Giger, during Alien's preproduction
Necronom IV 1976 H.R. Giger
Production designs. Alien III, Sideview 1978 H.R. Giger
Production designs. Alien Monster III 1978 H.R. Giger
Production designs. Pilot in Cockpit 1978 H.R. Giger
Giger on the Alien set
Giger on the Alien set
Giger with director Ridley Scott
The entire alien lifecycle in a hieroglyphic. Hieroglyphics 1978 H.R. Giger
Giger's Frankfurt exhibit, currently in progress. 2009 Matthias Belz
The Alien Room at the H.R. Giger Museum, Gruyeres, Switzerland. 2008 Matthias
I know you’re a big fan of New York City. When were you last here?
Oh, God [Laughs]. When was that? In 1981 or so, I did these steamy New York City paintings.
And now it’s the 30th anniversary of Alien.
I know. Amazing to realize.
It was your first Hollywood film. Did they give you a lot of freedom?
It was wonderful to work with Ridley. I already knew his style from The Duellists [Scott’s 1977 feature debut]. He had seen my Emerson Lake & Palmer cover—that and an image from a book I did called the Necronomicon. He was convinced that this was his alien; he could see it immediately. I referred to those images like a Bible.
I hear you used a real human skull for the first life-size model.
Yes, that’s true. Don’t ask me where I got it.
Was it a fun collaboration?
It was. But I was away from Zurich for six months. I had two cats and my house was completely empty. So every two weeks, I went home for the cats, but they got sick—winter colds!
Meanwhile, what was it like being on the London set with these monsters of yours?
Ridley didn’t want to show the actors the creatures until just before they filmed their scenes. That resulted in some great reactions.
Where does all this gooey stuff come from, creatively?
That’s the most difficult question to answer. When I was a young boy, I was obsessed with skulls and mummies and things like that. In Chur, Switzerland, where I grew up, one museum had an Egyptian princess in a sarcophagus.
And a few decades later, you won an Oscar for Alien.
It got me more shows. I’m a painter, really. To be successful, you have to go to Hollywood, and I didn’t like to travel. So not much movie work followed. Fine by me. Seriously, it was nice getting the Oscar, since there wasn’t much money.
Even think of turning your Oscar into a sculpture?
Ha. That’s forbidden, actually.