Alien: Giger's Early Facehugger Concepts

O'Bannon's sketch, Egg with facehugger
(Giger's Alien, p10)


a) Initial letter
Dan's letter to H R Giger arrived with descriptions in basic English of what he wanted the Facehugger to do, that it was supposed to be small, and it was an octopus like creature that would leap onto the person's face, wrap its tentacles around behind the person's head and then it would have an organ that was an ovipositer which would be shoved down the person's throat. Dan had also sent a sketch that he had drawn of a facehugger popping out of the egg that looked more to Giger like a flying omelette.

work 364a, Giger's facehugger sketch (Giger's Alien, p10)
b) Giger's initial idea
Following his background as an industrial designer, everything must have a function, and good design, the function of the object ought to be clearly visible and so the facehugger's form would be determined through its function. Giger took note of the descriptions that he had been given as well as the sketches. He understood that the creature was supposed to jump out of a big egg, so he thought that it must be a creature large enough to fill the egg, and when it jumped out, it has a tale like a springfender or a spring as in a jack-in-the-box. He started out with a body that looked like a giant sex organ which to Giger was what it really was, and was thinking that if something that jumps out and then holds onto someone's face, it needs fingers or hands. Giger liked long spidery fingers and so he gave the creature these.

work 365a, Giger's Facehugger sketch. (Giger's Alien, p10)
c) Depositing the embryo
The idea was that normally if someone is sitting on another person's face, that other person can't breath through the nose, and would automatically open his mouth, then the monster goes down.  Emrbyos are formed in a sack (See work 365). Then the facehugger sinks its tube-like proboscis into the throat of the victim to deposit its embryos. Also since the creature had to pry open the victim's mouth, it would be given an pince-like instrument (See work 364) like the old Egyptians used on their dead to force open the mouth and allow the person to eat and drink in the after life, although Giger's interpretation at the time was was that the ceremony allowed the spirit of the dead person to be released. (See also Inspired by the Opening of the Mouth Ritual)


LAX airport 1978
d) Trouble up at the airport customs
A few weeks later, Giger mailed large photographic transparencies to O'Bannon and others at Fox. When they arrived at the airport, the custom officials didn't understand what they were and became alarmed. They had to personally come down to LAX  from Fox and pick what H R Giger had sent up.
work 364, (Giger's Alien, p11)
e) Vision of the fingers
When Dan O'Bannon finally got these photographs for the designs, he held them up to the light where he could see them, and was stunned at what he saw. There was the lobed creature attached to the face of a person, but instead of tentacles, there were fingers! It was these fingers that amazed Dan and as soon as he saw those fingers he knew that he would do whatever he had in order to get those fingers into the film. Hollywood itself had still not said yes to Giger's work. He also sent O'Bannon the first copy of the newly published French edition of "H.R. Giger's Necronomicon", with the ink still wet from the printers

f) See also Alien: Creating the Facehugger 
work 365. (Giger's Alien, p11)

Source Quotes
  1. HR Giger: 11 July 1977. O'Bannon's letter has arrived. One version in German and one in English. Also some explanatory sketches by Ron Cobb (who also had been working with Jodorowsky) and by O'Bannon himself. The cheque for the promised thousand dollars has also arrived. Now I realy must get down to work (Giger's Alien, p10)
  2. HR Giger: The story tells of spore capsules (eggs) inside a pyramid. This gives me the idea of using the Swiss egg-box for the basic structure of the pyramid (plate 363c). The eggs themselvs, which according to O'Bannon's sketch (plate 363b). (Giger's Alien, p10)
  3. HR Giger: Plates 364a and 365a show the first sketches, as Alien I, the Facehugger, jumps out of the egg. In a good design, the function of the object ought to be clearly visible, so I give the Facehugger a tail to be used as a spring for taking off (like a tail on the jumping devil toy, plate 364a. ). The Facehugger, which clings to the face of its victims, gets spidery fingers on both sides (plate 363/364/365).  (Giger's Alien, p10)  (click here for work 363)
  4. HR Giger: Once it gets its claws in, the Facehugger sinks its tube-like proboscis into the throat of the victim to deposit its embryos. Plate 364 shows how it uses a pince-like mechanism to force open the mouth. Plate 365, a variant, shows the sack in which the embryos are formed.(Giger's Alien, p10)
  5. HR Giger: The Face Hugger, that was my first thing I did for Dan O'Bannon when he sent me I think about a thousand dollar to do some paintings for Alien and er, he gave me an explanation and erm drawings, and he said that it's jumping on a big egg , the egg is about that, so I thought that must be quite a big monster, so I did an enormous facehugger like a... and erm, he was jumping, I thought he could jump when his tail is like, is curved like a springfender or whatever, a jack in the box. (Alien Quadrology :documentry)
  6. HR Giger: As an idea of what he wanted, Dan O'Bannon sent me a sketch he had done of this thing popping out of an egg [the face-hugger) it looked like a flying omelette. I started out with a body that looked like a giant sex organ - which is what it was really. I did two paintings of it, and sent slides of them to Dan O'Bannon. (Neon, DECEMBER 1997)
  7. H.R.Giger: Since it had to pry open the victim's mouth, I gave it an instrument something like the old Egyptians used on their dead to force open the mouth and let the spirit out. (Cinefex 1, p36)
  8. HR Giger:These are my proposals for the job they have given me. I have transparencies made of the pictures, sketches and models, send them to O'Bannon, and wait.
    Still no answer from Hollywood. My book H.R. Giger's Necronomicon (in the French version) has just been published. I send O'Bannon the first copy, the ink is still wet from the printers.(Giger's Alien, p10)
  9. Dan O'Bannon: (35:53) I'm over here in LA, Giger's over there in Switzerland, we're communicating on the phone, Twentieth Century Fox has finally sent him some money to get started, and I sat down and wrote out some very simple parameters for what I wanted him to start designing, and I described in the simplest terms what the Facehugger was to do, that it was supposed to be a small, sort of octopus like thing that would leap onto a person's face, wrap its tentacles around behind the person's head and then it would have an organ , an ovipositer which would be shoved down the person's throat. ( Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD and Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)  
  10. Dan O'Bannon: A few weeks later, Giger mailed these large photographic transparencies to us at Fox, they came through through customs, they didn't understand what they were and were alarmed, we had to personally come down to LAX and pick these things up, and I finally got these photographs that Giger had made for the designs he had done for the facehugger and I held them up to the light where I could see them, I was stunned at what I saw, there was the  (37:00) There was the lobed creature attached to the face of a person, but instead of tentacles, there were fingers! fingers! As soon as I saw those fingers I knew that I would do whatever I had to do to get those fingers into the film, ( Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD and Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)  
  11. HR Giger: These are my proposals for the job they have given me. I have transparencies made of the pictures, sketches and models, send them to O'Bannon, and wait.
    Still no answer from Hollywood. My book H.R. Giger's Necronomicon (in the French version) has just been published. I send O'Bannon the first copy, the ink is still wet from the printers.(Giger's Alien, p10)

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