It Also Happened With Alien 3
Accuser: H.R. Giger
Accused: 20th Century Fox, PR Alien III, Fincher, Gillis, Woodruff, Giler, Hill
Based on a decision made by the producer, namely Gordon Carroll, Giger was asked telephonically on July 25, 1990, to work as designer on ALIEN III. This was confirmed in writing by Giger. Soon after that, the newly hired director, David Fincher, accompanied by Fred Zinneman and Gordon Carroll, visited Giger in his house in Zurich. Also present were Mia Bonzanigo, Gigers secretary and agent, and Conny de Fries, Gigers long-time collaborator and a specialist in model construction. The meeting took place on July 28, 1990, which was also Gigers and de Fries first day of work, a fact confirmed in writing by Fred Zinneman. Since work had to start immediately, it was decided to use Gigers 1978 contract as a contract basis - with the appropriate financial adjustments, of course. For the time being, the agreement was to run one month, with the option of prolonging it if the work took longer.
Basically, Giger was supposed to re-think and improve upon the ALIEN life forms created for ALIEN (Ridley Scott) in 1977-79, on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox. Giger thought he was working closely with the director and hoped to improve his creatures, and rectify some qualitatively inferior details from ALIENS. He was very excited about the prospect, and felt predestined to ennoble visually and functionally the ALIEN prototypes already contained in the book Gigers Necronomicon, of which Necronom IV and V were chosen by Ridley Scott for ALIEN. Since Giger had been rewarded with an Oscar for Best Visual Design in 1980 for creating these creatures, alien landscapes, spacecrafts and spacejockey, it was only logical that he went to work with the greatest enthusiasm. The book Necronomicon was used by Scott almost like a bible for various techniques during the filming of ALIEN. It even gave him some suggestions for details in the spacecraft NOSTROMO.
Because of his former, very close collaboration with R. Scott, Giger believed there would be that kind of intensive relationship on ALIEN III with David Fincher, which would have been an ideal starting situation for a precise execution of his designs. As a result, Giger faxed sketches, plans and photos of models to Pinewood, and Fincher faxed his comments in return. Since there was no script at that time, Finchers ideas were used to search for and also find solutions. What perplexed Giger, however, was that Gillis and Woodruff, who were responsible for the execution and mechanization of the creatures, said on the telephone that they had their own interpretation as far as the ALIEN design was concerned. Giger, who received an Oscar for his ALIEN creatures, believed the only concern was the interpretation approved by Fincher in Gigers sense (For Giger, there was only one interpretation, which he assumed Fincher shared, namely: the most precise possible execution of Gigers plans). For this reason, Giger, at his own cost and initiative, had an ALIEN on a one-to-one scale built in the basement of is Zurich house to better study the proportions and thus be able to draw more precise plans.
At first, Giger was
committed to the following designs:
During this month, the newest developments were faxed to Pinewood daily, and confirmed and commented upon by Fincher and his crew. For optimal visualization, Giger had De Fries shoot photos of the model in the basement, and produced a short video about it. (Film by R. Appenzeller)
During this time, Twentieth Century Fox in L.A. was doing its best to foist off a very simple "Work For Hire" contract on Giger - contrary to all agreement made between Giger, Zinnemann and Carroll on July 28, 1990. This finally led to the involvement of Gigers lawyer, because the second part of the fee for work already done would not have been paid until Twentieth Century Fox signed a valid contract. In the meantime, ALIEN III was finished with a delay of two years. Since Twentieth Century Fox finally signed a contract after half a year, they now had 1 1/2 years to deal with the matter of Gigers screen credits. When, at Gigers behest, Fox, Geneva, organized a screening for his friends and co-workers, Giger realized that the screen credit agreed upon in the contract was not the one in the film. A letter was written to Fox, Geneva immediately , but Fox, Geneva made no move to try to clear up the matter with Fox, L.A. Their comment was: "All press materials and posters have already been produced, so it would be too late for changes now." At that point, however, it still would have been possible to change the credits in copies [duplicates?], and in original laser discs and videos. It was only at the second screening for the press on September 3 that Giger realized his name was also missing from the credits at the end of the movie. Fox knows best WHEN this mistake was made. At any rate, it was their responsibility to study the contract for specific agreements about credits, and to correct existing credits in order to comply with he contract.
In addition, from the 20-30-minute American promotional films sent to him by his American agent Leslie Barany, it became obvious to Giger that the impression being made was that he had only worked on ALIEN. He was also never identified as an Oscar winner, while others who worked on that movie were so identified. It should be noted that the interview with Giger contained in the promotional film was only shot after Twentieth Century Fox signed the contract, because a legal contract signed by both parties was a prerequisite for Gigers doing this interview.
(Discontinued sister-publication of Cinefantastique)
by Les Paul Robley
"You know, I think filmmakers are always afraid to collaborate with artists like me, because they think we will cause them trouble. Where as I just want to be creative."
- H.R. Giger
Giger was asked to rethink the life forms from ALIEN, providing an aquatic face-hugger, a chest-burster, the Alien skin, and a four-legged version of the adult Alien. Though given little time, Giger came up with interesting improvements. "I worked like crazy on it," he recalls. "I had special ideas to make it more interesting. I designed a new creature, which was much more elegant and beastly, compared to my original. It was a four-legged Alien, more like a lethal feline - a panther or something. It had a kind of skin that was built up from other creatures - much like a symbiosis.
The artist was perplexed, however, when Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics, the company responsible for the execution of the creature, told Giger that they had their own design. "The Alien has been my baby," Said Giger. "So when I was asked to change the creature into a less humanoid beast, I hoped that my decisions would be done without other ideas. I thought, since I got an Oscar for my Alien, it would be me who gave advice on how it would look. When Woodruff and Gillis said they had their own ideas, I was very upset."
Once all of Giger's designs were submitted, the production severed contact, apparently under pressure to meet the film's rapidly approaching start date. Despite this, Giger continued to fax suggestions to Fincher because of his enthusiasm for the project. Giger also made full-scale drawings, a sculpt of the Alien and a short reference film, offering all of them to the production. They declined.
He had not been told that ADI had been contracted not only for the execution of the new Alien but for its design as well. "David Fincher neglected to inform me that Woodruff and Gillis were also contracted to take care of the redesign of the Alien - I found out much later," Giger recounts. "I thought I had the job and that Woodruff and Gillis would work from my plans. On their side, they were convinced that it was their job and accepted my 'suggestions' with pleasure. They believed that all my effort was based on a huge love for the matter, because I worked hard even after my contract was over."
Looking back, Giger believes that Fincher, a newcomer to the franchise, ultimately relied on advice from Woodruff and Gillis because of their experience with Stan Winston on ALIENS. "I can understand that they would not have wanted me as their 'boss' - I know it's probably not everybody's wish to work with me," he laughs. "Because they worked longer on it, they could do their own things, so it was not necessary after the first month to engage me any more."
In a letter to 20th Century-Fox, Giger's agent, Leslie Barany, stated, "That not all of Giger's ideas were implemented in the final film was their, perhaps mistaken, decision. Equally, [it was] their decision not to take advantage of Giger's availability to work on-set with the Visual Effects team, as it was specified by the contract. It was, perhaps, for these reasons that much of Messrs, Woodruff and Gillis's design 'improvements' and effects had to be trashed and that Mr. Woodruff himself had to slip into the Alien suit to bring it to life, in spite of all the early assertions that it would be an unacceptable solution."
After 18 months, the film finally neared its summer 1992 theatrical release date. When Fox in Geneva organized a screening for Giger's friends and co-workers, the artist was horrified by the credit he saw on the screen, which was not the one specified in his contract. "In the contract it states exactly how I should be credited, and this was a mistake," said Giger. "They break the contract because they're saying in the movie that it's only 'original design by Giger' and not ALIEN 3, so it looks like I didn't work on it."
Immediately a letter was written to Fox, Geneva, who made no attempt to clear up the matter with Fox, L.A. Their comment was: "All press materials and posters have already been produced, so it would be too late for changes now." Then, after a second screening for the press on September 3, 1992, Giger realized that his name was also missing from the movie's end credits.
As a way of correcting the mistake, Fox at first suggested purchasing trade ads, congratulating Giger's work on ALIEN 3 - a suggestion Giger rejected. Later, on the grounds that they valued their relationship with the artist, the studio relented, promising to go back and make expensive changes to the master negative of the film, even though the prints had already been shipped. Credits on the laserdisk and videocassette copies now read: "Original Alien Design by H.R. Giger," with the additional "ALIEN 3 Creature Design by H.R. Giger."
But it was too late to correct the impression left with those who had seen the film in theatres. "I got a lot of publicity on the first movie," Said Giger. "But when ALIEN 3 was here, I remarked that nobody made any interviews with me."
Meanwhile, the ADI personnel gave a series of interviews that minimized Giger's ALIEN 3 contribution by praising him only as the Alien creator while claiming that their version was "truer" to his original design paintings than the suit he himself had constructed on ALIEN. Giger considers this claim "bizarre." (It is rendered even more bizarre when one observes the similarity between Giger's ALIEN 3 designs and the four-legged rod puppet added in post-production by Boss Film.)
Giger's lawyers had all this time been fighting a costly legal battle with Fox, who were trying to foist off a very simple work-for-hire contract on the artist, contrary to the original agreement. "You proceed on the deal memo, and then once the work is done and in their hands, they send you the contract," said Barany. "From day one, Giger had said that basically he wanted the same contract he had on ALIEN. We fought for months on that, and it involved legal costs and merchandising royalties."
Giger finally won the merchandising royalties after accruing $9,000 in legal fees, which the studio refused to reimburse. Fox did eventually reimburse Giger, but only after he refused to be interviewed for their behind-the-scenes documentary of ALIEN 3.
But the final blow occurred when the Academy overlooked Giger's contribution to the film. In 1980 Giger received an Academy Award in the effects category, despite the fact that his screen credit for ALIEN had not included the word "effects." This was because director Ridley Scott had the good judgment to include Giger's name along with nominees Carlo Rambaldi and Richard Johnson. Giger and his lawyers contended that, because he was engaged under the same contract and for the same purposes on ALIEN 3, then it seemed only logical that he again be nominated.
Apparently David Fincher and Fox didn't see it that way. Less than two weeks before the Academy Awards, Fox's legal department responded with a letter pointing out that studios are precluded from submitting nominees in the effects category directly to the Academy. "We understand that David Fincher, the director of ALIEN 3, prepared the nomination," the letter stated. "It seems clear that Mr. Fincher was aware of both your client's contribution to the picture, along with the contributions of other design and special effects participant...this nomination occurred outside of Fox's control, and Fox does not even have a right under the circumstances to request Mr. Giger's inclusion."
Barany answered back with the following fax (briefly stated): "You are right. You cannot speak for Mr. Fincher. It is high time that Mr. Fincher spoke for himself... Mr. Fincher owes Giger, the Academy and the Visual Effects community an explanation for the bizarre omission of [Giger's name]... The denial of Giger's Academy Award nomination is just the last example of the effort to totally erase his relationship to ALIEN 3."
Giger was so upset that at one point he sent Academy president Karl Malden a fax with this closing comment: "I am under the strong impression that my contribution to the visual effects of the nominated movie has been intentionally suppressed," signing the letter with a large black pentagram.
But ALIEN 3 is not the first time Giger has had trouble with legalities. Many post-ALIEN films have "borrowed" his biomechanic look without giving him the credit or money he deserves. At first he was flattered, but now it upsets him. "Sometimes the [rip-offs] look even better than I design," he said. One Dutch forger even tried to make a fake of his famous Necronom IV painting, the one which inspired ALIEN. "But when people add their own ideas it looks more horrible than people who just copy my work."
After all the battles, what does the father of the Alien think of the direction the franchise has taken? "I like it," said Giger. "The critics said it's terrible, but I think it's okay. The Alien is better than in the second film. In the second, they changed the Alien, and finally, in [ALIEN 3], they brought it back to my original design."
Despite his disappointing cinematic experiences since ALIEN, Giger still holds some hope for the medium. "I have no illusions about Hollywood and the movie-making process anymore, but I'd still like to work in movies, preferably with a challenging concept and a quality director."
FAD Magazine, USA
Millions of Alien 3 viewers were unaware that the creator of the Alien monster, H.R. Giger, had worked extensively on the big-budget sequel. The credits roll listed Giger only for "Original Alien Design," implying his movie work ended with the first Alien.
After lawyers stepped in,
the "mistake" was corrected for laser disk and
home video releases; although if a cat strolled in front
of the big-screen monitors people were likely to miss it.
No matter. They still would never see Giger's exquisitely
redisigned Alien 3 creature and the terrifying yet
cuddlesome "Bambi Alien." These were lost in
the design "improvements" made by the studio's
Cut to the oscars. Guess which film was nominated for Visual Effects? Giger was full of anticipation. The filming was perfect. His original Alien 3 designs were about to open at the Museum Baveria in Zurich. He knew the drill. His tuxedo went to the cleaners.
But... so did his credit! Somehow Giger's name was omitted from the list of four Oscar nominees for the film Alien 3 - the film for which Giger created the creature, reworked it, and designed a new one, all under contract....