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Alien (1979) was directed by Ridley Scott, but after that in 1986 Aliens was written and directed by James Cameron.

Why didn't the studio offer Ridley Scott the chance to direct the 2nd Alien movie?

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From alienseries, the producer blamed it on availability:

In 1986 Bobbie Wygant asked Aliens producer Gale Anne Hurd if Scott had turned down the opportunity to direct the sequel. “I’m not really sure,” Hurd answered. “I know that he was in post-production on Legend at the time we were in pre-production [on Aliens], so perhaps it was a result of his availability.”

But that wasn't true:

“They didn’t ask me!” he told The Hollywood Interview in 2008. “To this day I have no idea why. It hurt my feelings, really, because I thought we did quite a good job on the first one.”

There are some rumors circulating around but nothing definitive.

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    How does this answer the question? It just confirms that the studio didn't ask Scott. – Mouvier May 29 '18 at 10:42
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    @Mouvier It answers the question by confirming that there is no (publicly known) answer. If Mr. Scott himself doesn't know why, more than 20 years after the movie was released, then it's unlikely any of us ever will. – Steve-O May 29 '18 at 13:19
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    They didn't ask Scott because they had reasons to ask Cameron first. They didn't think of Scott at first because they needed a screenplay, and Scott doesn't write. – Todd Wilcox May 29 '18 at 17:46
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    Cameron is/was pretty good with white-knuckle action (Terminator), while Scott was better with atmosphere and a bit more of a cerebral take (Alien, Blade Runner). Aliens was definitely more of a popcorn action film, so maybe that had something to do with the choice. – PoloHoleSet May 29 '18 at 22:38
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    I'm not going to upvote until this answer explicitly says "nobody knows". At the moment it's just implied. – Pharap May 30 '18 at 20:49
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We don't know. Gale Anne Hurd said in 1986

I’m not really sure. I know that he was in post-production on Legend at the time we were in pre-production [on Aliens], so perhaps it was a result of his availability

Ridley told The Hollywood Interview in 2008

They didn’t ask me! To this day I have no idea why. It hurt my feelings, really, because I thought we did quite a good job on the first one

There are rumours that Scott have different view on whole Aliens script and with H.R. Giger they envisioned that the second movie would be a prequel telling the story of Space Jockeys and Pyramid.

So maybe there lies an answer. Producers wanted more alienS while Scott wanted more lore at the cost of not even showing one alien.

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    That's so interesting, if the rumours are valid. So, a movie in the spirit of Prometheus (2012), rather than what we got in Aliens (1986)? Maybe it would have been great, but with how much I adore Aliens, my thought is that I'm gladenned by the way history unfolded there. – Ghoti and Chips May 29 '18 at 14:27
  • @GhotiandChips: I don't have a source in English but I heard that Ridley Scott hates the work of his successors (Cameron, Fincher, Jeunet). – Taladris May 29 '18 at 14:53
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    @Taladris And Stephen King hates The Shining film adaptation. If I got dissuaded from enjoying movies because the original authors have reservations, there'd be plenty of masterpieces I'd be depriving myself from. – Ghoti and Chips May 29 '18 at 15:23
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    @GhotiandChips And Scott isn't even the original author of Alien! I should shut my mouth. I'm not much of a fan of Ridley Scott. The only thing he ever did that I loved is Alien, and as a director who doesn't write, I don't feel like he deserves as much credit for his work as people like Kubrick or Cameron or Anderson. – Todd Wilcox May 29 '18 at 20:32
  • @ToddWilcox You said yourself the only thing he ever did, which is the same reason why I refer to him as "the original author", and I mean "author" in the broader, general sense. – Ghoti and Chips May 29 '18 at 22:37
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  1. The heads of Fox (which owned Alien) changed between the two movies. The previous heads didn't believe a sequel would be profitable.
  2. When Fox's interest in a sequel was reborn, they first needed a script and looked for a writer, and Scott does not write screenplays.
  3. Fox development executive Larry Wilson thought Cameron would be good to write the sequel after seeing a copy of his script for The Terminator.
  4. Following the commercial success of The Terminator (which earned about ten times its cost), also written and directed by Cameron, he was asked/offered to direct Aliens as well.

Also, Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner was not nearly as big a financial success (at the time) as Alien, so it's possible that the idea of him directing was not as easy a sell. Scott's 1985 film Legend did not make back its investment. Fox execs couldn't have known that when they had to select a director for Aliens, but there was likely a feeling that Scott was not on his game in the early 80s.

Scott was working on Legend at the time the script for Aliens was nearing completion, so Fox execs might have assumed he would decline the offer and there was no point in asking.

From the Wikipedia page on Aliens:

While the producers and development executive Larry Wilson sought a writer for Alien II, Wilson came across James Cameron's screenplay for The Terminator, and passed the script to Giler, feeling Cameron was right for the job. Giler then approached Cameron, who was completing pre-production of The Terminator. A fan of the original Alien, Cameron was interested in crafting a sequel and entered a self-imposed seclusion to brainstorm a concept for Alien II. After four days Cameron produced an initial 45-page treatment, although the Fox management put the film on hiatus, as some disliked the pitch, and they felt that Alien had not generated enough profit to warrant a sequel. A scheduling conflict with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger caused filming of The Terminator to be delayed by nine months (as Schwarzenegger was filming Conan the Destroyer), allowing Cameron additional time to write a script for Aliens. While filming The Terminator, Cameron wrote 90 pages for Aliens, and although the script was not finished, Fox's new president Larry Gordon was impressed and told him that if The Terminator was a success, he would be able to direct Aliens.

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    This sounds like a good and solid answer and I feel answers the question much better than the other two. However, this desperately needs at least one primary source. – ti7 Jun 1 '18 at 5:43

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