James Cameron’s rise to the top tiers of Hollywood stardom accorded among a select few directors began with his notable project, The Terminator, in the early half of the Eighties. However, the journey traversed by the robotic killing machine from the future wasn’t one that had the nicest of beginnings. Despite the critical and commercial success of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led franchise, the cult fandom of the dystopian films almost missed out on the performance of the renowned former Mr. Olympia.
Also read: “I told him he shouldn’t do it”: James Cameron Wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger To Stop Being Terminator Because the Studio Won’t Respect His Character
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Extensive Knowledge of Robots
Arnold Schwarzenegger is now a rarely-seen actor in the popular circles across Hollywood Boulevard. The Predator actor rose to prominence in the mid-80s when a slew of roles had consecutively garnered mainstream success, both critically as well as commercially, and catapulted the actor to the spotlight. James Cameron’s The Terminator happened to be one of the initial roles to accord that favor to Schwarzenegger. On The Howard Stern Show, Schwarzenegger claims:
“It was a total coincidence because I didn’t even try out for Terminator, I was trying to be Kyle Reese. And during lunch, when I met with James Cameron, the director, I kept talking all the time about the Terminator. I said, ‘Listen, I know you guys have already probably hired OJ Simpson, but whoever is playing it, I just want you to be clear that he ahs to train himself to dissemble weapons and to put weapons together and to shoot and to lead the weapons, and do all of this blindfolded, because a Terminator can never ever look down at his hand, what he’s doing. He’s a machine.’ And I said, ‘When he walks, he has to have a certain walk when he scans and looks around. It has to be absolutely clear at all times that this is a machine with absolutely no human behavior.'”
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It was a long time before Arnold Schwarzenegger himself realized the extent of his enthusiasm and excitement for the role of the Terminator. At the time, OJ Simpson, Tom Selleck, and Mel Gibson were the top contenders for the part, but it was Schwarzenegger’s know-how and vested interest in Cameron’s fictional character that ultimately got him the leading man part.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Turned Down The Terminator
The elaborate descriptions that Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered to the director over lunch would later go on to win him his place as the leading man in Cameron’s movie franchise. But the sole reason for the actor’s initial repulsion toward saying yes to the role was the lack of vocal lines in the film’s script, something that he was actively looking to avoid repeating after Conan the Barbarian (1982).
“This went on for like an hour because I saw the Yul Brynner character in “Westworld” where he played the machine and I was so amazed at his performance, so I kept talking about how [the Terminator] has to talk, and how he has to get up and how he has to tear his flesh out and how he has to operate on his eye, and you know, no pain, no feelings, and James Cameron looked at me at the end of the lunch, and he said, ‘So why don’t you play Terminator? I mean, you understand him so well, this character, that’s exactly what we need.’
And I said, ‘No, no, no, Jim, please, please. I counted the amount of lines this guy says. It’s 27 lines. In Conan, I had 128 lines. So I’m not gonna go backwards. You can give it to someone else but I want to talk a lot, I want to perform, I want to be the leading man.’ And he says, ‘I will make that guy the leading man. It’s called “The Terminator”… you will look heroic, and don’t worry about killing all these people because you’re a machine. Nobody’s gonna blame Arnold. You’re a machine, you’re acting a machine.'”
Also read: James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day Paid Arnold Schwarzenegger $15M For Just 700 Words – a Record-Breaking $21K Per Word
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as the time-traveling assassin then really hits home as the actor’s role in the film not only established him as a Hollywood leading man but simultaneously secured James Cameron’s place in the industry as a director to be wary of. The Terminator went on to deliver six films in the franchise, with Terminator: Dark Fate being the latest in the installments.
However, Cameron stated that the movie serves to officially close off the original trilogy as well as mark the beginning of another one. So the audience can expect two other Terminator projects to arrive in the theatres sooner rather than later.
Source: The Howard Stern Show