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24 September 2014

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Film, TV and Animation

Alien in the Roswell film
ET: John's fake alien

I made the Roswell alien

Film of the fake alien autopsy at Roswell convinced millions around the world of Earth's first close encounter. In fact, many still believe it happened. But a Manchester sculptor has ended a ten year silence to reveal that he made the alien!

The now famous Roswell film claimed to show a post mortem being carried out on an extra-terrestrial following an alleged UFO crash in the New Mexico desert in 1947.

John Humphreys
John Humphreys: made the alien

When the film was released in 1995, it created a storm of interest around the world. And now sculptor and model-maker John Humphreys – who grew up in Salford and Collyhurst – has revealed his ten year old secret: he made the Roswell alien.

His revelation is made as a new movie is released telling the true story of the hoax. Alien Autopsy - released 7 April - stars Ant and Dec as the two British chancers  Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield whose film fooled the world. And who makes the alien for the movie? You guessed it!

But was it really a hoax? We caught up with John Humphreys, now a special effects expert in the world of film and television, to find out what really happened:

OK How did you get involved in the original 1995 film?

scene from the Alien Autopsy
Alien 2: scene from Alien Autopsy

"Well, it started when Ray and Gary went to the States to get hold of some unseen film of rock stars. They managed to buy some but then they were approached by a guy who said he had footage of an alien autopsy. At the time they were very spooked – they honestly didn’t know what they were looking at. But the problem was the film was in very poor condition, it was disintegrating. So they asked me if I could interpret what I could see and help them to restore it. In effect, it was a documentary. But what you see in the original 1995 film, the alien, is what I made."

So was it a hoax?

"It was a long time ago, and you’d have to ask Ray and Gary what they were doing. Basically, they explained that they had some damaged film and they needed my help to re-create it. It wasn’t presentable in the form that they had. If you imagine, it was like having pieces of a broken statue and trying to put it together. Whether there was a hoax or not.. well that’s not for me to say. But it was an exciting time, and an exciting thing to be involved in."

And now you’ve been asked to work on the new film Alien Autopsy..

"The problem was the film was in very poor condition. So they asked me if I could interpret what I could see to restore it. What you see is what I made"
John Humphreys, sculptor

"Yes. The film with Ant and Dec is about the making of the original 1995 film. I do appear in it briefly.. I played one of the surgeons in the original film – and I do the same in Alien Autopsy. But what I did was make the alien - again! They asked me last April would I do it. And of course I said yes."

So how did you go about making a fake alien then?

"Funnily enough, I used exactly the same process as before. You start with stills from the film, blow them up as large as you can. Then you make an aluminium armature, which you then cover in clay, and then add all the detail. That’s it in simple terms, but it involves some complex 3-D thinking."

Was it the model that convinced people it was real?

Max Headroom
Max Headroom

"I suppose so. It had to look like an alien. But I suppose it was in the detail of the anatomy that made it look real. In the end, it didn’t look like anything before. "

Where did your interest in model making and sculpture come from?

"I suppose from being a very, very small child, I knew I could shape things. We moved from Salford to Collyhurst to Blackley. And when we were in Collyhurst, there was a lot of clay in the ground and I can remember spending hours and hours turning clay into things. The first time we handled clay at the Royal Academy, it was like riding a bike. I realised I was good at it.. better at modelling than I was at painting which I’d gone there to study. From then on, I concentrated on 3-dimensional work."

So where did it go from there?

"This was in the mid-eighties and I got some work in theatre, working on shows like Beatlemania. While I was there I met some people and we formed a company and started doing special effects. Our biggest success I suppose was Max Headroom, He was meant to be a computerised newsreader but at the time computer graphics were just not up to speed back then. So we got an actor, made prosthetics for his face and hair, fibreglass jackets. The funny thing was we picked up a BAFTA for computer graphics - and it was an actor!"

Vyvyan of the Young Ones
Vyvyan: made his severed head

"I’ve also worked on a number of programmes. I’ve created special effects for the French Lieutenant's Woman, Rob Roy, Dr Who,  Kenny Everett Show and The Young Ones - I made Vyvyan's severed head!"

Finally - do you ever get mixed up with your namesake the BBC presenter John Humphrys?

"Yes. Not long ago, I got sent a letter which was addressed: John Humphrys, Today programme! How on earth did that arrive at my house? Do they shove all the John Humphrys'/ Humphreys' together? I live in Sussex!"

last updated: 27/06/06
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