James Cameron Confirms a Long-running Rumour About the ‘Aliens’ Pitch

As part of the publicity machine for his new movie, Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron has been making the rounds of the media. In the process of getting people excited about going back to Pandora to see Jake Sully and Neytiri have more adventures, he has confirmed a long-running rumor about his original pitch for his 1986 movie, Aliens.

Cameron had just finished making The Terminator, which came out in 1983 and got a lot of attention and good reviews. As a result, he was in a room with executives from 20th Century Fox and asked to pitch a story idea for a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien, which was a quiet, thoughtful, and legendary sci-fi horror movie.

James Cameron

The story that went around was that Cameron, as brave and sure of himself as ever, stood in front of the suits and wrote “ALIEN,” then added an “S,” and then drew two lines down the “S” to make a dollar sign. Even funnier is the fact that he was told not to do the project in the first place by another producer, who said that if it worked, he wouldn’t get any credit for it and if it didn’t, he’d get all the blame.

Empire sat James Cameron down and gave him a list of questions from other A-listers like Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson, Harrison Ford, and Edgar Wright. This was part of a feature on Cameron. Wright asked Cameron if the story, which was thought to be a Hollywood urban legend, was true. Cameron said, “Yes, it is true.”

I had lunch with a bigshot producer when I was About to start Aliens who said, “This is a no-win for you. If your movie’s good, Ridley will get the credit. If it’s bad, it’s all you. It’s a career-ender.” I said, “Yeah, buuuuuut… I like it.” I was maybe a dumbass fanboy, but I could see it so clearly in my head that I just had to go make it. And yes, it’s true. I was in a meeting with the studio head and the executive producers, and I turned my script over on the blank side of the last page I wrote ALIEN. Then I drew an S on the end. Then I drew two vertical lines through the S and held it up to show them. Maybe it was just Pavlovian conditioning when they saw the $ sign connected closely to the word ‘Alien’. Or maybe it was the confidence I projected. But they said yes.

Cameron’s prediction about his movie came true: it became known as one of the best sequels ever made, something Cameron would do again with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and it made almost 10 times its budget back, with $18.5 million becoming $180 million worldwide. Even now, the special effects in the movie still look good, and Cameron still works with the actress who played the lead, Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is in both Avatar and The Way of Water.


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