Richly illustrated book “Alien. The legendary collector’s edition, published in Russian by the publishing house E, does not explain why the interest in the characters of the famous series of films about the space monster is still huge even now, almost forty years after the first part of the tetralogy. But it will more than satisfy the curiosity of everyone who is interested in the story of the creation of the science-fiction tape Ridley Scott, futuristic action movie “Aliens” by James Cameron, the gloomy horror of David Fincher’s “Alien 3” and the controversial yet interesting Jean-Pierre Jeune “Alien 4: Resurrection. “
This book is dedicated to the memory of the Swiss artist Hans Rudolf Giger, who died in 2014, the creator of the concepts of the Alien and its various forms, from face-to-face and ending with a bagel. The author of the interview, Mark Salisbury, talks in detail about the role of the artist in the work on the first and other films, without detracting from the merits of dozens of other artists who contributed to the creation of this world. Therefore, many pages of the book are occupied by sketches of spacecraft and concepts of its design, drawings of costumes and weapons, director’s storyboards, etc. These materials could decorate any collection DVD with “Stranger” if they fit there
With the permission of the publisher, KinoPisc publishes an excerpt from the book on the history of the creation of the film “Alien” by Ridley Scott.
In Hollywood, no one will hear your cry
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Dan O’Bannon tried to break into the world of cinema as a screenwriter. He moved to Hollywood and tried to start his own career in the production of films, but failed, was desperate and had to sleep on the sofa at home with his friend Ronald Schusett, also a screenwriter and a beginning producer.
“I was in a bad mood. After the “Dark Star” things went very badly, “O’Bannon told Michael Tolkien in 1983. – When I wrote “Alien”, I was in the worst condition in my entire life. I had to do something to get out of the financial trap. I was determined to write a script that someone would buy, make a film. “
Before the “Dune” (the frustrated adaptation of the novel by Frank Herbert, on which director Alejandro Khodorovsky worked – Note. Ed.) O’Bannon was working on a horror film. In fact, it was a spin-off to the “Dark Star”, the action of which also began on board the spacecraft. Under the scenario, the ship’s crew leaves the hyperspace when the on-board computer receives a mysterious message. Eventually, after sinking into a strange planet, they find an unearthly life form and take them on board. In fact, it was the introductory scene of the “Alien”. “It was only about twenty rather disparate pages, but I remember thinking that this was one of the best things I’ve ever written for a script. I just did not know how this hell could develop further. “
SCHUETT helped. He recalled another idea of O’Bannon – about the squadron of B-17 bombers, pursued by gremlins during a night flight over Tokyo – and proposed to unite them. Three months later, O’Bannon had a script ready for The Star Beast. He wanted to be a director, and Schusetta saw the producer. The idea was to make money independently of anyone. But O’Bannon felt that some kind of visual design of the material was necessary in order to attract investors. So he turned to Ron Cobb, the famous illustrator and political cartoonist from The Free Press of Los Angeles, so that he could make some color illustrations for the script.
“We did not know if it would work, whether we could find someone who wanted to invest in this idea, so it was a fleeting and semi-peripheral passion for other things I worked on at that time,” Cobb recalls. “But I liked Dan, and I liked Ron, and I liked their script.” It was, of course, interesting to try to imagine how such an idea might look like in the end. “
The reaction to the scenario, called “Stranger”, was vague. Although they were interested in the low-budget studio of Roger Corman “New World Pictures”. But before O’Bannon and Schusett signed a contract with Corman, the familiar executive producer Mark Haggard asked for a copy of “Alien” for reading. He liked the plot very much, and a few days later, passing the office of writer-director Walter Hill, he handed him the script through an open window. Hill recently opened the company “Brandive Production” together with screenwriter David Jailer and producer Gordon Carroll. And now Hill was actively looking for projects that could be developed jointly with the film company “Twentieth Century Fox”, with which an exclusive contract was concluded. Hill was not a fan of science fiction, but there was one scene in the script that attracted him. Hill felt that the scene in which the Alien breaks out from the body of its victim possesses enormous potential.
“Brandywine” chose “Alien”. Almost immediately, Hill began to revise the script. Together with Jailer, they reworked the script even deeper. “We added the cat to Jones. We changed the characters. In general, we have brought in more details, specifics, “said Jailer.
In March 1977, O’Bannon received the office at the site of the old Fox rehearsal site and began to visualize the film, hiring, first, his old friend Cobb, and secondly, the British Chris Foss, the famous illustrator, the author book covers in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. “Dan drew me to create the film as a technical specialist to design” Nostromo “,” recalls Voss. In addition, O’Bannon invited the Swiss artist H. R. Giger to work on the appearance of creatures.
“Dan was a failed designer,” Cobb says. – He had a very strong idea and an idea of how it would look. And when Dan hung over us, we began to work through the visual series of the picture. “
There followed five months of creative brainstorming, when Cobb and Foss produced grandiose design concepts one by one: first the concept of the Alien, then the space ship on which most of the events unfolded (originally it was called “Snark”, then “Leviathan”, but in the end decided to dwell on the name “Nostromo”), as well as the unknown planet on which he lands to discover the abandoned spaceship. “[Chris] was very prolific,” Cobb says. “I would take a week or two to come up with something, but he could come up with the picture in a day.” Most of his work was atmospheric and bizarre, and it was not my approach. But I liked the abundance of stylistic details, which he always painted. He always had interesting hatching, connectors, doors and small details on the surface, and I learned from him such a detailed approach. “
O’Bannon wanted Cobb to design the interior of “Nostromo”, and Foss – the look. “It upset me, because I always make leather interior,” recalls Cobb. “One of the things I’d always like to do is to make the interior look like it suits its appearance, and in the end we could find a compromise.” Soon they moved on to joint work on the exterior of the spacecraft, although Cobb admitted that this work was easier given to Foss. Nevertheless, after a few months, the originality and uniqueness of Foss’s bizarre designs began to cause problems.
“I think that Chris invented designs of spacecraft that were too original for decision-makers,” Cobb notes. – Unfortunately, none of the decision makers seemed to be able to form their opinion on how the film should look. But Dan was sure that we are on the right track. And the only reason for the disappointment was that we all really worried. We wanted it to be a category A movie, not just a one-time tape for a drive-in movie theater. “
Monster in pieces
Eventually, Hill decided that science fiction was not for him, and switched to directing, leaving the Twentieth Century Fox, which recently released Star Wars, which had unprecedented success at the box office, and was looking for another science fiction film and director to start production. Among the contenders were Robert Aldrich, Jack Clayton and Peter Yates. “Again and again they pushed the director to our court to see how much he was interested,” Cobb recalls. “Steven Spielberg was one of them, but previous commitments did not allow him to take up this work.”
Finally, the contract was concluded with the successful English filmmaker Ridley Scott. A graduate of the famous London Royal College of Art, Scott worked as a set designer and art director on the BBC, before moving on to directing with a television drama, and then to commercials. His famous and award-winning works were with such customers as “Khovi” and jeans brand “Levai’s”. A few months ago he read the script “Aliens” and although interested (“It was so simple, so straightforward, absolutely clean”), but passed him.
Scott was not a fan of science fiction after the films “2001: The Space Odyssey” and “The Dark Star” (“I thought she had a great sense of humor”), he watched “Star Wars” three times a week in Los Angeles and suddenly realized the cinematographic potential of the genre. This, combined with the work of the French comic artist Jean Moebius Giraud – one of the pioneers of Metal Harlant, a French comic book – strongly influenced Scott and made him reevaluate his attitude to science fiction. “[They] made amazingly original comics that attracted gloom, and were painted in an adult way.”
Scott’s thoughts returned to The Alien. “It was so dynamically written and visually suggestive that I had to accept it as my next picture. I also saw in the “Alien” opportunity to realize the sensitivity of “Metal Harlan” in a sci-fi movie in a way no one has ever tried. ” He phoned the Twentieth Century Fox to find out if the director’s place was still vacant for Alien, and the next day Scott was in Hollywood and signed a contract. He remembers his first meeting with O’Bannon and Carroll:
“They said:” What do you want to change in the script? “I said:” Nothing. ” They were silent. I said, “I think it’s amazing, and I know what to do.” Usually people come and say: “I would like to change this and change it, and everyone rolls their eyes, and the film turns into some kind of construction contract.”
Scott got this job. He flew home to England and within the next three weeks completed the storyboard of the whole film in the smallest detail. “I returned with boards. I literally put in there all the thoughts that were in my head, about how I wanted it to be, from A to Z, and this doubled the budget. Two days later, Laddy (then the head of Fox production, Alan Ladd, Jr.) said: “I think we have something very interesting here.”
During the preliminary preparation, when only a few months remained before the shooting began, Scott’s main task was to define the appearance of the “Alien”. “Once you take such a scenario into action, you start thinking about what you are going to do with a man in a rubber suit.” Under the direction of O’Bannon, Cobb, and then Foss, drafted several projects. Even O’Bannon himself proposed his concept, but none of them was approved by the producers.
Early concepts of Giger Carroll considered too gloomy and strange, and the Swiss artist was released. But O’Bannon was convinced that Giger was the right person for this job. “I was struck by the originality of the pictures of Giger. Not only that they were frightening, they were absolutely, completely original and beautifully executed. Looking at them, I thought, “If someone could make this guy create a monster for the film, it would be something that no one has ever seen.”
When O’Bannon showed Scott a book with Giger’s Necronomicon pictures, the director agreed, focusing on one painting, in particular the 1976 Necron IV, which featured one of the artist’s biomechanical creations, a strange creature with a phallic head, swarthy skin and teeth.
“I said,” I love this guy Hans Rudolf Giger, “Scott recalls. – I said: “If we are going to make this film, I already saw a suitable monster on the pages of the book. As for my opinion, he developed a monster, which is extremely difficult to do. The most difficult thing is to create a really terrible monster. And the Alien became the next, the most terrible monster after Stephen’s shark [in “Jaws”], and it’s very hard to do something better than him. “
“We decided to make a very elegant creature, fast and like an insect,” Giger said. – In most horror films, a monster looks very incredible, and sometimes funny, and as soon as you see it, the movie ends, because it just looks like a man in a suit. Ridley Scott and I wanted a very unusual monster, plausible, and Ridley planned to show it only in small pieces, detailed in detail, so that the viewer did not see it entirely at the very beginning. “
Taking into account the chosen monster appearance, the production moved from Los Angeles to the studio “Shepperton Studios” in England where producer Michael Seymour, who spent the previous two years working with Scott in advertising, created his art department, introducing in it the art directors of Roger Christian and Les Dilli. Meanwhile, Mobius was hired to work on the design of a space suit and uniform. Cobb was also brought to England. “I liked what he did,” Scott said. “Ron really has a good technical mind for this type of material, and I knew we would need it.”
Improvisation and Guigher in the corner
Although the need for Foss’s presence ended soon after Scott’s hiring, Cobb, who describes himself as a disappointed engineer, remained in the works, providing detailed schemes and drawings, and put his hand to everything from the corridors to the captain’s bridge, from the markings on the walls to the landing gear, even up to the badges on the uniform of the crew and the carrying in which Ripley carries Jones.
“I always made projects of the future as if they were real,” Cobb explains. “And I found that the more realism you put in, the more original they look, and most of the time you just recycle a lot of stupid props from every idiotic movie that’s ever been made.” We just covered the walls with drawings, and slowly, but surely appeared “Alien”.
“Ron was brilliant,” reflects Christian, who worked with Scott on countless commercials before Alien. “I could go to him and say,” Ron, do you think how this ship might look like? “And he will draw it in a few seconds.”
Meanwhile, Giger, despite his initial desire to stay in Switzerland, settled in the studio in the corner of one of the sound scenes. “At that time, Hans Rudolph had a unique vision,” says Scott. “I flew to Zurich to meet him, tell him about what I’m going to do, and convince him to come to London, because he said:” I will not fly, I’m afraid to fly. ” I think that eventually he came by train, we seated him in a pub in the village of Shepperton, where he really liked it. That’s how we created the film. “
In general, Giger spent about seven months in Shepperton, designed and created a full-sized Alien plus the landscapes of another planet, as well as the interior and exterior of the abandoned ship in the form of a croissant, in which the crew members of Nostromo find a space jockey – a fossil pilot. Carlo Rambaldi was hired to create the mechanical language of the adult Alien, while the British fashion designer Roger Dicken was drawn to the creation and co-design of smaller elements – the facehugger who sucked in the character of Kane, played by John Hurt, as well as the griffon that breaks his chest cell.
Throughout the filming, even in scenes involving the full-size Alien, Scott always carefully concealed the creatures from his cast before the last moment. “The actors really wanted to see this, and I did not allow them. They never saw anything until we started shooting and they did not face it. What you see in the frame is their genuine surprise and horror. We finished the scene to a certain point, paused, went out, gathered, came back, took the stage from the moment we stopped, and worked on the progressive point of madness that was needed. And – bingo! – the reaction of the actors was extraordinary. “
“It’s interesting that we did not see the Alien so often, and it was a good move for the film and for us. For the scene in the final, someone found this young man, an art student, in a pub near Shepperton, “recalls [Sigourney] Weaver, referring to Boladji Badegio, who played the Alien. – This African was about seven and a half feet tall, almost unearthly beauty. When Ridley dressed him in a suit, I realized that I had not seen anything like it. Nothing so beautiful, elegant and sinister. And I was convinced that I had no idea what the scene in the rescue shuttle would be like. I knew that I would not be alone there, but, as an actor, I tried to forget about it. I was not ready for how wonderful the Outsider would eventually be, and there was still some erotic subconscious experience that was part of Ridley’s plan. And if we had more time, we would be able to disclose this topic. Probably, our Stranger would try to feel this pink human flesh hidden behind the plastic, while I tried to throw him out of the shuttle. But the guys from “Fox” often looked at the clock, and we had to finish with the film faster, so the course went again improvisation. “
Boeing 747 as a source of inspiration
Scott’s idea for “The Alien”, inspired by the Heavy Metal magazine and the scriptwriters’ story about space truckers, was a “secondhand future”, a lively look that he applied to both Nostromo and his bickering sneaker-wearing crew who Not very different from the team that O’Bannon created for the “Dark Star”.
“I traveled a lot because of advertising, and at that time the Boeing 747 was impressive. I noticed that in some Far Eastern travel that I would do, on the walls the words were always in several languages, instructing you to do this and not to do it, and over the years they became faded and faded due to the constant operation of the aircraft. And I took this as a basis. “
The interior of “Nostromo” was designed by Michael Seymour as a compound set on connected sound scenes, and it was possible to get there only through one door – with all the lights built into various modules.
“All this was a real labyrinth, and the people who entered the complex were at a loss, finding themselves in this completely self-sufficient world,” Seymour told Cinefex. “For this reason, it was good for the actors, it gave them the geography to work as if it were really happening. It was like shooting on the spot. We eventually made floating sections for ease of shooting, but if possible we kept the corridors and walls and shot them. “
“When the actors and the team appear, they will enter at one point, and they will have to walk through all these corridors, cross the car and all these things to get to the bridge. And they will never have a feeling that they were anywhere, but not in place, for example, filming inside an airliner or aboard a ship. And I think Ridley was counting on that effect, “Cobb says. “It made it possible to create an effect of real claustrophobia, because once you entered the complex, you could never see the sound stage on which you were. And all the sounds were muffled. So it worked very well, in order to give you an easy feeling trapped in the trap, emphasizing the dangers of space flight. “
Claustrophobia was the key for Scott. “The thriller aspect of the plot is very tightly integrated into the long corridors and ladders, and I thought it was better for the actors – and therefore better for the film – to use the whole complex in its entirety, rather than the elements separately. So you could run a huge long corridor, turn around the corner and get into the real room. And you always know exactly where you are. “
Weaver, used to working in “small-small theaters without heating, who usually received devastating criticism even before they finished playing a new play,” discovered that such a comprehensive approach to decorating is extremely useful for her acting. “I thought: wow, is not it wonderful? This makes our work much easier, you can wander through these huge rooms with such huge, high ceilings, almost like in opera, and feel like you are really on a ship. I felt that this is a real find for the actors, I really did not think that this was done for the audience. I just felt that they gave us such a realistic world that we could reconcile ourselves to the physical realities of being in space, with courage and dirt even before the appearance of the Alien. “
Not that the bridge was as realistic as it looks on the screen. “I thought it was funny, because Ridley did a lot of work so that all things on our consoles were very realistic,” recalls Weaver. – And when we came to shoot the first scene in which we all talked to each other, we were not allowed to press any buttons on the console because of camera angles and because propellers people are hiding at our feet, forcing things to move. So we always had to press the buttons in the air. It was so ironic that, despite all the realism, having gone over to all these exquisite details, we could not use these consoles. We had to show the effect on the camera. It was a great acting science for me. I approached this scene, not having the appropriate knowledge and skills. “
Christian, working with the special effects specialist Nick Allder, worked on all the interior of Nostromo, using details borrowed in airplanes to decorate the bridge and corridor walls, as well as dirty coffee cups and “dipping” birds for decoration.
“I put in old cups of coffee and partly personal things,” recalls Christian. – I received a lot of letters, when people, looking “Prometheus”, said that they prefer our appearance, because we in “Alien” created an interior similar to “Mary Celeste” (the famous ghost ship of the XIX century – Note. Ed.) “. Meanwhile, Dilly was commissioned to translate the work of Giger, whether it be pictures with air strips or scale models of plasticine and bone, full-sized figures or large-scale miniatures.
“No matter how good they are, but to realize Guigher’s drawings, translate them into a three-dimensional design with complete matching to the source, making them act as something real turned out to be really difficult,” Scott says. “Dilli’s forest masterfully and absolutely fucking brilliantly worked them out. Roger and Les did not receive proper recognition. But they were brilliant. “
The premiere of “The Alien” was launched on May 25, 1979 in the Grauman “Egyptian” on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, where he was shown around the clock, fueling interest in the film with fantastic stories about how spectators vomited in the toilets. As predicted by Hill on the first reading of O’Bannon’s script, the stranger’s rift scene became a classic. While most critics praised Scott’s excellent visual and artistic solutions, others criticized the fragmentation of the characters in the film and complained about the lack of explanation for the story. Although in fact, a thin selection of actors, rare dialogues, great costumes and skillful acting told everything that the viewer needed to know about the characters. This approach the director has transferred from his experience creating commercials. “The advertising uses the most sophisticated science of manipulating the audience, many psychological elements I learned in advertising, in particular when installing and lighting on 30-45-second shots.” Over time, critics saw a stylish science fiction thriller, a movie about a monster and finally noticed hidden sexual and racial tensions, political and social nuances.
The film will eventually earn $ 60 million at the box office and will be nominated for two Oscars, one of which – for best visual effects – Giger will share with Carlo Rambaldi, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder and Denis Eiling. O’Bannon will never return to the series of Alien films, although he will be mentioned with Schusett as the creator of the characters in all subsequent franchise films.
The concept of Scott’s “secondhand future” with its enclosed spaces, costumes and excellent stylistic solutions quickly became the new standard in science fiction for a generation of filmmakers, advertising directors, comic artists and video game designers. Giger had a complicated relationship with the franchise. His name and signature will always be present, but he will never have the same deep artistic involvement or practical contribution to other tapes. In the years that followed, various popular science films attempted to imitate his biomechanical creations with some success.
Today, “Alien” remains the standard of the artistic direction, which pushed the genre forward not only from the point of view of production design and the extraordinary biomechanical creature of Giger, but also blew the cinema of the 1970s, opening a new field of organic realism for science fiction.
“We did it,” Scott recalled on the twentieth anniversary of the film in 1998. “Sometimes you look back at the film you made, and you think: yes this is pure madness. But in the frame it is not visible. “