Fun Terminator Facts
The 1984 sci-fi-horror-action film is one of my favourites of all time and, as discussed in a previous Top-10, my number-1 favourite movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Celebrating the film’s 30 year anniversary, here are some fun factoids about the movie.
In the initial conception, James Cameron imagined the Terminator to be much more human-like. The idea was that in order to be an effective infiltrator, the Terminator was supposed to be as inconspicuous as possible. Cameron tried to sell the idea to Orion producers while pitching the movie and had Henriksen show up, wearing aluminum foil on his teeth and acting quirky in order to sell the idea of him as the film’s killer.
Orion liked the idea of the film, but deemed Henriksen not to be frightening enough for the part. Cameron felt bad, especially after coaching Henriksen extensively for the role. As a consolation prize, Henriksen got a small role as the Police Lieutenant’s sidekick in the film. Henriksen did eventually play an artificial human in Cameron’s 1986 film, Aliens. Terminator 2 which pitted the chiselled Arnold against the slimmer, less imposing, but more deadly Robert Patrick is therefore closer to how the first movie was shaping up to become.
Orion wanted a big star to headline The Terminator. Fresh off his success in Conan the Barbarian, the studio wanted Cameron to cast Schwarzenegger as the film’s heroic lead. Cameron still had his mind set on a more serious, human approach and felt that Arnold would have been too macho to play the heroic lead. Cameron agreed to have meal with Arnold to discuss the part, but had already decided to turn Arnold down. However, while talking to Schwarzenegger, Cameron noticed how well Arnold seemed to better understand the role of the Terminator . When he finally pointed out to Arnold that he had not mentioned Kyle Reese once during their conversation, he began to beg Arnold to accept the part.
Schwarzenegger had misgivings about playing a villain immediately after his big break through as Conan, but eventually accepted after re-reading the script for the film. O.J. Simpson was also up for the role of the Terminator briefly before Cameron set his sights on Arnold.
Much as he had done with Lance Henriksen, James Cameron took it as his duty to coach Michael Biehn into the role of Kyle Reese, the soldier from the future.
He wanted Reese to be a resourceful hero and not just a helpless fish out of water. Cameron and Biehn would go out at night, climb fire escapes and practice surviving off the streets – the same way Kyle Reese does in the movie. Most importantly Cameron taught Biehn a skill which surprised the actor, how to hot-wire a car to start it without a key.
Despite having lived in the states for 15 years and having starred in a handful of films as well as taking extensive speech and acting lessons, Arnold Schwarzenegger still occasionally had difficulties with the English language. He asked James Earl Jones’s help while rehearsing his lines for Conan and while The Terminator didn’t present him with too many or complicated lines, one line did give him difficulty.
The iconic catch-phrase of the film was very difficult for Arnold to pronounce as he tended to stop on the L-sound in “I’ll”. He tried to convince James Cameron to change the line to “I will be back” because he felt that it would sound more natural for the Terminator. Luckily for everyone, Cameron insisted that Arnold would deliver the line as scripted. Schwarzenegger realised only after the movie came out how powerful the line was when fans started asking him to say it in public.
TechNoir, the fictional night-club where Sarah Connor goes to hide when she notices Kyle Reese following her, was built smack middle of L.A. Before cameras had started rolling, the crew noticed that people who weren’t extras were queuing up to come to TechNoir.
Producer and screenwriter Gale Anne Hurd, who was on set, noted that people were actually willing to pay money to get in. The film was under such a tight budget that she claimed she was tempted to accept.
Just to make sure people don’t get the scenes mixed up, I’m not talking about the scene where Arnold is chasing down Kyle and Sarah, jumps over a burning car onto the hood of Kyle’s getaway ride and punches the windshield through. This scene was faked with the help of a mechanical arm, concealed by Schwarzenegger’s build and probably by the scene being over in a matter of seconds. Most will not even have time notice that in the shot in question, it’s actually the fake brick wall in the background and not the car which is moving, creating the illusion of the car backing up.
The scene of this factoid is the one where the T-800 steals a car from a suburban neighbourhood. This scene in question was done entirely for real and, on top of which, without permits. Due to the tight budget of the film, several short insert shots were filmed guerilla style and Arnold punching in the car’s side window was one such example.
With The Terminator’s budget nearly gone at the end of production, one key element still missing was the soundtrack. Hoping perhaps to save some money, Orion decided to hire synthesiser maestro Brad Fiedel. Fiedel did all of the music entirely by himself on a keyboard and was given a private screening with a few of the crew to get a feel for what the film’s music should sound like. During the scene where Kyle faces the now skeletal Terminator in the factory, Fiedel was apparently really excited and willing to say that he would do the film despite his initial scepticism. After the scene where Kyle sticks a pipe bomb inside the Terminator, blowing it up, Fiedel stood up and exclaimed: “If he gets up one more time, I’m leaving!”
Of course in the next immediate scene, the injured Sarah gets chased by the remaining half of the Terminator. Fiedel’s light-hearted joke suddenly made him very embarrassed and he sat down and didn’t say anything until the end of the screening. Luckily, the film’s producers either didn’t hear Fiedel’s exclamation or took it with good humour, since Fiedel got the job regardless. Fiedel and Cameron had very few qualms over the soundtrack (probably the reason why Cameron brought him back for T2 and True Lies), except for the scene where Sarah and Kyle escape from the police station. Fiedel wanted to play the Terminator anthem as a symbol of the heroes getting away but Cameron insisted that he would not do so, since it would ruin the suspense of the scene.