My Interview with Aliens Expanded Filmmaker Ian Nathan

Anyone who really knows me, is aware that I’m a big fan of James Cameron’s 1996 Sci Fi Action Thriller, Aliens.
So, when Amy, Founder & CEO of Alpha Public Relations contacted me for an interview with Writer, Producer, and Director Ian Nathan of the upcoming RetroDoc (Retrospective Documentary) Aliens Expanded, I immediately responded with a “hell yea” to her email. Okay, I didn’t say “hell yea” but nonetheless, I was enthusiastic. And with that out of the way, here is a brief Q and A session with Mr. Nathan.

1. Good afternoon, Ian, let’s start things off by asking, what exactly inspired you to make a documentary based on Aliens?

Without explaining my whole life story – and the signal event of first seeing Aliens when I was sixteen, and never being the same again – the answer lies in the format. My producer Robin Block (who has produced the In Search of Darkness series) had been talking to me about making a documentary for a while. We had loosely discussed making one about Stephen King adaptations, but then he had this bolt of lightning about taking the epic approach of the In Search of films, but applying it one film. Going for the same breadth and epic feeling but inside the skin of one movie. We went to lunch. He pitched me the idea, and asked which film I thought would work. It was simple – Aliens. Don’t get me wrong, I think Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece, but there is a love for James Cameron’s Aliens, a community that surrounds it, and a devotion that endures. I wanted to explore the film through that prism. You might say, that I ask only one question in my documentary: why do we love Aliens so much? This terrifying sequel. There are many, many answers to those questions. 

2. How will this documentary set itself apart from other franchise dedicated films i.e. Robodoc?


Well Jeff, it is a film about passion made with passion. I take it as a given that not only have all my viewers seen Aliens, they are obsessed with it. I like to think of it as the conversation you have in a bar with your best friend about your favourite film – for four hours! That’s something else, we are long and very detailed. Yet there is also a lightness of touch. One of the wonderful surprises of interviewing James Cameron is how humorous he was: an older, wiser man recalling his younger, more impetuous days. And boy does he tell a story. That’s another thing, I haven’t simply asked cast and crew for their memories, I wanted their feelings, their opinions, their theories, their laughter, and their tears. This is an emotional journey. Aliens means so much to people.  

3. If there were any collaborators from the film that unfortunately are no longer with us, which one(s) would you have loved to have appeared on this project? Yes, we all know the obvious answers but let’s hear it from a perspective from a devoted fan, such as yourself.  

If I had a James Cameron-style time travel device – a two-way James Cameron-style time travel device, that is – I would use it to go back and interview three people: Al Matthews, Stan Winston, and, of course, Bill Paxton. And I think Bill may be the answer you are looking for! But rather than interviewees, these three become subjects of the doc. And I give them space. Among its many guises, Aliens Expanded is a love letter and tribute to those guys. 

4. Those three you mentioned, were the GOATs, also I would throw in Composer James Horner. Now for a more provocative question, will this Documentary address pushback if any, from Jenette Goldstein's portrayal of fan favorite Pvt. Vasquez? (Regarding Brownface) As a teen, I thought Ms. Goldstein was of Hispanic origin.

This is a complex subject. But I believe the doc has dealt with it well. Not pushing back so much as examining it both from the perspective of 1986 and 2024, with the testimony of Jenette Goldstein herself, and a series of really erudite talking heads. I will let the documentary speak for itself, but I think we have a really mature and impassioned response to this point. 

5. What logistical problems or setbacks did you face while making the Aliens Documentary? Was it locating cast members for commentaries outside of your location? Or convincing the legendary James Cameron to sign on?


Well, it was a long journey, one that took patience. You don’t win over James Cameron overnight. I had to have faith. There were a few dark nights of the soul when it came to landing many of our stars. But I tell you what, my biggest fear, and also my biggest motivation, was the knowledge that my audience were experts. They were always going to set a high bar. So, what was I bringing that was fresh? What would impress the viewer, enthrall or enchant them? What could possibly surprise them? You will have to tell me if I have achieved that, but I always had the fans in my head. 

6. Hypothetical question-Will this doc feature bonus materials such as deleted outtakes, or gag reels?

Not so much of this kind of thing, gag reels and the like didn’t really fit the format of what we are doing. The idea is to take the finished film, break it down into sequences, then delve into each one. Think of it as an autopsy!  

7. How upset were you when Alien 3 offset the fairy tale albeit cathartic ending from Aliens? Heartbroken and traumatized like my friends and I were? 😅


I was heartbroken, though in the years since, I have become fascinated with Alien3 – especially The Assembly Cut. It’s not the sequel to Aliens any of us wanted, but it is a highly absorbing, if flawed, film. Let me tell you, James Cameron is kind of on the same page. 

8. What media in your opinion, was the most influenced by Aliens? (Be it movies, television series, or videogames)

Movies first – without Aliens there would be no franchise, even if the quality has wavered. And we have a new film and a new TV show on their way, fortysomething years later. Then videogames, of which there are many, but the quality has been inconstant. Alien Isolation to me is closer to the original Alien. Whatever the medium, it is really hard to get these things right. There are plenty of books too - though I have only dipped my toe into this area. 

9. Good answer! In my opinion, when it comes to videogames, both HALO and Contra series take top honors, but I digress. As fan of In Search of Tomorrow, I was hoping that some of my favorite films featured in David Weiner and Robin Block's documentary would have longer segments, but due to time constraints it did not happen. That said, do you plan on making any more documentaries based on iconic 80's films in the future, be it Predator, Blade Runner, or Escape from New York to name a few?


Absolutely, this is just the beginning for the Expanded format. I have a wish list, so does Robin, and David I imagine does too. We already have one in the works, a snowy one!

“You gotta be fucking-kidding me!" Needless to say, that I am looking forward to this as well. Thank you for your time Ian,  best wishes to you and of course success to Alien Expanded which arrives this Summer. Order by May 5th to get your name in the credits and other cool stuff!

Special thanks to Amy Saunders, Creator VC and shoutout to David Weiner.