They’re amongst the most legendary characters committed to celluloid, but thanks to mountains of make-up and prosthetics, we never see the faces of the actors who play the cinema’s most famous monsters. Say hello to some of them…
Alien - Bolaji Badejo
A complete unknown who was plucked from his graphic arts studies by Ridley Scott to play the original Alien in 1979 (Peter Mayhew aka Chewbacca also auditioned), Badejo was a 26-year-old Nigerian who met his agent in a London pub and was immediately put up to play the titular xenomorph due to his thin frame.
Standing 6′10″, Badejo studied mime in preparation for the role, but in the end a lot of the scenes Scott wanted him to do weren’t possible either practically or physically thanks to the restrictions of the suit (which cost $250,000) or his body. Shooting the upside-down scene where the alien attacks Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) resulted in a dizzy Badejo and fainting stuntman. Ultimately, ‘Alien’ is his only film credit. A year later, he went back to Nigeria, launched his graphics career and had two kids. A sufferer of sickle cell anaemia, he died in 1992 at the age of 39.
Predator - Kevin Peter Hall
Hall had already appeared in 'Bigfoot And The Hendersons’ as well as various TV roles when he was cast as the villainous hunter in 'Predator’. He wasn’t actually first choice for the role - a monkey and Jean-Claude Van Damme had both shot test footage as the character. Hall appeared as himself as the chopper pilot at the end of the 1987 classic and returned for the sequel three years later. A Theatrical Arts major in college, despite people trying to force the lanky star to play basketball (he did, but never really liked it), he loved ballet and opera and was married with two kids. Always seeing himself as more than just a man in a suit, he once said, “With the Predator it is half-performance and half-dealing with the physical traps. There’s a balance you got to keep inside the suit. You’ve got to keep your character going while dealing with the fact that you’ve got all these wires and FX things coming out of you. It all boils down to concentration and being well-rehearsed.”
After undergoing surgery following a car crash at the beginning of the Nineties, Hall received a contaminated blood sample and ended up being diagnosed as HIV positive. He died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991 aged 35.
Howard The Duck - Ed Gale
Originally, Howard was going to be mostly puppet, operated by several crew members. To carry out various practical actions on set, the filmmakers were looking for someone standing around two feet ten. Little actor Ed Gale - at 3′4″ rejected in his first audition as too tall and then subsequently taken on as a stunt duck - grabbed a camera and filmed himself being Howard behind one of the trailers. Howard was one of the first fully-contained movie suits. “I didn’t have any cables hanging out my foot,” Gale recalls. “I could smoke a cigar. The brain, if you will, was in the butt. It was a technological marvel.” And despite being a flop of massive proportions, the actor has fond memories. “I bought a house thank you,” he laughs. “It made me who I am.”
Predator in 'AVP: Alien vs Predator’ - Ian Whyte
7'1” Welshman Whyte spent 9 years as a professional basketball player in Europe before becoming an actor. The 42-year-old has since doubled for Frances De La Tour in 'Harry Potter’ as well as appearing as an Engineer in 'Prometheus’ and another demonic baddie in 'Solomon Kane’. But he’s most recognisable (at least from a character perspective since obviously you can’t see his face) as the main Predator in both movies in the AVP franchise. He’s since been in the 'Clash Of The Titans’ reboot and has played various roles in 'Game Of Thrones’.
Alien in 'Alien3’ onwards - Tom Woodruff Jr
Special effects maestro Woodruff Jr worked on the original 'Terminator’ as well as 'Aliens’ with legend Stan Winston. It was on the latter movie that he started thinking he would be better in the suit than some stuntman.
Having set up his own FX company, he did just that on the third Alien movie and has worked on the series - and in the suits - ever since. It’s also worth checking out his performance as Gillman in the criminally underrated - and way-scarier-than-it should-be kids movie - 'The Monster Squad’.
Aliens from 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ - little girls
Steven Spielberg went through various ideas for how to portray the gang of short aliens in this classic sci-fi. Initially, he tried an orang-utan on roller skates (seriously), then a collection of marionettes. Neither worked - instead he settled on young girls, many of whom were local ballet students from Alabama where they were shooting. Spielberg thought girls moved more gracefully than boys and the kids spent several months training with a movement coach. At one point, they were even told to move super-fast, while mimes played the technicians (again, this really happened) who moved deliberately slowly to make it appear as if the aliens were all sped up. In the end, Spielberg ditched all of that and simply got his cinematographer to backlight them. The result is eerie, sweet and iconic.
Gort - Lock Martin
Joseph Lockard Martin’s height was reported at anywhere between 7'1" and 7'7" (it was more likely the former) and he was working as a doorman at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood when he was cast as the mountainous robotic sidekick in 1951’s 'The Day the Earth Stood Still’. Martin died in 1959 at the age of 42 and although one of the tallest actors ever, was known to be especially good at playing with children, hosting his own kids TV show during the Fifties. Gort’s costume - the character was alien Klaatu’s laser-eyed sidekick - made him look a foot taller than he really was and was constructed out of foam rubber.
ET - Matthew DeMeritt
De Meritt was 11 and undergoing physical therapy at UCLA medical centre when he was hired to be one of three people (the other two were dwarves) to play ET on-set. Born without any legs, De Meritt walked on his hands and was used whenever the alien was required to look unsteady on his feet. The famous drunk ET scene? That’s him. Since filming, he has drifted away from acting, despite appearing in 'Cyborg 2’ with Angelina Jolie.
He taught English in college and plays wheelchair basketball and is now a marketing writer and podcast co-ordinator for a sustainability company. Remembering the ET suit, he told The Daily Mirror, “I wish there had been a zipper or something in the back. It just went right over my head like a great big sausage skin.”
Sarris in 'Galaxy Quest’ - Robin Sachs
English actor Sachs moved to Hollywood during the early Nineties and landed a role on 'Dynasty’, while also appearing in 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ later as Giles’ nemesis Ethan before essaying the 'Galaxy Quest’ baddie. The son of two actors, more recently he did a lot of work narrating audiobooks and providing voices for videogames. He sadly died of a heart attack in 2013 at the age of just 61.
Engineer in 'Prometheus’ - Daniel James
James also goes by the name of Daniel Twiss (James is his middle name) and was a 22-year-old successful model of five years when he was cast as the Engineer who sacrifices himself right at the beginning of the film. Spending 10 hours in the make-up chair clearly took its toll because he doesn’t have any other movie credits to his name.
Photos: 20th Century Fox/Reddit/Kris Krug/Stan Winston School/Moviestore/Rex/Everett/Getty Images/Columbia Pictures