May 14, 2014

Giger on the set of Alien: "I want bones"

From my book Blockbuster:—
“I’m a neatnik, a pathological neatnik,  and so I notice these things,” says Scott. “When I’m in and out of London I notice whether its looking tidy or untidy and it drives me crazy. So I just applied that rule [to Alien]. I’d been flying to and from the United States a lot at that time, and I’d noticed how 747s were gradually getting beaten up. I was in a lavatory on a 747, and I noticed that even there someone had done some graffiti. And then alongside that there were instructions on the use of the lavatory  in four different languages. So I applied all this thinking, except having jumped ahead, say, a hundred years. And I still believe I probably didn’t go far enough.”  Scott called together a large  crew of production designers,  including Ron Cobb, who had helped supply Star Wars with its chunkier hardware, and Hans Rudi Giger, a Swiss artist whose paintings lay somewhere between art nouveau and the  slaughterhouse: writhing Bacchanalian landscapes of morphing flesh, bone and pewter-grey metal.  Spotting a copy of Giger’s book  Necronomicon on the table at Fox, Scott says he “had never been so sure of anything in my whole life.” Fox weren’t so enamoured, thought it too dark and dingy, but Scott stuck to his guns and flew to Switzerland — Giger was terrified of flying — to persuade him to work on the film.      
 One of the things that Star Wars had done was spearhead a return to the old sound-stages, left vacant by the fashion for location shooting during the seventies. Now, they were in business again, and Giger arrived at Shepperton studios in London in the middle of a steaming hot summer, dressed head-to-toe in black leather. The crew teased him,  trying to persuade him to take off his jacket, but he wouldn’t  do it.  “I don’t think he dares take off those clothes, because if he did you’d see that underneath he’s not human. He’s a character from an H P Lovecraft story” noted one crew-member, “When Giger first started working, he went to the production secretary and said: ‘I want bones.’ And I remember seeing all these trucks pull up one day loaded with boxes. They had been to medical supply houses, slaughterhouses, and God knows where else, and the next day the studio was full of bones and skeletons of every possible description. There was a row of human skulls in flawless condition. Three snake skeletons in a perfect state of preservation. A rhinoceros skull. He had everything.” The sets that Giger fashioned were astonishing: vast ribbed caverns, like  monstrous chest cavities, that swallowed up  anyone who visited it. Sigourney Weaver took her parents on a tour of the set, just before shooting started: “It was like wandering through some Playboy orgy room,” she said. “There was a huge spaceship with vaginal doors, and their beautiful female bones. They were gulping ‘very interesting, very interesting’.” 

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