H.R. Giger, Influential ‘Alien’ Designer, Dies at Age 74

by  in Movie News Comment
H.R. Giger, Influential ‘Alien’ Designer, Dies at Age 74

H.R. Giger, the renowned Swiss artist whose Alien creature and set designs terrified, fascinated and inspired generations of fans and filmmakers, died Monday in a Zurich hospital from injuries sustained in a fall, Swissinfo reports. He was 74.

Famed for highly detailed, and frequently shocking, works that merged human and machine, eroticism and horror, Hans Rudolf Giger had a lifelong obsession with sex and death that found little appreciation in his native rural Switzerland. But in the worlds of music and film, he discovered eager audiences.

A surrealist painter, sculptor and furniture and set designer, Giger’s distinctive work appeared on such album covers as Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery and Debbie Harry’s Koo Koo, but the artist is best remembered for his contributions to film. His 1977 art book Necronomicon caught the eye of Alien director Ridley Scott, who hired Giger to design, among other elements, “The Derelict” spacecraft, “The Space Jockey” and the iconic Alien itself. He was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for Best Achievement for Visual Effects for its work on the film.

A director himself, with a half-dozen documentaries to his credit, Giger also worked on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unproduced adaptation of Dune, and such films as Alien 3, Poltergeist II, Species, Prometheus and Batman Forever, for which he created a radically different design for the Batmobile that was never used. However, as The Associated Press notes, Giger found himself frequently frustrated by the Hollywood production process, and eventually disavowed most of his work for film.

Giger’s influence reached beyond the screen, with his biomechanical paintings and sculptures embraced by tattooists, fetishists and horror aficionados, to say nothing of fellow artists. In 1992, opened the H.R. Giger Bar in Chur, Switzerland, modeled primarily after his designs for Alien. There were additional locations Tokyo, New York City (in the now-closed Limelight) and Gruyères, Switzerland, but only the two Swiss bars remain.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its popularity, Giger’s work was never widely accepted by critics nor displayed in established art galleries. But in 1998, he purchased the Château St. Germain in Gruyères and opened the H.R. Giger Museum.