Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Gave Up Hollywood To Open His Own Art Gallery in Nigeria

Bolaji Badejo was a Nigerian visual artist and actor who played the role of the Alien in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, his only film role.

Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Gave Up Hollywood To Open His Own Art Gallery in Nigeria

Born in Lagos in 1953, Bolaji Badejo was the son of the director general of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and a welfare administrator. He first studied in Nigeria, Ethiopia and then in the United States before finally moving to London to specialize in graphic Arts.

Bolaji was discovered in a Soho pub in London by Peter Ardram, a member of Ridley Scott’s casting team.

Was discovered in a bar in London by Peter Ardram – a member of the film crew of Alien (1979) – who felt that he would be ideal to play the title creature as director Ridley Scott wanted to create a monster that looked as if no human could be behind the mask.

The monster was to be long and angular, with an impossible frame that few people would be able to fill. Even though he had no training or experience as an actor, Badejo’s thin, 6ft 10ins body made him ideal for the part.

Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Gave Up Hollywood To Open His Own Art Gallery in Nigeria

On sighting him, casting agent Peter Ardram called up Powell..

“‘I’ve seen this guy in a bar,’ he said. ‘He’s exactly what you were talking about. He’s never acted before or done anything like that.'”

A meeting was arranged.

Standing 6 ft 10 in tall, he was chosen to play the part of the Alien due to his height and “very long legs”

Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Gave Up Hollywood

“As soon as I walked in Ridley Scott knew he’d found the right person,” Badejo said in a rare interview for the French film magazine, Cinefantastique, in 1979.

To prepare him for the role of Alien, Badejo had physical trainers build up muscles in certain areas of his body. He also took up mime classes, learning to move according to Scott’s wishes.

Standing seven-feet-tall in the alien suit, Bolaji walked around the six-foot-seven-inch high set, covered in lubricant and largely blind, playing the villain.

Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Played Alien

“I could barely see what was going on around me,” Badejo recalled in 1979. “except when I was in a stationary position, while they were filming. Then there were a few holes I could look through… It was terribly hot… I could only have it on for about 15 or 20 minutes at a time. When I took it off, my head would be soaked.”

“Alien” was sold with the catchphrase “In space no one can hear you scream.” Fittingly the actor in the suit, Bolaiji Badejo, was largely silent in his part in one of the 20th century’s most celebrated films.

Bolaji Badejo: The Nigerian Giant Who Gave Up Hollywood To Open His Own Art Gallery in Nigeria
Alien movie poster

The movie was released in May 25 of the same year, initially many people — including the actors — thought the movie wasn’t going to make waves. Smashing their expectations, the film went on to make over $100 million at the box office from a $11 million budget. It also won an Academy Award for Allder, Giger and their team for Best Visual Effects.

Badejo never returned for the Alien sequels, which used puppetry and later animation instead of suit performers; the original was his only film credit.

“I wonder if Bolaji knew how important the role was… Perhaps he did after the event. I doubt it at the time.” Powell said.

His family revealed that he returned to Nigeria in 1980 and began running his own art gallery in 1983.

Bolaji died from sickle cell anaemia at the age of 39, leaving behind two children.

Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

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