The Xenomorph in Alien is considered by many to be the greatest movie monster of all time. H.R. Giger’s design is iconic and terrifying, and it’s safe to say that the genres of sci-fi and horror wouldn’t be the same without it. But the creature’s now-classic design was just one of several suggestions for the film’s monster. Among the others was a shaved orangutan.
The bizarre reveal was made by the film’s producer and co-writer Walter Hill during a recent episode of the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. Hill himself came up with the idea back when director Robert Aldrich was developing the film, before Ridley Scott came onboard, but thankfully it was shot down before it could gain too much steam. Here’s what he said:
“[Aldrich] said the movie will succeed or fail on the conception of the beast. He said, ‘we’ve gotta come up with something really unique.’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, just off the top of my head…. this may not be a good idea but… maybe we could get, like, an orangutan… and shave it – train the son of a bitch, you shouldn’t see it very much.’ And we were thinking, ‘God almighty.’ That’s one we hadn’t thought of.”
Now, I think it’s safe to say that the movie would always have been more successful with the Xenomorph than with an orangutan. Setting aside the serious animal rights questions that would be raised if they had used a shaved orangutan, a bald ape would have looked ridiculous. Alien is terrifying in part because the creature itself is so scary. A bald primate would look, well, sad. It certainly wouldn’t be scary or otherwordly, just upsetting or possibly funny depending on how it acted. Seriously, just imagine replacing this:
I think it’s safe to say they made the right call.