James Cameron Had To Apologize To H. R. Giger Over ALIENS

Written By: Ken Hulsey
Source: Letters of Note

Yesterday I posted a story featuring a memo from Paramount about actors that the studio was considering for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that I found on a wonderful blog called "Letters of Note".

Today, I decided to 'browse' the site once more, and I can across a real gem from James Cameron, where the film maker eats a real slice of 'humble pie' in regards to his use of H.R. Giger's creation in the hit film "Aliens".

It seems that Cameron figured that since Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox had used the artist's creation in the classic scifi/horror film "Alien" that he wouldn't have to worry about a copyright issues when it came to making any potential sequels. That, however, wasn't the case, at least in Giger's eyes anyway. It seems that the artist was a bit 'bent-out-of-shape' by the fact that Cameron didn't inform him that he was going to use the design again in another film.

Apparently Giger was so upset by this, that he had his lawyer write Cameron a 'nasty-gram' to let him know about it.

In response, the film maker composed this rather classy and honest letter to Giger's representation Leslie Barany explaining that in the haste of putting the movie together he and his staff just plain forgot to contact the artist about using his monster design in yet another movie.

Basically, Cameron figured that if it was cool to use the design in "Alien", then certainly it would be okay to just keep on using it in "Aliens".

Well, we all know what happens when we assume? Right?

Anyway, Giger and his attorney didn't go after Cameron for damages. They just wanted a 'heads-up' next time.

Here is a transcript of the letter, along with a copy of the real thing:


February 13, 1987

Mr. Leslie Barany
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Barany:

I regret that the intense pressure to complete "ALIENS" did not afford me the time to reply to your letter of 3/11/86, which was on behalf of your client, Mr. H.R. Giger.

In that letter you describe Mr. Giger's 'initial sense of disappointment' at not being contacted for "ALIENS" in view of his, quite correct, intense sense of authorship of the creatures and designs. Ironically, it was the production design of "ALIEN", with its bizarre, psycho-sexual landscape of the subconscious as created by Mr. Giger, that initially attracted me to the project of a sequel. However, having been a production designer myself before becoming a director, I felt I had to put my own unique stamp on the project. Otherwise, it would have had little meaning for me a that point in my career, when I had a number of original concepts and creations which I could have pursued, with equal financial reward and an even greater degree of authorship.

I found that creating a sequel can be an uneasy exercise in balancing creative impulses, the desire to create a whole new canvas, with the need to pay proper hommage to the original. Mr. Giger's visual stamp was so powerful and pervasive in "ALIEN" (a major contributor to its success, I believe) that I felt the risk of being overwhelmed by him and his world, if we had brought him into a production where in a sense, he had more reason to be there than I did.

Because 20th Century Fox liked the story I presented to them, they gave me the opportunity to create the world I had seen in my mind as I wrote. I took that opportunity, and enlisted the aid of special effects designers, sculptors and technicians with whom I had worked before which, of course, is a natural course when one must guarantee a schedule and budget.

An additional deciding factor was Mr. Giger's conflicting involvement in "POLTERGEIST II" which unfortunately did not utilize his vision nearly as well as "ALIEN".

I offer all this commentary by way of apology and explanation in the hope that Mr. Giger can find it possible to forgive me for abducting his 'first-born'. If so, there may come a time when we can collaborate in mutual respect on some completely new and original project where the only limitation is his superb imagination.

I am, first and always, a fan of his work (a signed litho of the alien egg commissioned during "ALIEN" is one of my prized possessions).





See Also: Alien Prequel Coming At Ya In 3D! / Monster Uber Geekdome- Ultraman Collages, Playing Cards & Alien vs Pooh / Aliens - Classic Alien Warrior 7-Inch Action Figure / Sigourney Weaver Has No Interest In Alien Prequel / Sigourney Weaver Is Ready For Another Encounter With Aliens / Dark Horse Resurrecting Alien And Predator Comic Book Titles / Aliens vs Predator Requiem (2007)


  1. 'It seems that Cameron's use of the artists design in the classic scifi/horror film "Alien" was just fine and dandy'

    I think the first Alien film was directed by, like, someone other than James Cameron...

  2. Why is james doing this..there is no need to apologize..as that is just the creation ..thanks

    Appeal Letters