AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Nineteen seventy-nine's "Alien" brought us one of the most terrifying creatures in movie history.
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CORNISH: The creepy, slithering extraterrestrial was imagined by Swiss artist H.R. Giger. He died yesterday at the age of 74 after suffering injuries from a fall.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
His friend James Cowan says Giger's work was inspired by his dreams.
JAMES COWAN: He would have nightmares, going through passages and tunnels and this sort of thing. And took his dreams and put them on paper.
BLOCK: Cowan is the owner of Morpheus Fine Art in Las Vegas. He's been publishing Giger's art books for more than 20 years. He says while Giger is best known for designing scary creatures in Hollywood, he was also a very skilled artist with a passion for surrealism.
COWAN: It was his mother who gave him a postcard when he was a little boy of a Dali painting. And it just transfixed him.
CORNISH: Giger specialized in a style called biomechanical art, a concept of fusing human body parts with machines. And it was exactly what Ridley Scott had in mind for his alien when he was shown a Giger art book in 1978.
COWAN: It blew Ridley Scott's mind. And he found one or two paintings in there and he just realized that that was the alien essentially, his biomechanical design, the elongated head and all of these aspects that Ridley Scott and Giger worked on to break up the human form so it didn't look like a man in a suit.
CORNISH: H.R. Giger achieved many honors for his work. He won the Academy Award for special effects for "Alien."
BLOCK: Last year he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. James Cowan says Giger will go down as one of the great surrealists of our time.
COWAN: He has a place in the pantheon of great painters. No question about it. And if you go back to Salvador Dali and all the great masters of Imaginative Art, Giger's right in there.
BLOCK: And Cowan adds that Giger, despite his dark themes, was a kind man.
COWAN: You can't judge a book by its cover. You can't judge an artist by his painting in that regard. He was a dear friend and he'll be sorely missed.
CORNISH: If you're ever in Switzerland there is an H.R. Giger Museum. It houses his paintings and sculptures, and gives a further look into the mind behind the monsters.
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BLOCK: You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
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