The Other Terminator
At one point, O.J. Simpson was seriously considered to play The Terminator, but was dropped after producers thought the Simpson looked and acted “too nice.”
I’ll just kind of leave that at that. Also, Mel Gibson turned down the role, feeling he was wrong for the part (and after he saw the final film, he believed that Schwarzenegger was perfect for the part).
A Machine of Few Words
Arnold Schwarzenegger took the role of the Terminator very seriously (more on that in a while), but James Cameron loved the actor in Conan the Barbarian and noticed that part of what gave Schwarzenegger his presence in that film was how few lines he had (he only had 24 lines in that film).
So, he wanted the Terminator to speak even less. As a result, the Terminator only has 14 lines (16, if you count the lines where the Terminator speaks in another voice).
The original idea for the first film was too ambitious. You see, originally Skynet was going to send two machines to kill Sarah Connor, the first being the T-800 we know and love. The second… Well, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the second was going to be a shape-shifter made out of liquid metal.
Yes, the T-1000 was in the original concept, but the effects of the time weren’t good enough to make on a mid-to-low budget, so the character was scrapped (and eventually revived when digital effects made the T-1000 possible).
That’s a Good Gun
So, Schwarzenegger really wanted to look and act like a machine, but especially when firing guns. He worked with guns at a firing range every day for a month. The end result of intensive training was Schwarzenegger being able to fire ambidextrously, being able to reload a gun without blinking or even looking down to reload, and even how to strip guns while blindfolded.
As if that wasn’t insane enough, he’d practice different reloading moves and tricks up to 50 times. All in the name of appearing like a machine
Three Desks, Three Scripts
The Terminator’s shooting schedule was delayed by nine months, which is practically a death sentence for your finances in Hollywood if you were counting on that income.
Luckily for James Cameron, 20th Century Fox threw him a lifeline and gave him a writing assignment because they liked The Terminator screenplay so much. That assignment was Aliens, which would end up being his next film, and while he was writing that, he also got an assignment to write Rambo: First Blood Part II.
On top of that, with the extra time he had, he rewrote parts of The Terminator, meaning he was writing/rewriting three different scripts at the same time. To make sure he wasn’t mixing the scripts up, he wrote each one at a different desk.
Hero and Villain
The American Film Institute has a list called the AFI’s 100 Heroes and Villains, and Arnold Schwarzenegger has a very odd distinction: He is the only actor to appear on both the Heroes list and the Villains list (playing the “villain” in The Terminator and the “hero” in Terminator 2: Judgement Day).
The laser sight on the Terminator’s pistol was technically functional, but had a pretty big catch. The sight was custom built for the movie, but had a very large battery pack that you never see in the final film. It was hidden in Schwarzenegger’s costume, with a hidden wire feeding into his sleeve.
Alien Vs. Predator Vs. The Terminator
The actors Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton both show up in The Terminator (Henriksen as a police officer, Paxton as one of the punks the Terminator beats the s@#t out of at the beginning). They are the only two actors in film history that have fought an Alien (AKA, xenomorph), a Predator, and a Terminator (both actors appear in Aliens, Paxton appears in Predator 2, and Henriksen was in Alien vs. Predator).
Who Needs Permits?
The Terminator was not a super-high-budget movie. As a result, many MANY scenes on the streets of LA were filmed “guerrilla-style,” where the entire cast and crew needed for a shot would prep ahead of time, arrive at a location in costume/gear, film, and get the f@#k out before police arrived.
So, many of the film’s “extras” were people who had no idea they were in the movie at all.
When the detectives are trying to comfort Sarah at the police station, they mention that there are 30 police officers there, so she’ll be safe. If you add up the number of police shot in the station, plus the number of times the Terminator fires at officers off-screen, the number adds up to 30.
During the scene where the Terminator performs repairs on its face, the head is obviously a puppet, but the hands are indeed Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was crouched behind the head and shoulders puppet wearing the same shirt as the puppet, so the sleeves match.
A Literal Fever Dream
James Cameron is a very talented illustrator, and drew some of the first concept art of The Terminator himself, well before a production team was ever assembled. But the vision of the Terminator as a character literally came from a malnourished fever dream Cameron had where he envisioned a robotic metal skeleton rising from the flames.
He drew the image, and worked backward from the image to write the script.
A Fateful Cameo
James Cameron never appears on screen in The Terminator, but his voice appears early in the movie on Sarah Connor’s answering machine. Specifically, he’s the man who bails on going on a date with Sarah. The irony of this is that Linda Hamilton and James Cameron got married eventually, but also divorced.
A Place Called Tech Noir
We’ll close this out on why the hell that club the shootout is happening in is called “Tech Noir.”
Simply put, it’s the genre Cameron considers the movie to take place in. The Terminator has the harsh grittiness of old school noir films (particularly the lighting), but mixed with science fiction. Now, the club was built for the movie, but was convincing enough that local club-goers had to be kept out of the set. Apparently, Tech Noir was cool enough in its day as a set that people really wanted to party there.