The Terminator Turns 30

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One of the pillars of Everything Action turns 30 today as The Terminator was released on October 26th, 1984.  Cementing Arnold’s status as an action god and James Cameron’s as one of the greatest blockbuster directors, there are tons of behind the scenes trivia and tidbits you may not know, even if you’ve seen the movie dozens of times like us.

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  • Arnold trained himself extensively: In order to match The Terminator’s machine efficency with weapons, Arnold trained with weapons every day for a month, going to the shooting range and firing tons of different weapons and trying to reload and cock them without looking.  He also blindfolded himself and worked on breaking down and reassembling various guns until the actions were automatic.  Arnold originally wanted to play Kyle Reese but James Cameron convinced him that “the movie isn’t about the heroes, it’s about The Terminator”
  • The role of The Terminator had a wide selection of potential actors: Early on when Arnold might have played Kyle, Lance Henriksen was considered to play The Terminator and there was even concept art created with his likeness in the role.  Henriksen was cast instead as Detective Vukovich.  Famously, OJ Simpson was considered as well but was “too nice” for the role of a cold blooded killer.  Mel Gibson also passed on the role and Randy Quaid and Tom Selleck were rumored to be up for the part as well.
  • Michael Biehn almost lost the role because of an accent: Just prior to his audition for the movie, Biehn was trying out for a part in a production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and, as such, was developing a southern accent.  The producers didn’t want Reese to be “regionalized” but after Biehn’s agent called them back, he got another chance and got the part.  Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Sting were all considered for the role.
  • The movie started production nine months late: Arnold had to film Conan the Destroyer, which also came out in 1984, but rather than shoot around him, the production waited until he was ready to start.  Cameron didn’t want to sit idly by so he spent the time writing a little movie you may have heard of called Aliens.

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  • There were tons of potential Sarah Connors: The Terminator would have had a hell of a time keeping track of who was playing Sarah Connor as tons of actresses were considered or offered the role before Linda Hamilton.  Glenn Close was offered the role but backed out.  James Cameron wanted Debra Winger but that didn’t pan out either.  Carrie Fisher, Sigourney Weaver, Jane Seymour, Lori Loughlin, Jodie Foster, Kim Basinger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jessica Lange, Mia Farrow and Meg Ryan were just some of the many actresses considered for Sarah Connor.  Linda Hamilton actually broke her ankle just prior to filming and had to have her leg taped for all of the chase scenes, which were pushed back to the end of production.
  • Another famous robot voiced the teaser trailer: The teaser for The Terminator was voiced by Peter Cullen, who is most famous for providing the voice for Optimus Prime.

  • Arnold’s iconic line was not always “I’ll Be Back”:  It was almost “I’ll Come Back” or “I Will Be Back”.

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  • Cameron was sued for stealing the idea for the movie: Like other Cameron movies i.e. Avatar, the director was sued for stealing story ideas, this time from sci-fi author Harlan Ellison, who claimed the ideas for The Terminator were taken from two Outer Limits episodes he wrote “The Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand”.  Skynet was also potentially inspired by Ellison’s story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”.  The lawsuit was settled out of court and Ellison received credit in future releases of the movie.
  • Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen started their sci-fi hat trick in The Terminator:  Henriksen and Paxton are the only two actors to appear in and be killed by the title characters of the Terminator, Alien and Predator series.  Paxton is the leader of the punks who confront Arnold when he first arrives in the beginning of the Terminator and was then Pvt. Hudson in Aliens and Jerry Lambert in Predator 2 while Henriksen was Sgt. Vukovich in Terminator, Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3 and Charles Weyland in Aliens vs Predator.
  • Orion let Cameron do basically whatever he wanted: The studio wasn’t too concerned with overseeing things based on how small the budget was but did offer two suggestions.  One was a robotic dog companion for Reese and the other was strengthening the Kyle/Sarah relationship, the latter of which Cameron took and incorporated into the film.
  • The Terminator’s body count is 26: He kills 17 cops at the police station, a punk, the first two Sarah Connors, a random man and woman at Tech Noir,  Dick Miller’s gun shop clerk, Sarah’s friends Ginger and Matt and Kyle Reese.

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