Bolaji Badejo was born on August 23, 1953, in Lagos, Nigeria, to Victor and Elizabeth Badejo (née Bamidale) as their second child. Akin, Bolaji, a sister Debo, Posi, Boyega, and Deji were among the members of the family, in order of birth. According to Boyega, their mother worked as a “welfare administrator, one-time company owner, homemaker, and hostess.”
Their father, Erasmus Victor Badejo, was born on May 21, 1921, to farmer Gabriel Akingbade Badejo and housewife Phebe Aderibigbe Badejo. Victor attended Government College in Ibadan, a boys-only institution created by British expatriates and fashioned after British boarding schools with the goal of training Nigeria’s future leaders and trailblazers. For a time, the British ruled Colonial Nigeria as a series of adjuncts governed by telephone with local leaders serving as proxies (a system of governance known as an indirect rule), but later administrators argued that it was their imperial duty to introduce the benefits of Western experience to the local population as quickly as possible. As a result, schools such as the Government College were established.
Victor earned his bachelor’s degree in 1952 from University College, Ibadan, and went on to work for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service as a Senior Broadcasting Officer. The British colonial authority introduced radio broadcasting to Nigeria in 1933, and it was initially used to broadcast BBC programs through loudspeakers installed in specified public locations. When the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation was founded in April 1957, it was led by a Briton, but Nigerians soon rose through the ranks, and Victor Badejo became the station’s first indigenous Director-General in October 1963, three years after his nation gained independence from Britain.
The Badejo family lived well, if not affluently, in Africa as a result of his position. The Oba (“King”) of Lagos, Adeniji Adele, was one of the guests at a celebration given for the new Director-benefit. General’s Several well-known Britons were among the regular guests and drop-ins. “In the late 1960s, Sir Hugh Greene, the Director-General of the BBC and younger brother of the famous novelist Graham Greene visited Nigeria and stayed with us in the guest chalet,” Boyega says. “In Nigeria, my parents had a lot more glamorous life, so we were affluent as a family and well-known.”
Bolaji Badejo and his elder brother Akin, Victor’s eldest boys, had the carefree lives expected of the children of a well-known and affluent father. “Bolaji Badejo lived a hippie lifestyle,” Boyega recalls. “From the age of sixteen, I was carefree, driving about in Dad’s sports vehicle. “Extremely cool.” Victor, on the other hand, gave his children more than financial presents; he instilled deep wells of confidence in them. Boyega recalls, “My father was always pleasant and influential.” “That’s how we grew up. We all felt safe to be ourselves and believe in ourselves at any given time.”
Nigeria was engulfed in a brutal three-year civil war in 1967, during which the political machinery swung from coup to counter-coup, switching between democratically elected governments and military dictatorships. Meanwhile, large-scale riots and killings broke out across the country, with Eastern Nigerians, in particular, being targeted. “I was a boy at the time,” Boyega explained, “but I remember my father attending civil defense classes, so when we heard sirens, we all gathered in the storage room, and on another occasion, because of our father’s sensitive position as the head [of the NBC], we heard rumors that federal soldiers were coming to occupy our compound, and we were evacuated to our relatives for the entire day unaccompanied.”
When Achebe (whose relative was an Eastern Nigerian army commander slain in the mayhem) became a target of the warring military groups, Victor Badejo gave him some life-saving advice, according to Chinua Achebe, author of the classic Things Fall Apart. “I was then director of broadcasting,” Achebe explained to the observer.gm, adding that his employees “called me and said, ‘Soldiers are hunting for you.’” They stated that they want to see which is more powerful, your pen or their rifle.’ So I picked up the phone and dialed the Director-General, Victor Badejo. ‘Victor, what is this story?’ I said. ‘Where are you?’ he inquired. ‘I’m at home,’ I said. ‘Take Christie and your children and leave,’ he added.
“I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that Nigeria was disintegrating, that I had to leave my house, leave Lagos, leave my job. So I decided to sneak back into our Turnbull residence and return to work … Victor Badejo, the director-general of Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, saw me on the premises, stopped me, and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And then he said, ‘Life has no duplicate’ and provided further clarification of the situation …At this point, the killings had reached the peak figure of hundreds a week.”
~ Chinua Achebe, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, 2012.
Badejo’s advice, according to Achebe, saved his and his family’s lives. He said, “He was extremely concerned for my safety and encouraged me to leave my Turnbull Road house immediately.” Indeed, according to Nigerian poet and scholar Ezenwa-biography Ohaeto’s of Achebe, “that advice from Victor Badejo, whose high rank placed him in a position where he could receive authentic information, made it clear to Achebe that the armed soldiers searching for him were not interested in inviting him to a picnic.”
Victor Badejo resigned from the NBC in 1972 after twenty years of service, packed his belongings, and moved to Ethiopia with his family. His time as Radio Nigeria’s first indigenous Director-General made an everlasting mark on his fellow West Africans. Diamonds last a lifetime: The tenth anniversary of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME) asks us to remember “the few multi-talented Nigerians who have made outstanding contributions to broadcasting, but who did not have to rely on broadcasting for a living as evidenced by their equally outstanding career outside of broadcasting.” “Such achievements include Archdeacon Victor Badejo,” according to the website, a title he held until his death.
Bolaji Badejo, who is nineteen years old, studied fine arts in Ethiopia. “We are artists by nature from my mother’s side,” Boyega explained, “and my uncle, Omotayo Aiyegbusi, was Nigeria’s Picasso… In the 1950s, he studied at St Martin’s School of Art and worked for the BBC on various key projects.” Victor moved the family again after three years, this time to England, “where he was in charge of a church as the vicar for the following eight years.” “As a man who was taught by the British, I think he desired the experience of living with his family in Britain as a priest,” Boyega continues. According to Boyega, uprooting and traveling was not particularly disruptive for the Badejo children, and instead left them “eager.” “We were like a migratory family on the go, very un-African.”
Bolaji Badejo chose to continue his study in graphic design in England, and it was while living in the London area that he met Yinka, his girlfriend and the mother of his two daughters, Bibi and Yinka. Boyega recalls, “They had mutual friends and were in a similar socioeconomic level, medium top elites.” “I was introduced to Bolaji by a mutual acquaintance in the summer of 1976 in London,” Yinka says. Bolaji made an instant impact on her: “My initial impression of Bolaji was of a very tall, dark, striking, and attractive man with a compelling voice,” she recalls. Bolaji focused on his academics and his new life in England with Yinka at his side. “He accepted and relished the opportunity to live in London.”
Bolaji Badejo was contacted at a pub by casting director Peter Archer in early 1978, who was looking for someone tall and skinny to play the main alien in Ridley Scott’s space-bound horror film Alien. Ivor Powell, the film’s assistant producer, stated, “The guy who put the costume on had to be absurdly tall.” We wanted them to have lengthy legs, particularly from the waist to the knee.”
However, the casting for their Alien had come to a halt. They tried a variety of female models, a family of contortionists, and even Peter Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca. In Dennis Lowe’s documentary Alien Makers II, Powell recalls Archer (referred to as a “choreographer buddy of mine”) telling him, “I was in a pub the other night, and it was a sort of students bar, and I saw this man, and I don’t know what he was, whether he was Somalian… Do you want to see him?” he said. “He was some African, and he was unbelievably tall and thin. “And so he sent him in, and this very shy type of man, who had never been in front of a camera before, he ended up becoming our Alien,” Ivor explained.
“We started with a stunt man who was quite thin, but in the rubber suit, he looked like the Michelin Man. So my casting director [Peter Archer] said, ‘I’ve seen a guy in a pub in Soho who is about seven feet tall, has a tiny head and a tiny skinny body.’ So he brought Bolaji Badejo to the office.”
~ Ridley Scott, Cinefantastique Online, 2008.
Bolaji Badejo must have appeared like a blessing to the producers at 6’10 and rod-thin. According to Boyega, he was always “a skinny long boy” who “grew taller than his colleagues and was still growing until the age of twenty-three.” “As soon as I stepped in, Ridley Scott knew he’d found the proper person,” Bolaji told Cinefantastique magazine in 1979. Scott, who subsequently said that Bolaji “had a figure like a Giacometti sculpture,” immediately gave him the part. ‘Do you want to be in movies?’ I said. “And he responded, ‘Sure,’” Ridley recalled to Cinefantastique. And he was known as the Alien.” For Bolaji, the entire procedure may have appeared not just entirely random, but also perplexingly simple at the end. “It is not every day that one is approached at a West End pub and asked to join a film cast,” Yinka adds. “He was taken aback, but pleased.”
Boyega recalls learning of his brother’s film work only “when he wanted to tell us,” but this was not uncharacteristic behavior: “Nothing was a huge deal for us,” he added, “as you could guess – father seeing the Pope, Queen, Sir Hugh Greene, Haile Sallasse.” Bolaji Badejo didn’t appear to consider his film work to be exceptional or noteworthy. “He was quiet as my father,” Boyega added, referring to Bolaji as “the silent man” by Alien VFX team member Jon Sorensen.
After he was employed, a body cast of Bolaji was made, albeit the mold was made in an inept manner. HR Giger assessed the cast and wrote in his notebook, “Unfortunately, the man has knock knees and an impossible build profile.” HR Giger had yet to see Bolaji in person. Unimpressed, Giger began to consider alternatives. “I proposed asking Veruschka, who is around the same height as myself, whether she would be interested in playing the Alien. The concept appealed to them.”
Several days later, while painting some plaster models of the Alien terrain, Giger was stopped. “I was called to R. Scott’s office at 2 p.m. to check the man, black, approx. 2.10 meters, who is intended to play [the] Alien,” he explained. In-person, Bolaji left a totally different impression on Giger. “His size did not match the image I received from the poor plaster cast, which appeared to be overly fat and formed oddly around the hips. This perception came as a result of the long time it took to build the mold and the fact that he had to stand the entire time.” Giger believed Bolaji was ideal for his monster after meeting him in person. He added, “I will have a fresh cast constructed from the chest down.” “I believe he is our man.”
Bolaji Badejo attended tai chi courses, chatted with Scott about his portrayal, and actively practiced the Alien’s gliding movement and mantis-like stance on the Nostromo set in preparation for the film. “Bolaji Badejo put forth a lot of effort and immersed himself in choreography classes and filming,” Yinka recalls. “Despite the fact that some days were long and arduous and he had to get up early in the morning, Bolaji never complained.” He did not allow himself to fall behind in his studies despite spending long days rehearsing and filming over the summer and autumn months. “Bolaji handled filming and studying well,” Yinka recalls. “He was a devoted and hardworking student who succeeded in all he did.”
“The concept was that the creature was intended to be elegant as well as deadly, requiring slow, deliberate movements,” Bolaji told Cinefantastique magazine. But there was one thing I needed to do right now. I recall kicking Yaphet Kotto, throwing him against the wall, and sprinting up to him. Veronica Cartwright was frightened to death. I turn to go after Yaphet Kotto after flinging him back with my tail, blood in my mouth, and she was magnificent. It wasn’t a performance. She was terrified.”
“Believe me,” Cartwright remarked in 2013, “I didn’t have to do anything when he came after me in that scene.” I just stared at him, and once he uncoiled, all he did was stand there. And all I had to do was look at him, and you think to yourself, “Oh sh*t.” And what he did intuitively was incredible. He exuded a powerful presence. People often ask, “How did you make yourself scared?” I didn’t do anything; all I had to do was stare at him.”
She went on to say, “He was incredible.” “He was Masai,” says the narrator. His limbs, arms, and hands were all visible below his kneecaps. I mean, he was this tall, beautiful man. He had large feet, so they wore white shoes on him all the time. But it was Tom [Skerritt] who remarked, “This poor fellow cannot sit down because of this tail,” and they made him a swing so he could sit down on it. But if Tom hadn’t spoken out, who knows where the poor guy would’ve ended up.”
At the same convention, Skerritt mentioned Bolaji Badejo, telling the audience, “Just to throw in a little bit about the Alien, with whom I spent a lot of time.” Great instincts, and a highly clever individual… In any case, I walked in after they took a break for lunch one day, and these massive stage doors opened, and [Bolaji Badejo] emerged with everything except his head-on. He’s seven feet tall, and he was conversing with a five-foot wardrobe mistress, and they were actually chatting. Obviously, they were discussing something significant. He’s wearing this suit and is conversing with her as they walk, and he’s wearing really bright blue Adidas tennis shoes. And a very showy wardrobe helper wearing a white scarf is carrying his tail. And the wind was blowing, so this scarf was flowing out behind the person holding the tail… I wish I had a shot of that. It was… you’d all be paying a lot of money for that image if I had it.”
Cartwright said, “He did put his foot down when they tried to put the maggots in the top of the skull.” “You’re aware of that shot… They were maggots, and it appeared as if his brain was moving. He responded, ‘Nuh-uh, I’m not doing that!’ since there were red, yellow, and blue maggots.
On the 1999 DVD commentary, Ridley Scott also mentioned that Yaphet Kotto’s raucous demeanor frequently led to some braggadocious and bizarre moments on production, one, in particular, involving Bolaji Badejo. “Yaphet was always terrific as the ship’s troublemaker,” Ridley recalled, “and the day he was to die, he declared, ‘I’m not going to die.’ ‘This thing can’t kill me!’ he said. So I had to have this extended conversation with him, encouraging him to die on that particular day.” When “the day arrived for Parker to battle the Alien, Yaphet came out with it: ‘No f****** Alien is going to beat me,’” Jon Sorensen recalls. ‘No f****** Alien will be able to keep me down!’ Bolaji sat on Kotto and pinned him to the ground. Is it possible for Yaphet to sway him? No. He couldn’t pull the Alien off despite his great strength. He was enraged to the point of rage. Bolaji, the calm one, came out on top.”
Another incident between Bolaji Badejo and Yaphet, according to Starburst writer Phil Edwards, was told to him by Dan O’Bannon. “It was almost by mistake that I ended myself at the Alien production office,” he says. “For the recently released Dark Star, the UK distributor had given me an interview with Dan O’Bannon for Starburst magazine. Although the Alien production was a closed set, the entrée to Dan got me in and kept me from being kicked out. Ron Cobb shared an office with him. Dan and I became fast friends, and I spent several evenings with him at his hotel on Portobello Road, hearing about the day’s filming. One of the most famous instances featured Bolaji. Bolaji struggled to hit his marks with accuracy due to the Alien costume’s difficulty to operate in and limited visibility through the suit, especially because his motions needed to be fairly exact. The Alien set was stressful, with numerous producers worried about money, scheduling, and Ridley Scott, who had shown himself to be no pushover when it came to producer demands.”
“During a particularly difficult sequence for Bolaji, where he continually missed his marks due to the suit and the clock on the money running up,” Phil adds, “one of the producers became irritated with him.” Yaphet Kotto was watching and growing increasingly enraged by Herr Producer’s expletive-laden diatribe. It was time to call it quits. Kotto, according to Dan, ‘physically interfered’ and handed it over to the producer… ‘Leave the brother alone!’ says the narrator. After that, everything fell silent.”
“Bolaji Badejo was about seven feet tall and looked like he came from a different universe anyway, and they made up this Alien suit for him. Ridley was very careful not to have him standing around, drinking tea with us during breaks and because he was kept apart from us and we never chatted, when it came to seeing him as this creature during a scene, it was electrifying. It didn’t feel that we were acting scared at all.”
~ Sigourney Weaver, The Daily Mail, 2010.
HR Giger noted in his diary that Bolaji once “greeted [Mia and myself] with a nice surprise,” however he didn’t go into detail about Bolaji’s present. At other times, he visited Giger “for lunch at the King’s Head,” where he sadly “complained about the treatment by the [Twentieth] Cent Fox people,” who were frequently delaying the production and, according to Phil Edwards, even insulting the actors. Despite his protests, Bolaji spent the next week filming sequences for the movie and making an impact. Giger started, “Bolaji is still in action.” “The scenes are really violent and leave a lasting impression.” When Ridley determined that the Alien would sneak itself onboard the Narcissus, Giger felt for Bolaji, who had been unable to squeeze into the vents for Dallas’ death scene but would now be forced to spend a day and a half isolated within the shuttle walls. He remarked, “Poor Bolaji, [he] will not be thrilled with this lovely, but extremely unpleasant, scenario.”
The Alien slithers out its burrow and sinks to the ground before slowly rising in a fog of smoke on Friday, October 6th, 1978, Bolaji filmed his final scene for the film. He told Cinefantastique, “Bursting out of that container wasn’t easy.” “I must’ve shredded the suit two or three times going out, and the tail would rip off every time I climbed down!” Because the Alien being blown through the hatch would need an actor being dropped and held by wires from a great height, stuntman Roy Scammell played the creature in its final moments.
Bolaji Badejo talked to many magazines throughout the film’s promotional campaign, including Cinefantastique and Starburst. “[Bolaji] came to our London flat, and as I followed him up the stairs, I thought I’d never see where he stopped, he was so tall,” says Leone Edwards, who was the wife of Starburst writer Phil Edwards at the time. Phil decided not to ask him about the incident with Bolaji, Yaphet, and a producer that he had only heard about a few weeks before. “I considered telling Bolaji about the event when he came to our London flat for a Starburst interview but opted against it. “It didn’t feel right.”
“The echo of an image I now had of Bolaji was that he looked calm, a little conservative and restrained -polite and well-spoken of course- and dare I say, trusting,” recalls Leone. What other prospective celebrity would show up for an interview in a somewhat shady upstairs furnished West Kensington flat (with a shared bathroom and toilet!)? For all he knew, he could have been walking to his death. What celebrity nowadays would do such a thing? Perhaps those were more carefree and innocent days. I also believe he was a bit taken aback by the unexpected change of course and his role in creating one of the most memorable cinematic images of the twentieth century.” “I once mentioned to a friend somewhere during the 1980s – ‘The Alien came to my house once,’” Leone recalls. ‘What were you on?’ he asked.
Alien debuted in London’s Leicester Square Odeon on September 6th, 1979, months after its release in the United States. Boyega claims that he “cannot recall the family watching the film together” because the various family members “all had our [own] accommodations because of the locations of our colleges, etc., but some of us went with him to the premiere and ended up in the club Monkberry’s in Jerymyn Street, West End, where membership was for stars including Rod Stewart, Bob Marley, so he became a member and he became a member and he became a member and he became a member “Bolaji was proud of his performance, as were his family, friends, and I,” Yinka says of his work in the film. We did saw the movie together and had a great time. It was a memorable evening.” Overall, Boyega describes the experience as “really great moments.”
Bolaji Badejo then “took a degree in photography,” his demeanor remained “always easygoing and engaging,” and, although expressing interest in reprising his role as the Alien in a potential sequel, he eventually chose reality over illusions of a film career, returning to Nigeria in 1980. “Bolaji returned to Nigeria to work with our uncle, the well-known sculptor, artist, designer, and publisher Omotayo Aiyegbusi,” Boyega explains, “but after two years, he started doing his own thing, and by 1983, he had his own art gallery.” Yinka recounts that she and Bolaji moved when he finished his graphic design studies, and Bolaji immediately went to work for his uncle, who had a successful graphic design firm. Bolaji, Yinka adds, was “a humble man who was pleased to have played a part in the success of the film,” and his ultimate ambition was “to make a difference in the graphic designing industry with his abilities since he was a brilliant designer, full of unique ideas.” “The fact that I performed the part of the Alien, for me, that’s good enough,” Bolaji said to Cinefantastique magazine.
Their children, Bibi and Yinka, were born in the 1980s, and Bolaji continued to curate his gallery. Yinka recalls Bolaji as “jovial, full of life, and nice.” “It was simple to get along with him. He established lofty objectives for himself and worked tirelessly to attain them.” On December 1, 1984, Victor Badejo was installed as Archdeacon of St. Lukes Church Uro, Ikere-Ekiti in Nigeria.
Deji, the youngest Badejo brother, died of sickle cell anemia in 1983, and Bolaji, who had been diagnosed with the condition as a kid, began to succumb to its symptoms as the decade progressed. “In contrast to the widely held assumption that patients with sickle cell anemia rarely survive to adulthood, the median age at death among such patients was 42 years for males and 48 years for females,” according to a 1994 report, Mortality in Sickle Cell Disease – Life Expectancy and Risk Factors for Early Death.
Bolaji Badejo, according to Yinka, “never allowed having sickle cell anemia impact his life.” He made the most of the situation.” Bolaji took ill a few months after his 39th birthday and was sent to St. Stephen Hospital in Ebute Metta, Lagos, where he died on December 22, 1992.
“Of sure, he was the Alien due of his physical characteristics,” Boyega explains, “but he wasn’t an actor.” My late brother was a psychologically strong man who was charming, humorous, and easy to get along with… Bolaji had no enemies since he was modest, generous, and amusing. He was not just my brother, but also a buddy… With the exception of the last child, Deji, who was the first member of the family to die away, we developed companionship as I grew older, something I did not have with my other siblings. He was also afflicted with sickle cell anemia. Although there are only two brothers and one sister remaining, I keep in touch with Posi, my older brother, regarding our father. He discovered a photograph of our father with the Saudana of Sokoto two weeks ago…”
“I only have brief recollections of my father because he died so young in my life,” recalls Bibi Badejo. “I know he was a highly talented person who worked in his gallery as a graphic designer. I recall him playing with me and raising me to such great heights. I recall him driving a green VW Gold with a golf ball-shaped gear shift and the aroma of his cigarettes. I’ll never forget that dad was 6 feet 10 inches tall, and it’s through him that my brother and I inherited our towering frames. The rest is based on my mother’s recollections and creased photographs that my brother and I have treasured near to our hearts throughout the years.”
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much of an influence he made on other people and how they remember him despite having met him decades ago. When I met a fellow lawyer on a case I was working on, it was a great illustration. We’d never met before, but she said she’d only met someone with the surname Badejo once. She went on to describe a tall, lanky Nigerian man who would occasionally assist her around the house (including painting the ceiling!) It didn’t take long for it to dawn on me that she had met and became friends with my father when she was studying law in the late 1970s. They have lost touch since then, but she never forgot about him.”
“At one point, I borrowed one of my father’s classic photographs as a profile image on a social networking platform. My friend’s mother, whom I had never seen before, recognized him right once as the “interesting man she met once at a party who said he was going to play the Alien.” I don’t think she believed him at the time, but we all know it’s true now.”
“It’s a tremendous tragedy that I can’t talk to him about Alien and so many other things now that I’ve grown up and am an adult,” Bibi concludes. That said, it’s amazing to learn about his legacy and the fact that others are still ready to learn about him, respect him, and give me the gift of being able to learn more about him.”