Why James Cameron and James Horner had a falling out after Aliens

The legendary composer was promised several weeks to score the film, but last minute edits made for uncomfortable conversations.

Jamie Horner, Gale Anne Hurd, and James Cameron discussing Aliens at Abbey Road Studios in London.

James Cameron had never worked with a composer like Jamie Horner before. In fact, he'd barely worked with any composer before.


The score for The Terminator was essentially made in the garage of composer Brad Fiedel — a major difference from Horner's plans to record the London Symphony Orchestra at the historica Abbey Road Studios in London.


The idea was exciting to Jamie from the start — especially since John Williams had breathed new life into the idea of recording with a legendary orchestra like the LSO.


Horner arrived in London with about seven weeks to go — a reasonable amount of time to write the score for Cameron's 2.5-hour film and get it recorded.


But Horner wasn't getting a cut of the film. He realized it was because James was still shooting it.


Weeks passed, as Horner's anxiety began to rise.


Finally, with about two weeks to go, he had a cut of the film and began writing the music as fast as he could — only to realize James was still re-editing some scenes last minute without telling him.


The story is featured in the opening scene of Episode 6 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.


The confusion led to a moment featured in BLOCKBUSTER in which Horner lays out his problem. The music he's already written isn't in sync anymore. They have to lock the film, or he won't be able to write the music to go with it in time to get it to the musicians to record.


"We'll just get somebody who can," Horner recalled Hurd telling him at the time.


"If you can find somebody better able to do this than me, I'd like to meet them," Horner replied. "I might learn something."


In the end, Horner was forced to write some of the music — including the climax of the film — overnight, before the LSO arrived to record it. It was an unpleasant and stressful enough experience that Horner reportedly vowed not to work with Cameron ever again.


Horner's score for Aliens earned him his first Academy Award nomination for best original score.


You can hear more about the rise of James Cameron in BLOCKBUSTER, free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other platforms.


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