James Cameron still grudging about filming Aliens in England 37 years ago

Tom Davidson
3 min readNov 24, 2022


The hype machine for Avatar: The Way of Water is kicking into full gear and that has given James Cameron a perfect opportunity to, once again, bitch about filming Aliens in England in 1985.

James Cameron on the set of Aliens at Pinewood

Speaking to GQ about the ‘culture shock’ of directing The Terminator, he said:

“The culture shock didn’t happen for us on the first film it happened for us on Aliens when we went to England and they had a whole.. you know it was much more of a suit and tie thing and the director just kind of sat back and let everybody do their jobs.

“And I think the English crew were unsettled to say the least, I think they were insulted cause they thought I believed that they didn’t know their jobs and could help them, which wasn’t it at all, it was just a sort of ‘muck in and get it done’ kind of mentality. Plus they were, by the way, slow as shit so, you know, I’d speed ’em up a little bit.”

That’s James Cameron, who has spent 13 years making a sequel to Avatar, moaning about other people being slow, by the way.

Still, it’s not the first time (or even the third or the fourth) Cameron has chewed out the UK film industry for his experiences at Pinewood making the sequel to Ridley Scott’s space-horror masterpiece.

The stories of Cameron tearing his hair out at the conditions of unionised labour on the Aliens set are legion, and well documented in The Making of Aliens by J. W. Rinzler but worth repeating (because they’re funny).

Put simply Cameron, who had enjoyed an all-hands scholarship with b-movie legend Roger Corman, was not best pleased he couldn’t do things himself.

Perhaps his most choice quote from his past ragging on the crew was:

“The Pinewood crew were lazy, insolent and arrogant. There were a few bright lights amongst the younger art department people, but for the most part, we despised them and they despised us.”

  • Cameron thought the crew were lazy and resented union-mandated breaks.
  • The crew would stop work every Friday afternoon for a lottery draw where the winner would take home a prize of about £400. One of the crew running the lottery came up to Cameron with the tin and said, “do you wanna put anything in for the draw, Jim?” Cameron allegedly shouted at him, “F*** the draw!!”.
  • One anecdote even has Cameron pushing over the tea trolley in frustration on one particularly trying day.
  • The original director of photography was fired after complaining that the shooting schedule was too demanding.
  • According to Aliens producer, and Cameron’s wife at the time, Gale Hurd, Cameron and the first assistant director Derek Cracknell clashed frequently.
  • Hurd said Cracknell felt he should be directing the movie: “Jim would ask him to set up a shot one way and Derek would say, ‘Oh no no no, I know what you want,’” says Hurd. “Then he’d do it wrong and the whole set would have to be broken down.”
  • Cracknell, eventually, was sacked which led the whole crew to down tools in protest.
  • Cameron tried to transplant the whole shoot out of England altogether to overcome the attempted mutiny but Hurd managed to talk him out of it.
  • Cameron eventually held an hours-long all-hands meeting where grievances were aired and both sides agreed to an uneasy truce for the rest of the shoot.

Now this quote is floating about which Cameron is said to have uttered after shooting Aliens wrapped. I’ve not found the original source for it, but it’s too good not to use:

“This has been a long and difficult shoot, fraught by many problems. But the one thing that kept me going, through it all, was the certain knowledge that one day I would drive out the gate of Pinewood and never come back, and that you sorry bastards would still be here.”

It does sound like Jim is more at home filming in New Zealand and Aliens, of course, went on to be a masterpiece.



Tom Davidson

31-year-old journalist living in south westLondon trying my hand at some film writing as and when