James Cameron’s Alien III (or ‘How it was Never Going to Happen’)

Sigourney Weaver, James Cameron, and Jale Ann Hurd at the Aliens premiere, 1986.

Sigourney Weaver, James Cameron, and Gale Anne Hurd at the Aliens premiere, 1986.

“I’m wondering if Alien 3 is in the typewriter?” Bobby Wygant asked James Cameron upon the release of Aliens in 1986. “Not for me it’s not,” he answered.

“I think Fox will want to see how this film does,” Cameron continued, “and if they’re still enthusiastic about, or if they become enthusiastic about a continuation beyond the film that Gale and I made then they’ll have to pursue that in their way. I mean find a writer, find a director, because we’ll be on to something else, I think. Some new territory.”

“But if the money were right?” Wygan teased. “No, I don’t think so,” he answered. “At this point, y’know, the way I work on films and the way my wife -who produced this film- works, is we throw ourselves into the picture right from pre-production through the end of post-production. It takes us a year or two, year and a half to do a film, and that means maybe my career will only be ten or twelve films – you can’t stay doing the same things over and over again.”

“[Another sequel is] entirely in the hands of people other than myself. The only thing I can say definitively right now is: from my involvement as a writer, the story was not constructed with an eye toward another sequel. But then, the first one wasn’t either.”
~ James Cameron, Starlog magazine, September 1986.

Wygan also asked Sigourney Weaver about Alien 3. “It took someone as talented -and crazy- as Jim Cameron to come up with a story that was as good as the first one,” Weaver said, “and I would be surprised if it could happen again. And I have a feeling, if it happened again, that Newt would have grown up and that she would be the one to go on and carry the guns, so to speak.”

In 1995 Carrie Henn briefly mentioned James’ ideas, or framework, for an Aliens sequel: “I know that James Cameron had planned to have Hicks, Ripley and me in Alien 3, to have a family-type thing.” Her feelings about that not happening? “Still, life goes on.”

Lance Henriksen also revealed that Cameron had discussed some character beats for Bishop in a potential third movie: “I also remember Jim saying to me [that] if we ever did another one that what he would have done is probably had that character realize that somebody had fooled around with his brain and make him constantly worried that he was going to do something dangerous. And so I thought, ‘Well, what a nice piece of conflict that is.'” Earlier in 2004 he had said: “Jim Cameron […] was talking about doing another Alien movie. He often pondered about what he might do with Bishop, saying that somehow they messed with his brain to make him dangerous.”

starlog 170

Starlog #170, September 1991

As for James’ opinion on David Fincher’s Alien 3? The swift and off-screen deaths of Newt and Hicks, and the pulverisation (and subsequent euthanisation) of Bishop were two points of contention. But Cameron wasn’t completely condemnatory towards the film. “I actually think that Alien 3 is a pretty good piece of work, in terms of film-making,” he said. “Fincher early on showed what he had as a film-maker, and I think the film has some great stuff in it, some beautiful photography.”

“But,” he added, “it’s hard for me to watch, because it feels like such a slap in the face to the people who have invested in the story through the first two films. I understand his reasons for doing it, but I think the best way to do a sequel is to honour the original and be original and creative in your own way. He was original and creative in his own way, but at the expense of the previous film and what a lot of people might have invested in that story up at that time. It makes it difficult for me to watch the film.”

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5 Comments

Filed under Alien 3, Aliens

5 responses to “James Cameron’s Alien III (or ‘How it was Never Going to Happen’)

  1. It’s interesting to read that bit about Cameron’s early reflections on the total output of his work, given how accurate he may turn out to be, and how ironic that at least four of those “ten or twelve films” will be focused on one franchise alone.
    As usual, a great read.

  2. mal

    If James Cameron didn’t want Alien 3 to completely dismantle his fucking stupid “happily ever after” bullshit family friendly ending to a god damned ALIEN movie… maybe don’t write it in the first place?

    It’s like he has absolutely no concept of how horrible of a writer he is. How can you be in such a harsh, fickle business like making hollywood films and not have people point out time and time again that everything you’ve ever written is well below the 5th grade reading level?

    Well, at least they aren’t bringing James back for Alien 8, I’m sure he’d find a way to make it somehow even stupider than Prometheus, although I’m sure Ridley is trying to do just that anwyas.

    • LegionofMarduk

      Why don’t you just shoot yourself in the mouth? The end of ALIENS was PERFECT…Ripley in the first film just ran away from the monster…in the sequel she found enough inner strenght to confront it, fight and win (thanks to the affection she felt for Newt), it was only natural to envision a happy life with Newt as a foster daughter (Hicks wasn’t really into the picture…he would have went on to a distinguished military career or would have died in the next ‘bug hunt’…), the Fincher movie is terrible, it’s an offense to the 80s best SF-action flick and one of the best sequels ever along with the Bride of Frankenstein and the Empire Strikes Back.

    • Uncouth Angel

      Hmm . . . you must be of the philosophy of George R. R. Martin and Robert Kirkman, who seem to believe that making a story pointlessly depressing makes it more “realistic”, “deeper”, and “mature”. There is nothing particularly “realistic” about any of the Alien films, but EVERYTHING about the setup of the third was completely contrived.

  3. John Stephen Walsh

    ALIENS is sentimental. That’s fine, but in the reality of a war situation, Newt would have died, and Ripley would have been told to STFU as the intelligent Marines protected her. ALIENS is a silly wish-fulfillment comic book–fun to watch at the time, but kind of clunky now.

    ALIEN worked so well, in part, because it suggests more than it shows. The characters never learn much about the alien because they don’t have time–they’re too busy just trying to survive the few hours they’re in contact with the thing. So the viewer has to extrapolate.

    ALIENS is to ALIEN what 2010 was to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY–fun to look at, but it answers questions we don’t need answered.

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