David Watling's Alien Head

leading from 

a) Remote controlled head
David Watling who created the remote controlled R2-D2 from Alien was responsible for  creating a backup version of the alien head just in case Rambaldi's alien head wasn't able to deliver. Although it was a very clever machine, Ivor Powell felt that it wasn't something they'd need because Rambaldi's head was just what they wanted for the closeup shots and a lot safer to use as it was manually operated.

Production crew member holding a remote control box Bolaji Badejo in his alien
costume on the Nostromo set. Does this photo show the remote controlled alien
head with the costume? (photograph source: ebay)
b) Buy British?
However Giger found this becoming an issue for emerging studio politics as the production manager who appeared to Giger to be an ardent nationalist, although back in the seventies there was still quite a call to "Buy British",  and indeed there were people were keen to keep Alien as a British project rather than unneccesarily outsourcing to foreign companies. So it seemed that the production manager wanted to push for the use of the British made alien head instead of the ones made by Rambaldi which was considered an Italo-American product, he offer Giger his support if he'd push for the use of David Watlings alien head which apparently Giger found didn't work very well and of course he found himself more impressed with Rambaldi's creation.




Source Quote
  1. Cinefex: When Rambaldi labored some seven thousand miles away, the producers commissioned David Watling to construct yet another head, identical in appearance and function, as a hedge against the possibility that Rambaldi's would not work satisfactorily or he would be unable to deliver in time. Watling whose engineering firm on the Shepperton lot had manufactured the seven R2-D2 units used in Star Wars, approached his tasking somewhat differently, however((Alien The Special Effects, p20, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  2. David Watling: Our brief was to articulate the head with the same movements as the one Rambaldi was making, buy by using a radio control system rather than cables. We therefore designed and built remote control devices which gave full proportional control to the lips and the position of the inner teeth mounted on the tongue. The main jaw and tongue were activated by air cylinders which in turn were controlled by radio vaves operated by the air supply and a miniature battery pack were mounted in the costume on the actor's back. (Alien The Special Effects, p20, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  3. Cinefex: The alien head constructed by David Watling's firm was virtually identical in appearance; and even though it had been completed and delivered more than a month before Rambaldi's, it was never used in the film. (Alien The Special Effects, p28, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  4. Ivor Powell:' David Watling's machine was very clever, but ironically , we never used it because there was no call to use it. Most of the shooting was finally done pretty close up, and therefore the cable system of Rambaldi's was much more practical. Remote control just isn't as subtle as a hand-operated mechanism. If we'd wanted a lot of long shots, though - with freedom from the cables - the Watling head would have been very useful.(Alien The Special Effects, p28, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  5. H. R. Giger (30th August 1978, Shepperton Studios): The production manager (Garth Thomas was production manager at the time) who is an ardent nationalist, finds these Italo-American products a thorn in the flesh. He promises me all possible support in my work if I will boost the homemade product, the engineer's Alien head that only half works, for use in the film. I wont do anything of the sort. I'm only interested in quality, no matter where it comes from, and in the resemblance of the head to my own design; not in this internal nepotism. (Giger's Alien, p70)

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