Hollywood Remembers Nigeria’s ‘Giant’ Alien, Bolaji Badejo

Charles Ayitey June 15, 2016
Bolaji Badejo models the suit he wore for his iconic role in 'Alien.' Mike Sidthorpe/CNN

It has been three three decades since the death of Nigerian movie icon Bolaji Badejo, but his feat on the international movie scene continues to be highly acknowledged. Beginning his acting career through mere coincidence, young Badeji won favor in the eyes of his agent-to-be, Peter Ardram, not through an audition but at a local pub in London.

It was at a time that Ridley Scott – director of the 1979 classic space horror film “Alien” – was in dire need of an actor to play the movie’s insect-like villain. The slim, 6’10” Bolaji Badejo thus met face-to-face with destiny as he transited from obscurity to be the movie’s breakout star!

Dying from sickle cell anemia in 1992, no one has been able to fit into the shoes of the accidental actor. Fondest memories linger till this day in the hearts and minds of producers and professional teammates who worked with Bolaji. Special effects supervisor Nick Allder clearly recounted their first encounter.

“Ridley walked in with this guy. I thought I was looking at a giraffe… Stood in the doorway, you could see his body, but his head was above the frame,” he mused.

As part of efforts to give his best performance, Bolaji studied T’ai Chi to perfect what “Alien” fansite Strange Shapes calls “the alien’s gliding movement and mantis-like posture on the Nostromo ship.”

Bolaji was born in Nigeria in 1953 to Victor and Elizabeth Badejo, a government communications executive and welfare administrator. He was the second of six children and grew up in his hometown Lagos until his family relocated to Ethiopia in the 1970’s. While in Ethiopia, Bolaji studied fine arts. When the family moved again, this time to London, he enrolled in a graphic arts course and met his girlfriend, Yinka Richardson, who was with him on that fateful night at the pub.

Yinka, who later had two daughters with Bolaji, recalls how he managed to film the movie and continue his studies:

“Bolaji worked hard and immersed himself into the choreography lessons and performing in the film. Even though some days were long and gruelling and he had to make an early morning start, Bolaji never complained. Despite rehearsing and filming for long days over the summer and autumn months, he did not allow himself to lapse in his studies. Bolaji coped well with filming and studying. He was a hard working and dedicated student, who excelled in all he did.”

After “Alien,” Bolaji never took another acting role. Some time after his passing, his brother Boyega summed up his off-screen life, saying:

“Of course he was the Alien because of his physical attributes, but he was not an actor. My late brother was very, very strong mentally, charming, funny, and easy to be with and get on with others … Bolaji did not have enemies; he was humble, generous and entertaining.”

Last Edited by:Deidre Gantt Updated: June 15, 2016


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