Alien Production Timeline
Alien Production Timeline
Sunday 5th February 1978
Today is HR Giger's birthday.
Monday 6th February 1978
Giger received his phonecall from Dan O'Bannon and then called Mia Bonzanigo to tell her that he wants her to be his secretary, (See: "Quit your job, Hollywood just called")
Wednesday 8th February 1978.
Today is Ridley' s start date. (page 75. Making of Alien, JW Rinzler) Ridley goes with Gordon Carroll and David Giler to meet Giger at his home in Switzerland (See: Ridley, Carroll And Giler visit Giger in Switzerland)
- Giger: On 8th February 1978, they turn up as announced - the three greats. The embassy from the fantastic kingdom of films consists of Gordon Carroll, Ridley Scott, and David Giler. Scott carries out the introductions and then gets going. He tells the story of Alien over again with the aid of sketches, goes into more detail, and tells me about the first changes. We shan't have much time he says; shooting will be starting in three and a half months time, the studios are reserved and the dates must be stuck to strictly, since the premiere has already been announced for May 79. The most important thing of all is Alien III, the superstar, the great monster. The creature by which the film lives and almost the whole of the cast dies. The film is to be shot in Shepperton Studios. (Giger's Alien, p12)
- Giger: Preparations have already begun in the Scott Free Productions at Lexington Street. (Before his first production, The Duellists, Scott had produced advertising films with his brother) I am told I must negotiate my fee with Twentieth Century Fox (Giger's Alien, p12)
- Giger: All this tumbles over me, and Scott talks so fast that I'm afraid I shall only understand half of what he says. Even during lunch the torrent of words never stops. After I've taken the three of them to the airport in the evening and am alone again, my head is still buzzing.(Giger's Alien, p12)
- Giger: I'm absolutely exhausted, and a bit worried too that in these circumstances I may not become creative in time. (Giger's Alien, p12)
Tuesday 14th February 1978.
Although Ridley Scott would later assume that Giger took the train to England because of concerns over flying, actually Giger takes the plane with a first class seat from Zurich to London to meet Ridley Scott at his offices to discuss the matter further and meet members of the production (Giger flies to london for a meeting at Ridley Scott Associates)
- HR Giger: 14 February 1978 Zürich to London by air, first class. A liveried chauffeur from Twentieth Century Fox meets me at the airport and takes me straight to the Hyde Park Hotel. With my black leather suitcase in one hand and a plastic brief-case in the other, I feel very out of place in this famous hotel. The commissionaires stare at me as if they thought I'd got the hotel mixed up with a museum. However, as soon as I utter the magic words 'Twentieth Century Fox they whisk me up to a huge bedroom. Then l'm taken off to Lexington Street, where Scott and his colleagues are already waiting for me. They have got an interpreter specially for me. Unfortunately he is no more familiar with technical terms like 'aeronautics' than I am, so there's no point in his staying with us very long. My future colleagues are introduced to me: John Mollo, who has made the astronauts' clothing from designs by Moebius; Les Dilley, an art director who got an Oscar for his work on Star Wars; Michael Seymour, the production designer, who has already prepared plans and papier-mâché models of the spaceship Nostromo from Ron Cobb's designs, and finally Peter Beale, one of Twentieth Century Fox's European Production Executives. He has already heard from my lawyer and doesn't seem to be at all happy about the fee that I've asked. I try to explain to him that the
star role, for which immense salaries are paid in other films, will be going this time to Alien Ill. The
film is going to stand or fall by the quality of this monster. I tell him too that my work is very
meticulous, and very important, and that I have to be meticulous, and very important, and that I have to be paid accordingly.(Giger's Alien p13)
- HR Giger: Beale doesn't seem to take in my arguments at all. It's not until Carroll explains to him, in a discussion that lasts three hours, that l'm simply not prepared to accept the salary that would be paid to a high-grade secretary in Switzerland, we finally compromise. I am engaged. But I still don't sign the contract, because there are some points in it about second rights that need clarification. Scott now explains what is needed urgently before my next visit, and then they let me go. (Giger's Alien p13)
Thursday 17th February 1978
Ivor Powell wrote a memo to organise the creation of the Alien nicknamed Little Rascal, with the understanding that they were to commence shooting by July 3rd, so the creature had to be created and demonstrated as successfull by June 9th 1978. (At the time, it appeared that Ivor was talking about the man in a suit big Alien when he referred to Little Rascal, but it later changed and he decided that this was the name that he gave to the Chest Burster. If it requires a team, to make it, we must be talking about the big Alien beast) The idea was that there would be twelve weeks allowed to construct Little Rascal prior shooting and they would be looking to come up with the approved design with three weeks from the Memo. (See: Little Rascal) The team working on its construction would arrive on March 10th.
The Alien Life Cycle is broken down into numerous stages for planning the special effects, and in the letter shown at the USC, we see 10 dealing with the Egg and the Face Hugger
1. EGG (OPAQUE) We will need many of these - principal ones and repeats are 'soft to touch'
2. EGG (TRANSLUCENT/ showing embryo face hugger inside) We will need several of these.
3.TRANSLUCENT EGG OPENS/EXPLODES
4. FACE HUGGER through air
5. FACE HUGGER hits Kanes face visor
6. FACE HUGGER dissolves visor
7. FACE HUGGER clamps onto Kanes face,
7a. FACE HUGGER schematic/x-ray readout images
8. FACE HUGGER is cut by surgical laser
9. FACE HUGGER dripse acid from wound
10. FACE HUGGER heals and grows
|Document shown at the Alien exhibition at the USC (Source: https://alien-archives.com/)
Saturday 18th February 1978
In February around this time, horrendous blizzard came. Dan O'Bannon found himself in England during the cold winter for the Alien production while England experienced a cold winter, surely somewhere around this time. He drove Ron Cobb from Shepperton to Londom in a miniscule red Volskwagen Golf. He hated driving so the first time he got behind the wheel, he took off for London at 70mph and made it back in record time, going through the most horrendous commuter crush. Towards the end of the journey, Ron Cobb actually screamed and cried out that Dan was driving too fast. The following morning Ron Cobb decided to pick Dan up in the Volkswagon Golf and told him that he would be doing all the driving from there.
- "This was certainly the main snowfall event of the winter in south-west England and, whilst associated with some harsh conditions, was not as notable an event as the blizzard of 18/19 February 1978 in this region" (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260475627_Snowfall_in_Britain_during_Winter_197879)
- Dan O'Bannon: Somehow I managed to remain on the production after it made the transition to 20thCentur)'-Fox in Los Angeles, and the cold winter of ’78 at Shepperton Studios outside London. I made the two-hour round trip with him in a miniscule red Volkswagen Golf. I hate to drive, so the first time I got behind the wheel I took for London at about 70 mph and made it back in record time, through the most horrendous commuter crush and with all the traffic going the wrong way as well. Toward the end there, Cobb actually screamed, and cried out something about how 1 was going too fast. The next morning when he picked me up in the Golf, he told me firmly that he would be doing all the driving from here on out, so that took care of that. (Colorvision, 1980)
Thursday 23rd February 1978.
Giger arrives in London by British Airways. Giger has a discussion with Scott about the alien design at Shepperton studios. It appears from Giger's writeup for the day in Giger's Alien , perhaps O'Bannon balloon monster that hopped around on two hands that featured in Dark Star was discussed. However, they were not sure what the beast in Alien should look like. Ridley definitely wasn't going to have some ordinary cinema monster stamping around stiffly and awkwardly through the film. They carried out some tests in Scott's office with a group of people including some children. Scott thought that a big man with some children strapped to him might produce a monster with a number of moveable extremeties (However the report for this day in Giger's Alien appears to explore realisations and discussions about the alien which I'm yet to explore in terms of when they were in terms of that day) According to Giger, Ridley showed him a photograph of a huge Nubian, over two meters in height standing with Leni Riefenstahl. (See also: Circus Performers Tried Out For Alien)
- HR Giger: (23 February 1978) Shepperton
Studios Alien Ill 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 the film.
We carried out some tests in Scott’s office with a group of people,
including some children. Scott thought that a big man with some children
strapped to him and the whole group ‘wrapped up’ in rubber might
produce a monster with a number of movable extremities. We tried the
idea out several times, but had to accept that it gave rise to too many
problems. The possibility of building a robot Alien was rejected for
reasons of safety. There could be no absolute control over it when it
was armed; the actor might get hurt, or even killed, during a fight.
After endless discussion we decide to make our Alien insect-like and
elegant. It adds to the horror through the swift, fierce attacks it
makes and by the way it’s filmed. There's very little time to design it,
especially since experience has taught us that the real problems only
arise when the designs are being executed.
It seems almost an impossibility to me to create a really credible monster. Behind every film monster | always see a human being, well or less well disguised; they give me no sort of shock at all. My sketches, completed in a very short time, are discussed. I've given a function to the long shape of the head; it conceals a long tongue, with sharp teeth, which the Alien can flick out like an anteater (plates 372, 373 and 378). To give it a certain relationship with the Chestburster, of which Alien III is the mature form, | alter the Chestburster to give it a long head and neck for the tongue (plate 368).
Scott relies on the striking effect of the escalating mouth and tongue opening, with the
aggressive double rows of teeth.
The eye section of the front view (plate 371) is too suggestive of motor-cyclist’s goggles. It has to be replaced by a dark, semi-transparent cranium, Stretching back over the whole cranium and showing the eye-holes in the skull (plates 373 and 374). There is now room under this dome for a possible mass of brain, which might consist of living maggots. Scott would actually like the whole Alien transparent, in the way I’ve made my biomechanoids. The whole of the monster's outer skin would have been organically permeated with cables, fluted pipes and other technical gadgets. Scott shows me a picture of Leni Riefenstaul with a huge Nubian over two meters (6 ft 7in) tall. He wants a man of that size for the Alien. (Giger's Alien, p58-60)
Saturday 25th February 1978.
Giger sketches some ideas for the derelict ship
Tuesday 28th February 1978
News that Terry Gilliam's Brian of Nazareth's film project has lost it's funding.