It never occurred to me to browse through the credits of Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic sci-fi/horror flick Alien, to find out who was underneath that monstrous Alien suit.
And if it weren’t for “Jug” alerting me to THIS post on i09’s website from earlier today, I likely wouldn’t have even given it the slightest thought. And that’s unfortunate, because, as I learned a few moments ago, the man inside the infamous Alien suit we’ve all come to love and fear, was 7ft 2in Nigerian actor Bolaji Badejo.
Did you know that? I certainly didn’t.
Alien was Badejo’s SOLE film credit, and sure enough, if you look at the film’s IMDB page, scroll down the cast/character list to the name “Alien,” sure enough, the actor’s name right next to it reads “Bolaji Badejo.”
With much interest, I did some digging on this fellow to learn that he was a 26-year-old graphic arts student in London, when he landed the role “purely by accident,” as is noted in THIS 1979 interview with Badejo that I found online.
Here’s how the story is told:
The production had apparently put out a casting call for a very tall, very thin actor. Bolaji bumped into agent Peter Archer while having a drink in a London West End pub. Archer thought of ALIEN as soon as he spotted Bolaji, and offered him the chance to try out for the part. “As soon as I walked in,” said Bolaji, “Ridley Scott knew he’d found the right person.” Scott had been looking at basketball players, and had tested Peter Mayhew [Star Wars’ Chewbacca] for the Alien, but it was Badejo’s combination of height, slimness and an erect posture that cinched him the part. Bolaji was signed for the part in May, manufacture of the suit began, and the filming of the Alien scenes started in August at Shepperton.
I don’t own either the Alien DVD or Blu-ray discs, but I’d like to think that this info is included in the extra features, right (for those who own either disc)?
I encourage you to read the full interview with Bolaji, which can be found HERE. There is a lot of good info within it, like the fact that he worked approximately four months on the film, usually three or four days a week, sometimes on weekends, and kept getting called back to redo shots when the action didn’t work; that the actors really were scared of him when he was in the suit, and what you saw some of the time, wasn’t just acting – they were genuinely afraid (Ha!); most of the footage Bolaji filmed never made it into the movie, due to problems, stating “Ridley had a lot more ideas than what you see on the screen, but some things were impossible. There was one part where I was hanging from a wire about ten or fifteen feet above the ground, and I curled up. I was like a coccoon of my own, and I come out very slowly and stretch out. But I couldn’t do it. I was held up by a harness around my stomach, and I was suffocating trying to make these movements;” and how he declined to repeat one particular stunt that required he be upside down, some 20 feet in the air, with blood rushing to his head, making him dizzy, and when the stuntman was asked to do it instead, he fainted; the suit consisted of some ten to fifteen separate pieces, worn over a one-piece black body suit; and the thousands of tubes of K-Y Jelly they used to get the effect of the slime coming out of his mouth; and more.
Given that this was his only role, Bolaji wasn’t at all involved in any of the successive Alien sequels.
I couldn’t immediately find any current info on the man, although what I did read states that he died a few years ago; but nothing to absolutely confirm that.
In the above 1979 interveiw, he did admit some regret that he wasn’t given any pub for his work on the film, and that no one (or rather very few folks) actually knew that he was the man in the suit. The rest of us only know the face of the suit, and never really got to see and get to know the man who wore it.
Well, here’s to you Bolaji Badejo! I’m going to watch Alien right now (forget Prometheus) and I’ll be paying even closer attention to your movements in that film.
And if I may have a moment of even further *deepness*, now that I’m aware that the Alien in Alien was played by a black man, one could really start to watch the film in an entirely different light.
He apparently appears in 2 making-of Alien documentaries, which you could probably find in bits in pieces on the web.
Watch some test footage in the clip below of Bolaji Badejo practicing his Alien “act” (and a much crisper image underneath):