James Cameron has confirmed that the urban legend surrounding how he pitched Aliens to 20th Century Fox is indeed true. If you’ve somehow missed it, the legend goes something like this. Apparently, he managed to get the film greenlit by writing the word “Alien” on a whiteboard then adding the letter “S” to the end before turning it into a “$”.
It sounds like one of those apocryphal stories, a little like the exam that asks the student ‘what’s the definition of bravery?’ to which they answer ‘this’ and receive an A+, but it’s apparently true. Cameron confirmed as much during an interview with CinemaBlend, although a few of the details have been muddied.
“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,” Cameron explained. “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,” he continued. “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.'”
“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,” he finished. “And that was my pitch. And apparently, it worked! Because they went with the title. They never questioned it.”
Ever the visionary, Cameron ended up being right about Aliens performance at the box office. The science fiction movie earned $131.1–183.3 million at the box office, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 1986. The action movie was also highly regarded critically, even managing to earn Sigourney Weaver an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.