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James Cameron Confirms The Most Badass Aliens Story About Him Is 100 Percent True

There are myths in modern Hollywood, stories that get passed around that you want to be true, but you kind of know they’re almost too cool to be accurate. One of those involves James Cameron, the iconic filmmaker behind The Terminator and Titanic, who also took on the unenviable task of creating a sequel to Sir Ridley Scott’s own masterpiece, Alien. The way that the story goes, Cameron – brimming with confidence and his signature brand of swagger – took a meeting in front of a room full of corporate suits. He wrote the word “Alien” on a board. Then he pluralized it, making it “Aliens” and insinuating he was about to up the ante on this planned sequel. Finally, he drew two lines through the S he had added, turning it onto a dollar sign.

Genius. 

We had a chance to sit down and interview James Cameron on behalf of a new book he has coming out titled Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron. In the collection, we get an historical representation of Cameron’s hand-drawn storyboards, covering everything from his early Avatar ideas to his work on Aliens. And during the conversation, we had to ask him, is that Aliens story real? To which Cameron replied to CinemaBlend:

Yeah, it's true. It just popped into my mind in the moment. It was actually on the back of a script, or some kind of presentation document. It might've been the treatment. I can't remember. 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.

James Cameron got a kick out of reliving that moment, knowing the hubris that it took to pitch a sequel to Ridley Scott’s movie and all but guarantee another blockbuster success. Cameron’s wiser now, and as he elaborated to CinemaBlend: 

There's a time in your career to be cheeky. Technically in Hollywood, that's all the time. But I mean, there's a time to be exceptionally cheeky, which is when they don't know who you are yet. There's this constant din and pressure of people wanting to be seen, wanting to be heard, wanting to be hired, wanting to be trusted in. Sometimes, you have to do kind of slightly outrageous things. But do it with a kind of a twinkle in your eye. And I think they respect that, because it makes them think about how they got where they are.

As Jim Cameron says, it worked. Aliens is a different beast than Alien, but those two opening chapters remain the best in that franchise, and helped catapult Cameron to stardom. The director, in addition to promoting the fantastic book Tech Noir, is hard at work on his next Avatar movies. It’s a shame part two isn’t titled Avatar$.

Sean O'Connell

Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.