Alien vs Yaphet Kotto


a) Yaphet's revelation
Yaphet Kotto: "In a vision while he was filming Alien, Yaphet Kotto saw himself standing in the control bridge of the Nostromos space ship set. The design of the Nostromos was drawn from the writer Dan O’Bannon’s earlier sci-fi effort, Dark Star where he wanted to show this once-sterile spaceship in a rundown condition, like some old bachelor’s dusty and crowded dirt apartment, harassed engineers, and whining crew.
No on was around, it was lunch break.

Now and again, however, someone from the film crew would paused behind the entranced actor, and gazed around at the set to see what he was staring at. Into the gazer’s eyes there came a look of intense longing.

Then, after a few moments, Yaphet would turn away with a weary sigh and exclaim, “Why would they build a set so realistic that you had to walk through it in order to get out of it!” Lowering his gaze, he returned to the hot and dusty bridge.

After this sequence had repeated itself several times, Kotto turned to see what it was that had held so much appeal for the set designers. He was pleased that production designer Michael Seymour had to abandon his plans to build a single complete Nostromos set, three stories’ high, so that actors would have to climb down companionways from one level to another.

They thought he was creating a list to improve his scenes, he was in fact taking notes of what he was seeing along the walls of the corridor. And there, rising high above him, he beheld a tiny, miniature sketch of an island: verdant, serene, beautiful. An absolute contrast it was to everything in this hubbub of gadgets and confusion.

On the island there was a large, exquisitely lovely garden, its lawns green-gold, its flowers many-hued around it were Hindu symbols and the word ‘AUM

Yaphet was confused as he frowned to learn the meaning of this tiny, Egyptian like etching...
Reflecting, then, on the difficulty of the interpretation, he gave his usual answer to the assistant directors who would pass by and wondered what he was studying, "Parker’s not dying man, I am going to beat the alien."

Weighing his words, then, he knew they would chuckle to themselves and go and tell Ridley what he said. “There’s no way they were going to keep a brother alive in these sci-fi movies. Brother has got to go, especially with a white girl in the shuttle, but at least I get to go down fighting for Veronica!” Even to fail in the attempt would, he decided, be infinitely preferable than going down a coward, Parker fights to the end.

Closer and closer, determinedly, he reached up to touch the miniature etching. At last he reached toward it, but then paused his hand.

For Yaphet, this vision symbolized a predicament common to every person with high aspirations. Man longs instinctively for a life freed from competition and worry; freed from hatred and violence; freed from the need for constant care.

Few the average man, alas, even suspect that such an island exists and can be found. Of those, moreover, who do harbor such hopes, most turn away with a sigh, saying, “Why does this remind me of Robert Redford’s Sundance!

He was about to touch the etching and he again paused. Besides the fact that Ridley and his set designers went to the trouble of making most of the switches and buttons on the set practical ((that is if you flipped them or pressed them something would happen.) he lowered his hands and placed them in his pockets.

Be clever, he thought to himself. ‘Never let your right hand know what your left Hand is doing', “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” ( And as Yaphet Kotto often heard his spiritual teacher ) Paramhansa Yogananda say— “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” The acting profession requires courage, and dedication, and the absolute ability to memorize lines then perseverance, in the end it is luck.... LOTS of people go to acting schools and all sorts of stuff but it's really who looks at what you do that matters. and the number of people who don't is astounding. Be in the right place at the right time. Those who take up the acting profession for what Kotto called its glamour, expecting only adoring fans and signing autographs, a comfortable mansion, Hollywood Boulevard strewn with rose blossoms of divine worship, become discouraged when they find how often God neglects the moss and roses in favor of thorns. For those, however, who cling to the acting profession with devotion, rolling with the punches and knowing when it’s your time to step up to the plate and swing that bat, no test is ever too great. Obstructions are seen, then, as blessings, for they provide the strength one needs to reach the truth and Yaphet was determined to get to the truth Deering and others had hidden behind the veils of a motion picture called Alien. It was just a matter of time. "
(Source: Yaphet Kotto's Alien Diary Facebook page )


b)  Yaphet At the Gate
It was coming to the point where Yaphet Kotto's character Parker was going to be killed by the Alien

As Ridley was driven in his car through the main gate of Shepperton, Yaphet would be standing there.

A second assistant would then tell him "Calling car one, he's at the main gate"

Ridley would respond to the driver "Oh no, go to gate two" and so they go around the back. The next report was "He's at gate two"

Ridley would respond to his driver "Ah jesus, let's go to door three"

Yaphet would be there every morning to tell Ridley "I'm not gonna die, you know. I can't die. There's no way this can actually deal with me. I will kill it. I'm omnipotent man."

This developed into a running joke, transforming into a situation where Yaphet was standing behind the studio door somewhere. Ridley would come up to his staff and say "Which door is Yaphet standing by this morning?" so that he could go on the set via another door where Yaphet wasn't waiting


c) Ridley confronts Yaphet's refusal to die
Yaphet was behaving like Muhammad Ali, a famous boxer of that time. It was still happening on the very day the scene was being filmed, still he was telling Ridley, " I'm not going to die , this thing can't kill me! "

It got to a point where Ridley had to a long discussion that day about persuading him to die

Bolaji's scene as the alien beast killing Parker, having to kick Yaphet Kotto, throw him against the wall with his tail, and rush up to him."

Yaphet Kotto as Parker ready to face the alien

d) Gordon Carroll's perspective
Stories came to the surface about how Yaphet was deliberately wanting to start a fight with Bolaji Badejo. Gordon Carroll understood that Yaphet who at first intended to play his part a bit differently, was just absolutely terrified by the idea of the alien and literaly wanted to kill it. And he continued that way through the rest of the shooting. And this was the way he played his character, he really felt that he had to go after it and kill it, and he just couldn't conceive of his character not doing that.

Yaphet looking at Bolaji and would keep saying " I could take that guy in one punch.  I gotta get that guy." and with that Yaphett was steaming away.

And then it came to point when the two confront each other

"Hold on a second" said Bolaji and with his spider like arms, lifted Yaphet. And there was no further discussion from Yaphet

e) As Jon Sorensen remembered
The alien was played by an actor from Nigeria of Masai stock, named Bolaji Badejo. The Masai are very tall and slender but can be incredibly strong. A confrontation between the two appeared to take place, if that happened, Dennis Lowe was not one to bear witness, but as Jon Sorensen would recall, it seemed as if Yaphet took something of a dislike to Bolaji, and it seems as if this was Yaphet was using his method-style pumping up exercist to keep the character Parker in fighting mode towards the Alien, although some might not have been so sure, but he poured it on and everyone noticed, notably Bolaji. The day came for Parker to fight the Alien and Yaphet came out with words such as "No fucking alien is going to beat me. No fucking alien is going to hold me down! "

Bolaji as the alien, pinned Kotto to the ground, sitting on him, and no way could Yaphet shift him, not even with all of his considerable strength could be get the alien off and so Yaphet was furious. Bolaji the quiet man, won the day

Muhammad Ali
f) Ian Holm's memory
Ian Holm noticed that on several occasions that Yaphet because he was so involved with his on-screen hatred of the alien that he tried to pick fights with Bolaji on several occasions 

g) So Yaphet Kotto recalled
Yaphet recalled the time he came to confront Bolaji as the alien, and as a person Yaphet could only have the utmost respect for him and Bolaji was too skinny for Yaphet to consider as an opponent in a fight. During the production, he only spoke to Bolaji twice, one when he had the alien head off, Yaphet asked if he if was hot. The other time Bolaji was coming onto the stage and Yaphet was going on.

h) Journalist Phil Edwards recalls from Dan and Yaphet confirmed
With the alien costume being so difficult to work in and with restricted viewing through the suit, it was extremely difficult for Bolaji to his marks with precision, especially as his movements needed to be quite precise. The Alien set was a tense atmosphere, with its several producers uptight about the money, the schedule and Ridley Scott, who had proved no push-over to producer demands

Ther was a particularly tough scene for Bolaji, where he consistently missed his marks thanks to the suit and the clock on the money running up, and then one of the producers started to get upleasant with him, Yaphet Kotto was looking on and became increasingly incensed at a Producer behaving in a germanic wave's expletive-laden tirade and enough was enough. According to Dan, Yaphet physically intervened and let the producer have it "Leave the brother alone!" and then everything went quiet.
(The name of the producer was not given but oddly Peter Beale was a Fox executive known for his Germanic manner during the production doing his best to keep the costs low)

Source Quotes
  1. (1:30:55) Ridley Scott: As I came in the main gate and Yaphet would be standing at the main gate and I'd have a second assistant say (01:31:00)" Calling car one, he's at the main gate" .
    I'd go "Oh no, go to gate two" So we'd go round the back
    "He's at door two"
    I said "Ah Jesus let's go to door three.
    'Cause Yaphet was there to meet me every morning and say "I'm not gonna die, you know. I can't die. There's no way this,  can actually,  can deal with me. I will kill it. I'm omnipotent , man." duh-duh duh-arum. He was like Muhammad Ali.. 

    (1:31:21 ) Sigourney Weaver chuckles

    (1:31:23 ) Ridley Scott : And, er, he carried that through onto the set and er it became really useful, actually
  2. Ridley Scott:Yaphet was always great as the trouble maker on board the ship, and the day that Yaphet had to die, he said " I'm not going to die" he said "this thing can't kill me", so I had this... had to have this long discussion persuading him to die that day, huhuhuh, so here they are in the bowels (Alien 20th Anniversary DVD  Ridley Scott Commentary)
  3. John Sorensen: You will be aware here of Yaphet's anitpathy towards the "alien" in real life? (Alienexperience.com/Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009,)
  4. John Sorensen: Shall I tell this one, Dennis? Or will you? The yaphet Kotto story (AlienExperience.com: Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009,)
  5. Dennis Lowe: You'd better tell it Jon, I don't know this one (AlienExperience.com: Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009,)
  6. Jon SorensenRight. Well, Yaphet Kotto is a terrific actor. Really of the highest calibre and tragically underused and also terrific in ALIEN. However, I will tell this story with all respect to him. The alien, as you all know, was played by an actor of Masai stock, Bolaji Bodego. The Masai are very slender but can be incredibly strong. Anyway, it seemed to us that Yaphet took something of a dislike to Bolaji. Now, whether this was part of a method-style pumping up excercise to keep "Parker" in a "fighting" mode towards the Alien, no-one was ever quite sure. But he certainly poured it on and everyone noticed, notably Bolaji. Well the day came for Parker to fight the Alien and Yaphet comes out with it. "No f****** alien is going to beat me. No f****** alien is going to hold me down!" Well, Bolaji/alien pinned Kotto/Parker to the ground, sitting on him. Could Yaphet shift him? No. Not with all his considerable strength could he get the alien off. He was ABSOLUTELY furious. Bolaji, the quiet man, won the day. (AlienExperience.com/Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, June 28, 2009,)
  7. Jon Sorensen:Yes. But the suit did'nt count for much in weight terms since, with it, Bolaji would only then have weighed the human "average". (AlienExperience.com: Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary June 28, 2009,)
  8. Speaker?:There was sort of a running joke where Ridley used to come up to us and say ''Which door is Yaphet standing by this morning?'', so that he could go on to the set via another door where Yaphet wasn't waiting for him.(Alien Quadrilofy documentary by Charles De Lauzirika)
  9. Ridley Scott: Yaphet was always evolving and, God bless him, driving me crazy, coming to me with millions of ideas on a daily basis - even on the day he would die, saying ''l'm not gonna die today. l'm gonna kill the son of a bitch.''(Alien Quadrilofy documentary by Charles De Lauzirika)
  10. Ian Holm: On several occasions Kotto became so involved with his on-screen hatred of the alien that he tried to pick fights where is the 7 foot Nigerian art student Bolaji Badejo who played the monster (Ian Holm: Acting my life, p215)
  11. Blastr.com: Another Alien rumor claims you got into a real fight with Bolaji Badejo, the 7-foot Nigerian actor inside the creature suit.   Any truth to that?
    Yaphet Kotto: Lemme get this straight right now.  I am so tired of reading s*** about how I'm challenging him, he's challenging me, I knocked him down, he knocked me down.  I spoke to him twice!  Bolaji was a nice guy, I liked him.  One time he had the damn alien head off and I asked him if he was hot.  The other time he was coming onto the stage and I was going out.  The Internet created these tales about it.  Look, I'm a professional actor, I don't go around doing stuff like that, it's insane, and I resent people who write those kinds of things about my character.  They said, "Oh, Yaphet was touching this guy and finally Bolaji got up and knocked the shit out of Yaphet." Number one, this guy was too skinny to knock me out.  Number two, I hardly spoke to him.  He was a guy they found on the street somewhere in London, and they gave him a job and he was very professional, very African, and I had the utmost respect for him.  Sorry, movie fans, make up some other s***. (http://www.blastr.com/2015-2-11/)
  12. Bolaji Badejo: The idea was that the creature was supposed to be graceful as well as vicious, requiring slow, deliberate movements. But there was some action I had to do pretty quick. I remember having to kick Yaphet Kotto, throw him against the wall, and rush up to him.  Veronica Cartwright was really terrified. After I fling Yaphet Kotto back with my tail, I go after her, there's blood in my mouth and she was incredible. It wasn't acting. She was scared. (Cinefantastque vol 9, no. 1, p29)
  13. Piotr S: I heard a story that when shooting Alien, a producer started acting nasty to Bolaji, who had problems with moving due to his costume, and you intervened, telling the guy to 'leave the brother alone'... is that true?

    Yaphet F. Kotto Absolutely true... (Yaphet F Kotto's Facebook page 27th August 2016)
  14.  Phil Edwards (Starburst journalist): I had gotten into the production office of Alien almost by accident, The UK distributor had offered me an interview with Dan O’Bannon for Starburst magazine for the recently released Dark Star. The Alien production was a closed set, but the entrée to Dan got me through the door, and stopped me getting thrown out. He shared an office with Ron Cobb. Dan and I hit it off and I spent several evenings at his hotel in Portobello Road, hearing about the events of the day’s shooting. Of several memorable episodes, one involved Bolaji. With the Alien costume being so difficult to work in, and with restricted viewing through the suit, it was extremely difficult for Bolaji to hit his marks with precision, especially as his movements needed to be quite precise. The Alien set was a tense atmosphere, with its several producers uptight about the money, the schedule and Ridley Scott, who had proved himself no push-over to producer demands. (https://alienseries.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/the-life-of-bolaji-badejo-2/)
  15. Phil Edwards (Starburst journalist ): During a particularly tough scene for Bolaji, where he consistently missed his marks thanks to the suit and the clock on the money running up, one of the producers started to get unpleasant with him. Yaphet Kotto was looking on and became increasingly incensed at Herr Producer’s expletive-laden tirade. Enough was enough. According to Dan, Kotto ‘physically intervened’ and let the producer have it… ‘Leave the brother alone!’… things went very quiet after that. ( https://alienseries.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/the-life-of-bolaji-badejo-2/)
  16. Gordon Carroll:Technically, there were two different size suits worn by three different people -- two stuntmen and Bolaji Badejo, the native of the Gold Coast.  He's seven-foot-one, has these fantastic arms that stretch from me to you and he's got legs that go to the ceiling.  And the extraordinary thing is he's amazingly strong.  Yaphett Koto kept saying "I could take that guy in one punch.  I gotta get that guy."  And then he was really steamed.  So one afternoon the two of them went at it.  And Bolaji just said "Hold on a second" and he literally lifted Yaphet with these spider like arms.  And there was no further discussion from Yaphet.

    Fantastic Films:Why did Yaphet want to start a fight with Bolaji?

    Gordon Carroll: Well, what happened was when we did the birth scene, it really did change everybody's idea about their character.  It gave the actors a different concept of their characters.  They were no longer slightly removed from the film.  Now it was real. And Yaphet, who had at first intended to play his part a bit differently, was just absolutely terrified by the idea of the alien and literally wanted to kill it.  And he continued that way through the rest of the shooting.  That is the way he played his character -- he really felt that he had to go after it and kill it.  He just couldn't conceive of his character not doing that.

    Fantastic Films: He really got wrapped up in his character?

    Gordon Carroll: Yes.  He felt that if he had really experienced anything like that, the only thing he would think about was killing it -- he wouldn't think about anything else. (Fantastic Films #12, 1979)
  17. Yaphet Kotto:"In a vision while he was filming Alien, Yaphet Kotto saw himself standing in the control bridge of the Nostromos space ship set. The design of the Nostromos was drawn from the writer Dan O’Bannon’s earlier sci-fi effort, Dark Star where he wanted to show this once-sterile spaceship in a rundown condition, like some old bachelor’s dusty and crowded dirt apartment, harassed engineers, and whining crew. 

    No on was around, it was lunch break.

    Now and again, however, someone from the film crew would paused behind the entranced actor, and gazed around at the set to see what he was staring at. Into the gazer’s eyes there came a look of intense longing.

    Then, after a few moments, Yaphet would turn away with a weary sigh and exclaim, “Why would they build a set so realistic that you had to walk through it in order to get out of it!” Lowering his gaze, he returned to the hot and dusty bridge.

    After this sequence had repeated itself several times, Kotto turned to see what it was that had held so much appeal for the set designers. He was pleased that production designer Michael Seymour had to abandon his plans to build a single complete Nostromos set, three stories’ high, so that actors would have to climb down companionways from one level to another.

    They thought he was creating a list to improve his scenes, he was in fact taking notes of what he was seeing along the walls of the corridor. And there, rising high above him, he beheld a tiny, miniature sketch of an island: verdant, serene, beautiful. An absolute contrast it was to everything in this hubbub of gadgets and confusion.

    On the island there was a large, exquisitely lovely garden, its lawns green-gold, its flowers many-hued around it were Hindu symbols and the word ‘AUM

    Yaphet was confused as he frowned to learn the meaning of this tiny, Egyptian like etching...
    Reflecting, then, on the difficulty of the interpretation, he gave his usual answer to the assistant directors who would pass by and wondered what he was studying, “"Parker’s not dying man, I am going to beat the alien."

    Weighing his words, then, he knew they would chuckle to themselves and go and tell Ridley what he said. “There’s no way they were going to keep a brother alive in these sci-fi movies. Brother has got to go, especially with a white girl in the shuttle, but at least I get to go down fighting for Veronica!” Even to fail in the attempt would, he decided, be infinitely preferable than going down a coward, Parker fights to the end.

    Closer and closer, determinedly, he reached up to touch the miniature etching. At last he reached toward it, but then paused his hand.

    For Yaphet, this vision symbolized a predicament common to every person with high aspirations. Man longs instinctively for a life freed from competition and worry; freed from hatred and violence; freed from the need for constant care.

    Few the average man, alas, even suspect that such an island exists and can be found. Of those, moreover, who do harbor such hopes, most turn away with a sigh, saying, “Why does this remind me of Robert Redford’s Sundance!

    He was about to touch the etching and he again paused. Besides the fact that Ridley and his set designers went to the trouble of making most of the switches and buttons on the set practical ((that is if you flipped them or pressed them something would happen.) he lowered his hands and placed them in his pockets.

    Be clever, he thought to himself. ‘Never let your right hand know what your left Hand is doing, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” ( And as Yaphet Kotto often heard his spiritual teacher ) Paramhansa Yogananda say— “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” The acting profession requires courage, and dedication, and the absolute ability to memorize lines then perseverance, in the end it is luck.... LOTS of people go to acting schools and all sorts of stuff but it's really who looks at what you do that matters. and the number of people who don't is astounding. Be in the right place at the right time. Those who take up the acting profession for what Kotto called its glamour, expecting only adoring fans and signing autographs, a comfortable mansion, Hollywood Boulevard strewn with rose blossoms of divine worship, become discouraged when they find how often God neglects the moss and roses in favor of thorns. For those, however, who cling to the acting profession with devotion, rolling with the punches and knowing when it’s your time to step up to the plate and swing that bat, no test is ever too great. Obstructions are seen, then, as blessings, for they provide the strength one needs to reach the truth and Yaphet was determined to get to the truth Deering and others had hidden behind the veils of a motion picture called Alien. It was just a matter of time.
    " (Source: Yaphet Kotto's Alien Diary Facebook page )
     

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