With the release of the blockbuster sci-fi film Prometheus this past weekend, fans are buzzing about the latest entry in the Alien movie universe. But in 1979, the original alien was played by a Nigerian graphic art student named Bolaji Badejo, in a suit.
Talent agent Peter Archer spotted the slender, 6’10″ Badejo in a bar and immediately thought he’d be right for Alien. Director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Gladiator) had been looking at basketball players for the role, and even considered Peter Mayhew, the actor who became famous for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, but “as soon as I walked in [to the audition],” said Badejo to Cinefantastique in 1979, “Ridley Scott knew he’d found the right person.”
The 23-year-old Badejo was a graphic design student in London at the time, with no professional acting experience. The costume was virtually custom made for his tall slim physique by Swiss surrealist, painter, sculptor and set designer HR Giger, whose work earned an Oscar in 1980. Badejo could only wear the suit for short periods of time, and only when the alien’s entire body was in the shot.
Watch original footage of Badejo rehearsing scenes for his role here:
Scott initially wanted the role to be played by three artists but he couldn’t find anyone more physically suitable for the role than Badejo. Still, he decided to just stick with a stuntman for the more dangerous scenes.
Bolaji regretted that no one can recognize him as the alien in the film but he said prior to the now-acclaimed film’s release, “The fact that I played the part of the alien, for me, that’s good enough. Legally, I’ll be given the opportunity of doing a follow-up, if there is one.”
There were three direct sequels to the 1979 original Alien film, but Badejo didn’t get the chance to resume his monster role. Two documentaries have been made about the production of Alien, but Badejo appeared only as archival footage.