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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Alien: Covenant]
Alien: Covenant had quite the body count, but there was one death in particular viewers were waiting for.
Recently promoted Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) had the unfortunate honor of being the first victim of a facehugger, the iconic creature introduced in 1979’s Alien that clings to a person’s face and impregnates them with a Xenomorph. Oram is led to his death by David (Michael Fassbender), the twisted android who is so obsessed with creation that he doesn’t mind killing humans (and wiping out an entire civilization of Engineers) in the process.
Fassbender is truly chilling as David, and Crudup’s Oram plays straight into his hands as the android encourages him to look into the egg holding the facehugger.
As Crudup explains in a conversation with Heat Vision, walking up to that egg on set was quite a challenge, because he is all-too familiar what happens to those who do.
Oram lost his wife and part of his crew, because he made a decision to come to this planet. So what was he hoping to accomplish by going with David into that basement?
You’ve got a character who goes through a crisis of faith, and their foundation is shaken and fractured, and they don’t have the ability to make the best choices with the resources that they have. You want a moment of redemption, and the writers offered that in this moment, where [Oram] has to make a conscious decision about what it means for him to be a loving, thoughtful and passionate person in the world if he doesn’t have this rigid dogma to hold on to. What is his litmus test? Ultimately it comes down to the protection of the people he loves. The crew that now he is in charge of taking care of. So when someone appears to be a dangerous influence, he finds the courage in himself to address it head-on. So that makes it a great moment of redemption and allows me to play right into Michael’s hands as David, because David is the little puppet master there. [Oram’s] moment of rising up ends up being his downfall, but you do have this moment where you think, “I’m so glad Oram was able to resurrect his belief in humanity and himself.”
I hadn’t considered what a great chance of redemption this was.
In the backstory, [director] Ridley [Scott] and [screenwriter] John [Logan] supposed that he had a kind of punitive Pentecostal upbringing that scarred him in many respects, but also gave him this foundation for his belief in God. One of the traditional Pentecostal belief systems, or a sect of the Pentecostal belief system, is the Holy Ghost could speak through you. So you have the symmetry of him actually being possessed at a certain point — not by the Holy Ghost, but by the devil. I just loved that. They quake in church and start speaking tongues and all the things that happen to you when you go through the chestbuster. I really loved the symmetry of all of that. I hope people will take the time and geek out on it, because there’s a whole lot to digest with this movie. Ridley does a great job of creating an entire universe for people to go back to again and again and again and understand the expansive thought that went into all of the choices.
You got to work with the facehugger. What was shooting that like?
You want it to be an actual thing; you want them to have created a facehugger that you get to act with finally. But alas, it is smoke and mirrors, a beautifully crafted piece of rubber that they stick on you and you writhe in agony. Needless to say, approaching the egg was with much realistic trepidation because god damn — I saw the first movie and I know what happens if you go near the eggs, and I think the first take we did, I actually started to approach the egg and I can’t do it and I start laughing, back up and Ridley is like “God damn it!” That was pretty special.
For more from Alien: Covenant, take a look at why the Xenomorph remains horrifying to audiences decades later, this handy primer for what you actually need to know before seeing the latest sequel/prequel and part one of our interview with Crudup.
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