James Cameron Confirms Legendary Tale of “Aliens” Pitch Meeting

A high concept for the ages

James Cameron
'Aliens' Producer James Cameron with prop from the movie, July 16, 1986 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.

Most Hollywood pitch meetings take place under the radar, as innocuous as any other business meeting. Over the years, though, a few have achieved legendary status — some for outlandish claims, others for the larger-than-life behavior of the people involved. One such legend surrounds a classic science fiction film made in the 1980s which has the distinction of being considered the rare sequel that’s as good as — if not better than — its predecessor.

That film is Aliens, where James Cameron — fresh from making The Terminator — offered his own take on some of the most iconic cinematic extraterrestrials ever, and helped cement Sigourney Weaver’s place in action-star territory.

This month saw the release of Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron, a new book by the filmmaker looking back on the creative process that has informed his films to date. And in an interview at Cinemablend to promote the book, Cameron clarified just what happened at the pitch meeting that helped get him the job directing Aliens.

“It just popped into my mind in the moment,” Cameron recalled in the interview. He was in a meeting with producers at 20th Century Fox when this all took place. “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.” From there, he explains, he went on to explain that this reflected the way the sequel would deal with “an army” of aliens.

Cameron’s next step was even bolder. “And I said, ‘But here’s what it’s going to translate to.’ And then I drew the two lines through [the ‘S’] to make it a dollar sign. And that was my pitch. And apparently it worked!” As film history goes, it’s one of the boldest origin stories imaginable.

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