Everyone knew that Cameron had written a treament for Alien 2 that nobody would touch because Alien was not a massive financial success and so a sequel was not on the cards.
He had been typing away words such as "aliens did this and aliens did that"
- Gordon Carroll: “[James] Cameron was young. He had just directed Terminator. Cameron had called a meeting to discuss his “next project.” Everyone knew Cameron had written a treatment for Alien 2 that nobody would touch because Alien was not a massive financial success. Alien 2 was
not on the table. We expected a professional pitch from Cameron, an
outline and a treatment of what he had in mind with a cursory budget;
perhaps a couple assistants to run a slide show. Instead Cameron walked
in the room without so much as a piece of paper. He went to the chalk
board in the room and simply wrote the word ALIEN. Then he added an ‘S’
to make ALIENS. Dramatically, he drew two vertical lines through the
‘S’, ALIEN$. He turned around and grinned. We greenlit the project that
day for $18 million.”— (told by Gordon Carroll, Exec Producer of Aliens in the book “Hello He Lied,” (1997) by Lynda Obst but doesn't appear to be in a published copy so what is going on?)
- James Cameron: Yeah, it's true. It just popped into my mind in the moment. It was actually on the back of a script, or some kind of presentation document. It might've been the treatment. I can't remember. I was sitting with the three producers, and we were in the office of the then-head of 20th Century Fox. And I said, ‘Guys, I got an idea for the title. And it goes like this.’ And I wrote, ‘Alien’ in large block letters. And I put an S on the end. I showed it to them. I said, ‘I want to call it Aliens, because we're not dealing with one. Now we're dealing with an army, and that's the big distinction. And it's very simple and very graphic.’ And I said, ‘But here's what it's going to translate to.’ And then I drew the two lines through it to make it a dollar sign. And that was my pitch. And apparently it worked! Because they went with the title. They never questioned it. (https://www.cinemablend.com/interviews/james-cameron-confirms-that-the-most-badass-aliens-story-about-him-is-100-percent-true)
- Q: Was calling it Aliens your idea?
Cameron: It's funny. it was very much like... I don't know Dan O'Bannon, but I read an interview with him that said he was typing away one night at four o'clock in the morning, and he was writing , 'the alien did this, the alien did that," and he realised that the word "alien" stood out on the page. it was very much like that for me on this film. I was writing away and it was "aliens this and aliens that" and it was just right. I was succinct. it had all the power of the first title, and it also implied the plurality of the threat. It also implied, of course, that it's a sequel, without having to say "Alien II"... (L'Ecran Fantastique/ Science Fiction Film Making In the 1980s)
Edgar Wright: Did you have any trepidation taking on the sequel to Alien? And is the story of your pitch meeting for Aliens true, where you wrote “Alien” on a whiteboard, added an “s” and then turned the “s” into a dollar sign?
Cameron: I had lunch with a bigshot producer when I was about to start Aliens who said, “This is a no-win for you. If your movie’s good, Ridley will get the credit. If it’s bad, it’s all you. It’s a career ender.” I said, “Yeah, buuuuuut... I like it.” I was maybe a dumbass fanboy, but I could see it so clearly in my head that I just had to go make it. And yes, it’s true. I was in a meeting with the studio head and the executive producers, and I turned my script over and on the blank side of the last page I wrote ALIEN. Then I drew an S on the end. Then I drew two vertical lines through the S and held it up to show them. Maybe it was just Pavlovian conditioning when they saw the $ sign connected closely to the word ‘Alien’. Or maybe it was the confidence I projected. But they said yes. (https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/an-audience-with-the-king-james-cameron-interviewed-by-hollywoods-finest/)