Released in 1979, the groundbreaking film Alien is indelibly associated with H. R. Giger, the Swiss artist who brought a unique blend of horror and beauty to its alien species and environments. For much of 1978, beginning in February, Giger could be found in his workshop at London’s Shepperton Studios, painstakingly designing and bringing to life what would become his most iconic work. Yet, this journey was not without its problems, and conflicts with the crew and producers were frequent as Giger strived to maintain the integrity of his unique vision. These hurdles, along with the progression of his work, were diligently documented in a diary he maintained during his time at Shepperton—a brutally honest chronicle of his experience working on one of history’s most influential science fiction films.
The Diary Entry
Tuesday, July 4, 1978
In the morning with Mia in London at the Tate Gallery and in the British Museum. In the H stage, the people from the prop department are about to fuck up the spacecraft. Bill instructed them to build the struts with ribbed tubes. It looks disastrous. Voysey promised to fix it tomorrow. Eddie is still working on the hand. Voysey has modelled the shoulders and arms on the other side of Alien III. I am working on the interior from 6 am to midnight. Mia is working on the lower bony part of facehugger Alien I. John Finch, the main actor, is sick again and had to go to the hospital. Michael Seymour is delighted because this gives him at least three more days to build the sets. Another change. They want the skeleton of the Alien space jockey to lie the cockpit again. This was also communicated to me by Michael Seymour.
Alien Diaries is stunning. Giger kept two diaries at Shepperton, and both feature in this book, transcribed in German and in English. But you’ll also find images of the diaries’ handwritten pages, alongside Giger’s many illustrations and a selection of the polaroids he took during the process. It’s an expensive purchase, to say the least, but it’s one of few books I would be willing to spend so much money on. If you’re a fan of the Alien series, filmmaking, diaries, or just beautifully made books, you should, if you can afford it, buy a copy.
Diary entry excerpted from Alien Diaries, first published by Edition Patrick Frey in 2013. Reprinted by kind permission of the H. R. Giger Estate/Museum.