Having broken out in a huge way with The Terminator, which is widely regarded and heavily lauded as one of the greatest sci-fi action thrillers ever made, James Cameron took the bold step of boarding a pre-existing franchise for his next move, picking up where Ridley Scott left off by seizing the reins on Aliens.
The first installment was a claustrophobic haunted house horror set in space, but Cameron decided to reinvent the wheel by sticking to what he knew, and as a result he only went and delivered another one of the greatest sci-fi action thrillers ever made, one that even landed Sigourney Weaver an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The marketing campaign for Aliens was infamously muted, with the first poster for the movie nothing but a title and a tagline against a black background. Speaking at a press event to mark the release of his new book Tech Noir, Cameron hilariously revealed why so little effort was put into designing the one-sheet.
“So I went into the office of the 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, “OK, this guy is a casualty.”
Then he said, “But I’ve got a one-sheet for you.” And he showed this one-sheet. 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 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, “Honestly, if I had a choice between that piece of sh*t and just an all-black frame, I’d go with the all-black frame.” And apparently what happened was 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.”
That’s exactly the sort of thing you could imagine James Cameron doing, even if he was still only a fast-rising filmmaker at the time Aliens was released, instead of a constantly game-changing director that has a habit of helming the highest-grossing movies ever made.