a) Giger's interests and confusion
H R Giger was contacted to work on the script, Vincent Ward came to see him in Zurich and shared his ideas with Giger about a wooden planet inhabited by medieval monks who manufactured glass.
Ward showed him a small drawing and explained to him on the basis of this drawing what he wanted the planet to look like and stated that the whole planet would be made of wood.
This made a big impression on Giger but he asked "How do you see that, a planet made of wood?"
Ward's replied "Wood below and wood above, and just wood" or maybe as Giger remembered also that he said "wood and glass"
b) Giger's confusion
Giger's next thought because of the subject of wood was "flammable" and he could see a huge fire disaster at the end of the film.
Beside the oddity of this planet being made from wood, he thought the ideas that Ward had were good and very different.
Ward mentioned that the monks would cast glass on this wooden planetoid and the whole thing was probably like a huge spaceship made from wood, and a planet doesn't really have a below or an above.
That was what Giger understood from the conversation and flummoxed, in his mind the questions floated around, "well, how does that work, if you've got some kind of structure that floats around in space, it would have to have gravity of course so that the people wouldn't fall off or something, and of course in space, I don't know how that works in space. Could you walk around it? I don't know whether you could walk around the surface, and whether you could stand on your head some of the time and so on, without falling into space or something like that."
It seemed that somewhere along the lines, Ward had the idea that this was a spaceship clad in wood rather than simply made from wood itself, this might have help his own arguments about the nature of the vessel but no one understood at the time
c) Giger designs chestburster oral extraction device
However, one particular scene that Giger liked was when the alien could be seen to come out of Ripley's mouth and is sucked into the mouth of John the monk who then sacrifices himself, walking into the wheat fields which are on fire.
Although it went against Ward's idea about how it would be extracted, Giger even went ahead and designed a device for extracting the creature.
d) Vincent Ward lets go of Giger
However, Giger soon found out that Vincent Ward didn't like him, perhaps this was due to the fact that he found it hard to understand Ward's ideas.
He could not understand what a wooden planetoid was doing in space, nor how it would work, but still enjoyed the fact that it was a different idea.
However he thought that Vincent Ward was the type of director whose ideas wouldn't fit with the scheme of making an Alien movie
- Giger: Well, i was only engaged on the project for a very short time, one month in fact, to redesign my original creature, Vincent came to Zurich, and had these ideas for a wooden planet inhabited by medieval monks who manufactured glass, which i thought were pretty good, very different. One particular scene i liked took place at the end of Ward's script when the Alien would be seen to come out of Ripley's mouth. I even fashioned a device for extracting the creature. But i later heard that Vincent didn't like me, possible because i found it hard to understand all of his ideas - yet i was never officially involved at the same time as him.
- Interviewer: What contact did you have with Vincent Ward on his screenplay?
HR Giger: I think I first met Vincent Ward in Zurich, and there gave had a very small drawing and he explained to me on the basis of this drawing what he wanted the planet to look like, and the whole planet was going to be made of wood. That made a big impression on me, and then I said " But how do you see that, a planet made of wood?" And then he said. "Wood below and wood above, and just wood" When I think of wood, I immediately think, "flammable," you see, and I could already see the huge fire disaster at the end of the film. But the idea was actually quite good. I think he said there would only be wood and glass, they were somehow going to cast glass on that thing and the whole thing was probably like a huge space ship made from wood and yes, well a planet doesn't really have a below and an above or it does really have a below an above. That's what I understood. I always wondered "well, how does that work, if you've got some kind of structure that floats around in space, it would have to have gravity of course so that the people wouldn't fall off or something, and of course in space, I don't know how that works in space. Could you walk around it? I don't know whether you could walk around the surface, and whether you could stand on your head some of the time and so on, without falling into space or something like that." I don't know how that works, how he had imagined it.
HR Giger: Well, then actually Vincent Wars was constantly talking about the wooden planet and that was it and later I heard that he made a film, The Pilot or something like that or the The Navigator or something, that was something like a tunnel through the ground or he emerges somewhere different on the surface and things like that and so yes, it had a certain similarity. I just thought to myself, he wont do this film. Because he was so complicated, and it wasn't as if he was like a director who somehow knows what's going on and how it works, he was so inflexible somehow. He actually had an exact kind of.... and I thought: that he's no use to them and after one or two months, he was gone
Interviewer: Did you like Vincent Ward's script?
HR Giger: Well, Vincent Ward gave me his script, I can't remember now whether he gave me the script to read, probably over night or for a short time, in any case, I didn't understand it, I have trouble comprehending scripts as it is, when it's a case of visualising it, you have to be able to see it somehow of course and of course a script usually consists of characters who are involved in some action and not a lot of description, and from these actions you are then supposed to design the environment, that's pretty difficult. And his script wasn't exactly easy to visualise and I, oh well...(As reported from interview for Alien Evolution)