James Cameron's career as a director is only matched by that of his career as a writer, and during the 80's he was crushing it with both. One of the biggest testaments to that point is the fact that he landed two high profile gigs at the same time, and they were pretty big deals too. Both Aliens and Rambo: First Blood Part II landed on Cameron's doorstep, and he only had a couple of months to complete both. So what's a young and talented writer to do in order to keep two separate worlds straight? In Cameron's case, it was all about the desk he was writing at.
EW picked up on an interview with the iconic writer / director, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Aliens. As part of one of the special features on this new Blu-ray re-release of Cameron's popular sequel, he explains how he crafted the sci-fi franchise that helped solidify his career as a hit maker, alongside the first sequel to First Blood, which would eventually spur on the creation of the Rambo films. He told the story about how he kept the worlds of Ellen Ripley and John Rambo separate thusly:
So I wound up getting two writing gigs the same day. One was Rambo: First Blood Part II and the other one was Alien 2. Like I'd gone in on the meetings and I wound up getting the phone calls the same morning. So I took both jobs and I had a three month period to write Rambo and what became Aliens. So what I did was I got a desk for each script. I put one in the bedroom and one in the living room. That way when I moved from one desk to the other, all the notes and papers and everything were right where they were supposed to be.
Of course, that's not the full story. Not only did James Cameron hop between different desks to write Aliens and Rambo: First Blood Part II, he also listened to different types of music while writing each film. We're going to assume that Cameron was listening to something operatic and very "end of the world" sounding when he wrote his sequel to Ridley Scott's sci-fi opus, while he probably complimented Rambo: First Blood Part II with some big, rockin' tunes that sound like audio ass being kicked.
So what did this method of madness get James Cameron? A script / directing gig for Aliens, and a script that would eventually be replaced in the case of Rambo: First Blood Part II. As if this wasn't enough excitement, there was a third film in the mix at this time, and another desk that Cameron forgot to mention he was working at, as he was also prepping / re-writing The Terminator at this exact same time. That's right, some how James Cameron forgot to mention that while Ellen Ripley's adventures were going on in one corner, and John Rambo's in another, the T-800 was coming online for the first time at a third location. Talk about a crowded house.
We don't know how, or even to what extent James Cameron could keep sane while working on three different projects that became classics in their own right, but what we do know is that his methods worked perfectly. All three films: Aliens, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and The Terminator would go on to help shape the blockbuster decade that was the 1980's, as well as put Cameron on the map with a huge, flashy pin. Maybe this is how and why he's delayed the Avatar sequels for so long, as his process has probably expanded to the point where each film has its own skyscraper of development, with himself and his writers crafting Jake Sully's next adventures at breakneck pace.
For now though, we have the 30th anniversary Blu-ray of Aliens to partake in, which is currently available for purchase.