The Terminator series is an unlikely success story that began with the vision of a nightmare future in which robots break all known physical laws, traveling back in time to kill the parents of resistance leaders instead of traveling back to kill the parents-of-the-parents of the human resistance. Nonetheless, regardless of plot holes and science, the first gritty film lead to a huge boost in Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s action-star status and launched James Cameron into movie-making history.
The series is also responsible for helping to usher in modern computerized effects and even provokes sincere discussion about the future of artificial intelligence.
Since the first film, the franchise has raked in billions of dollars through four feature films, merchandise, comics and a television show, even winning four Oscar awards in the process. The Terminator series lives on through the recent announcement of a fifth film, dubbed Terminator Genisys, in which Kyle Reese find himself in a new time-line with Arnold playing the role of an old Terminator.
This is his first part in a Terminator movie since 2003’s Terminator 3, in which he famously decided to join in the production after a friend told him to “just do it and ask for a shi*t-load of money.” Here are some more kooky behind-the-scenes facts about the Terminator series that Arnold never told you about.
12. Born From a Feverish Dream
The first Terminator was spawned when James Cameron became sick during the release of Piranha II: The Spawning while in Rome. He entered into a feverish dream state, visualizing a “metal death figure coming out of a fire”, with the suggestion that the skin had been burned away to reveal the machine within. The prolific director had always wanted to do a robot film and this vision motivated him to spawn the first film, which launched this franchise into the hearts and minds of science fiction fans while cementing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fame.
11. Arnold’s Perfect Role
Arnold has always fallen victim to ridicule due to his notoriously strong accent and broken English. So the Terminator was really his ideal role; he is required to flaunt his action hero skills while rarely being obligated to speak a single word.
In Terminator 2, Arnold spoke 700 words, resulting in a cost ratio of $21,429 per word. In the original, Arnold incredibly only spoke 58 words. The movie featured 46 deaths, meaning a ratio of 0.79 words per death.
10. – Risking Arnold’s Ego
In 1984, Arnold’s reputation as an A-list hollywood star was growing and in order to advance his career, Schwarzenegger was looking for leading roles where he’d get to play the hero. He considered the T-800 character interesting enough to risk his image, by playing a villain with very few lines of dialog. The risk paid off, leading to one of the signature roles in his storied career. James Cameron soothed Arnold’s worries about the role by promising to film the T-800 in such a way that audiences would applaud the destruction.
9. – The Rodney King Tape
Oddly enough, the tape recording of the vicious beating the LAPD inflicted on Rodney King also had one other bit of video recorded from the same location: Schwarzenegger and Furlong riding a motorcycle through San Fernando. The fact that T-1000 looks like a police officer isn’t a coincidence – it’s part of a commentary on police brutality.
8. – The Most Expensive Films in the World
Terminator 2 started the pattern of James Cameron using the equivalent of the GDP of a small country as his movie budget. At the time, the movie was the most expensive ever made at $102 million. Six years later, Cameron filmed Titanic, the costliest film ever made as of 1997. In 2009, Cameron set a new record for most expensive production with Avatar, another film that pushed the limits of film technology.
7. – O.J. Simpson was Almost Terminator
During initial planning of the original Terminator film, much to the chagrin of Cameron, the head of the studio wanted to hire O.J. Simpson to play the part of the T-800. Considering O.J.’s history of violence, this role would’ve inadvertently resulted in a creepy, parallel plot with the real life, tragic murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. According to the studio head, Schwarzenegger’s ideal role was Kyle Reese, the savior of Sarah Connor. Thankfully, O.J. didn’t get the role because of his nice-guy image, preventing one of the worst casting disasters of the 20th century.
6. – Robert Patrick: The Original Terminator
Despite casting Arnold as a monstrous machine in the first Terminator film, the original idea behind the Terminator was a shape-shifting robot that could easily pass unnoticed as a forgettable human being.
In the second Terminator film, James Cameron sought to follow through on his original idea by casting Robert Patrick, who is much less conspicuous than Arnold’s bulging persona.
5. Adventures in Casting: Part II
Forgetting the near-disaster of casting O.J. as the Terminator, the second film initially considered Billy Idol for the role of T-1000 before he was sidelined in a motorcycle accident, opening a path for Robert Patrick. Early design drawings of the T-1000 were influenced by the rock star.
A further potentially history-altering choice for Terminator was Mel Gibson, yet another star with an unfortunate past involving women.
4. Twin Trickery and Top Technology
In order to reduce costs, the production team hired identical twins for a scene where the T-1000 assumes the identity of a hapless police officer. Another effect was accomplished by Robert Patrick simply stuffing his legs into holes in the ground to provide the illusion of amputation.
Linda Hamilton’s twin sister also acted as a double in the film. One of the award-winning, cutting edge special effects used by James Cameron involves the T-1000 melting into a variety of forms before reassembling into Robert Patrick. At the time, the technology for this type of computer animation was just beginning to become popular, with Terminator 2 serving as a leading example of what can be accomplished using computer graphics, despite the fact that they used the very first version of photoshop.
3. The Smallest Change had the Biggest Result
The original Terminator script had the T-800 say “I’ll come back”, instead of the now-famous “I’ll be back”, which has been repeated millions of times by terrible Arnold impersonators worldwide. At first, Arnold was worried about how he would sound because of his accent, but Cameron coerced the star into uttering those iconic words.
2. “Borrowing” from The Outer Limits
Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, winner of the Hugo Award, the Bradbury Award and the Nebula Award, recognized many crucial elements of the first Terminator film from a television episode he penned for The Outer Limits called “Soldier”. After lawyers were called to the scene of this potential plagiarism, an undisclosed settlement took place that included a film credit for the legendary scribe.
1. Cameron Sold the Rights to the Franchise for $1
James Cameron put his own blood, sweat and tears into realizing his original vision for Terminator, which ended up becoming an iconic science-fiction franchise that spanned four decades. Unfortunately, in order to get the first film made, Cameron ended up selling the rights for only $1 – easily one of the most extraordinary deals in showbiz over the past 50 years.
Cameron has since admitted that he wished he didn’t sell the rights, even if he received $6 million for Terminator 2 and secured himself life-long career in Hollywood. He’s received absolutely no income from any television show, movie or merchandising since T2.