You know their characters, but you don’t know their faces. The nature of any great science fiction, fantasy or horror movie often requires actors to make radical changes to their appearance to inspire feelings of terror, disbelief and wonder. Say hello to the real actors behind some of the weirdest, freakiest and most wonderful movie villains, monsters, robots and ghouls.
Xenomorph, Alien (1979)
The Man: Bolaji Badejo
The absolute horror that is the 7-foot Xenomorph from the Alien series was the brainchild of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, whose “biomechanical” aesthetic changed the game for what extraterrestrials should be on film. This weaver of nightmares was famed for even using real animal bones in many of his designs.
Desperate to find the perfect body type to play his one-of-a-kind monster, director Ridley Scott decided to cast unknown Nigerian student Bolaji Badejo, who was as skinny as he was tall, and managed to beat out Peter Mayhew (Star Wars’ Chewbacca) for the role. Badejo studied mime to create a believable and sinister range of motion, which was no easy feat considering he wore a latex suit with pieces for the ribcage, legs, and tail‚ each attached separately with wires. There were two version of the banana-shaped head Badejo wore: a non-mechanical version for action scenes and an articulated one designed by Carlo Rambaldi for effects shots.
Darth Vader, The Original Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
The Man: David Prowse
The man behind this iconic mask comprised of two elements: the voice, provided by James Earl Jones, and the body by David Prowse. Prowse, a British bodybuilder, caught George Lucas’ eye when he appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and Lucas asked Prowse to choose between the wookiee Chewbacca, or the villainous Darth Vader. In Prowse’s words, “people will always remember the villain.” Great call, David Prowse.
Playing The Greatest Villain of All Time was no mean feat: the quilted leather suit weighed 40 pounds. Breathing would fog up the mask, while sweat would pour down the bottom of the mouthpiece, requiring Prowse to remove it every few minutes.
Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th VII, VIII, IX, and Jason X (1988-2002)
The Man: Kane Hodder
Jason Voorhees was brought to live from Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan by Kane Hodder, a veteran stuntman with some serious anger issues. Hodder quickly became a fan favourite in the genre for bringing the hockey-masked killer to life and giving him a
personality onscreen – which, let’s be honest, is pretty impressive if you don’t have facial expressions or a voice to fall back on. Hodder also laid down several concrete rules for the character, such as Jason will never run after his victims, he will never hurt children or animals, and, in the case of Jason X, Jason will never, ever float!
Michael Myers, Halloween (1978)
The man: Nick Castle
John Carpenter’s low-budget 1978 slasher classic Halloween helped pave the way for bad guys like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Ghostface with the unforgettable appearance of the film’s silent psychotic villain—and future franchise star—Michael Myers. Carpenter changed the game of the typical slasher film by adding a heavy psychological aspect to the killer. 40 years after making horror history, Castle came full circle, agreeing to reprise his role as Michael Myers in the 2018 Halloween sequel.
The Predator, Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990)
The man: Kevin Peter Hall
Occupying the same cinematic universe as Badejo’s Xenomorph is the equally iconic Predator. Playing this alien huntsman required not only height, but a muscular build and a lot of athletic ability. Enter Kevin Michael Peters, a former college basketball star. Peters went on to play the Predator in both the 1987 original and its 1990 sequel, Predator 2. Peters tragically lost his life to aids in 1991 after contracting the disease from an infected blood transfusion.
Star Wars (1977 – Present)