A scene from the movie Alien

Podcast Research – ‘Alien’ Design: From Urns to Eggs and Back Again

What’s interesting when researching the Alien movies for our next podcast are the design elements that echo down through the franchise, from 1977 all the way to 2012 and undoubtedly beyond. Take, for instance, the containers that hold the earliest stage of the xenomorph, the facehugger. In the original Alien screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, they are “leathery urns or jars”.  Contacting the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger to create production art for his movie, O’Bannon sketched a very basic example of the container and how the creature would exit it.

Early sketch of the Alien facehugger, by screenwriter Dan O'Bannon
Surprise! You can almost hear the champagne cork sound.

Here they are depicted in H.R. Giger’s illustrations, along with the horrible cargo they contain, based on O’Bannon’s notes. They appear more like stone urns here:

Depiction of facehugger and urn by H.R. Giger, from Alien script
You got too close.

In the Walter Hill/David Giler re-write of O’Bannon’s screenplay, the receptacles become simply “leathery ovoid shapes”. These morph into the eggs that Kane has the misfortune to stumble upon in the finished film:

A scene from the movie Alien
Deadly cargo

When Ridley Scott returned to the Alien universe with Prometheus in 2012, inside an alien pyramid the crew find, yes, a cargo of urns that hold deadly organisms that react to their presence.

Bleeding urns from Ridley Scott's Alien movie Prometheus
Stay away from those, Fifield, you idiot!

It’s a circle as neat as the alien’s life-cycle.


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