Alien: The Facehugger

Leading from
Ron Cobb 

Michael Seymour: The first stage, 
when it initially appears and leaps 
from that sort of egg shape and plants 
itself onto the face of a human, is a 
curious, grasping , crablike sort of 
hand creature. We called that first 
stage the "Facehugger" 
 (American Cinematographer, August 1979, p805)

a) See: Facehugger drawing attributed to Ron Cobb?

b) Eclectic design

A big meeting took place, with Roger Dicken being told what the creature should look like and he had no idea what to make of it.

Finally Ridley Scott pulled out Giger's Necronomicon as a guidebook and he pointed out various parts that he liked.

Dan O'Bannon could see that Roger Dicken was very confused about the whole thing so he decided to ask Ridley if he could have a go at drawing the creature from the elements picked out.

Ridley said "go ahead" and so Dan went over to the art department with Roger Dicken, they took a drafting table and a huge piece of paper with some pencils.

He drew two heads on the paper and then opened Giger's book and put it down before them.

He said "Ridley wanted part of this body, right?" and he sketched it out, he drew the fingers that Ridley liked and he added the tail as well.

Ridleygram showingthe facehugger's underbelly see the genesis of the design  for the sculpted underbelly

Facehugger by Joe Petagno

d) See: Giger's Alien Facehugger version iv

e) Giger arrives from Switzerland

As they put together the concept, Giger came in, his plane had arrived from Switzerland and he had with him the designs for the facehugger that he had been working on and they so happened to be similar to the designs that Dan had sketched with Roger.

Giger's version had an eye on the back, and looked more like the palm of a hand.

Dan looked at Giger and said "Oh that's good!" but Giger looked at the designs on their designs on the drawing board and said "No, that's much better" which pleased Dan immensely.

Dan asked "should I continue with it" and Giger replied "Oh yes", so the drawing that would replace Giger's concept went on.

f) Cobb's skeletal understructure

Dan O'Bannon with the design he was putting together realised that there was the need to create a skeletal understructure for the creature that it would need to hook the fingers onto, and Ron Cobb sketched some ideas that worked as a solution that Dan drew out.

He drew everything in life size and they went with that.

Dan O'Bannon considered the creature that they created as something eclectically constructed from what Ridley and Giger wanted with ideas from from Ron Cobb and Roger Dicken.

Once they put it through the blueprint machine, Ridley okayed it and Roger went off to build it.

Dicken with his Chestburster and Facehugger creations

g) Roger Dicken builds the creature

Roger Dicken was given a drawing which came up from the design department, which showed a head, with the face hugger in place and the tail wrapped around the neck.

The tail was moved simply with a wire, so one could thrash it about or pull it tighter around John Hurt's throat.

There were air bladders to make it breathe, and pistons which could move all the legs.

The armature had one removable leg at the front, for the sequence when they cut that leg open, which took a number of takes to get the acid just right,

Ridley wanted to fill the sacks on the side of the creature with slime, but he put it in the sacs and it clogged up the air tubes which made the sacs pulsate.

They used surgical jelly on the hugger to get the slimy gooey effects .

h) Roger Dicken's own concept

Roger did have his own concept for a facehugger that would have been different and more in keeping with his own aesthetics as a monster maker.

He would have like to have made it a little more scaly and have little barbs like rose thorns on the leg and down the tail.

Since this creature was self preserving, he felt that you shouldn't be able to get hold of the creature.

He also felt that its skinny little fingers were far too delicate for something that had evolved such an extreme level of self-preservation and so would have like to have like there to have been barbed fingertips inside of smooth human type nails that they wanted.

Colour photo of Roger Dicken with Alien life forms (source:

Sources Quotes
  1. H R Giger: Later on he said that, er, I should do it smaller, so I think something with human hands is always scary , so I , I had the finger, long fingers what is the most important part of the facehugger, and then it's a part, there's the little sexual like, yuh, and erm, the tube for erm that this beast has to... to... to... put in the... in the mouth, and then late, I had this hands in front, and then Dan O'Bannon draw them side... sidewards, that was better (Alien Quadrology  documentry)
  2. Dan O'Bannon: I thought that the Facehugger deserved to be given a great deal of our attention, I thought it was a very important element in the story and nobody seemed to be finding the time for it. Giger's energies at that point were going in to sculpting the full size alien, the life size one, the one which was manshaped and the face hugger wasn't being designed.(Giger's Alien, p10)
  3. Richard J. Taylor: An artist named Petagno drew up the original design of the face hugger on Kanes face with a long penis like rod going down his throat impregnating Kane with its offspring.  The design was just the way writer Dan 'O Bannon wanted it but Ridley Scott cut it out due to it being too explicit.  Dan was generally pissed and the design was replaced by some shitty stock footage of blood pumping through veins.  Its interesting what you can learn from Sounds Of Death magazine (source
  4. H R Giger: 3 June 1978, Shepperton Studios. During a sleepless night, I've made sketches for the constructions of the monster and begin to model one of the Facehugger's long fingers with a wire frame, plastic tubes and plasticene (Giger's Alien, p54)
  5. HR Giger: 29th July, 1978, Shepperton Studios. I agree with Scott to make the Aliens translucent. One should be able to see the skeleton, the blood circulatory system, the organs, etc. The skeleton has been cast in plast and I am starting to design the Facehugger's skin when - how could it be otherwise - the order arrives from production to stop work on the facehugger immediately and devote myself exclusively to designing the large monster, Alien III. (Giger's Alien, p54)
  6. Roger Dicken was working concurrently on the face-huggers. In the absence of anything more definitive, he had been given Giger's original concept paintings, which were greatly out of scale, along with some instructions from Ridley on what modifications needed to be made. The guidance, however, proved inadequate to the task. (Cinefex 1: p47) 
  7. Dan O'Bannon :There was a big meeting, and everybody was talking at the same time and trying to tell Dicken what the hell it should look like. Finally Ridley pulled out Giger's book and said: "Look. I want these fingers here on this page: and I want that over there for the back: and then I want the tail from this other page.And Dicken was just confused. He couldn't absorb it all the way it was being thrown at him. So I asked Ridley if I could take a try at it, and he said "Go ahead". So I went over to the art department with Dicken and we took a drafting table and a huge piece of paper and some pencils. I drew two heads on the paper, and then I opened Giger's book and put it down in front of us. "All right." I said. "Ridley said he wanted part of this body, right?" And I sketched it out. And he liked these fingers. So I added the fingers. And he wanted this tail (Cinefex 1: p47)
  8. Dan O'Bannon :Well, while we were doing this, Giger came in - his plane had arrived from Switzerland - and he had some new designs for the face-hugger. And they were very similar to what we were putting together on the drawing board - not identical, but similar. His had an eye on the back, and the shape of it was much more like the palm of a hand. I looked at him and said "Oh that's good". Then Giger looked at the thing I was sketching with Dicken, and he said, "No, that's better, that's much better." I was really flattered. So I said "The I should continue with it?' And he said "Oh, yes." So we went on. When it came to trying to figure out what kind of skeletal understructure the thing would need so the fingers could hook up, I got Ron Cobb over and he scrawled out his ideas - which as usual were excellent. The I cleaned the whole thing up a little and did it in ink - exact size - and that's what we went with. I was really pleased, because I had eclectically constructed the face-hugger out of the things that Ridley wanted and the things that Giger wanted, and some good ideas from Cobb and from Dicken. Then we put it through the blueprint machine, got Ridley to okay it, and Roger went off and built it. (Cinefex 1: p47)
  9. Roger Dicken: The facehugger was sculpted in plasticene. Then I made a plaster cast and a slush rubber mold which I strengthened with fiberglass on the underside, ending up with a hollow crab-like shell. Inside was a metal spine going down the middle, with little metal sections on it to hold the articulated fingers. All eight fingers were cast from the same mold and were latex covered, with aluminium armatures pinned at each joint so they would be absolutely flexible. These were sprung closed under tension. Then , from the tip of each finger, there were wires going up inside, so when you pulled on them, off camera, the fingers would open up and it could clip over the actor's face. To help hold it on, I put little eyelets in the fingertips and we ran rubber bands between them -  under the head where they wouldn't show. The tail was just a flexible cord covered with foam and latex. All together, I  made four or five face-huggers - one only that was fully articulated, one for underbelly shots, and about three dummy models that just had wire armatures so the fingers could be positioned. (Cinefex 1: p47)
  10. Roger Dicken: My own concept of the face-hugger was something a little more spiny, the claws - something you couldn't get ahold of even to try and pull it off. Self-preserving, in fact. To me, those long skinny fingers just didn't give the feeling that this thing had the strength to really cling onto someone's face like that. But that's how Ridley wanted them - thin and smooth. I'd also liked to have seen some barbed fingertips rather than smooth human-type nails they wanted. (Cinefex 1: p47) 
  11. H R Giger: It was going to be very smooth and slimy with eight long, fine, but very strong fingers. The main difference was that mine, was going to be translucent. I wanted the inside to be visible because it had a sort of skeleton under the skin. After I'd started building the two small ones, though, the producers stopped me because they were worried that I wouldn't get the big one finished in time. (Cinefex 1: p47)
  12. H R Giger: 15th August 1978, Shepperton Studios. The Facehugger has been finished by Dicken according to my initial directives. Not a trace of transparency but, in view of the means at our disposal, a perfect job. Scott's comment: I can work with that. Once again, I am surprised at how a material like latex, with a bit of jelly, smoke and a few strings ( to make it move like a puppet) can give the illusion of life. (Giger's Alien, p54)  
  13. Ridley Scott: We wanted to be sure it looked like an animal, so we designed very much from the point of view of something which had come out of a womb. For that reason we decided to use the natural flesh tone. We tried coloring it in various other ways ans it always looked hokey - and less frightening, somehow. I think it's very effective now, half armadillo, half hard shell back; the pair of testicle like lungs and the real killer is that stinger tale. (Cinefex #1, p55, 9th para)
  14.  Starburst:  What about the Facehugger which is the first alien we see after it has burst out of the egg and attached itself to Hurt's face?

    Roger Dicken: That was O'Bannon's design I think but as I say there were so many people on that film. I do know that O'Bannon drew something up and I built it. I would have liked it to have been a little more scaley and I would have liked to have little barbs like rose thorns on the legs and down the tail. As the alien was so self-preserving, you shouldn't be able to get a hold of the thing. I felt that in the film this wasn't well brought over.

    Starburst: Perhaps this was compensated for by the acidic blood that spurts out when they try to cut into the legs of the creature. Certainly that thing clinging to Hurt's face is an horrific image

    Roger Dicken Image, yes, But I didn't feel they showed its strength enough

    Starburst:  Did you do the alien coming out of the egg

    Roger Dicken Well, I was down to that scene. Ridley was going to use some footage from the Oxford Experimental Film Unit of embryo chickens forming, showing blood filling the capillaries and so on, and superimpose it over the egg interior, but that wasn't used. I don't know what came out of the egg or who did it, it happens so fast.

    Starburst: Did you do the scene where Hurt is lying on the table and the Alien shifts around and gets a better grip

    Roger Dicken The tail was moved with a wire, that's all. We had some problems that day. Ridley wanted to fill the sacks on either side  of the hugger with slime. They had a big tub of this stuff imported from overseas, possibly to use in other scenes as well. When I put it in the sacs, it clogged up the air tubes which made the sacs pulsate. We used surgical jelly on the hugger to get the slimy, gooey effects. (Starburst #15, pp.9 - 13
  15.  Cellulord: And the same process was applied to the Face Hugger?

    Roger Dicken: Exactly. That started life as a sketch which came up from the design department, I don’t know who did it. It basically showed a head, with the thing in place and the tail wrapped around the neck. Now, I thought those skinny little fingers were far too delicate for something that had evolved such an extreme level of self-preservation. I felt its fingers should have been spinier and thicker, but that was what they wanted, so, I went away and set-to, created the full-size model, and put my own detail on it.
  16. Roger Dicken :Then, as with the Chest Burster, it was laid over an articulated armature. The tail just had a wire running through it, so you could thrash it about, or pull it tighter around John Hurt’s throat. There were air-bladders to make it breathe, and pistons which could move all the legs. The armature had one removable leg at the front, for the sequence when they cut that leg open, which took a number of takes to get the acid just right. (


  1. Hi wmmvrrvrrmm,

    If you go here: cycle through gallery you'll see two rare photos of the Facehugger prototype.