James Cameron on how his grumpiness ‘created’ the classic Aliens poster

Aliens poster
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James Cameron has revealed how one of his trademark rants became the genesis for one of cinema’s most memorable posters.

James Cameron is renowned for making legendary films. He’s also renowned for being… well, a bit difficult, shall we say. After all, it was the production of 1986’s Aliens which sparked one of the most famous 'T-shirt rebellions’ in moviemaking history.

Now, whilst chatting about the release of his new book, Tech Noir, Cameron has been reminiscing about how his attitude didn’t just tick off his crew, but also led inadvertently to the design of one of the most iconic film posters of its era. This one…

Aliens poster

The poster for 1986’s Aliens is memorable and has stood the test of time, arguably because of its simplicity. The film’s title on a black background is stark and minimal, containing even less visual information than its 1977 predecessor. But that wasn’t originally supposed to be the case, according to Cameron, who remembers the creation of the poster as happening as a result of him getting into a huff.

“There was a funny one-sheet story on Aliens! I did have a strong opinion on that. So I went into the office of the head of marketing for 20th Century Fox, I literally met him on his last day at the office and his office was all boxed up. I was his last meeting before he left the job. He was sitting at the desk and he had this little green plastic frog and he was squeezing a bulb and making it hop around the desk. And I said ‘what’s with the frog?’ And he said ‘It’s my stress frog’. I’m like, ‘okay, this guy is a casualty.’

The head of marketing showed James Cameron a one-sheet poster for the film. It did not go well. “I think you can get it online, a few of them kind of leaked out. And it was this horrible sort of mash-up photography. It looked worse than a Roger Corman one-sheet because, like me, Roger believed in good one-sheets. Not good movies, but good one-sheets. And I looked at this thing and I kind of held it in my hands and I said, ‘oh, let me tell you exactly what I think of this one-sheet,’ and I just slowly sort of crumpled it up [into] a ball and threw it in the corner. And he was working the stress frog. And I said, ‘hnestly, if I had a choice between that piece of shit and just an all-black frame, I’d go with the all-black frame'”

What happened next? “I walked out of the office and he called somebody up and said ‘He wants it all black!’ He wasn’t hearing what I was saying. So if you ever wondered why there was literally nothing on the one-sheet for Aliens, that’s why.”

So there you go. Whilst we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the Fox head of marketing, it seems that he (and his stress-frog) escaped intact, and managed to create an amazing poster on the way (which hopefully got them a pay bump at his next job). Cameron has thankfully mellowed in his old age, and at some point in the future, will be revealing his Avatar sequels, hopefully without having to shout at too many people along the way.


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