a) Ridley's Dilemma
When Ridley Scott came aboard the Alien project, once he got over the excitement of it all, he faced the problem of what the creature is going to look like, and the problem hangs above like a thundercloud. How do they represent the alien in its various forms, because one had to see the creature at one point or another in the film. So he arrived in Hollywood with this misgiving and ended up going through seven months work of pre-production drawings without finding anything that he really liked.
b) Sifting through various representations
He went through the various traditional representations usual blob and clawed creatures, one like an octopus another like a small dinosaur, the beast with several heads, bulging eyes, and all that sort of stuff even of they had done them well, he would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud, with very few exceptions, he found that movie monsters have a rubbery look and are rarely convincing, so they were all rejected. Ron Cobb was supposed to do the monster, but Giler and the others really didn't like his monster, he was a terrific graphic designer but the monster that he designed looked to Giler like a blob with tentacles. And so O'Bannon was showing some images from the Dune project to the producers. Giler remembered seeing the train like head on its rail on the Harkonnen palace and they said to O'Bannon. "Jesus, what is that?"
O'Bannon replied "Well that's Giger"
"Who's he? What's that?" they replied
"Oh, this guy's really interesting"
The following day, O'Bannon brought the book to show them.
Their response was "What about this guy?"
c) Ridley discovers Giger's Necronomicon
While Ridley Scott described it as a meeting, perhaps one might have assumed it took place at 20th Century Fox offices somewhere and Dan had payed a visit, but as Ron Shusett recalled Ridley Scott went to visit Dan and Ron at Ron's run down apartment where it seemed that Dan was still sleeping on the couch with Ron's wife supporting them, and here they were having a meeting. However, according to David Giler, it was when he with the other producers showed the book to Ridley which again seems to place it at the 20th Century Fox offices
Suddenly Dan O'Bannon walked in produced a book out of what seemed like out of nowhere, hidden under his coat and presented it as if it were a dirty magazine or post card. It was a copy of the book H R Giger's Necronomicon named after the fabled tome of spells for summoning demons written about by HP Lovecraft in this Cthulhu Mythos books, but filled with Giger's many paintings. Actually it seems that Dan had more than one book with him, Giger's 1971 version of "A Rh+" would have been another one of them and there were also other pieces of artwork that Giger had already done. So the way that Dan and Ron told it, they themselves were the ones pushing the idea of Giger toward's Ridley's attention
With a sort of gleam in his eye, Dan said to him "What do you think of this? "
Ridley started reading through it until he came to this one half page painting and he just stopped and said "Good God, I don't believe it. That's it!."
And so Dan and Ron told him "Giger should design, but Fox won't let us."
Dan had received the book from Giger who sent him the first one off the press. As far as Dan knew, the text was in German although Giger said that it was French and it was hand bound. Dan was very flattered but he didn't realise until later that the reason Giger had sent him a copy was because he wanted Dan to show it to the producers as he didn't think that they were impressed with his work.
Ridley Scott, never so certain about anything in his life saw a painting that amazed him of a phallic headed demon a phallic headed demon with a strange umbilical penis, almost nearly falling over with surprise. He thought that he would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be but instead in this book he immediately, found his alien monster.
Ridley said to Dan, "Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun." and on the other hand he thought. "If we can do that, that's it"
Dan O'Bannon lit up like a light bulb, shining like quartz iodine.
d) Dan's Other Thoughts
Dan was pleased that Ridley Scott was also impressed with Giger's imagery but on the other hand he also thought". Aw phooey! Giger has some much more grotesque stuff in his repertory. That's just sort of man-shaped." and then he decided "What the heck. Giger will give them something better." So Dan decided to keep his mouth shut. Exactly what he would have originally preferred for the adult creature remains a slight mystery.
- Ridley Scott: When you take on a subject like this, after the initial flush of excitement, the problem of what the hell it's going to look like suddenly starts hanging over you like a thundercloud. How do we do the beast in its various forms? One had to see it at some point or other. So I arrived in Hollywood with this misgiving and ended up going through about seven months worth of preproduction drawings without finding anything I really liked. There was the usual blob and clawed creature and all that sort of stuff, which wouldn't have been right even if we'd done them well. I would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud. (Cinescape vol3 #9 , p20 and Dissecting Aliens)
- Ridley Scott : When you take on a subject like
this, after the initial flush of excitement, the problem of what the
hell it's going to look like suddenly starts hanging over you like a
thundercloud. How do we do the beast in its various forms? We had a similar problem wth the alien transmission over what it should sound like. We never did sort that one out, and finally we decided to ditch it rather than have something hokey. But of course we couldn't ditch any aspect of the alien - one had to see it at some point or other. So I arrived in Hollywood with this
misgiving and ended up going through
about seven months worth of pre-production drawings without finding anything I really liked. There was the usual blob and clawed creature and all that sort of stuff, which wouldn't have been right even if we'd done them well. I would have been embarrassed by them rather than proud. I had visions of screwing around with this for months; but as it happened, it worked out very quickly. Just after I got to Hollywood, Dan O'Bannon came in with a copy of Giger's
Necronomicon and said, 'What do you think of this?' I started leafing through it until I came to this one half-page painting, and I just stopped and said "Good God, I don't believe it, that's it!" (Cinefex 1, p37)
- Ridley Scott : "I had accepted the script in awareness that the creature would pose enormous problems. With very few exceptions, movie monsters have a very rubbery look and are rarely convincing. The first sketches had been traditional representations. The beast with several heads, bulging eyes, the lot. I rejected them all. Then O'Bannon showed me Giger's Necronomicon. I knew at once, without shadow of a doubt, this was what I wanted" (Film Illustrated. v9. n99, Nov 1979, "Duelling with Death, The Alien World of Ridley Scott", p103)
- Ridley Scott: "In the few horror films I've seen, with the exception of maybe one or two, the creatures haven't been terribly good. As soon as you accept a script like this, you begin to worry about what you're going to do with "the man in the rubber suit." So the alien became our first priority. We had t make it totally repulsive and yet scary as hell. I looked at sketches of blobs and octopuses and dinosaurs. They were all awful. We could have gone on that way for months. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel, Shusett and O'Bannon showed me H R Giger's Necronomicon, the book by the Swiss Surrealist. On the bottom half of page 65 I found a painting of a demon with a jutting face and long, extended , phallic shaped head. It was the most frightening thing I've ever seen. I knew immediately that here was our creature. The 1976 painting [ Necronom IV] was the basis for the monster [Cinefantastique Vol 9. # 1, p12]
- Ron Shusett: As soon as Ridley saw
Giger's work , he said "That's it, that the alien"
He came to our apartment, our beaten down apartment. Dan lived on my couch, My wife was supporting us. We showed him, we said "Giger should design, but Fox won't let us." (Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD)
- Ridley Scott: Dan O'Bannon came in with a copy of H.R. Giger's Necronomicon and said, 'What do you think of this?' I nearly fell over, I started leafing through it until I came to this one half-page painting and I just stopped and said, 'Good God, 1 don't believe it. That's it.' I'd never been so certain about anything in my life. I thought we would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be. Looking at the painting, I thought, 'If we can do that, that's it.' (Cinescape vol3 #9 , p20-21,and Dissecting Aliens)
- Scanlon & Gross: Reenter H.R.Giger,
Alien was gradually moving toward its shooting schedule and there was
still no acceptable monster. One sketch proposal looked sort of like an
octopus, another like a small dinosaur. One artist brought in a model
that Gordon Carroll says looked like a "Christmas turkey"
So O'Bannon , remembering those inspirational days on a sofa back in Los Angeles, with Giger always in the back of his mind, paid a visit to Ridley Scott."Dan came in," Scott recalls, " with this book I'd never seen before, opened it up and said, 'What do you think of this?' I looked down and saw this stunning picture.... this remarkable drawing. I think it's one of the best that Giger has ever done. I have never been so sure of something in all my life." What Scott saw was a picture from a Giger collection called Necronomicon, a picture that might well be described as Alien's second cousin. " And I said to Dan, 'Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun.'" (Book of Alien, Scanlon & Gross)
- Ridley Scott: "The biggest problem, of course, was : What's the alien going to look like? I mean, you could screw around for two years trying to come up with something that wasn't at all nobs and bobs and bumps and claws, or like a hug blob you know? When I went into for the first meeting, they had the book there by HR Giger, The Necronomicon. I took one look at it, and I've never been so sure of anything in my life. I was convinced I'd have to had him on the film." (Starlog, September 1979, p21)
- Ridley Scott: In fact O'Bannon walked in one day with Giger's book The Necronomicon hidden under his coat, and produced it like it was a dirty post card saying "What do you think?". He had a sort of a gleam in his eye. (Questar number 5, Nov 79, p22)
- Ridley Scott: He brought in a book
by the Swiss artist H.R.Giger. It's called Necronomicon. O'Bannon
produced this book out of nowhere, like it was a dirty magazine. He
wasn't quite sure about it. Didn't know what people would think when he
showed it to me. It was a covert operation.
FF: What was your reaction ?
Ridley Scott: I nearly fell over. I'd never been so certain about anything in my life. I tell you, I'd thought we would be arguing for months about what the beast was going to be. I thought "If we can build this, that's it." I was stunned, really. I flipped. Literally flipped. And O'Bannon lit up like a light bulb, shining like quartz iodine (Fantastic Films US#12, GB # 2, p14)
- Dan O'Bannon: The book had just been published and Giger sent me the first one off the press. The text was in German and it was hand bound. I was really flattered. I didn't realize until later that the reason he'd sent it to me was because he wanted me to use it on the producers. He didn't think they were sufficiently impressed with his work. I thought the book was brilliant - the man had a real knack for coming up with disturbing imagery. So I was pleased that Ridley liked it. But when he found that thing with a big long penis for a head I kind of thought: "Aw phooey! Giger has some much more grotesque stuff in his repertory. That's just sort of man-shaped." But then I figured 'What the heck. Giger will give them something better.' so I decided to keep my mouth shut. (Cinefex 1 , p37-39)
- Ron Shusett(11:06): We then showed Ridley, Giger's designs from the sketches, and also his books of his artwork (Alien Legacy: Starbeast, documentary)
- Famous Monsters: There seem to be pieces of your previous work used in the designs of Alien.
Giger: I don't know, I'm not sure. I mean, Dan O'Bannon had my book after he finished the story and just before Ridley Scott got involved in the project. I gave him my first copy. It was a French edition, hand-bound, and it really was the thing that secured my involvement with the project. As soon as Ridley saw it, he said "That's it! I need this man" (Famous Monsters #158, p29)