×

Design Team Helps Ridley Scott Realize His Scary Vision for ‘Alien: Covenant’

Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” released by Fox on May 19, marks a return to the sheer terror of the sci-fi franchise’s roots, which started 38 years ago with “Alien.”

The task of coming up with a look that could satisfy the expectations of fans of the seven earlier films (including two mash-ups with the “Predator” franchise) fell to production designer Chris Seagers and a team of concept artists, which had to execute the descriptions in the script.

Australian concept artist Dane Hallett worked alongside fellow concept artist Matt Hatton to produce more than 600 images — conjuring alien eggs, facehuggers, the classic xenomorph and the franchise’s newest monster, Neomorph.

“You’re working in the dark, fumbling around and doing your best to make sure it’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done,” Hallett says. “Next thing you know you’re eight months in without a day off, and you say, ‘Wow, I hope that went well.’”

With Seagers knee-deep in world building, Hallett collaborated with set decorator Victor Zolfo. The team frequently referenced the work of the late Swiss painter H.R. Giger, whose illustrations inspired the alien in the original 1979 film.

The pair worked with the creature effects team, led by creature design supervisor Conor O’Sullivan. Hallett says the teams fed off each other. “We would go to their workshop and see what they were creating and then draw what it might look like if it was dissected, cut up or mutilated,” he says. “In turn, they would see what we were drawing and build things off of our concepts. We cross-pollinated in a way to make everything as evil as possible.”

Meanwhile, homing in on the Covenant spaceship and landing craft, concept artist Steve Burg went through multiple 2-D and 3-D iterations. “Ridley [Scott] wanted to find a new angle but take things back to the original feel of ‘Alien,’” Burg says.

A significant amount of the ship was built, including full-size sets for the control room, the bay, the hibernating pods and a number of creepy corridors. Shooting took place over 74 days at Fox Studios Australia and locations in Milford Sound, New Zealand. In concept, the Covenant spans more than a kilometer in length, divided into three sections, with a crew and 2,000 cryogenically sleeping passengers.

“We sought to demonstrate the feeling of functionality, but there also has to be a fantastical component,” Burg notes. “You want it to be gritty and real, but you want the audience to be impressed by its scale.”

More Artisans

  • On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los

    On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los Angeles in Second Quarter

    Held down by a lack of soundstage space, total on-location filming in greater Los Angeles declined 3.9% in the second quarter to 8,632 shoot days, permitting agency FilmLA reported Thursday. “Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity,” said FilmLA president [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content