First advertised as a “mind-stretching experience,” Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 The Man Who Fell to Earth stunned the cinema world. A tour-de-force of science fiction as art form, the movie brought not only hallucinatory visuals and a haunting exploration of contemporary alienation, but also glam-rock legend David Bowie in his lead role debut as paranoid alien Newton. Based on Walter Tevis’s 1963 sci-fi fable of the same title, The Man Who Fell to Earth follows alien Newton from his arrival on earth in search of water; his transition to wealthy entrepreneur, leveraging the advanced technologies of his native planet; his sexual awakening with the young Mary-Lou; and then the discovery of his alien identity, his imprisonment, abandonment, and descent into alcoholism. Throughout, Roeg coaxed a beguiling performance from his cast, presenting not only Bowie in ethereal space-traveler glory, but also pitch-perfect supporting performances from Candy Clark, Rip Torn, and Buck Henry. TASCHEN’s The Man Who Fell to Earth presents a plenitude of stills and behind-the-scenes images by unit photographer David James, including numerous shots of Bowie at his playful and ambiguous best. A fresh introductory essay explores the shooting of the film and its lasting impact, drawing upon an exclusive interview with David James, who brings first-hand insights into the making of this sci-fi masterwork.
Paul Duncan is a film historian whose TASCHEN books include The Star Wars Archives, The James Bond Archives, The Charlie Chaplin Archives, The Godfather Family Album, Taxi Driver, Film Noir, and Horror Cinema, as well as publications on film directors, film genres, and movie stars.