Within the cinematic world of science fiction and action movies, there are very few films that are more beloved and iconic than The Terminator. No one could have expected the cultural impact and longevity that The Terminator was going to have on the world, but now more than thirty years after the first film was released yet another Terminator film, Terminator: Dark Fate is about to be released in theaters.
The Terminator was the beginning of a lot of things. It was the beginning of a huge franchise, the beginning of James Cameron's career as a blockbuster director, and it launched Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstar status. And most sci-fi and action fans probably know The Terminator like the back of their hand, but this movie still has a lot of secrets to reveal. Here are 10 behind-the-scenes facts about the iconic movie which you never knew.
10 A Genre-Bending Movie
James Cameron put an Easter egg into The Terminator that initially was a reference that only he himself would understand.
When Sarah is first being pursued by the Terminator, she goes to a club in LA called Tech Noir. The club is not a real club in Los Angeles, but Cameron came up with the name for the club as a reference for the as-yet nonexistent genre that he felt The Terminator fit into.
He drew a lot of inspiration from classic noir films, and that vibe combined with the obvious futuristic science fiction elements of the movie was a concept that he dubbed "tech-noir".
9 Schwarzenegger's Lucky Break
Of course, we all know Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the most successful and well-known action movie stars of all time, but he originally got his start as a professional bodybuilder in Europe.
When he decided to switch careers, move to Hollywood, and attempt to make it as an actor, a lot of people told him that he was bound for failure because of his enormous size and his very heavy accent. But of course when it came to The Terminator, his imposing physical stature was one of the key reasons that he got the role, and his accent became one of the most recognizable aspects of the character.
8 Fire When Ready
The role of the actual Terminator in the film The Terminator seems like a relatively simple character to play, and Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed like he was just born to play it.
It turns out that Schwarzenegger put a surprising amount of work into making the gig look so easy, and he wanted to perform his role well enough that the audience wouldn't even notice the work he had put into it. So, when he was readying himself for the role, he began intensively training with guns and weapons, and he actually taught himself to handle them, reload them, and fire them without having to look at them or even blink.
7 An Unintentional Atmosphere
In one particular scene after Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese have been hiding out beneath some kind of underpass or tunnel for the night, he and Sarah leave and they appear to be walking through some misty, foggy wooded area. However, the fog that appears to have settled over the area wasn't any fog or mist at all, it was actually bug spray.
Apparently, the filming location was having some kind of issue with flies, so bug spray had been sprayed everywhere. The crew was going to wait for it to go away, but they realized that it actually looked quite nice and atmospheric on screen.
6 Cameron Is A Continuity King
One of the bloodiest and most action-packed scenes in the entire film is when the Terminator seeks out Sarah Connor while she is in a Los Angeles police station. One of the police officers attempts to comfort her and allay her fears of the Terminator by telling her that there are 30 cops in the building so she is perfectly safe. But then, of course, the Terminator arrives, and he lays waste to every police officer in the place.
James Cameron is a real stickler for continuity, because his on-screen kills, in addition to the bullets he fires off-screen, add up to 30.
5 A Horrifying Film
The Terminator is known now as one of the greatest action and science fiction films ever made. But interestingly when James Cameron initially wrote and created the film, he wrote it with the intention of it being a horror film. Upon closer inspection, the similarities there are extremely apparent.
The Terminator is very much the stone-cold silent killer who typically relentlessly pursues one "final girl", only to be defeated or bested by that girl in some way in the end. But obviously the science fiction elements are what made the biggest impression on the audience, and the Terminator as a character as well as his weapons of choice are what someone would expect from an action film, hence The Terminator's current genre classifications.
4 Schwarzenegger's Odd Insurance Policy
There have always been Hollywood tales of actors, actresses, and other entertainers insuring their own body parts for exorbitant amounts of money. But despite the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't even really a star before he hit it big with The Terminator, he did decide to insure a surprising body part for the film.
As a world-famous body builder, some might guess that he insured one of his limbs but he actually insured his eyebrows for the film. He insured them with the firm Lloyd's of London because he was concerned that once he shaved them they wouldn't grow back properly.
3 Covert Cameos
James Cameron was the director and writer of The Terminator, and when filming for the movie initially began he was a virtual unknown. And while he didn't do a physical cameo on the film, he did manage to work his way into the movie in some pretty sneaky ways.
James didn't actually appear on-screen during the movie, but his voice makes multiple appearances throughout the film. First, he is the man who calls Sarah Connor and leaves a message on her answering machine breaking their date. And secondly, he answers the phone at the Tiki Motel twice, playing the manager of the motel.
2 The Need For Speed
The action elements of The Terminator are one of the most thrilling aspects of the entire movie, and James Cameron employed some pretty practical film tricks and techniques to make the movie look as exciting as possible.
Most of the car chase scenes in the films were filmed at a normal speed and then the film was sped up afterward to make it look faster. But in order to fully sell the trickery, there were other cars riding next to the cars that were on screen that were outfitted with rotating lights to make it look like the car was passing exterior light sources very quickly.
1 Lost In Translation
Arnold Schwarzenegger's first language is German, and much commentary has been made about a futuristic robot having a pretty strong Austrian accent. Schwarzenegger's performance was good enough that it's more than worth overlooking the oddity of a manufactured robot speaking English with a thick European accent, but ironically he didn't dub his own lines in his native language either.
German may be his native tongue, but his accent is very strongly Austrian, so much so that it would have been distracting for German audiences. Although if the English speaking audience could get over it, presumably the German-speaking audience could too.