Behind the Mask: The Faces Behind Some of Sci-Fi's Greatest Characters

Saturday, 15 November 2014 - 8:39AM
Star Wars
Saturday, 15 November 2014 - 8:39AM
Behind the Mask: The Faces Behind Some of Sci-Fi's Greatest Characters
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The nature of science fiction often means that actors must take up completely different forms in order to play their characters, but we rarely get to see who is behind the mask. Over the years, much of the work by these actors goes unnoticed, their characters and costumes instead taking the limelight. But with the likes of Fox pushing for Andy Serkis to get an Oscar nomination, it looks like these character performers are starting to get more recognition.


In honor of these great actors, here are the faces behind some of science fiction's best characters.


1. Bolaji Badejo - Alien (1979)

Nigerian Student Bolaji Badejo as Ridley Scott's Alien

(Credit: Fox)

Bringing H.R. Giger's terrifying Xenomorph to life for Ridley Scott's 1979 'Alien' was no small feat. Quite the opposite in fact. The Xenomorph's long, slender frame required an actor of slight build, but significant height. At 7ft 2in tall, Nigerian student Bolaji Badejo was perfect for the role, so perfect, in fact, he managed to beat out Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew for the opportunity to don the Xenomorph suit. Playing a Xenomorph was a gruelling job, though. The latex suit and mechanical head meant that Badejo could stay in costume for 20 minutes at a time, and the fact that the set's ceiling was on 6ft 6in made life even more difficult. Here's a clip of Badejo in action:



2. Kevin Peter Hall - Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990)

Kevin Peter Hall Played Predator Twice

(Credit: Stan Winston School of Character Arts)


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, who had just secured the role of larger than life Harry in 'Harry and the Hendersons'. 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.



Haruo Nakajima - Godzilla (1954 and beyond)

Haruo Nakajima in the iconic Godzilla suit (1954)

When many people associate a name with the original Godzilla movies, it tends to be the character's creator, Tomoyuki Tanaka, who rightly rises to the top of the list. However, Haruo Nakajima is a name that will forever be up there with the most important in Godzilla's history. Renowned as one of the best suit actors of all time, Nakajima played Godzilla for almost 2 decades starting with the very first movie in 1954 and ending with Godzilla vs Gigan in 1972.


Haruo Nakajima Suited Up for Godzilla 1954

(Credit: Toho)

Nakajima donned the iconic Godzilla suit a dozen times, but his work was not limited to just one monster. Throughout his career, Nakajima also suited up to play a host of other legendary monsters including, King Kong, Mothra and Rodan.



4. Brigitte Helm - Metropolis (1927)

Brigitte Helm taking a break from filming as the robot in Metropolis

Brigitte Helm in full costume on the set of Metropolis

(Credit: Paramount)


One of the earliest and most memorable examples of suit acting, Brigitte Helm's performance as Maria and her robot double on Fritz Lang's epic, Metropolis, will forever be a cherished piece of sci-fi history. At just 18, this was Helm's first ever acting role and undoubtedly her most gruelling. To create the robot's suit, the special effects artists on Lang's film first took a plaster cast mould of Helm from head to toe. Then, using a material not too dissimilar from modern day wood-filler, a costume that was both lightweight but metallic in appearance, was created. Though it could be considered cutting edge for its time, Helm's costume was still a nightmare to wear and the actress received countless cuts and bruises when working in it. It was worth it, though. After her performance in Metropolis, Helm went on to become one of the darlings of German cinema between, starring in more than 30 films over a short 10 year career.



5. David Prowse - Star Wars Episode IV-VI (1977 - 1983)

David Prowse cuts an imposing figure as Darth Vader

(Credit: LucasFilm)


Filling the boots of the most intimidating character in all of science fiction is no easy job, luckily David Prowse was up to the task of becoming a Dark Lord of the Sith. A 6ft 6in British weightlifting champion, Prowse cut an imposing figure at his audition for a role on George Lucas's Star Wars. In fact, Prowse was so imposing that he was offered a choice of two roles on the movie; Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Stating that "Everyone remembers the villain", Prowse immediately turned down the Wookie role in favor of becoming Darth Vader. This match made in heaven wouldn't last much beyond the end of Return of the Jedi, though. Prowse and LucasFilm would eventually enter into a lengthy war of words, with Prowse seemingly unhappy over being misinformed about whose voice would be used for the role. This dispute became so heated that Prowse was banned from all Star Wars related events.


6. Doug Jones - Pans Labyrinth (2006) and Hellboy (2004)...and much more

Doug Jones as Hellboy's Abe Sapien


It's testament to Doug Jones's talent that he is the go-to choice for character acting of one of the greatest character designers in modern cinema history. Guillermo del Toro has never shied away from praising Jones, a one-time mime actor who is now best known for playing Abe Sapien in del Toro's Hellboy movies. Jones's tall, slender figure and mime abilities lent themselves perfectly to what have been some incredibly tricky roles. 


Doug Jones as Fauno in Pan's Labyrinth


2 years after playing Abe Sapien, del Toro would call upon Jones to play both Fauno and the Pale Man in his hauntingly beautiful Pan's Labyrinth. In 2008 Jones reprised his role as Abe Sapien in Hellboy 2, and if Hellboy 3 ever happens (fingers crossed), you can be sure to see Jones donning those blue prosthetics once more. Jones also played the Silver Surfer in Fox's rather unfortunate Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but let's not let that sully this conversation.


Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels - Star Wars (1977 - Present)

Kenny Baker as R2D2

If David Prowse brought the menace to the Star Wars trilogy, then Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels brought the comedy. As R2-D2 and C-3PO, Baker and Daniels worked their way into the hearts of (almost) every Star Wars fan on the planet. The comic duo are are arguably more a part of Star Wars than even Luke Skywalker or Han Solo could claim to be, but Baker and Daniels enjoy rather limited fan recognition. Baker has, over the years, spent hours in the confines of R2-D2's shell and he has often said that the beloved Astromech Droid has become a huge part of his life.


Anthony Daniels as C3PO

(Credit: LucasFilm)

Both Daniels and Baker count themselves in that exclusive and incredibly small group of actors who have appeared in every single Star Wars movie to date, and that streak is set to get extended with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens next year.


This is not meant to be an extensive list, more a compilation of some of my favorite characters from science fiction. Peter Mayhew came close to making it on here, but for the sake of brevity, I opted to limit the list to 7. Plus, I wanted to save room to shatter your illusions of the bad-ass bounty hunter Boba Fett with this image below:


Boba Fett's Nerdy Stunt Double!


This is of course not Jeremy Bulloch who played the Mandalorian in the original movies, but it is, instead, a stand-in actor shooting scenes for the remastered versions of the original trilogy.

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