The Terminator was released with little promotion on October 26, 1984. James Cameron, its little-known writer and director, had recently been living in his car, fresh off of getting caught breaking into the editing room of his only other directorial effort, Piranha II: The Spawning. With a production budget of just $6.4 million, it eventually earned over $78.3 million, making it one of the highest grossing movies of the year. On its 30th anniversary, here are some things you might not have known about the movie.
1.THE IDEA FOR "THE TERMINATOR" ALL STARTED WITH A FEVER DREAM
James Cameron had a tumultuous experience making his directorial debut in 1981's Piranha II: The Spawning, but as he once put it, sometimes "nightmares are a business asset." While in Rome for the horror movie's release, Cameron had a fever dream of a "metal death figure coming out of a fire."
2. BUT HARLAN ELLISON LATER SUCCESSFULLY WON AN OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT OVER THE CONCEPT
According to Ellison, The Terminator was a "ripoff" of an episode of The Outer Limits he had written in 1964 titled "Soldier," itself an adaptation of his 1957 short story "Soldier From Tomorrow." Orion Pictures and the outspoken author settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Cameron later referred to Ellison as a "parasite who can kiss my ass."
3. JAMES CAMERON SOLD THE SCRIPT TO "THE TERMINATOR" FOR $1
There would never have been any lawsuits if James Cameron didn't take a lot of risks to get the movie made in the first place. As the legend goes, Cameron's agent hated the idea of the film, so Cameron, who was living in his car at the time, fired him. An even more courageous move was Cameron's insistence that he direct The Terminator, despite only having Piranha II: The Spawning on his resume. Instead of simply selling the script that had gotten some production studios' interest for a decent sum, Cameron sold the script to producer Gale Anne Hurd for one dollar, with the stipulation that he be allowed to direct his vision. The gamble paid off in every respect, and when the North American rights to the franchise revert back to him in 2019, that car/apartment will be even more distant of a memory.
4. LANCE HENRIKSEN WAS THE FIRST ACTOR TO DRESS AS A TERMINATOR
Before James Cameron arrived at a pitch meeting with Hemdale Film Corporation producers, actor Lance Henriksen made an impression by kicking open the door and acting as the title character while wearing a leather jacket with gold foil smothered on his teeth. The performance was so believable that the secretary dropped her typewriter onto her lap. Henriksen would play Detective Hal Vukovich for his trouble.
5. THE STUDIO WANTED THE HERO TO HAVE A CYBORG DOG SIDEKICK
Because of the paltry $6.4 million budget, Cameron was mostly left alone by his financiers, Hemdale and Orion Pictures. Mostly. Hemdale's John Daly one request was for Cameron to cut out the striking final images of the movie in the factory, which earned him a '"F*** you! The film isn't over yet" in response. Cameron was a little more receptive to Orion's two suggestions, and supposedly less colorful in his responses. The first was to "strengthen the relationship" between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, which was a note that Cameron took. The other was for Reese to have a cyborg canine companion. That sadly did not happen.
6. THE STUDIO ALSO WANTED O.J. SIMPSON TO PLAY THE TERMINATOR
It's been bouncing around the Internet for so long that you probably think it's an urban legend, but Orion co-founder Mike Medavoy even admitted a few months ago that he had strongly suggested O.J. Simpson for the part of the title role, and Cameron dismissed the thought because Simpson came off as too nice of a guy.
6. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS INITIALLY GOING TO PLAY KYLE REESE
When James Cameron went to have lunch with Schwarzenegger to discuss this, he had a change of heart and asked if he would consider playing The Terminator instead, after Schwarzenegger kept telling him how he thought the T-800 should act. Even though he had a lot of opinions on the character, Arnold initially didn't like the idea of playing the villain, having just found success playing the heroic Conan in Conan the Barbarian, but eventually agreed. The awkwardness returned at the end of the meal, when Cameron realized that he had forgotten his wallet.
7. STING WAS OFFERED $350,000 TO PLAY KYLE REESE
At the time, Sting was still playing bass and writing songs for The Police, and was committed to star in Dune. Another musician, Bruce Springsteen, was considered, even though he had no movie acting experience, as well as Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell, Tommy Lee Jones, Mickey Rourke, Michael O'Keefe, Scott Glenn, Treat Williams, Christopher Reeve, and Mel Gibson. Bruce Willis was another young actor viewed as the potential good guy cyborg that didn't get the part. Jai Courtney, the actor who played Willis' son in A Good Day to Die Hard, will play Kyle Reese in The Terminator reboot Terminator: Genisys.
The role of Kyle Reese went to Michael Biehn, despite disappointing producers by using a Southern accent in his initial audition. Once his agent explained to the producers that the accent came from practicing for a part on a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof stage production which he didn't even get, Biehn got another shot and won the part.
8. THE PRINCIPAL ACTORS HAD DOUBTS ABOUT THE MOVIE
According to Nigel Andrews' book, True Myths of Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Life and Times of Arnold Schwarzenegger, from Pumping Iron to Governor of California, while being interviewed on the set of Conan the Destroyer, Schwarzenegger referred to The Terminator as "some shit movie" he was doing. Linda Hamilton admitted that she was "a little snobby" and had Shakespearean aspirations for her career, and had doubts about the movie she was about to do. When Michael Biehn told his actor friends he was doing a movie with Schwarzenegger, they sarcastically told him, "Well, good luck with that."
9. SCHWARZENEGGER TRIED TO CHANGE THE LINE "I'LL BE BACK"
Thinking he had trouble pronouncing "I'll" properly, Schwarzenegger asked James Cameron if he could say, "I will be back" instead, with the reasoning being that The Terminator would not speak in contractions. After Cameron shot back with, "I don't tell you how to act, don't tell me how to write," he assured his star that they will shoot ten takes and pick the one that sounded best. In Shawn Huston's novelization of the film script, the line is "I'll come back."
10. SCHWARZENEGGER ONLY HAS 58 SPOKEN WORDS IN THE MOVIE
Technically, The Terminator says more than Arnold's 17 sentences, but one is an overdubbed voice of a cop, and the other is in Sarah Connor's mother's voice, when the Terminator was trying to trick her.
11. LINDA HAMILTON BROKE HER ANKLE BEFORE SHOOTING
To work around this, all of the scenes where Sarah Connor runs from The Terminator were shot at the tail end of the shooting schedule. In one draft of the screenplay, Cameron wrote that Connor had an old figure skating injury that required surgical pins in her tibia. When the T-800 kills the first two Sarah Connors, he cut their legs open to look for the surgical mark. This was taken out of the final cut.
12. YOU CAN ACCESS THE TERMINATOR'S POINT OF VIEW IF YOU STILL HAVE AN APPLE II
If you own an Apple II, and you enter "] call -151 *" p at the basic prompt, you get The Terminator's view.
13. IN POLAND, THE FILM WAS RELEASED AS "THE ELECTRONIC MURDERER"
The Polish word for "terminator" loosely translates to "apprentice," which doesn't really capture the essence of what James Cameron and company were going for. When the movie became popular in Poland, the subsequent films stuck with the original titles.
14. THE LOW BUDGET CAUSED A LOT OF PHYSICAL PAIN FOR THE CREW
When The Terminator's hand is getting pummeled by a lead pipe by Kyle Reese, it was Tom Woodruff Jr., who worked special effects, allowing his hand to get the beating of a lifetime. Naturally, he lost feeling in his fingers. As a reward, James Cameron sent him a Christmas card that read, "Merry Christmas. Hope the feeling comes back to your fingers someday.”
15. DAVID HYDE PIERCE HAS REPEATEDLY DENIED THAT HE IS IN THE MOVIE
IMDb still lists David Hyde Pierce's first role as the co-driver of the tanker truck hijacked by The Terminator, even though the actor has gone out of his way to point out that it was a different actor with the name David Pierce.
16. THE TEASER TRAILER WAS NARRATED BY THE VOICE OF OPTIMUS PRIME
Peter Cullen was the original voice of Optimus Prime, and reprised his role for the new Transformers movies. Cullen has range—he also was the voice of Eeyore from 1988-2010.