Hit films can begin in the most unlikely places, but when director James Cameron dreamed of a knife-wielding steel skeleton crawling through flames, he could never have guessed how successful his Terminator would become. Its sequel was the first time Cameron would redefine blockbuster filmmaking in his lengthy career, and would move Arnorld Schwarzenegger’s cyborg killer from a horror movie monster to a cinematic icon.
The franchise has received its fifth film installment in the form of Terminator: Genisys – a story that turns many assumptions about the series on their head (a decision that hasn’t gone over well with everyone). Despite the early mixed reception, James Cameron has gone on record to state that as he sees it, Genisys is a worthy follow-up to The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
With fans everywhere likely to revisit the first two films in the series as a result, and now that there’s reason to hope – hope – that Terminator could be returning to the spotlight, we thought it time to point out a few franchise features every fan should look out for. Here is our list of 10 Terminator Secrets Every Fan Should Know.
James Cameron Cameos
Director James Cameron has made a career of large-scale movies, but he’s just as well-known for his personal touches. Specifically, lending his voice to a number of easy-to-miss off-screen roles. In The Terminator, Cameron’s voice can be heard cancelling a date on Sarah’s answering machine, and as the Tiki Motel receptionist. In the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cameron has a much more… horrifying role: voicing the death shrieks of the T-1000.
A Bite of Biehn
The Terminator marked the first of several collaborations between James Cameron and Michael Biehn, cementing the young actor as one of the most unforgettable sci-fi stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s – and creating a strange running joke in the process. Actors and directors forming shorthand jokes or repeated catchphrases are nothing new, but for Biehn, Cameron made sure the actor paid a price for his starring roles.
Biehn’s heroes would wind up having their hands bitten in all three of their films: bitten by Sarah Connor in The Terminator, the lone survivor ‘Newt’ in Aliens, and by Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) in The Abyss. That’s despite the fact that Biehn wasn’t even the original choice for the Aliens role; however, Cameron planned on casting Biehn in his 3D hit Avatar, so we have to assume he had a set of alien teeth with the actor’s name on it.
“I’ll Be Back”
It’s hard for modern fans to believe that the success of the Terminator series was ever in doubt – even harder to think that the iconic tagline “I’ll be back” was just as uncertain. Surprisingly, star Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t like the sound of the line at first, uncomfortable with his pronunciation of “I’ll,” and believing a robotic killer would pronounce it in proper English, as “I will be back.” In the end, James Cameron insisted that HE was the writer, and Arnold couldn’t have lost the argument any more soundly. The line became an instant hit, following him throughout his entire movie career.
Plenty of movie magic went into making the first movie a hit, but not every extra touch was planned ahead of time – or healthy for the cast and crew. After Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor spend an evening hiding out under a bridge from both police and the Terminator, the pair emerge into morning fog. As most movie fans would guess, the fog isn’t real… but it isn’t fake, either.
The film’s production took place during the 1982 Mexican Fruit Fly panic, when the insecticide Malathion was generously sprayed in the Los Angeles area. The filmmakers had planned to wait for the clouds to clear before shooting the scene, but decided to use the added effect instead. Oh, how the times have changed.
Terminator may be a billion-dollar property these days, but that doesn’t mean that making the first film wasn’t a bit more exhilarating, as well as a bit more challenging. The Terminator first revealing his stolen ‘biker’ outfit and punching through a car window is hard to forget. But the extended shot was actually the last of the film to be completed, with James Cameron footing the bill for the 2 hour shoot himself. Since he had no police permit to be filming on the street (helping to explain why it’s captured in just two shots), only he and Arnold Schwarzenegger were present, with the actor’s street clothes stashed behind the car in case a police officer stumbled upon them.
A similar story surrounds the closing shot of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) driving off down a lonely highway with the knowledge that “a storm is coming.” While filming (again, without a permit), a police officer drove up to investigate. Luckily, a crew member’s son was present for the shoot, and the production was passed off as his student film.
James Cameron can’t claim all the blink-and-you-miss-it cameos for himself, giving his close friend and writing partner William Wisher, Jr. more than one appearance. First, as the police officer who is knocked out and has his patrol car stolen by the Terminator after he first meets Kyle Reese. Wisher would also return for the sequel in which he cameos as a shutterbug shopper observing the first meeting of the T-800 and T-1000.
It isn’t just the one series, either. Although Wisher contributed his screenwriting talents to the Die Hard and Exorcist series, it was Cameron’s alien/underwater adventure movie The Abyss which saw the writer/actor appear as a sea-batter reporter, Bill Tyler.
Max a.k.a. “Wolfie”
Humans aren’t the only ones who can claim to be recurring characters in the Terminator series, as the ability of dogs to detect the presence of Skynet’s cyborg killers is well-documented. In Judgment Day, the shape-shifting T-1000 attempts to lure John Connor home by copying the voice of his foster-mother, but it’s the boy’s dog – Max – who helps foil the plan.
When John’s guardian Terminator refers to the dog as “Wolfie,” the T-1000 plays along, outing himself as an imposter. The name “Wolfie” wasn’t chosen at random, however, since it was the actual nickname for James Cameron’s own German Shepard, “Beowulf.” The dog should be familiar to fans, since he appeared at the Tiki Motel in the first movie before returning to play the young Max accompanying Sarah on her road trip to nowhere. Hopefully he got a raise for the sequel.
The work performed by ILM to make Terminator 2 a reality helped to push special effects into a brand new era, but that didn’t mean every special effect was the result of a computer, or even advanced prosthetics. Instead of struggling with split-screen and composite shots to show the T-1000 shape-shifting into other characters’ forms, Cameron let nature do the work instead, casting identical twins (Dan and Don Stanton) to play a security guard and his artificial doppelganger.
The trick reappears in the movie’s climax, calling on Linda Hamilton’s identical twin sister Leslie to include two versions of the actress in one shot (though Linda’s honed musculature makes it possible to tell them apart). But that’s not even the most clever trick: when the Terminator’s ‘brain’ is opened up in front of a mirror earlier in the film, what viewers are actually seeing is Arnold Schwarzenegger seated next to Leslie through a hole in the wall. On the near side, Linda and actor Edward Furlong are operating on a dummy, matching the other pair’s movements as closely as possible.
Relying on practical effects may be easier than reinventing CG artistry, but it’s not always safer. Modern audiences may look at the helicopter chase scene of T2 and assume its death-defying action beats were carefully manufactured and heightened with digital wizardry – the shot of a helicopter flying under an overpass, specifically, seems like a shot that managed to conceal its deceptions incredibly well.
While a chopper was suspended on a mobile crane for close-ups, the aforementioned shot was entirely real. Pilot Chuck Tamburro told James Cameron that he could pull off the stunt if given some prep time, gauging how low he would need to fly to achieve it. Having seen his mastery of the machine already (narrowly missing another overpass in the same chase) the director agreed. The camera crew refused to take part due to how dangerous the act would have to be, so only Cameron and the camera car’s driver got to witness it firsthand. Audiences, however, can enjoy it for all time.
A Shared Cameron Universe
The Terminator became a hit series and helped James Cameron realize his potential for blockbuster action, but fans may not realize that long before shared universes were all the rage with Hollywood studios, the director had already set to crafting his own. It began with The Terminator, as one L.A. news anchor would reappear in the same role to cover a hurricane in The Abyss.
The cast of the underwater adventure are employed by an oil company known as Benthic Petroleum – whose logo can also be seen at the gas station John, Sarah and the Terminator visit upon their escape from the T-1000 in T2. It didn’t stop at just two films, either, as one frantic reporter in The Abyss finale would reprise his role in the next Cameron/Schwarzenegger action film True Lies. Cameron clearly had a few favorite actors on standby, but the end result is undeniable: a single shared universe of blockbuster hits.
So what do you think of our list? Are there any bits of trivia or easter eggs that you think are essential for Terminator fans? Let us know in our comment section and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one.