Unsung Heroes: The men Beneath The Alien Costume

Two images defined both the biomechanical and graceful look of the final stage in the life cycle of Ridley Scott’s Alien – HR Giger’s 1976 painting Necronom IV,and Leni Riefenstahl’s photograph of a two metre tall, rail thin, Nubian warrior. To achieve the look he wanted, Ridley reluctantly accepted he needed a man in a suit, and the search began.

It didn’t take long. Casting agent Peter Archer bumped into the very man by chance in a London pub. Kenyan Massai student Bolaji Badejo was studying Graphic Design in London, and was simply asked if he wanted to be in a movie. At six feet ten inches tall, lithe and pencil thin, he was perfect. He studied Tai Chi and mime to achieve the slow, purposeful and graceful movements of the “star beast”, creeping around the Nostromo’s dark and dank passages and air ducts. He also had to be able to spring into sudden, violent action. “I remember having to kick Yaphet Kotto, throw him against a wall, and rush up to him. Veronica Cartwright was really terrified. After I fling Yaphet Kotto back with my tail, I turn to go after her, there’s blood in my mouth, and she was incredible. It wasn’t acting, she was scared.”

One difficult shot Ridley and Bolaji tried to pull off was to have him suspended from a rig, “nesting” high up in the ceiling of the dank hold, where Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) comes to find Jonesy the cat. He was supposed to be curled up and slowly unfold, lowering down to grab Brett, but the rig was too uncomfortable for him. This is probably where stunt double Eddie Powell came in.

Eddie was a regular stunt performer for Hammer Films. No slouch in the height department either, he regularly doubled for the vertically affluent Christopher Lee. He went on to perform in many genre favourites, such as Aliens (again as an alien), James Bond, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Batman, Krull, and Enemy Mine.  Eddie replaced Bolaji in the harness, but even he found the requisite shots difficult in the alien suit. In the end the longer shots of the alien quietly descending and raising the hapless Brett up to his doom were achieved by several close-ups and quick cuts.

Another time for Eddie to shine was when Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is hunting the alien in the air ducts. The memorable moment when Lambert sobs for him to get out as the signal of the creature draws nearer, and he turns to find it spring at him: that was Eddie in the suit. Bolaji simply couldn’t fit in the tight space, fully suited up, and perform.

Heeeerre’s EDDIE!!

The alien costumes, created by Carlo Rambaldi from Giger’s design, cost more than $250,000. The iconic fibreglass head was shaped around a human skull. With the head on, Bolaji stood at over seven feet, towering on many occasions above the height of the sets around him. He could only wear the heavy head piece for up to twenty minutes at a time. “They must have had about 2000 tubes of KY jelly, just to get the effect of that slime coming out of his mouth,” he said.

the skull, visible without the translucent head “cover”

Here is test footage of Bolaji in a mock up of the alien head, sans rest of costume, practicing the alien movement through the Nostromo corridors.

Only Bolaji and HR Giger were allowed by Ridley to watch the daily rushes. Even without the costume, and brightly lit, the effect, combined with eerie music, is still unsettling.




Originally posted 2012-06-27 16:29:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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