Few 80s movies have proved quite so influential as 1984’s The Terminator. Directed by future Oscar-winner James Cameron—and featuring one of movie legend Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most iconic performances—the film has since become the first installment of a long-running franchise that has gone on to earn more than $3.5 billion at the global box office. Here are some more facts and figures about one of the truly greatest movies of the 80s.
IN YOUR DREAMS
Although he went on to make such box office behemoths as Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar, director James Cameron’s career started somewhat less impressively—with his 1982 debut feature, Piranha II: The Spawning. Reportedly, Cameron (who was better known at the time as a special effects wizard, not a director) was only hired to helm Piranha II when the movie’s original director, Miller Drake, was sacked not long after production began on an enormous underwater soundstage in Italy. Taking the director’s chair after shooting had already got underway would prove difficult enough in ordinary circumstances, but when Cameron found that the film’s uncompromising producer, Ovidio G Assonitis, had hired an almost entirely Italian-speaking crew, and was keen to maintain extensive creative control over the movie himself, the making of Piranha II soon proved a nightmare. Quite literally, in fact. Suffering from stress and feverish with ill-health, Cameron took to his bed in Rome one night and was plagued by a terrifying dream in which the shining metal torso of a robot hauled itself out of the flames of an explosion towards him. The image proved so frightening that Cameron couldn’t get it out of his head the following morning, and began sketching out a backstory for the burning robot, imagining it to be a time-traveling mechanical assassin sent from the future. And like that, the Terminators were born.
At the time The Terminator was made, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s only real big-screen acting experience was 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. As a result, the producers weren’t very keen to cast him as their time-traveling android and instead suggested that he play Kyle Reese, the human resistance fighter from the future, who is likewise sent back in time alongside the Terminator. For the Terminator himself, the producers initially wanted to cast someone with more box office potential, and at one point had OJ Simpson in mind for the title role. Cameron, however, wasn’t enthusiastic about either idea—but a production meeting with Schwarzenegger not only changed his mind but convinced him that Schwarzenegger himself should play The Terminator. His contract was drawn up and signed the very next day.
SPACE AND TIME
Just weeks before shooting on The Terminator was due to get underway, the producers of Conan the Barbarian activated a clause in Schwarzenegger’s contract with them that tied him to its sequel. Cameron could do nothing, and was forced to scrap his entire production schedule for The Terminator while Schwarzenegger headed to Mexico and fulfilled his contract obligations by filming 1984’s Conan the Destroyer for the next nine months. Cameron, however, put the extra time to good use: he used the delay to write an entirely new screenplay idea, which he called Mother, in which a female astronaut battles a monstrous alien in space, wearing a gigantic mechanical battle suit. The idea would eventually become 1989’s Aliens.
OUT OF JOINT
A week before production on The Terminator was finally due to get underway in Toronto in 1983, there was yet another delay when Schwarzenegger’s costar Linda Hamilton—playing the Terminator’s target, Sarah Connor—badly sprained her ankle. All the shots of her running were ultimately shifted to as late as possible in the filming schedule, while for all of the remaining shots, Hamilton had to have her ankle bandaged and wrapped in supporting tape. The injury meant that she spent much of the rest of the production in agony.
THIS LINE TERMINATES HERE
Incredibly, the Terminator’s iconic line— “I’ll be back”—was almost dropped from the movie, when Schwarzenegger decided that he found the contraction “I’ll” a little too difficult to say. He also argued that a robot wouldn’t use such relaxed speech and suggested that Cameron alter the line to a more forceful and declarative “I will be back.” Luckily, Cameron resisted the change, and Schwarzenegger went on to nail his delivery of the line perfectly—kick-starting a catchphrase that has endured for the rest of his career.