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Exclusive: Interview with Adam Johansen

Monster Legacy had the privilege and honour to interview Adam Johansen, head of Odd Studio, about their work on Alien: Covenant. For the film, Odd Studio merged with Conor O’Sullivan’s Creatures Inc. to create a series of practical creatures that would serve both as onscreen effects and as reference for the digital effects.

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H.R. Giger’s letters to Twentieth Century Fox on the lack of credit for Alien: Resurrection

Necronom IV.

Necronom IV.

When Alien: Resurrection was theatrically released, there was no actual credit given to H.R. Giger — neither in the opening credits nor in the end credits. The omission, allegedly “a genuine oversight,” was corrected in home video releases — especially after the following letters, sent by Giger to Twentieth Century Fox.

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Monster Gallery: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

StarBeast — Alien: Resurrection

Alienresclosee

Amalgamated Dynamics returned to provide the creature effects for the fourth chapter in the Alien series. The special effects artists were only allowed a tight production schedule. Tom Woodruff Jr. explained to Cinefex: “production told us that, due to Sigourney’s schedule, we would have to be ready to start shooting with a very short prep. We did a breakdown of the script and realized that the job was enormous — just way too big. And then that original shooting date came and went. Unfortunately, when they came back later, it was the same story. We were very worried about having enough time to do the job right. We knew that if we rushed it, the work would look bad, and we’d be the ones who ended up hurt. So we outlined some cuts, identified what was needed up front when Sigourney had to start, and pushed all the other stuff to later in the schedule. It was understood that we’d be showing up literally two days before shoots with very little time for tests or changes.”

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Monster Gallery: Alien³ (1992)

StarBeast — Alien³, the Dragon

Like many other aspects of Alien³, the creature effects department was plagued by constant changes in direction and contradicting studio decisions. Gillis recalled in an interview with Fangoria: “Fox never had a problem with coming back and saying ‘sorry guys. We know you built these things, but there’s a new direction, and we’re not going to use them’. We had to keep ourselves and the crew orally afloat, because people put their blood, sweat and tears into the stuff, and have a tendency to get upset when an effect’s cancelled. There were six stages of Aliens, count them! But we’re not griping about the script changes, because any story should constantly be honed. That only shows us the film’s getting better, and if the effect doesn’t serve the plot, then there’s no reason for it.” Even though Giger’s Alien designs for the third film were not used as he conceived them, some of their characteristics made their way into the final creatures devised by Amalgamated Dynamics. First to appear in the film is an Egg, placed ambiguously in the Sulaco — built as a static model, as the only sequence showing it was a very late addition to the film.

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StarBeast — Alien³, the Beginning

Alien3Gigerhead

Alien³ underwent a long, articulated creation process — which saw several scriptwriters elaborating their own screenplays, only to be replaced — one after the other. Going from William Gibson to David Twohy, the film only began to develop to the next step with Vincent Ward and John Fasano’s script. It was based on that story that concept artists Stephen Ellis and Mike Worrall elaborated their own designs for the creatures, which included a woolly Chestburster born from a sheep, and an adult Alien whose origin was left unexplained. Those very initial concepts were conceived more as placeholders to illustrate certain sequences in the script, rather than actual designs.

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Monster Gallery: Aliens (1986)

StarBeast — Aliens

Aliensfire

Promotional stills.Hans Ruedi Giger, the original Alien designer, did not return to work on Aliens. None of the filmmakers involved in the project contacted the artist, whom at the time was attached as a creature designer to Poltergeist II. “we didn’t know exactly how long that commitment was, but we heard that he was busy,” director James Cameron said. “But honestly, I think that if we had really wanted to fight for him, we could have worked around it.” Giger himself recalled in The Alien Saga documentary: “I was a little depressed because nobody asked me to work on this film. I was in Los Angeles at the time working on Poltergeist II, and I asked around about Aliens. For me, it would have been the most logical thing to work on that film. I was very anxious to collaborate, but nobody called me. I’d much rather have done a second Alien than a second Poltergeist — because, naturally, I felt more related to Alien. Perhaps the Poltergeist II people wanted to keep me away from Aliens for fear of losing me. I inquired everywhere, but no one could or would inform me about it.”

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StarBeast — Alien

Alienmisto

THE ALIEN, THIRD (MATURE) PHASE: Having left its victim, the Alien promptly grows to man-size, whereupon it is terrifically dangerous. It is very mobile, strong, and capable of tearing a man to pieces. It feeds on human flesh. This creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an over-sized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome. In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design.

-Dan O’Bannon, original letter to H.R. Giger

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