Movies From The 1980s

‘The Terminator’: What You Didn’t Know About Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Finest Hour

With it’s innovative plot, captivating visuals, and haunting soundtrack, The Terminator was a defining film of the 1980s that kick-started a legendary franchise, but here’s what you didn’t know about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finest hour.

The Catch-phrase That Almost Never Was

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s immortal line “I’ll be back” is universally adored by office comedians everywhere, who never tire of saying it just before they make a visit to the crapper, but did you know the phase was originally in the script as “I’ll come back.” The original version doesn’t quite have the same ring of masterful and apocalyptic authority as the one we all know and love, in fact it almost sounds like the half-hearted threat of an ousted and corrupt politician when compared with The Terminator’s defining and dominant statement of intent.

What Might Have Been?

Just imagine if Mel Gibson or O.J. Simpson had played the iconic role of T-800! It could have happened you know. Apparently Mel Gibson turned it down. Why? Who knows! Perhaps the killing machine from the future didn’t have enough neurotic and vulnerable potential for our Mel to work with. As for O.J., the director James Cameron turned him down because he didn’t feel he’d be believable as a killer. Go figure!

The Juice
Things could have been so different for ‘the juice.’ [Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

Role Reversal

Originally Arnie was earmarked to play Kyle Reese, but after a meeting with Cameron, the director excitedly exclaimed, “He cannot play Reese but he’ll make one hell of a Terminator.” Schwarzenegger’s enthusiasm was less apparent, when asked about other projects during an interview on the set of Conan the Barbarian, the big man responded in his usual eloquent manner, “There’s some sh*t movie I’m doing, take a couple of weeks.”

The Thinking Man’s Thespian

Throughout the duration of The Terminator, Schwarzenegger has his acting abilities pushed to the limit with a staggering 16 lines of dialogue, and that’s a lot of script to remember for someone whose first language isn’t English. But as they say, screen presence goes a long, long way in La La land. Incidentally, he was paid $15 million for the second film with just 700 words of dialogue. This works out at around £16,222 per word. “Hasta la vista, baby” cost the studio $64,888.

Love Is In The Air

In the opening scenes of the film, the voice on Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton) answer machine, canceling a date, is, in fact, James Cameron’s. The two would get married years later before terminating their relationship and getting divorced.

It Came To Me In A Dream

Paul McCartney may have claimed to have written the whole of Beatles’ song “Yesterday” in a dream, but James Cameron went one better and has said he came up with the idea of The Terminator when he was bed bound with a fever.

What The Psychoanalysts Say

You may have thought that The Terminator is a gripping yarn which showcases Schwarzenegger’s intuitive ability to play a one dimensional and unthinking killing machine but British psychoanalyst and author Darian Leader believes there’s a lot more to the film and has suggested it’s a prime example of how the cinema has dealt with the thorny issue of masculinity. Apparently, T-800 proves poignantly that to be a real man you have to possess more than a very masculine body. I say!

Mechanical Music

The Terminator is renowned for the synthesizer music which helps set the tone of the film, but did you know that almost all the music in the film is played live and composer Brad Fiedel described it as being about “a mechanical man and his heartbeat.”

What A Character

He may be a man/android of few words, completely devoid of personality, and share the same sort of humor as a nuclear missile on steroids, but we all appear to have a soft spot in our hearts for the T-800. In fact, Empire magazine actually rated him No. 14 on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of all time.

Every Dog Has Its Day

The studio behind the film, Orion, wanted a cyborg dog added to the script, which Cameron quite rightly ignored. The director also toyed with the idea of having another Terminator made of “liquid metal” in the first movie. Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t good enough at the time. Cue Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Behind The Shades

The Terminator’s sunglasses were made by US manufacturer Gargoyles and are still used by US armed forces and police departments today.

The Terminator Almost Got Terminated

Despite Cameron’s claims that the idea came to him in a dream, sci-fi author Harlan Ellison alleged that The Terminator copied some episodes of Ellison’s The Outer Limits. The studio agreed on an out of court settlement for an undisclosed sum and added a credit to the film which acknowledged Ellison’s work.

Classic Movies From The 1980s.
James Cameron and an old friend. [Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]

A National Treasure

Made in 1984 and hailed as one of the best sci-fi films ever, The Terminator was deemed as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2008 when the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States National Film Library. So there it is, future generations are assured the pleasure of seeing Arnie utter time and time again, “I’ll be back.”

[Featured Image by Kevin Lee/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International]