The Original ‘Alien’ Xenomorph Design Was Wonderfully Absurd


Before H.R. Giger came on board, the Alien team explored some real weird ideas.

I think most people reading this right now will agree when I say that the Xenomorph in the original Alien, portrayed by Nigerian actor Bolaji Badejo, is still to this day one of the scariest movie monsters to ever appear on screen. The ’79 Xenomorph was designed by visionary Swiss artist H.R. Giger, and it’s pretty fair to credit much of the film’s popularity and success to that design.

Would Ridley Scott’s Alien have spawned a full-on franchise, one that still continues to this very day, if it weren’t for the nightmarish creation known as the Xenomorph? Probably not.

But like most movie monsters (including rival creature Predator), the Xenomorph wasn’t originally going to look like he did in the finished film. Before Ridley Scott was introduced to H.R. Giger by writer Dan O’Bannon, a meeting that forever altered the course of horror history, a handful of different ideas were thrown about in regards to depicting the sci-fi creature on screen.

One of the first ideas? Well, it was damn sure wacky.

As producer Walter Hill recently relayed on an episode of the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, director Robert Aldrich was at one point attached to direct Alien in the project’s very early stages, and he pitched bringing in a shaved orangutan to play the role of the monster!

Hill recalled to Maron:

[Aldrich] said the movie will succeed or fail on the conception of the beast. He said, ‘we’ve gotta come up with something really unique.’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, just off the top of my head…. this may not be a good idea but… maybe we could get, like, an orangutan… and shave it – train the son of a bitch, you shouldn’t see it very much.’ And we were thinking, ‘God almighty.’ That’s one we hadn’t thought of. 

Also early in the development process, Dan O’Bannon worked with artist Ron Cobb on some concept art for Alien, which saw Cobb design a version of the Xenomorph that was once again a far cry from what Giger would soon bring to the table. Cobb’s design, seen above, envisioned the Xenomorph as a crab-like, four-legged Cthulhu monster with hook-like claws for hands.

Thankfully, Cobb’s design was left on the cutting room floor – but the artist, it’s worth noting, is credited for coming up with the brilliant idea of the Xenomorph having acidic blood.

You can check out another piece of Cobb’s Alien concept art below, along with a fan-made sculpture based on the art. Needless to say, the Alien franchise owes a whole lot to H.R. Giger!


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