Why Xenomorph Creator H.R. Giger Wasn't More Involved With The Alien Franchise

H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist responsible for creating the Xenomorph from "Alien," was notably uncredited in designing the rest of the franchise's creatures. Sure, his name appears in the end credits as the original designer of the alien creature, but that's the extent of his involvement. Instead, each subsequent film's director hired their own designers that expanded on Giger's work, a setup that Giger himself was understandably never pleased with.

The "Alien" films owe a huge debt to H.R. Giger, whose psychosexual nightmares are now one of the cornerstones of sci-fi horror. Even if the name is unfamiliar, the artist's work, which captures the unsettling and surreal crossroads of otherworldly man and machine, is instantly recognizable. Giger's career outside of film was varied and plentiful, including album cover artwork and interior design, but it's the visionary's "Necronomicon" collection of paintings that grabbed the attention of director Ridley Scott and writer Dan O'Bannon. His phallic painting, "Necronom IV," evolved into a cultural icon.

No Giger in Aliens

Giger and his special effects team won an Academy Award for their groundbreaking work, but that was the last time the artist would be directly involved with the franchise. James Cameron never reached out to Giger during the sequel's production. Instead, the director brought on Stan Winston, who had previously worked with him on "The Terminator," to design the look of the Xenomorphs. Giger was more than a little disappointed that he wasn't invited back, especially because Winston's crew molded their designs on the original suit. The Xenomorphs' heads were more ribbed than Giger's smooth craniums and Cameron himself designed the Xenomorph Queen, but there's no mistaking that these areĀ Giger's aliens.

Cameron claimed that he desired more creative control over his project and that Giger was involved with "Poltergeist II." In a letter to Giger's agent Leslie Barany, shared via Letters of Note, he stated that:

"Mr. Giger's visual stamp was so powerful and pervasive in 'Alien' (a major contributor to its success, I believe) that I felt the risk of being overwhelmed by him and his world, if we had brought him into a production where in a sense, he had more reason to be there than I did."

Ultimately, Winston was credited as Alien Effects Creator, while Giger was Original Alien Designer. Once again, the film went on the win the Academy Award for Visual Effects. It was just the start of Giger's contentious relationship with those involved with the "Alien" sequels.

The Alien 3 Drama

David Fincher, director of the next installment of the franchise, did ask Giger to contribute to new Xenomorph designs. However, Fincher also hired two pupils of Stan Winston's crew, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, who had started their own special effects company, Amalgamated Dynamics (ADI). Giger had apparently thought that Woodruff and Gillis were responsible for constructing his planned designs, but unbeknownst to the artist, they were working on Xenomorph designs of their own. That led to a particularly awkward moment when the two turned down an invitation from Giger to see his new Xenomorph sculpture at this studio in Zurich. Woodruff relates the situation as a studio issue, as per Monster Legacy:

"I think where the real hotbed happened was 20th Century Fox. They basically cut ties to Giger. This is a painful story to relate: Giger called us and said, 'I did this sculpture of an Alien. It's in my basement, and too big to take out. I don't have the money to mold it. Can you guys come to Switzerland to see this sculpture I made?' And Fox told us we had to say no."

The credits of the film once again listed Giger as Original Creature Designer, even though he actually contributed artwork this time. Home video releases of the film nixed the "original" part and gave him more proper credit as the Creature Designer for "Alien 3."

Resurrection and Beyond

Giger had lost all patience with "Alien: Resurrection." ADI returned to work on the film without any input from Giger, but the original artist wasn't even listed in the credits at all this time. In a letter to Twentieth Century Fox shared via Giant Freakin' Robot, Giger reminded the studio that all creature designs were based on his work, expressing his disdain in the most hilariously irate way possible:

"In all likelihood, all the sequels to 'Alien' would not even exist! The designs and my credit have been stolen from me, since I alone have designed the Alien. So why does Fox not give me the credit I rightfully earned?

As for those responsible for this conspiracy: All I can wish them is an Alien breeding inside their chests, which might just remind them that the 'Alien Father' is H.R.Giger."

Fox wound up revising the creditsĀ once again for the video release and listed H.R. Giger under "Original Alien Design," a title that stuck for the "Alien vs. Predator" movies. Giger finally got credit for directly working on an "Alien" film (or at least an "Alien"-adjacent film) shortly before his death when his old collaborator Ridley Scott brought him on to "Prometheus" as a concept artist and gave him an "Original Design Elements" credit.