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How a Savvy James Cameron Built the First Great Female Action Hero

James Cameron had written a story around Sigourney Weaver, but 20th Century Fox felt she was too expensive. James devised an ingenious solution: To lie.

James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver on the set of Aliens at Pinewood Studios in London.

James Cameron was back from a vacation to Hawaii and eager to get to work on his next film, Aliens. It would be his first film by a major studio — 20th Century Fox, which had also launched careers of George Lucas after the surprised of Star Wars.

20th Century Fox had built a reputation on taking chances, but for some reason the executives were uneasy about the return of Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in James' sequel.

At the time, it was unheard of for a woman to anchor an action film — much less one rooted so deeply in science fiction. But James entire story hinged on Ellen Ripley's survival in the Ridley Scott original film Alien. He felt she deserved a heroic role.

Sigourney's agent worked at ICM, an agency that represented many of the top actors in Hollywood, including Arnold Schwarzenegger. James devised a plan: If Fox wouldn't move things along, maybe a power agent at ICM could. Luckily, James knew Arnold's agent, Lou Pitt.

That scene is depicted in the fifth episode of BLOCKBUSTER: THE STORY OF JAMES CAMERON — the award-winning "biopic podcast" series, starring The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand, from filmmaker and journalist Matt Schrader.

BLOCKBUSTER is free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and all other platforms. BLOCKBUSTER is winner of Adweek's Creative Podcast of the Year, and earned two Webby Honorees and NYF Radio Awards, including for Best Podcast Miniseries.

James told Lou he was tired of waiting — and he was going to rewrite his script to take Ripley out of the story.

He actually had no intention of doing this, but anticipated needing ICM's help to close the deal with Fox.

"I'll fix this," Lou responded, in Episode 5 of BLOCKBUSTER, free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other platforms.

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