Terminator 1984 – Why the backstory is just as Interesting

The Terminator 1984 – Started out as a Dream

The Terminator 1984 was directed by James Cameron, a time when studios and directors were actually producing classic films with cheap budgets. But let’s be honest, some failed while others such as Terminator and Predator succeeded. The Terminator was made with a budget of 6.4 million dollars and grossed worldwide 78.3 million dollars. Despite being a delightful cash cow, it wasn’t so easy to make.

Like all great movies, The Terminator was a risk. It was a risk for James Cameron, a young director who’s biggest credit to his name was Piranha’s II: The Spawning (1981). It was a risk for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was mostly known for Conan the Barbarian and he was trying find roles to enrich his acting portfolio.

Legend goes that Cameron had a dream about the Terminator while filming Piranha’s 2 in Rome, Italy. After writing a screenplay, Cameron reached out to several financiers and Orion Pictures,
which ended with a green light for Cameron to direct The Terminator. In an interview, Cameron describes what The Terminator means to him:

The Terminator is not about something else; it’s about us. It’s about technology held up in the image of man. We did it to ourselves, that’s the message. If this horror comes from the future in the form of a skull made of titanium, we created it. (99) – James Cameron: Interviews by James Cameron / From OMNI, 1998. Reprinted by permission of Bill Moseley.


The Terminator 1984

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Originally, there were two Terminators. But Cameron believed that the CGI wasn’t good enough to showcase the liquid metal design of the second Terminator — so he saved that in his back pocket for Judgement Day. He retained the first Terminator in the script and began his search for the actor. At the time, OJ Simpson seemed like a shoe-in for the Terminator role. But Cameron believed that he wasn’t believable as the bad guy. So all eyes turned to Schwarzenegger. But even Schwarzenegger had his reservations about Terminator 1984.

The Terminator had fewer lines than Conan- it ended up with eighteen- and I was afraid people would think I was trying to avoid speaking roles, or worse, that a lot of my dialogue had been edited out of the final film because it wasn’t working. (301) – Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2012.

Despite his reservations, Cameron convinced him to take the part. As you can see, it works spectacularly. Schwarzenegger is fantastic and believable as a machine – evoking not a twitch of emotion or humanity.

Cameron and Schwarzenegger did, however, have their disagreements. The most infamous is the “I’ll be back” scene. Schwarzenegger wanted to say “I will be back” because he thought a robot
wouldn’t contract his words. But Cameron disagreed and told Schwarzenegger to trust him — while Schwarzenegger complied, he did admit that it was a challenging and hard environment to work in. Schwarzenegger states:

The Terminator was not what I’d call a happy set. How can you be happy in the middle of the night blowing things up, when everybody is exhausted. (312) – Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2012.

Luckily, all that hard work paid off. For more semi-interesting content — check out the backstory of First Blood:


First Blood Movie