James Cameron’s stirring blend of cyberpunk science-fiction and '80s slasher tropes put the young filmmaker on the map when The Terminator was released in 1984. Cementing bodybuilder turned actor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a worldwide superstar, the monosyllabic cyborg was the perfect role for the former Mr Olympia. The character has become virtually synonymous with Arnie. There’s a reason he was known as “The Governator” when he held office in California.
Though the series has had multiple sequels, with reports of a new trilogy now in the works, the explosive high points of Terminator 2: Judgement Day have yet to been matched. Displaying top level special effects and an unparalleled artistry for tension, incredible stunts, and heart-pounding set pieces, T2 set a benchmark for action movie sequels that has rarely been surpassed.
After more than thirty years of thrilling audiences, the franchise may no longer be in its Golden Age. However, it shows no signs of slowing down. The series has had multiple directors, cast members, and even timelines since Cameron got it off the ground. This resulted in some filmmaking secrets that have gone under the radar in all the confusion.
Here are the 20 Facts About The Terminator Franchise Even Die-Hard Fans Didn’t Know.
Arnie may be infamous for long training sessions to build muscle for his action roles, but his dedication to his performance manifests in other areas as well. Alongside his rigorous weightlifting routines, the actor spent three months learning how to handle all sorts of weaponry.
This allowed the actor to familiarize himself with the Terminator’s tools of choice, so that he could wield them as naturally and comfortably as the cyborg would. The training paid off remarkably, especially when Schwarzenegger began working with weapons master Henry Lu for the sequel.
Inspired by the gun trickery in old fashioned Westerns, James Cameron hoped to devise a way for Arnie to cock his iconic shotgun one-handed. They eventually came up with the "spinning reload" technique with Lu’s help. With months of training already under his belt, this was no problem for Schwarzenegger as he makes it look easy-- even when riding a Harley Davidson and being pursued by a truck.
When James Cameron was casting The Terminator, Schwarzenegger originally wanted the role of Kyle Reese. Cameron felt that he would be better suited for the Terminator role, which required someone large and intimidating. Additionally, the movie's production company, Orion Pictures, also wanted an up-and-coming star who had foreign appeal.
After Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson had already turned down the part, the studio looked to casting sports stars, eventually suggesting the football legend O.J. Simpson. Simpson's stardom off the football field was on the rise, as he had appeared in a number of movies and television shows throughout the '70s and '80s.
However, James Cameron wasn’t convinced that Simpson would be able to play the part of a killer cyborg. In hindsight, this is especially ironic when considering Simpson’s infamous trial for the murder of his wife.
Eventually realized by the sequel, Cameron’s plan for two Terminators to be sent back in time had been formulating since the writing process of the original movie. In the first draft, both of the cyborgs were out to kill John Connor.
Cameron described the second villain as being made of liquid that couldn’t be destroyed by conventional weapons. This new type pf cyborg would have presumably been introduced as a later threat, after the T-800 had been dispatched.
However, the technology just wasn’t there, especially with the budget they had of just over $6 million. The idea was inevitably scrapped and then gloriously resurrected for T2. It was only after Cameron’s work on The Abyss, which features an alien taking the form of sentient water, that the director felt the effect would be convincing enough for a complete construction of a liquid-human form.
Under the influential guidance of indie filmmaking legend Roger Corman, James Cameron learned many tricks of the trade. One of the most important lessons was the art of guerrilla filmmaking. Admittedly, this was the '80s, a simpler yet riskier time for directors, as acquiring permission to shoot in a location was considered optional.
However, the practice remains in some capacity today, as evidenced with indie directors Randy Moore and Sean Baker. Seeing as much of The Terminator was shot at night, the lack of professional lighting equipment and the haste of an unauthorized shoot contributed to the grungy feel of the original movie.
With a budget of just $6.4 million, the production was forced to shoot in the middle of nowhere and they would scatter whenever police sirens came too close. Cameron has said that these limitations allowed everybody involved to be more creative.
James Cameron knew when he hired a former Mr. Olympia that he wasn’t getting the best actor in the business. The director thus regulated Schwarzenegger’s role to just fourteen lines of dialogue (according to IMDb), showcasing instead his abilities as a physical performer.
The exact number of lines has been disputed (between 14 and 18), as some of the Terminator's lines are not technically spoken by Scwarzenegger, such as when the T-800 is impersonating Sarah Connor’s mother. The now famous line, “I’ll be back”, became the catchphrase synonymous with both the character and the actor.
When the sequel came around, both Schwarzenegger’s role and lines were expanded, resulting in a larger paycheck as well. When broken down, the actor was paid a staggering $21,429 per word in T2. The T-800’s second famous catchphrase, “hasta la vista, baby”, earned Schwarzenegger $85,716 each time it was said.
Known for his revolutionary special effects and set pieces, James Cameron has broken the record for the most expensive film ever made a whopping three times. It's possible that the director will manage to do this a fourth time with the upcoming Avatar 2.
Almost reaching triple digits, T2’s budget was $94 million, a staggering figure back in 1992. Cameron’s next film and third collaboration with Schwarzenegger, True Lies, crossed that threshold and became the first movie to cost $100 million.
More than fifteen times the budget of the original film, the increased expenditure for the sequel allowed for Cameron to conduct his wizardry of special effects, chase sequences, and pyrotechnics. His work on the tremendous sequel Aliens was just a warm-up for T2’s carnage, as the latter has an unprecedented 150 visual effects shots -- most of which still hold up very well today.
With $5 million and 35 people dedicated to work on T2’s special effects alone, rendering the liquid form of the T-1000 was a difficult task for Industrial Light and Magic. The George Lucas founded company provided most of the film’s important effects shots.
When it came to stretching the malleable form of Robert Patrick (T-1000), the team ran into trouble with the geometry and physics of the character. Luckily, a young ILM employee named John Knoll teamed up with his brother, Thomas Knoll, to develop a software that is now known as Photoshop. The program helped solved most of their technical problems and the T-1000 looked smoother than ever.
This revelation was a huge break for both Knoll brothers, with John staying on at ILM and becoming the chief creative officer. Photoshop, of course, went on to become the industry standard for polishing beauty magazines and removing unwanted visitors from holiday snaps. However, we like to think the program owes a small debt to a shape-shifting cyborg from the future.
Initially sceptical of recasting Schwarzenegger, Cameron felt that audiences would be confused by the actor returning to a role that was killed off at the end of the first film. Cameron turned to his frequent collaborator Stan Winston, a special effects genius known for his previous work with John Carpenter and Tim Burton, to help him address the issue.
Cameron felt that the trailer for T2 shouldn’t consist of pre-existing footage from the previous film. Thus, Winston helped to direct the trailer, which made clear to movie fans that the T-800 from the first film was just one of many that Skynet could endlessly produce.
The trailer itself ended up costing an estimated $150,000. It provided an exciting glimpse at the technological horror and masterful practical effects promised by the anticipated sequel. It also served as an effective misdirect to those who now know the film’s twist.
Despite receiving an R-rating for strong violence and coarse language, the franchise still appealed to children. This resulted in a wide range of merchandise that was sold alongside the film’s release, including action figures, trading cards, and video games.
Of course, no blockbuster worth its salt is complete without a tie-in board game, so one was quickly developed and rushed to the shelves. The game was played by two to four players who would race around the board, competing to find three pieces of high tech equipment while fending off attacks from the T-1000.
The winner was the first to melt the liquid Terminator in a vat of molten steel. The game was available for children aged seven and up. Though we can’t help but wonder how many seven year olds were scarred upon discovering the R-rated movie behind their favourite board game, it’s surely a far more appropriate tie-in than a Terminator version of Monopoly.
The big reveal in T2, was the fact that the T-800 had been re-appropriated by John Connor to be his own bodyguard. Connor then sends the new T-800 back in time to protect his younger self from the more advanced T-1000.
Having already nailed his performance as a near-silent exterminator in the first film, Schwarzenegger returned with more acting experience under his belt. The sequel allowed Schwarzenegger to deliver an impressive performance as a cyborg trying to understand what it's like to be human, as taught by the young John Connor.
In stark contrast to his earlier role as a villain, Arnie was so lovable as the reprogrammed Terminator that the character is the first and only to be included on both AFI’s lists of the best heroes and best villains. Apparently, one list isn’t big enough to accommodate Schwarzenegger’s moral complexity as an actor.
What initially appears to be a stroke of visual effects genius, the scene in which the T-1000 imitates Sarah Connor was actually incredibly easy to achieve. With the ability to change form and impersonate anybody that it chooses, the T-1000's uncanny abilities culminated with the simple use of Linda Hamilton’s twin sister, Leslie.
At the time, most audiences probably assumed that James Cameron had mastered yet another revolutionary special effect, when in fact it was just the two sisters that were used in the scene. Leslie was also used for a clever mirror shot in a deleted scene, which involves switching out the T-800's CPU chip.
The scene is now included in the extended version of the film. Leslie also made a brief appearance in Sarah Connor’s fiery nightmare depicting the apocalypse. Identical twins Don and Dan Stanton were also used when the T-1000 disguises itself as a security guard.
Not only was T2 the first and only film in the franchise to be recognized at the Academy Awards, it received six nominations and even managed to win four of them. The movie was obviously awarded for its stunning visual effects and it also won accolades for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Makeup -- all those hours spent applying metal and blood to Schwarzenegger's face finally paid off.
The Academy also recognized the movies achievements in Editing and Cinematography, though the film sadly lost out on a well-deserved nomination for Best Picture. The prestigious award ended up going to The Silence of the Lambs. T2 did manage to win the second highest number of statues at the 64th Academy Awards.
Woefully, no other Terminator film has been as celebrated by the Academy. We'll just have to wait and see if the franchise can repeat this level of acclaim in the future.
After already demonstrating a knack for disguises, walking through prison bars, and morphing its arms into deadly spears, the T-1000 pulls out another nasty trick when it commandeers a police helicopter.
In a "blink and you’ll miss it" type of moment, the T-1000 utilizes its shapeshifting abilities to form a pair of extra limbs to assist in piloting the helicopter. With intensity and desperation, the relentless Terminator needs to not only fly the chopper, but fire his weapon at the same time.
The villain manages to do this by forming a couple of extra hands. Just when you think its list of abilities has come to an end, the T-1000 pulls this out of nowhere in one last desperate attempt at completing his mission.
Having already decided that Arnold’s T-800 would be T2’s unlikely hero, James Cameron briefly considered leaning heavily into the sequel’s theme of role reversal. Michael Biehn, who played Kyle Reese in The Terminator, was briefly considered for the role of the T-1000.
However, Cameron then felt that this would be too confusing for audiences. Though Robert Patrick’s chilling performance made the role of the liquid Terminator his own, we don’t doubt that Biehn would’ve delivered in the part as well.
Mainly known for his role in The Terminator as well as playing Hicks in Aliens, Biehn also made for an effective villain in Cameron’s The Abyss, portraying the paranoid and double-crossing Commander Coffey. Ultimately, the image of John Connor’s father coming back in time to kill him is a little dark and confusing.
If you saw the latest entry in the franchise, Terminator Genisys, and thought that the time machine used by Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke looked a little familiar, you'd be correct.
Originally conceived as a three-ringed Displacement Machine, the design was intended for an opening segment in T2, but was deemed too costly and complicated for the production’s already bloated budget.
The design resurfaced in the 1997 film Contact, as the machine piloted by Jodie Foster to traverse dimensions in hopes of communicating with extra-terrestrial life -- the main difference being that Foster was able to keep her clothes on after using it. Although the three rings were missing, much of the concept was reused in the most recent film of the series.
Termnator Genisys made our teenage nightmares come true by transforming Jason Clarke’s John Connor into the nanotech inspired T-3000. McG’s prequel to the series, Terminator Salvation, originally ended with one of the bleakest notes in Terminator history.
Considered too dark by the producers, the film would have ended with the dead body of Christian Bale’s Connor being sculpted over the interior of Sam Worthington’s machine-human hybrid, Marcus. Connor/Marcus would then proceed to kill nearly every other character in the film, the credits closing on Skynet defeating the humans once and for all.
Both McG and Bale were initially excited by the idea, but ultimately felt the decision would have annoyed fans of the series. Overall, it was definitely a good choice to change the ending.
Christian Bale's infamous argument with Salvation's director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, went viral after a recording of his rant was leaked. However, it's probable that Bale's frustration likely stemmed from his initial reluctance to sign on to the project.
After a long period of persuasion, McG, whom Bale didn’t trust with the project, managed to eventually convince the actor to do the movie. Bale has since reportedly said that he partly took the role to prove himself right. After a messy shoot, Bale now regrets working with McG, considering himself correct in the belief that his previous body of work didn’t mesh with the Terminator franchise.
Though Bale insists that he and Hurlbut are on good terms and he wishes McG all the best in his career, Bale has vowed never to work with the director again.
Known by fans as the "Rusty Griswold" of the Terminator franchise, due to the number of times the role has been recast. John Connor is perhaps only rivalled by Doctor Who for the sci-fi character played by the largest number of people. Most famously portrayed by Edward Furlong in T2, the role was recast in Terminator 3 and given to Nick Stahl. This was reportedly due to Furlong’s substance abuse problems.
Following the completion of the trilogy, Thomas Dekker took on the mantle in the franchise’s popular spin-off television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The two subsequent attempts at rebooting the film series, Salvation and Genisys, feature Christian Bale and Jason Clarke in the role, respectively.
If we include Connor’s appearances as an older man (Michael Edwards) and a child (Dalton Abbott) from Terminator 2, that totals to a staggering seven performers who have all taken the role.
The aging T-800 seen in Terminator Genisys, self-described as "old, not obsolete", has all the characteristics of the reprogrammed Terminator from T2.
However, after living with and protecting Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor for so long, the cyborg has a new nickname -- Pops. Though he is mostly referred to by his affectionate new title, Arnold Schwarzenegger is credited as playing “The Guardian” in Terminator Genisys.
Perhaps this is to avoid confusion with Schwarzenegger’s other small role in the film, which saw the actor's de-aged head placed on the recreated T-800 from the first film. The aforementioned scene accurately portrays one of the franchise’s very first scenes. However, the effect itself was a little bit of a hard sell.
Fans of both Terminator and Deadpool will be pleased to learn that the director responsible for bringing everyone’s favorite self-aware comic book hero, Tim Miller, has signed on to reboot the franchise. After Geniys underperformed, the franchise is due for a much needed shot of adrenaline.
Although James Cameron endorsed Genisys as the “official sequel to T2”, its critical and financial response was poor and yet another revitalization of the franchise is in the works. Understandably, seem to be experiencing fatigue at the idea of Schwarzenegger trying his best to recapture the magic of the character.
However, the series has been sorely missing Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, who has been absent from the franchise since 1992 and is heavily rumoured to be returning for the new trilogy. And if anyone can make it work, surely the director who resurrected Deadpool from the ashes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine stands a chance.
Are there any other cool Terminator facts that we missed? Let us know in the comments!