The 1991 sequel to James Cameron’s The Terminator, called T2: Judgement Day was iconic and influential for many reasons. It is considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi action films ever made and is also lauded as one of the best sequels ever, surpassing even the original. The film gave a new, heartfelt turn to lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800.
However, this turn was met with a lot of resistance from Schwarzenegger initially as he wanted to compete with himself in the number of kills he had in his films. In fact, he even told Cameron to include various gory and violent ways in which he could murder people in the film, almost frightening the director in the process.
The Troubled Production Of T2: Judgement Day
James Cameron’s The Terminator was an unexpected hit, propelling him and lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to global stardom. The film earned over $78 million at the box office, against a budget of a mere $6.4 million. It was one of the most profitable ventures for the production houses involved.
Cameron was initially uninterested in pursuing a sequel as he felt that the story of the first film was complete. However, Schwarzenegger was very keen on a sequel and tried to convince the director to make it. The team then got busy with other ventures, with Cameron moving on to direct Aliens and The Abyss.
T2: Judgement Day had a lot of production issues even before the writing started. There were rights disputes between the filmmakers and the production houses, and ultimately Cameron, Schwarzenegger, and special effects artist Stan Winston sued the Hemdale Film Corporation. Carolco Pictures, which had produced Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall bought the rights for a whopping $17 million and commissioned a sequel. The film was released in 1991 and was a huge hit, earning over $520 million against a $102 million budget.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Kill Count
The highlight of T2: Judgement Day was the relationship Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 shared with a young John Conner. They develop a protector-protege relationship throughout the film, which is the exact opposite of what the machine was sent to do, as well as what the tone of the story was in the first film. Cameron believed that the relationship was the heart of the film.
However, Schwarzenegger was initially apprehensive about the tonal shift in the franchise. He was also worried about his kill count in his films. Throughout the 80s and the 90s, Schwarzenegger was in a heated battle for stardom with his contemporary Sylvester Stallone. The feud had gotten really ugly and had also led to physical confrontations. Schwarzenegger also wanted to one-up the Rocky actor in his films.
At a screening for T2: Judgement Day, Schwarzenegger revealed his thought process (via The Wrap),
“I was killing 68 people in the first one — the second one, I have to kill 150. We go up with the count and the massacre, and we cut their throats and kill them and shoot them and the cannon and this and that — run them over with the car. I said, ‘I’ve got to outdo Stallone!’ I’ve gotta be No. 1 in killing the amount of people on the screen. He [Cameron] says, ‘Arnold, stop it. You’re a very sick guy.’”
Schwarzenegger has since mentioned that the change in character was a genius move by James Cameron, crediting all the success to him.
Source: The Wrap