Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
We're looking for reporters for the BFI London Film Festival
Empire Blogs
Empire States

Back to all blogs Comment Now

H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute

Posted on Tuesday May 13, 2014, 14:10 by Ian Nathan in Empire States
H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute

Swiss artist H. R. Giger, who has died at the age of 74, was known for biomechanical visions replete with horror and strange beauty. Few designers with an eye for all that is strange and spectacular in sci-fi have remained uninfluenced by his remarkable work. Empire's Ian Nathan, author of Alien Vault: The Definitive Story Behind The Film, pays tribute.

H. R. Giger was, of course, involved in Alien long before Ridley Scott. The mercurial Swiss artist, who had pursued a unique style he described as “biomechanical”, was part of the team of artists and eccentrics (including Salvador Dali) assembled to envisage Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted adaptation of Dune, and had been retained by screenwriter Dan O’Bannon to visualise the eggs and facehugger for his B-movie concept Starbeast. The film that would eventually evolve into Scott’s science-fiction masterpiece.

But before Scott was hired, Alien producer Gordon Carroll was so appalled by what he saw, he declared Giger to be “sick” and had Fox dispense with his services. When Scott, possessed of one of the greatest directorial eyes in the business, was growing increasingly frustrated over the reams conventional alien designs he was given — tentacled ‘Martians’ straight out of The War Of The Worlds —O’Bannon placed Giger’s Necronomicon (a best-selling collection of his biomechanical visions) into his hands. Scott was enthralled by what he saw, and got on the first plane to Zurich. Giger would be responsible for everything “alien” in the film: planet, spacecraft, eggs, facehugger, chestburster and the unforgettable xenomorph.

Hans Rudolf Giger was born in Chur, Switzerland in 1940, and grew up in a house with “few windows”. He claimed to have been tormented by nightmares from an early age, visions of great machines, enveloped in piping, and somehow coated in layers of skin complete with suppurating wounds. Inspired by the likes of Hieronymus Bosch and Dali, he channelled his torments into art. Paintings he later described as “self psychiatry”. In film terms, only David Lynch has come close to replicating such a primal mix of biology, mechanism, and psychotrauma, And yet Scott was drawn to his “realism.” It felt real. It felt alive.

Scott would have him build sets, sculpting the interior of the alien craft (the “derelict”) into something “with the biomechanical character of a spaceship built by non-humans.” The results were like nothing cinema had seen before — a genuinely alien vision. “You’re not even sure it’s even there,” marvelled Scott at how the division between machine and lifeform had been so completely blurred. An extraordinary enveloping aesthetic that would not only define the Alien franchise, but reshape science fiction, stalled in the clean lines of Kubrick’s 2001 and Lucas’ Star Wars. Even Carroll was won around. “It began to get to you,” he admitted.

On set Giger proved quite the character.

H.R. Giger

Despite the blistering summer temperatures, he would always be dressed head-to-toe in black leather. The crew nicknamed him “Count Dracula”. John Hurt was reminded of Harold Pinter. He was forever squabbling with the studio about money, and never took criticism well. He was fired and rehired again. Although, he would later ask his fellow crewmembers to forgive him “for his outbreaks of rage.”

Above all, Giger was one of nature’s great provocateurs. And, much to Scott’s delight, he still had Fox terrified. A first design of the Alien egg featured what could only be construed as a Catholic cross-shaped opening. A second was plainly a vagina. “I had lovingly endowed this egg with an inner and outer vulva,” the artist reported. The final design, which peeled open in response to Kane’s touch, was slightly more flower-like. When Giger came to designing the entrance to the derelict, he got his way. Look again, Kane climbs inside through a fifteen-foot vagina.

He will be sorely missed.

Login or register to comment.


1 Courtland
Posted on Friday May 16, 2014, 15:48
Giger was such a major influence and I was such a major fan! I just wish I possessed more of his incredible artwork in any form.

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (444)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


The European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida
By Damon Wise

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Awards Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: First Report
By Damon Wise

Shane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color
By Damon Wise

Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look
By Damon Wise

The European Film Awards 2013
By Damon Wise

Metro Manila Charity Screenings
By Damon Wise


Why I Love Django Unchained
"buy fast youtube likes"  thekiddo24
Read comment

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
"lights of both competitors alongside its traditional 24/7 series. Here we have the greatest hits of "  lalkala000
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Ha ha, buuuurn! I am going to go a step further and say Dredd was a better film."  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"You are a miserable old fart! "  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Doug64 I totally agreed with you"  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think The Raid is all that great? I realise you have t"  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Great write-up on a movie for which I am incredibly excited. Even more promisingly, this seems to be"  tysmuse
Read comment

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
"If being on a par with Terry Gilliam's 'daft' Brazil is the only criticism avowed Gilliam-disliker D"  Garth_Marenghi
Read comment

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
"I'm glad that Glazer's finally back on the big screen. Judging by the review, he"  Manfrendshensindshen
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"What's really interesting about this film is the trailer gives nothing away but give you the premise"  durelius
Read comment


Why I Love Django Unchained

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World

Venice 2013: Under The Skin

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5

Argo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

Cannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap

Damon Wise (299)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (87)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

Jessica Chastain On The Martian
On becoming an astronaut and rescuing Matt Damon AGAIN

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

Hallowed Ground: Folk Horror In British Film
Ten tales from our island's dark past

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)