How classic film Aliens was saved by a pen

A short story on how the classic Hollywood blockbuster almost never was, but for a cheap marker pen.

November 3, 2015

The ground-breaking sci-fi movie Alien was a box office 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 for Aliens was put on hold. 

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

Cameron leapt out of his chair, grabbed the marker pen 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.