Filmmaker James Cameron is still out there and hard at it promoting “Avatar: The Way of Water” which just had a successful second weekend at the global box-office and has now passed the $900 million mark with the billion dollar threshold likely to be crossed before year’s end.
Recently he did a feature for Empire in which several major filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson and Edgar Wright all asked him questions about his career. Wright brought up an interesting one which was to ask about the veracity of a famous Hollywood story about Cameron and how he got “Aliens” greenlit.
The story has been that Cameron had scored a big success with 1983’s “The Terminator” and went into a room with executives from 20th Century Fox to pitch a sequel to Ridley Scott’s iconic 1979 sci-fi horror feature “Aliens”.
Cameron wrote the word ‘ALIEN’ on a whiteboard/piece of paper and then added an ‘S’. The film was greenlit then and there as they were taken by the idea and Cameron’s confidence. Well, according to Cameron, it’s completely true, and he goes on to offer some more details:
“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 and 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 turned out right – “Aliens” would not only become known as one of the greatest sequels ever made but a poster child of how to do a sequel, along with earning back nearly ten times its $18.5 million budget. Even better is that the film, bristling with practical effects, still works like gangbusters today.