James Cameron’s Legendary Aliens Moment Is No Legend

James Cameron’s Legendary Aliens Moment Is No Legend
James Cameron at a digital filmmakers forum during CinemaCon on March 30, 2011. (Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

While they say most myths are based somewhat in fact, almost all of them have been embellished, exaggerated, and evolved over time to be something more than the original story. So it’s honestly kind of refreshing to hear that the long-standing rumour of how young up-and-coming director James Cameron managed to land the sequel to the Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror movie hit isn’t a rumour at all — it’s a fact.

The story goes like this: Cameron walks into a conference room at 20th Century Fox filled with studio executives. He goes straight to the whiteboard, and writes the word “Alien” on it, and waits a beat. Then he adds an “s” to it, making it “Aliens.” Another beat, and then he adds two vertical lines to the “s,” transforming it into “Alien$.” Cameron confirmed the story to CinemaBlend, although he did clarify his presentation was slightly more involved than just drawing on a whiteboard:

“I was sitting with the three producers, and we were in the office of the then-head of 20th Century Fox. And I said, ‘Guys, I got an idea for the title. And it goes like this.’ And I wrote, ‘Alien’ in large block letters. And I put an S on the end. I showed it to them. I said, ‘I want to call it Aliens, because we’re not dealing with one. Now we’re dealing with an army, and that’s the big distinction. And it’s very simple and very graphic.’ And I said, ‘But here’s what it’s going to translate to.’ And then I drew the two lines through it to make it a dollar sign. And that was my pitch. And apparently it worked! Because they went with the title. They never questioned it.”

It’s a simple pitch, but sometimes simple approaches work best, and it certainly did here. Cameron only had two movies under his belt at that point — The Terminator and Piranha II: The Spawning — so to be chosen to direct the sequel to a movie that grossed nearly $US80 ($110) million (which would be about $US300 ($414) million today) is an incredible accomplishment. Or should I say, “accompli$hment”?

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