You won’t believe how James Cameron made Aliens

As Michael Fassbender’s Alien: Covenant hits UAE cinemas this week we unearth the truth behind the 1986 sequel.

Robert Chilton May 14, 2017

The ground-breaking sci-fi movie Alien was a box office hit in 1979 and made a star of Sigourney Weaver who played the heroic Ripley. The film had bags of visual flair from visionary director Ridley Scott and featured one of the all time great movie scenes when the alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest at the dinner table. 

Fast forward a few years and a sequel was in the works, Aliens, with a director in place, James Cameron, who was riding high on the success of The Terminator two years earlier. However, a management reshuffle at 20th Century Fox meant that the funding to shoot Aliens was put on hold. 

Desperate to get the movie off the ground, Cameron met with the stubborn studio bosses. After some initial chitchat one of Cameron’s producers stood up, wrote the word ‘Aliens’ on a whiteboard and delivered his pitch. The studio chiefs were unconvinced and looked at their watches, ready to shuffle out the door.

Sensing this was his last chance, Cameron leapt out of his chair, grabbed the marker pen from his producer partner and marched to the whiteboard. He carefully drew one vertical line through the ‘s’ of the word Aliens to create the most powerful and loved symbol in Hollywood: the dollar sign. The studio bosses relaxed, the conversation flowed and the deal was done to green light what is now considered to be one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

Did you know? 

Sigourney Weaver is 5’11” and has a degree in English from Stanford where she spent some time living in a treehouse. She says of Alien: 'I didn't want to do it. It was sci-fi, and I was a total snob. I wanted to do Shakespeare.”

Ridley Scott has three Best Director Oscar nominations for Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. His Oscar wins? Zero.

The props master used organs from a butcher shop to create the gore that exploded from Hurt’s chest. Famously, none of the cast were told what was going to happen in the scene. Weaver recalls, “All it said in the script was, ‘This thing emerges’.”

James Cameron, director of Titanic and Avatar, is worth almost $700m. One of Hollywood’s toughest workhorses, he once said, “I eat pressure for breakfast.”

Alien: Covenant releases on May 17.