Alien: Making the Movie
Alien: Making the Movie
Life Cycle of the Alien
Life Cycle of the Alien
|Alien continuity polaroid from blu-ray set|
Originally the alien was to be found in the closet of the escape shuttle that would later be named the Narcissus.
Ron Shusett thought that it would be a great moment if it was done right, Ripley would run, get to the safety boat, and its launched, the ship explodes and it's in the escape shuttle with her in the closet, this would have been the payoff.
After Dan O'Bannon had returned to the US, Ron and Ridley were having a chat , perhaps two thirds through the movie production.
The command module of the Nostromo as seen in the opening sequence had been economically converted and redressed so that it became the interior of the Narcissus which was the escape pod.
In view of the original alien in a closet ending, Ridley said "Can't we beat that?" Then he came up with another idea "She's somewhere, he's somewhere and she is there, but it's with her, can't it be somewhere she and the audience can't see it, it's camouflaged so well, and it just emerges!
"Right, okay, so where's the alien going to be?"
They agreed "No, that's too easy because people don't look at the roof, it should be hiding in plain sight"
Besides that Ridley had already filmed the scene where the alien comes down like a bat on Brett, and wouldn't have been able to tolerate repeating himself
Ridley's view was " It should be that the audience can see it, but they don't know where they're seeing it."
Ron said "Ridley you're absolutely right"
Ridley replied, "okay, let's work on this"
Ivor asked "What if the alien is like a chameleon, and he's going into another stage? Giger's concept was biomechanoid, so if you front lit the alien, so the audience could see it, that would be an amazing coup. "
|Alien continuity polaroid from blu-ray set|
|Alien continuity polaroid from blu-ray set|
|Alien continuity polaroid from blu-ray set|
b) The creature in the wall
This idea went down well, and so was further developed.
Ridley went with this idea because he figured out that like an insect. this biomechanoid alien would go for the cold pipes, and it was like a chameleon.
Thus it would have the sense was to look around and ask where it was the most safe, and so crawl into a place where it could be the most safe like all chameleons, and a chameleon will lie on the ground and change his colour according to the terrain.
So the alien would integrate itself with the surrounding machinery and the top of its head would be indistinguishable from the surrounding pipes even close to.
By this time, it towards the end of the September, and on the 21st and 22nd, according to the schedule, they had filmed the scene when Ripley remembers the cat and goes to collect it, heads for the engine room and then heads towards the Narcissus with flame thrower and cat box, hurls the cat box into the corner in the shuttle and then hits the launch button.
The alien was originally going to come out of the closet. Now when Ripley blasts off from the Nostromo with the alien aboard, it was dying which is why it moved so slowly.
Like a chameleon, it had found a protective corner in the ship and it was working itself in there to die.
So while she killed it, it would have died soon anyway.
Ridley started off using the Necronom IV image showing the alien creature with its tail over its head as his model.
Giger had thought that this scene wasn't going to be something that Bolaji Badejo would be happy about because it would surely be very uncomfortable. Giger felt for the situation that the suit performers found themselves in very much since these suits were not very comfortable
They agreed "okay, this is what we'll do, let's have the alien lay down in here longways, he's seven feet tall."
Ridley had drawn a sketch as a guidline, but by Giger's view it showed exactly the opposite of hiding the creature, but this sketch was executed by six men over the weekend.
However when Giger brought it to Ridley's attention by Monday, October 2nd 1978, Ridley didn't want to make a fool of himself and change it any more since this would upset the workers.
Giger made a sketch and asked Ridley for permission to change it his own way, which would mean removing all of the tubes that had been painstakingly attached.
However Michael Seymour got mad with Giger, and accused him of creating confusion and told Giger that he should beat it and so they kept on following the wrong track.
d) Shot by their own arrow
They kept building the wall up so that it looks like the alien, and every night at the end of a days shoot, they would shoot the wall with him in it and see if they could see the alien hidden in there.
For about a week they made fools of themselves because every time they shot it. She was standing there, and they could see in front of her, a foot or two away, the alien
They were saying words such as "it's ridiculous!" and "This is stupid; we’ll never disguise it." .
They knew that they couldn't chance it, it had to be invisible or they were going to make complete fools out of themselves.
If they couldn't get it to work perfectly, they would have to have it come out of the closet again or from the roof and the viewer didn't see see it.
But the best thing was to make it work here, and they kept rebuilding it every day and they would sit there for hours. Ridley and Ron would look at the wall separately and Bolaji would sometimes get so tired that he'd go on a coffee break in the monster suit.
Finally they had one version of the wall that they thought might work. They realised this because together Ron and Ridley were looking at it and Ridley said to Ron "Looks good to me, I think once Bolaji gets in there, it's going to be completely invisible. Let's put him in there now and then maybe we'll shoot it"
And so they called him, they yelled for him but to their surprise, he was in the wall next to them. They were shot by their own arrow and virtually jumped a mile
Their response was "God! Jesus, he's there, oh my god, it worked!"
e) Evolution of The Filmed Scene
They got around to shoot it on Wednesday 4th October, 1978, Giger painted up another costume for Bolaji to wear and it worked just as it was on the screen.
It wasn't any particular person who discovered the solution to the person, it evolved, they figured it out, the set people figured it out.
The secret though was the alien creature's head and when someone came up with the idea to put air ducts that were shaped enough like the head, two above it and one below it, and its mouth turned in so it couldn't be seen.
When the viewer saw these air ducts, it was full of biomechanical patterns and ribbed pipes, and so on placed there by Ridley himself, and suddenly the first thing that one saw was the arm come out and over.
It was as if the alien was behind the pipes but when the viewer looked, they'd find it was inside the pipes as one of the air ducts suddenly one of the air ducts turned and it had a mouth on it and that was that.
Giger thought that the effect was enough like one of his biomechanoid paintings, he was very pleased with the way that Ridley did it, but since the scene was very dark, it was not something that Giger could take good photographs of.
|Filming the alien hiding in the wall|
As they filmed the scene, bursting out of that compartment wasn't easy.
It put a lot of strain on the suit Bolaji must have ripped it two or three times coming out and each time he'd climb down from the bulkhead, the tail would rip off! But it wasn't much of a problem for them, because they had more suits.
He did about fifteen takes of the shit and it got to a point where he finally said "No more!"
There was a lot of smoke, it was hard for him to breathe, and it was terribly hot.
But as Sigourney watched Bolaji in his alien suit coming out from between the cooling pipes, she thought it was like seeing something coming out of a chrysalis.
g) See: Sex and the Alien
- HR Giger: The Narcissus, the rescue aircraft of the mother ship Nostromo, which was built up in the C stage, is the reason for R. Scott's visit today. Usually, he stays at home on the weekend. It's about the scene in which Ripley, the sole survivor of the crew, escapes to the rescue aircraft and shortly thereafter discovers Alien III in a tangle of tubes and machinery parts. For this living image, Scott is using the image of the Necronom again with the tail above his head as a model. Poor Bolaji, who is caught inside Alien III, will not be happy about this beautiful, but for him very uncomfortable, scene. (HR Giger's Alien Diaries, Saturday September 30th, 1978)
- HR Giger: Giger causes confusion once again, Alien III is supposed to be integrated into a wall in the Narcissus. After Ridley Scott made a [illegible word] sketch that showed the exact opposite of hiding it, and the entire thing was executed by six men over the weekend. It's impossible, after realizing that he's on the wrong track, to change it again. He didn't want to make a fool of himself and to annoy other workers. I made a sketch showing how I imagined the thing and asked Scott if he'd give me permission to change it my way. That would mean removing all the tubes that had been painstakingly attached, Michael Seymour got mad and accused me of creating confusion, and that I should beat it. Although everyone present agreed with me, they kept tinkering on the wrong track. They can lick my butt. No on, least of all [...] can ever admit that they made a mistake. (HR Giger's Alien Diaries, Monday, October 2nd, 1978)
- HR Giger: Painted a new costume for Bolaji, i.e. the arms as well as Watling's mechanized tail. (HR Giger's Alien Diaries, Wednesday, October 4th, 1978)
- HR Giger: In the afternoon Bolaji will be filmed as Alien III in the C stage. Bolaji is now built entirely into the wall and garnished with tubes and cables by R. Scott himself. He did it very well. It looks like one of my biomechanoids. Unfortunately the scene is rather dark, which is not exactly conducive to taking photographs. (HR Giger's Alien Diaries, Wednesday, October 4th, 1978)
- Ridley Scott: When Ripley blasts off from the Nostromo with the alien aboard, it's dying which is why it moves so slowly. She kills it, but it would have died soon anyway. It's like a butterfly. (Fantastic Films)
- Ridley Scott: .... like a butterfly or an insect, it has a limited lifespan in which to reproduce itself. It also helped explain why it didn't attack Ripley in the Narcissus. It's days were over. Like a chameleon, it had found a protective corner in that ship and was working itself in there to die. ("Creating and Alien Ambience", Alien : The Special Effects)
- Cinefantastique: Did you ever contribute to the plot or the script of Alien in any way?
Ivor Powell: I can very discreetly claim some credit for the film's ending. In most forms, the ending of the script had Ripley in the shuttlecraft, leaning in the back of the chair relaxing, when suddenly the alien's hand appears over the back of the chair.. She runs into the locker but the alien gets distracted by the cat box and begins to rip it to shreds. Ridley could never bring himself to film the Alien sequences in the way he had done before. He always resisted that sort of shock effect, where a door opens and there's the alien. When Ridley had the idea of the alien coming down from above like a huge bat, that took the film up another notch for me, and that ending had the same kind of approach.. They both fall out of the airlock, both hanging on a cord, Ripley scrambling to get in, the alien leaking acid everywhere. It gets its hand caught in the door as she closes it. You couldn't do that logically - the acid would eat through the airlock.
So I said, what if the alien is like a chameleon, and he's going into another stage. Giger's concept was biomechanoid, so if you front lit the alien, so the audience could see it, that would be an amazing coup. I got team points for that idea, though the tragedy is that so few people realise it's there, amongst the machinery. (CFQ vol9:1, p32)
- Interviewer: what about hiding him in the wall? How did you hid that guy in the wall?
Ridley Scott: I figured he’d go for…like an insect he’d go for either cold pipes, everything was cold, and he…it was like a chameleon. The idea of being a chameleon where he would crawl into, because he’s biomechanoid. So his sense of also being a chameleon was to look around and say where can I, where am I most safe? Like all chameleons. And so a chameleon will lie on the ground and change his colour according to the terrain. And so that was the idea. (Alien Evolution)
- Ron Shusett: Yeah, there’s a great serendipity that goes with the ending of the
movie. We never had the idea when the script was written or even halfway
through the filming, that idea was not in the movie that the creature
would be disguised as part of the wall. Originally it was in the closet,
it was a great classic moment that works if you do it right, where you
run, you get to the safety boat, and it gets off, the ship explodes and
it’s in the boat with her in the closet. And that would have been good
enough we thought for a pay off. But
halfway through the movie Ridley and I we’re just talking about it one
day, Dan had already gone back, I’d say maybe two thirds of the way
through the movie, and Ridley was saying, you know, wouldn’t it be great
if we had some kind of a one more surprise because you’ve got the
chest-burster, unquestionably the chestburster and the robot’s head
coming off and being hooked up were the two most amazing things, if we
could have one more amazing thing in the lifeboat and we were thinking
yeah, what could it be and the obvious thing was well, she’s somewhere,
he’s somewhere and she is there, but it’s there with her and we don’t
see it’s camouflaged so well! And we said well where can it be and we
thought the roof first, we thought, no, that’s too easy because people
don’t look at the roof, it should be hiding in plain sight. It should be
that the audience can see it, but they don’t know they’re seeing it. So
I said, Ridley you’re absolutely right, he said ok, let’s work on this.
Let’s say, and we’d already shot I guess part of this scene, but it was
only one wall - the backdrop we had to change. We’d shot a lot of other
action in it. And it was gonna come out of the closet. But the one
wall, although it was shot, we could change it any way we wanted that
one wall, we just had the alien hidden in there, so we kept redressing
We said ok, this is what we’ll do, let’s have the alien lay down in here. Longways, he’s 7 feet tall, I played him, and build and keep building the wall so that it looks a lot like him and every night at the end of shooting, regular shooting, we’ll shoot it. The wall with him in it and see if we can see it. So for about a week we made fools of ourselves cos every time we shot it it was like Mad magazine. She’s standing there, you can see right in front of her, a foot away, is the alien. She’s going hmmmm, all this stuff, you’re saying you boom, it’s ridiculous! So we knew really that we couldn’t chance it it had to be invisible or it was we were complete fools out of ourselves and at the last moment fumbling at the goal line. So we thought it’s a great idea but if we can’t get it to work perfectly we’ll have to have it come out of a closet rather than - or from the roof and you just didn’t look. But the best thing, if we could only make it work here. And we kept rebuilding the wall every day and we would sit in there for hours. And Ridley and I would look at the wall separately and sometimes he’d get so tired he’d go on a coffee break in the monster suit.
And so we finally had one version of the wall that we thought might work. I’ll tell you why it did later. It worked perfectly, but this is how we found out if worked. So we were looking at it and Ridley said looks good to me, he said I think once he gets in there it’s going to be completely invisible. Let’s put him in there now and then maybe we’ll shoot it. And so we called him. I think Badejo was his name, I forgot the name. Something like that. So we yelled for him and he was in the wall, he was next to us, not, as close to where you are to me now and he just kept right on the wall and we were shot by our own arrow. We’d go oh God! Jesus, he’s there, oh my God, it worked. And sure enough, we shot it and it worked just like you saw it on the screen! He was completely invisible and disguised, even in real life if you were two feet away. And the secret was one thing. I don’t know, no one person discovered it, it just evolved, we figured it out finally, the set people figured it out. The secret was his head. We put air ducts, shaped like his head, two above it and one below it and his mouth turned in so you didn’t see it. And you saw these air ducts, it was full of these biomechanism things, and you saw this, first thing you saw was the arm come out and over. But you thought he was behind it and he shoved his arm - where is he? He’s back there! But then it was like double twist. And then all of a sudden one air duct turned and it had a mouth on it and that did it. And that was the only way we got it to work.
Every day we thought we were gonna make fools of ourselves and we were about to give up on the idea until it worked on us in real life and it worked perfectly and that was serendipity. It was some inspired, sometimes the stars are all in the right place. Sometimes you do that and you do it wrong again and that wrecks the end of the movie. Or you never think of that one idea. So that was a mutual contribution creatively of Ridley and I both and the team made it work, they disguised it so well.(Report from the conversation with Ron Shusett for Alien Evolution documentary)
- Wmmvrrvrrmm: Okay, I've got a question, but... in the Alien comic book story, um, at the end there's a scene where the alien has kind of curled up into like a box shape, and um, nobody actually has seen any photographs of it, I wondered if you know anything about it? Ivor Powell: No I don't know anything about it, in Alien or anything that happened to a box., no i don't. The only story I know about the alien at the end, we were all standing having converted very economically, the erm the command module of the ship that you see in the very opening sequences, we converted that and redressed it into the Narcissus which is the escape pod, and we were all standing there thinking "right, okay, this is, so where's the alien going to be', and I remember just very timorously saying, "what if it's like a chameleon?" or something like that, and er, it was one of my few good ideas that got actually picked picked up upon on development and so they made the alien basically sort of like integrate itself, because it was biomechanoid, it was part organic, part... that was Giger's thing, so I guess it became part of the machinery, so as it, it wasn't a box, it was actually a chameleon Alien Q &A, Genesis Cinema, August 23rd 2014)
- The shuttlecraft sequences at the end of the film were some of the most interesting and difficult shots of Bolaji, and provided most of the useable Alien footage. Climbing into the cramped shuttlecraft bulkhead and then out again for each take put a lot of strain on the suit, which kept splitting. "Bursting out of that compartment wasn't easy" exclaims Bolaji" I must have ripped the suit two or three times coming out and each time I'd climb down, the tail would rip off! But it wasn't much of a problem for them, because they had more suits. I remember that I had to repeat the action for about fifteen take. Finally, I said "No more!" There was a lot of smoke, it was hard to breathe, and it was terribly hot." (Cinefantastique vol 9, no.1, p30)
- Ron Shusett: There were two things in that movie that weren’t in the very first script we wrote. During filming we decided that we wanted one more twist. Originally, we thought the alien would be hiding in the closet in the lifeboat [for the surprise ending]. But then Ridley said, ‘Can’t we beat that? Can’t it be somewhere she [Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver] and the audience can’t see it and it just emerges?’ So at the end of shooting every day, we changed the set around the monster. He’d lay in there and we’d rebuild the set over and over. Every time, it looked like Mad magazine – you could see [the alien] was two feet away from her! The guy who played the monster would lay there for hours and hours and we’d shoot it and look at it the next day and say, ‘This is stupid; we’ll never disguise it.’ The trick that really made it work was the [shape of the alien] head. Finally, somebody got the idea, We’ll put an air vent that looks like its head above and below it, so when the hand comes out, it’s not coming from behind anywhere – he’s in the wall. We had just built that. We didn’t know if it worked. So Ridley said, ‘Let’s get the guy back in here.’ We yelled for him – and he was in the wall! We were shot with our own arrow – we jumped a mile! So we filmed it, and it worked perfectly. (http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2008/09/executing-alien/)