The initial idea for the Hammerpede — as conceived by Carlos Huante — was that of a precursor of the Facehugger; the artist envisioned a creature with a centipede-like anatomy, complete with numerous gripping limbs. This derived in the creature’s name, given by the production crew, after the peculiar hammer-like shape of its head and the initial influence from centipedes.
As the design process progressed, the Hammerpede’s appearance progressively abandoned multiple arthropod-esque limbs — in favor of a smoother, limbless and more worm-like configuration. In the final film, in fact, the creature is a simple worm — mutated beyond recognition by the mysterious black liquid released by the ampules. The final design was digitally realized by Martin Rezard. The Hammerpede, as it is seen in the film, was inspired by translucent abyssal animals, with evident “arteries and veins and organs sitting below the surface of the skin,” as noted by special effects supervisor Neal Scanlan in the Art Book of the film.
As per the other creature effects of Prometheus, the Hammerpede was built practically by Neal Scanlan Studio — with a digital counterpart provided by MPC. The creature was sculpted by Waldo Mason and Martin Rezard; the Hammerpede actually included several ‘layers’, ranging from the external skin to the internal organs and muscles. Each ‘layer’ was sculpted and moulded separately and then assembled onto the final model, which included mechanical features by Jim Sandys and Steve Wright. The Hammerpede’s skin was moulded in translucent silicone.
Scanlan commented: “ultimately the detail is from this beautiful sort of skeletal structure, with muscle that sits beneath, which we painted with lots of pearlescent paints and strong shades of colour. On top of that we cast a very clear skin that was very lightly textured and, in the right light, you could see through the creature and see something that was really quite interesting. One’s first impression is of something smooth and muscular, and powerful, like the body of a cobra.”
A total of 15 models of the Hammerpede were built, each with different purposes. They included a cable-controlled model with full head movement (including the opening and closure of the ‘crest’ or ‘hood’), a puppet that could wrap around Milburn’s arm, another that could snap a prosthetic arm The puppets featured cable operated understructures, composed of several vertebrae-like segments — allowing rather fluid movements. “We used every conceivable combination to enable Ridley to do as much practically as possible,” said Scanlan. “And I also shot clean passes to allow for a few shots that could be realized in CG.”
Some shots, in fact, required MPC’s digital Hammerpede — the head regeneration, for example. The model was, again, sculpted by Martin Rezard in Zbrush. The ‘layered’ structure of the Hammerpede was faithfully reproduced for the digital counterpart of the creature. Charles Henley, visual effects supervisor, added: “It [the practical Hammerpede] had translucent skin. They had built an inside muscle layer and a second silicon layer to get a translucent look. We scanned both layers and generated a displacement map for the muscle texture. We re-built it CG with the two layer system and had all the light scattering based on the prosthetic and looking at how that was working.”
Milburn attempts to touch the Monster, only to be violently attacked: the Hammerpede wraps around his arm and breaks it. A specialized Hammerpede model was used to wrap around the actor’s arm — the Hammerpede model was puppeteered by Ridley Scott himself off screen. MPC also added muscular flexion as the creature constricted its coils around Milburn’s arm. Then, the broken arm was achieved with a prosthetic mechanical arm mounted on Rafe Spall’s shoulder and another specialized Hammerpede puppet. When Fifield tries to behead the creature, its head instantly regenerates; a radio-controlled Hammerpede head and neck section was used, in combination with the computer generated regrowing head. The creature then proceeds to enter inside Milburn’s suit and brutally infiltrate inside his mouth, much like a Facehugger’s proboscis. It is currently unclear, however, what kind of endoparasite or endoparasitoid the Hammerpede is.
When the remaining Prometheus crewmembers find Milburn’s dead body, the Hammerpede springs out of it and dives back in the liquid — never to be seen again. Ridley Scott, on the set of Alien, had not told the actors — excluding John Hurt — what precisely was going to happen with the chestbursting sequence.
The director used a similar trick for the scene where the Hammerpede erupts out of Milburn’s dead lips — giving Kate Dickie [Ford] only vague information. Scanlan commented: “Ridley had indicated something was going to happen. We had the Hammerpede on the end of a monofilament wire, loaded into a dummy of Milburn that was rolled over. as we pulled it out, it was clearly an enormous shock to her. The screams are real. I think she stumbles back and falls over and that’s real too.” Rafe Spall added: “I think Kate Dickie’s still having nightmares about it.”
For more images of the Hammerpede, visit the Monster Gallery.
Next: The Deacon