The Xenomorph from Alien is a classic design, it created one of the most iconic creatures in sci-fi lore.
The sleek domed head, the ‘pipes’ out of its back, the mouth within a mouth; it is horrifying and elegant, all at the same time and a unique design from the brilliantly twisted mind of H R Giger.
Everyone and their grandmother know that Giger was the artist behind Alien, his designs and artwork are very well known and even before working with Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon for Alien, his artistry was world renown, hence how Ridley had heard about him and wanted him so much for the movie. Here’s an excerpt from IMDb :
Director Ridley Scott and writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett wanted H.R. Giger to design the alien creatures based on drawings from his book ‘Necronomicon’, but they had some difficulties in convincing the studio. Executives were initially appalled by Giger’s dark and disturbing imagery, but Scott’s insistence finally won them over. Even so, Giger’s designs had to be changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.
If you do a search for Giger and Necronomicon, you will see some disturbing, but amazing, artwork and it’s not one for the kids.
So How Did Giger Come Up With The Original Alien Design?
Now, I’m guessing you’ve heard this story before, but it was from Scotland. There is an Abbey in Paisley in western Scotland which has a very unusual gargoyle. For the past few years, I worked a lot away from home and I worked in Glasgow, very near Paisley, a lot.
Having heard the story, I had to see it for myself. I was working with a good friend of mine and I asked her about a visit to the Abbey, so we went.
When I got there, I had a good look around, but I missed the gargoyle, so I headed inside and found a guide and got chatting with him. As walked back outside, he explained to me that the Abbey was built in the 12th century, including the gargoyles. Then he pointed out the ‘Alien’ one, here’s the photo I took of it.
Now, I know Alien very well, I had the book Giger did after the movie with his concept designs, so, I asked about it. The guide told me how Giger had visited the Abbey, many years before he knew Ridley or anything about the movie, and took inspiration from what he saw. I disagreed with him. He argued his point. This polite and amusing back and forth, went, well, back and forth for a good 10 minutes.
This is where it got weird. I told him that I knew about the restoration of the cathedral and how a stonemason had copied the Alien from Giger, but, the guide explained to me that the gargoyle was very close to the original and based on the original drawings, some of which still exist in the vaults today.
He also told me that the restoration had taken place inside the main building, nothing outside had been touched. He also explained that Giger himself had asked for the ‘fake news’ story to be told since he always comes up with original ideas and didn’t want people to think he had copied, or stolen even, a design that is so well known.
I was speechless! I had thrown all the movie knowledge I had at this guy and he had answered everything, with genuine conviction, to the point where I was convinced! I stood there, staring at him, for what seemed like a lifetime, until he broke his gaze and he cracked a wee smile (‘wee’ in Scottish means ‘little’…he didn’t piss on my leg, although this is a Scottish custom in some places).
He then explained that his story was all rubbish! The restoration had been done in the 1990s and the Alien gargoyle had been completely copied by the stonemason Mr Bliss, who loved the movie and loved the idea of putting an Alien on a Scottish church. He told me that they have a lot of tourist’s visit the Abbey and the story always went down well, especially with US tourists, who are much more gullible than most (his words, not mine).
It was rather surreal, seeing a creature I know and love, well, sort of love, it’s not like I’d like to have one as a pet (it would defiantly break out and try and kill me), on the side of a 12th-century cathedral in a small city in Scotland.
The guide made it for me though, he was so thoroughly convincing, it still makes me smile…I love that there are people out there, who had visited the building, met that guide and when Alien is mentioned go ‘I’ve got a cool story about that!’.
Since this is an older story, I will make it up to you with a bit of knowledge. The Alien on the side of the Abbey is, in fact, NOT a gargoyle, it is a grotesque. A gargoyle will have water coming out of the mouth, from the gutters, when it rains. A grotesque does not. #TheMoreYouKnow