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10 Things You Might Not Know about ‘The Terminator’

by Jeffrey Morris
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The Terminator (1984) is an American science-fiction action film directed by James Cameron and is now classified as a “Tech Noir” movie. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator,” a cyborg assassin sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a woman before she has her son—the savior of a future world. The movie was such a big hit that it became a cult classic.

So many people have watched The Terminator that it is difficult to find anyone—young or old—who hasn’t heard about the movie. If you are reading this list, you must have heard about The Terminator and have probably watched one or two movies from the franchise. So here are ten things you might not know about the super-popular movie;

Related: Top 10 Behind The Scenes Facts About Wes Anderson Movies

10 It Began as a Dream

James Cameron on Terminator’s True Meaning, the Film’s Origins and More | On Directing

Celebrity director James Cameron only had one movie to his credit when he directed The Terminator. His previous film was Piranha II: The Spawning (1982), and it was poorly received upon its release. Not willing to give up on his career, Cameron decided to try his luck again, but his next movie idea would come in an unusual manner.

One day, Cameron had a high fever and fell into a deep sleep. He had a dream about a metal death figure coming out of a fire. Its skin had been stripped by the fire and exposed for what it really was—this was how the idea of the movie The Terminator was born. The dream influenced the title character of the movie. But this time around, James Cameron scored a big hit.[1]

9 Lance Henriksen Was the First Actor to Dress as Terminator

Lance Henriksen As ‘The Terminator’? It Almost Happened!

When James Cameron decided to pitch the idea of the movie The Terminator to movie producers, he put on a stunt that would help sell the movie to them. At a meeting with Hemdale Film Corporation, Cameron had Lance Henriksen dress up as the title character of The Terminator. He also made him go to the meeting fifteen minutes ahead of time.

Shortly before Cameron arrived, Lance Henriksen kicked open the door of the meeting venue, wearing a leather jacket with gold foil affixed to his teeth. He promptly put up a performance. The performance was so believable that the secretary dropped her typewriter on her lap. Henriksen got the role of Detective Hal Vukovich for his troubles.[2]

8 Cameron Considered Schwarzenegger for the Role of Kyle Reese

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Stealing Terminator from O. J. Simpson

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ended up playing the title character, was originally considered for the role of Kyle Reese. On the first meeting between Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, although Schwarzenegger was interested in the good-guy role of Kyle Reese, he noticed that the title character had very few lines.

Schwarzenegger started making suggestions about how the title character should be played, and it became apparent to Cameron that Schwarzenegger would be better off as the title character on screen. Cameron then proposed that Schwarzenegger play the Terminator. Schwarzenegger accepted the role at Cameron’s insistence.[3]

7 The Most Iconic Line in the Movie Almost Didn’t Happen

Schwarzenegger reveals the origin of iconic Terminator line

The most iconic line in the movie would have been lost for good if not for Director James Cameron standing his ground. In the hit movie, Schwarzenegger’s character delivers the iconic phrase for the first time. The line is now the most recognizable quote from the franchise. In one scene, the Terminator walks into a police station looking for Sarah Connor. On being informed by the desk sergeant that he can’t see her, the Terminator says, “I’ll be back.”

Schwarzenegger suggested that he would rather say, “I will be back.” But Cameron disagreed, telling Schwarzenegger, “Do not tell me how to write because I do not tell you how to act.” Eventually, the decision was made, and just as Cameron had predicted, Schwarzenegger nailed the line.[4]

6 The Terminator Created a Movie Genre

Terminator 1984 Night Club Tech Noir 4K UHD HDR Remastered James Cameron Gale Anne Hurd 6/16

James Cameron had a secret message in the movie, a message that only he would understand initially until it became public knowledge. When Sarah is first pursued by the Terminator, she goes to a club in Los Angeles called “Tech Noir.” Cameron came up with the name of the club as a reference for the non-existent genre that he felt the movie would fit into.

Today, Tech Noir has become a movie genre of its own. The word “Tech Noir” describes a blend of visionary sci-fi and film noir. Popular examples of this movie genre in the 21st century include Gamer (2009), a movie about an online game where the participants can control human beings as players. Others include Dredd (2012) and Hardcore Henry (2015).[5]

5 In Poland, the Movie Was Released as The Electronic Murderer

Photo credit: Orion Pictures

While the movie The Terminator bore its true name all over the world, there was an exception. In Poland, the movie was released asThe Electronic Murderer. At the time the movie was released, the word “terminator” translated to the word “apprentice” in Polish, so the title in the country was understandably changed to something that would portray the movie as an action flick because no one would want to watch a movie about an apprentice.

However, when the sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released, it bore the title it had in other parts of the world as the Polish people already knew what The Terminator meant and what to expect from the sequel.[6]

4 There Were Almost Two Terminators

Final Fight: T-800 vs T-1000 | Terminator 2 [Remastered]

The original Terminator movie would have seen two Terminators sent back in time, one with the aim of killing Sarah Connor. At the same time, the other would have protected her, and both would have been played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the movie had a small budget that would not accommodate two Terminators, so the movie stuck with one.

Considering the huge reception of the movie worldwide, the idea ended up being used in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When Skynet sends the T-1000 to kill the resistance leader John Connor when he is a child, the resistance sends back a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator to protect John Connor.[7]

3 Schwarzenegger Speaks Less Than 100 Words in the Movie

Every word Arnold Schwarzenegger said as The Terminator (The Terminator 1984)

The first Terminator paints Schwarzenegger’s T-800 as a stoic machine that is more interested in his mission than making small talk. This is why he had only 17 lines in The Terminator, which breaks down to about 70 words. The idea of limiting the Terminator to a few words is understandable. It would make the character look more menacing, a true “Electronic Murderer” more interested in actions than vain words. One positive outcome of the Terminator’s few words is the effect it had when he made the comment, “I’ll be back.”

When you compare the original Terminator to its sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where the Terminator speaks 700 words, and other movies in the franchise, you will discover the foresight of the writer in the original film. No other comment made by the Terminator is as popular as “I’ll be back,” a comment he made in the first movie. All other movies in the franchise have failed to produce a catchphrase of their own. Such is the power of a few words.[8]

2 James Cameron Sold the Script of The Terminator for $1

James Cameron Sold Rights to ‘Terminator’ for $1

When James Cameron wrote the movie The Terminator, he was living in his car. His agent, who was supposed to help him promote the movie and raise interest, did not like the idea of the movie, so James Cameron had to fire him. Cameron then started looking for a way to bring the script to the screen by himself.

In the process of marketing The Terminator, Cameron had a disadvantage—his directorial debut Piranha II wasn’t well-received. Even if The Terminator was a brilliant idea, you couldn’t trust a director like Cameron to bring it to life. Cameron received many offers for the script from studios that weren’t interested in hiring him to direct it. Some offers came with huge money, but Cameron wanted to direct the film.

Eventually, Cameron struck a deal with co-writer Hurd that he would sell her the complete rights to the script for the sum of one dollar on the grounds that he could direct the movie. The deal stuck.[9]

1 Another Writer Accused Cameron of Stealing His Idea

Terminator vs. Soldier

While The Terminator may be Cameron’s best idea ever because of the sequels that keep coming, when the movie was released, another great writer found it too close to his work for comfort. The movie found a fan in Harlan Ellison, a prolific and award-winning author and screenwriter. Unfortunately, though having really enjoyed the movie, Ellison could not help noticing similarities to the plot of his own 1964 Outer Limits episode “Soldier.” In Ellison’s work, two opposing soldiers were sent back in time, one good and another evil. Moreover, he believed that the idea of T-800’s exoskeleton does resemble a robot design in “Demon with a Glass Hand,” another work of his.

Ellison filed a suit against James Cameron and The Terminator distributor Orion Pictures. Although Cameron found Ellison’s suit baseless and opportunistic and wanted to fight to the bitter end, Orion Pictures was not inclined to fight. To silence Cameron, the management of Orion Pictures informed him that if he fought the case in court and lost, he would be solely responsible for the financial penalty that might follow. The suit was settled out of court. However, Ellison has sued other entities as well over supposed copyright infringement, including the makers of In Time and ages-old internet provider AOL.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen