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Auction - 11-Foot Nostromo Principal Filming Model Miniature from Alien (1979)

Auction - 11-Foot Nostromo Principal Filming Model Miniature from Alien (1979)

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Jul-15-2020 10:56 PM

11-Foot Nostromo Principal Filming Model Miniature from Alien (1979) est: $300,000 – 500,000

The 11-foot Nostromo principal filming model miniature from Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror film Alien. The crew of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s USCSS Nostromo were awakened from hypersleep by a distress signal from a desolate moon, and soon found themselves hunted by the deadly xenomorph. The Nostromo, a tug-ship that pulled the massive flat refinery model, is the primary spacecraft featured in the film and is the setting for the majority of its events.

The tug-ship was called the Leviathan in early script drafts and takes its final name, Nostromo, from a 1904 Joseph Conrad novel that was significant to Alien writer Dan O’Bannon. The look of the ship was explored for months by concept artists Chris Foss and Ron Cobb; Foss especially produced a large volume of concepts for the exterior while Cobb focused on interiors. Cobb was focused on function as well as form, and therefore had done some exterior designs as he thought through the logic of his interiors. The producers and director had trouble agreeing on a final design and eventually a large number of the concepts were passed to Academy Award-winning effects supervisor Brian Johnson. Johnson assembled a veteran effects team for Alien and a number of his crew were involved with the Nostromo final design and construction, including Ron Hone, Bill Pearson, Simon Deering, Martin Bower, and a number of others. Working primarily from one of Cobb’s exterior designs, Hone and Pearson built a final prototype of the Nostromo as a small 3-D model, which Johnson had Ridley Scott approve, enabling the team to proceed with construction on the final filming models.

Three scale models of the Nostromo tug-ship were made at Bray Studios: this, the principal 11-foot hero used for the majority of the shots in the film, a four-foot medium model with illuminating engines for rear shots, and a 12-inch model for shots incorporating the large, flat ore refinery platform that the Nostromo was towing. The largest model was the primary construction effort, and was first built with a yellow finish in line with Cobb’s industrial designs. When Ridley Scott finished live-action photography on the film he personally took over filming the effects sequences (underway at Shepperton Studios) and had the models repainted dark gray and weathered extensively to imply decades of deep-space travel.

The Nostromo model is constructed primarily of wood paneling and hand-carved wood forms assembled around a robust steel frame and clad with plastic surface panels and detailing from various pieces from off-the-shelf model kits, a process the model makers referred to as “widgeting.” It follows an overall deep-space aesthetic seen in both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars before it. The symmetrical design features various intake vents, engines, antennae, lights and landing gear.

The model was designed to be shot from all sides and thus could be removed from its primary rolling frame and hung from above, or mounted through steel ports on either side (hidden under plastic cover panels) in order to raise or lower it via forklift. It was outfitted with a lighting system, featuring many tiny lightbulbs fitted in small holes throughout the body, and a CO2 system that would spray “gas” from the hull for certain shots. The lighting system was sometimes augmented with a separate additional rig that could be attached for shots that required it such as ones of the Nostromo landing on the planet, where Scott wanted to see even more extensive lighting.

After filming, the model travelled to Los Angeles to be part of the film’s premiere promotions. It was subsequently stored outside under tarps for a number of years and its condition worsened from the elements. An extensive restoration of the model took was performed by effects house Grant McCune Design (modelmaker Grant McCune was best known for his work on Star Wars) around 2009, led by industry veterans Monty Shook and Jack Edjourian. The team worked from an extensive body of production photo reference to ensure the restoration was faithful to the original build. The intricate work involved straightening and stabilizing structural elements that had become dislodged or warped and recreating missing surface elements, including panels and model kit detail pieces. Dislocated pieces were fitted again, and a number of missing elements were recreated – notably two of the three landing gear, the underside component containing the three large lights at the front, two of the three engine interior detail clusters and various engine flaps, one of the intake vents, the side-panel structure mount cover plates, the front radar dish, and the antennae seen on the ship’s body. The recreated pieces were made by molding existing examples (such as the landing gear and engine details) wherever possible, for the most faithful recreations possible. The lighting system and CO2 system are largely removed from the model and are not functional, though it would be possible to retrofit a new lighting system if desired.

The Nostromo is frequently cited as one of the classic examples of a spaceship in modern cinema, alongside craft like the Millennium Falcon and the Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The historic model comes mounted on its original black steel frame for display, and remains in good, restored condition with wear and aging visible on many components. Further details of the restoration work are covered in a series of videos on Prop Store’s YouTube channel and additional restoration information can be provided on request.

Dimensions: 136″ x 73 1/2″ x 73″ (345.5 cm x 187 cm x 185.5 cm)

Thanks to Collider


"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"

4 Responses to Auction - 11-Foot Nostromo Principal Filming Model Miniature from Alien (1979)


Jul-15-2020 11:06 PM

Mesmerizing piece of art!

I wish I was a billionaire :)

"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"


Jul-16-2020 4:03 PM

That is amazing! With practical pieces like this, it would be nice to see them used in future films. 

Thanks for sharing! 


Jul-17-2020 5:50 AM

Really Nice.... its Stood the TEST of Time

R.I.P Sox  01/01/2006 - 11/10/2017


Aug-03-2020 2:06 PM

Imagine owning a miniature model worth half a million dollars... unbelievable!

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