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James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd on the Making of ALIENS, Studio Notes, and THE WALKING DEAD

Last week we took you into the 30th anniversary screening of The Terminator and the Q&A with Academy Award winning director James Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd as they recounted the trials and tribulations of bringing to life the now classic against all odds. Now, check out a little bit more from the pair as they discuss the trouble they had behind the scenes of Aliens, what it’s like working in the entertainment industry and the advantages of making television over films today.

Moderator Geoff Boucher asked the team about what it was like for them going from The Terminator right into the production of their next huge undertaking, Aliens, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic. While the pair faced many challenges, according to Cameron, there was one that was the most difficult. Said Cameron, “I think one of the hardest things was working in England in a place that was not receptive to a female producer, and it was horrific for me, but it was twice as bad for Gale.”

“[I]t actually started with the first question which was, ‘How can a little girl like you produce a big movie like this?,’” recalled Hurd.

Cameron echoed, “And they meant it.”

What about the state of filmmaking today? Do Hurd and Cameron find it easier? Not necessarily. Said Hurd, one of the producers behind the mega hit television series The Walking Dead, “I mean, it’s – if you’re Jim Cameron you get to make movies, you get to make original movies based on your original ideas! I mean, that’s how remarkable Jim is – Avatar!—you don’t get a lot of that opportunity anymore and often the notes you get from the studio are less character, more boom, and that’s not what interests me so I’ve found that the TV medium, working with AMC, we get to develop characters and in the same amount of time it takes, let’s say a blockbuster is a two year incubation period, we make 32 hours of television.”


Cameron continued, “Some of the best writing is in television now. After you’ve had 10, 20, 30 years of studio notes basically ripping all of the character of the film that you’ve been working on, it must be amazing to actually get to develop characters and do it over time.”

“I mean, the first time we got the notes from AMC, ‘Slow it down,’ ‘Let it breathe,’ I don’t think I ever heard those words before!,” exclaimed Hurd.

Geoff Boucher asked the two about women in science fiction and what would get a movie like The Terminator made today. Hurd explained, “A lot of them are based on underlying material, IP that is very successful. I think Hunger Games, clearly, but I think if someone had just written the script for The Hunger Games and it hadn’t been based on a bestselling series of books, it wouldn’t have gotten made. And, obviously, casting Jennifer Lawrence was perfect casting. You have to really get everything right but, once again, trying to get an original screenplay — especially a science fiction film starring a woman. I think if we were trying to get Terminator made today, without the comic books and everything else that have been spawned since, I think it would be nearly impossible.”

“Yeah, it’s tough because everybody’s ideas seem to be coming from another source,” said Cameron. “Original ideas seem to be pretty rare out there at least in mainstream filmmaking, independent is obviously not, but in mainstream there has to be some underlying IP, a video game, a comic book or something like that in order for it together enough momentum for studio executives to make decisions the way they make decisions which is fear based. They have to fear the movie less than not making it, that’s when they decide to make the film. It’s all fear-based. There’s no sense of ‘I want to make this movie, I believe in this movie.’”

The Terminator celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC.

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