Nowadays, we imagine James Cameron gets whatever he wants without too much argument. But when he was negotiating a deal to bring the ‘80s movie Aliens to life, he had to play a major bluff, and it paid off perfectly.
After the incredible success of the first Alien movie, James Cameron swooped in to write and direct the sequel. The original horror movie in space hinged largely on the performance of Sigourney Weaver in the lead role, and Cameron was assured by 20th Century Fox she was tied in for a follow-up. When it came down to it, though, that wasn’t the case, so the studio and Weaver’s agent had to try and strike a deal.
“I called Lou Pitt, Arnold [Schwarzenegger]’s agent and I said ‘We’re kinda over this. We’ve decided we really like the story and all the Marine Corps characters, and the world we’ve created. And we’ve thought about it and we really just don’t need Sigourney. I’ve created all these characters and my pride of authorship tells me I should go ahead with this and we’ll just cut her out,'” Cameron explained.
Cameron claimed he would get to writing the new version of the story immediately, without the character of Ellen Ripley. But he had a trick up his sleeve. “Did I have any intention of doing that? No, not at all. But I happen to know Lou is in the same agency as Sigourney’s agent, and I knew the second he hung up with me, he would call him.”
According to Cameron, the bluff worked, because a deal was done 12 hours later and he didn’t need to spend a second of his time writing a new script for the alien movie. Sigourney got her money, Cameron got to make his movie, and the world is a better place for it.