James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, and the rest of the cast look back on the 1986 smash

It’s been 25 years since the Sulaco dropship touched down on planet LV-426 and an absolutely badass group of soldiers declared war against the most terrifying creatures ever to hit the big screen. But when Aliens director James Cameron reunited with five of the film’s stars at our L.A. photo shoot, it was as if no time had passed. ”It was like getting the band back together,” says the Academy Award-winning director. ”We wanted to run off and make another Alien movie.” Don’t tease us!

James Cameron (writer-director)
To this day, the 57-year-old director of Titanic and Avatar has a special place in his heart for Aliens, simply because of what he and his team managed to create with so little. ”It certainly was the last bastion of the pre-CG visual-effects world of solving everything,” he says of the film, which won Oscars for sound and visual effects. ”There was something about that art form, effects work with cameras and prosthetics and animatronics…. I look back at it with respect now.” Another thing that makes him proud: how the movie holds up after all these years. ”The fun thing about doing historical or futuristic films is that they take place outside of pop culture, so it stands the chance of remaining a film for future generations [to appreciate],” says Cameron, who is busy prepping Avatar 2. ”Aliens takes place in an alternative future history that’s as valid now as it was in 1986.”

Sigourney Weaver (Ripley)
The 62-year-old actress still scoffs at how the costume designers tried to dress her in a light blue shirt with pink embroidery. Fortunately, she uncovered a closet full of old NASA uniforms at Pinewood Studios in England and found an asexual flight suit that ”fit me like a glove,” she recalls. ”I feel sad for other women who are playing action heroes in these [skimpy] costumes,” says Weaver, who will appear opposite Bruce Willis and Henry Cavill in The Cold Light of Day (out April 6) and star with Robert De Niro and Cillian Murphy in Red Lights (out in 2012). ”They need to wear what’s practical. Yes, Ripley’s a woman, and women are always underestimated as hysterical people with no courage. But Ripley has tremendous strength and determination.” While Weaver keeps in touch with some of her castmates — ”I run into Bill Paxton every now and then at Williams-Sonoma” — she hadn’t seen Carrie Henn in years. ”It meant so much to me to see her. We spent so much time together,” says the actress of Henn, now a teacher. ”She grew up into a grounded, generous young woman. And she’s doing something so useful!”

Michael Biehn (Hicks)
Biehn’s role as a trusted corporal who goes the distance with Ripley was definitely a game changer for him — but not in the way he anticipated. ”I’ve been playing cops and Army guys ever since,” says the actor, 55, who went on to appear in Navy SEALs, The Abyss, and The Rock. ”I’m not like that at all.” In fact, he’s more of a goof: Biehn remembers razzing Lance Henriksen, who was very committed to playing the android Bishop. ”He latched onto the fact that he was there to be of service to the other characters. He’s one of these stay-in-character kind of guys. So I was always like, ‘Go get me a cup of coffee! Go get me a pack of cigarettes!’ And he would run off and do it.”

Bill Paxton (Hudson)
Bar none, Paxton delivered the funniest lines in the movie — which didn’t always come courtesy of writer-director James Cameron. ”Jim loved to improvise, and he had a great memory,” says Paxton, 56. ”My line ‘Game over’ wasn’t in the script, nor was ‘We’re on an express elevator to hell, going down!’ I just threw those in during rehearsal. We didn’t shoot until four months later, and James had this steel mind. He’d say, ‘That line about the elevator — put that in.”’ Paxton, who is currently filming the miniseries The Hatfields and McCoys: An American Vendetta for the History channel, will never forget attending the premiere in Westwood, Calif. (He escorted Weaver’s friend Dianne Wiest.) ”After that moment when Ripley comes out with a power loader and says, ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’ the place went ballistic. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It felt like the whole room exploded.”

Lance Henriksen (Bishop)
As if playing a synthetic human weren’t hard enough, Henriksen had to learn how to quickly maneuver a knife around Paxton’s fingers without stabbing his costar’s hand. That wasn’t movie magic, folks. ”It was sped up originally, but then Jim called us on the last day before we were going back to the States and said, ‘We have to reshoot the knife scenes,”’ says Henriksen, 71, who recently chronicled his time on the movie in an autobiography called Not Bad for a Human. ”So Bill and I went back and redid it. When you see my hand on his and doing it close-up, that was not sped up. I had practiced that for a really long time.”

Carrie Henn (Newt)
After being chosen at age 9 to play the role of a shy but brave orphan, Henn found it difficult to transition back into being a regular kid. ”I actually hated the fact that I was in a movie, because I was bullied so much in school,” admits the 35-year-old, who subsequently quit acting and now works as a fourth-grade teacher. ”Before I did the movie, I was very outgoing. I became very quiet, and I very quickly discovered who my friends were.” Still, Henn has fond memories of her castmates. ”Whenever I see a movie with any of them in it, it makes me so proud.”

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