'Alien' Day: The terrifying, long-lost Xenomorph prototype never before seen in public

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·6-min read
H.R. Giger poses with a prototype of his Xenomorph design for 'Alien.' The artist hoped to feature translucent version of the creature, but that version was abandoned before shooting began. (Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)
H.R. Giger poses with a prototype of his Xenomorph design for 'Alien.' The artist hoped to feature translucent version of the creature, but that version was abandoned before shooting began. (Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)

Here's an #AlienDay reveal that'll make you happier than a long-haul space tug crew member headed back to Earth: A piece of ultra-rare Alien memorabilia that was blasted out of the airlock four decades ago has been salvaged and is now up for sale. On April 29, Julien's Auctions is unveiling a long-lost early prototype of H.R. Giger's classic Xenomorph design as the centerpiece attraction in a genre-themed "Hollywood Legends" auction. Known as "Big Chap," this version of the franchise's signature creature features a translucent design that's distinctly different than the opaque acid-bleeding monster we know and love. 

It should be noted that bidding on the Big Chap starts at $40,000. But you can get a closer look at the big guy for free courtesy of our exclusive virtual experience, which allows you to zoom in on Giger's original vision for the Xenomorph, which evolved out of the Swiss artist's pioneering "biomechanoid" designs. (Giger died in 2014.)

Click below to place the Big Chap in your living room using augmented reality:

"What's particularly amazing about it, is that it's survived for over 40 years," Julien's Auctions executive director, Martin Nolan, tells Yahoo Entertainment about the big return of Big Chap. "People thought it had been destroyed or wasn’t in existence, but here it is making an appearance for the very first time."

Reached for comment, Giger's longtime agent, Leslie Barany, confirmed that Alien director Ridley Scott, encouraged the artist to find a way to bring a transparent creature off the page and into three dimensions. "Scott would actually like the whole alien transparent, in the way I've made my biomechanoids," Giger wrote in his diary in February 1978. (Those diaries were later published in 2012.) Both men agreed that they wanted the creature's organs and skeleton to be fully visible, while the actor wearing the costume — Bolaji Badejo — would be like "a spider-thing inside of this half-transparent suit." 

Giger's crew at work in the studio on the early translucent version of the Xenomorph (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)
Giger's crew at work in the studio on the early translucent version of the Xenomorph (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)

From the beginning, though, that effect proved difficult to achieve. Barany says that multiple versions of the translucent Xenomorph were made and abandoned before Giger constructed Big Chap — a laborious process that the artist detailed in his diary. "The material is not resistant enough, and tears," Giger writes, adding that his collaborators even built a special oven to properly shape the transparent PVC material. "Unfortunately, [we] still haven't produced anything we can use, and time is running short."

All of that work eventually birthed Big Chap, a prototype of the translucent suit that could be used for camera and lighting tests during pre-production. Right away, the limitations of the costume were readily apparent as the costume wasn't able to withstand the heat of the studio set. The high temperatures spoiled one particularly gnarly idea that Scott and Giger had planned: the head of the Xenomorph was supposed to contain living maggots, which audiences could see writhing around, giving the creature's brain a sense of motion. But those tiny critters were instead lulled to sleep by the on-set heat, thus saving Badejo — and the audience — from having to spend too much time in their company. 

Giger at work on the Xenomorph in his studio (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)
Giger at work on the Xenomorph in his studio (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)

Barany believes that Giger might have figured out a solution had he been given more time. But 20th Century Fox wasn't willing to compromise on the production start date, and ultimately he and Scott agreed to abandon Big Chap in favor of the opaque latex version that instantly entered the creature feature Hall of Fame. Despite the success of Alien — and the instant acclaim for his work – Giger missed the transparent Xenomorph that might have been. 

"I'm deeply disappointed," he wrote in his diary in August 1978. "They always told me we should have the best experts in the world to work with us in such a big production, and instead of that we've got a lot of do-it-yourself amateurs without the necessary experience." Giger did eventually see his dream come to life, though. In 1995, he revived his idea of a translucent creature design for Roger Donaldson's horror hit Species. That film starred Natasha Henstridge as as an alien being named Sil, who is able to morph between a a flesh-and-blood human and a transparent extraterrestrial. 

The character of Sil in 'Species' sported the kind of translucent design that Giger hoped to feature in 'Alien' (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)
The character of Sil in 'Species' sported the kind of translucent design that Giger hoped to feature in 'Alien' (Photo: Courtesy of and ©2021 Museum HR Giger)

As for Big Chap, he went straight in the rubbish bin, and would have been erased completely from the historical record... had an unlikely player not intervened. Associate producer, Ivor Powell, rescued the prototype from the scrap heap and held onto the pieces of Giger's failed design for years. 

In 2012, photos surfaced online showing what remained of Big Chap, including the creature's original rib cage, legs and torso. Eventually, the prototype was brought to the restoration experts at Tom Spina Designs, which transferred the original pieces onto a full-sized custom mannequin and created reproduction pieces to fill in the missing gaps. Following the restoration, Big Chap passed into the hands of a private collector, who later brought the prototype to Nolan and the Julien's Auctions team. "It’s in great condition and even with the add-on parts, it’s very well done," Nolan raves. "You stand back and look at it, and you go, “Oh wow, that’s Alien.”

Nolan says that the lucky winner of the Big Chap auction will inherit an important piece of movie history — one that they'll have to care for properly. "It has to be temperature-controlled, and ideally lying flat," he notes. In other words, it's probably best not to use it as your next Halloween costume. "Whoever pays the money for it, can choose to do whatever they wish," Nolan says, laughing. "But if you want to maintain its value and resell it in the future, you'll want the condition to be good." Just remember: in space — and the privacy of your own home — nobody can hear you do your Big Chap impression. 

Alien is currently streaming on Hulu.

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