Myths within modern Hollywood are stories that get passed through generations and generations to come. Ones that you want to be true, but ultimately, become too cool to be accurate. One of them involves the iconic filmmaker behind films like The Terminator and Titanic, James Cameron. The director took on the improbable task of creating a sequel to Sir Ridley Scott’s own masterpiece, Alien. As a way, the story goes- a confident and bright Cameron took a meeting in front of a room full of corporate suits, only writing “Alien” on the board. He then wrote the word pluralized as, “Aliens” alluding to creating the sequel. Finally, he wrote two lines through the S, turning it into a dollar sign. A stroke of genius, one might say.
In his new book, Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron, Cameron creates a collection of his hand-drawn storyboards, covering everything from his early ideas in Avatar to his work on Aliens. During a conversation with CinemaBlend, Cameron states, “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.”
Knowing the risk he was taking pitching the sequel, Cameron found hubris in reliving the moment and all but guaranteed another blockbuster success with his new sequel, stating that he is wiser now. In Hollywood, you sometimes have to be slightly outrageous to gain respect.
Cameron allowed Alien to catapult him to success; as Aliens is a newer, bigger beast than its predecessor, the two opening chapters remain the best in the franchise. The director is now promoting his new book Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron and is working hard on the sequel to Avatar.