterday we worked late into the night to get the set looking more or less finished. A truck with a camera crane that can be raised and lowered has been set up at the edge of the set for the camera team. The %pada effects' men veil the whole scene in smoke from some kind of burning oil. It smells horrible and makes it very stuffy on the stage. The lighting men crouch in the scaffolding bathed in sweat and light up whatever they are told. Meanwhile Scott hovers on his airy seat with the cameraman, Derek Vanlint, and gives instructions. All the preparations are complete and filming begins. The three actors playing the astronauts are replaced by children, wearing miniature copies of the astronaut's clothes. This makes the enormous figure of the pilot look bigger still.
While designing the the Alien phase III, at one point Ridley Scott strapped a bunch of children to a man. This was to give the impression of a creature with many limbs.
23 February 1978, Shepperton Studios
Alien III Is the monster, the superstar, the title-role of the film. O'Bannon had used a monster before, in his film Dark Star. For that they used a balloon the size of a medicine-ball which hopped about on two hands. To begin with we weren't clear what the Alien in Alien ought to look like. Scott definitely wasn't going to have some ordinary cinema monster stamping stiffly and awkwardly through t