I’ll Be Back: Arnold Schwarzenegger Recalls Almost Turning Down The Terminator Role

11 September 2019
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Movie, The Terminator
Image: Orion Pictures

It’s since become one of the most iconic roles in cinematic history, but as Arnold Schwarzenegger describes, he wasn’t particularly interested

The film not only went on to spawn an iconic franchise, but also generated one of the most famous lines to be uttered in movie history, instantly cementing itself in the pop culture Hall of Fame: “I’ll be back.”

Of course, it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to utter the words with such charisma or stern resolve as Arnold Schwarzenegger, making the revelation that the actor almost turned down the role somewhat unsettling.

Back in 2012, Schwarzenegger described in his new memoir Total Recall how he almost didn’t take the job for James Cameron’s The Terminator. At the time, the actor was looking to build his career around more heroic roles and consequently, didn’t want to tarnish this image by then playing a bad guy. While the autobiography goes on to discuss how Schwarzenegger then came to play the role, his recent interview with Men’s Health also provides more detail on the decision.

Schwarzenegger told the publication that at first he had his eye on playing the human resistance fighter Kyle Reese. It was only when he read the script for the movie ahead of his meeting with Cameron that he became “fixated on the Terminator.”

When he sat down with Cameron for lunch, he told the director: “He’s a machine. So everything has to be matter-of-fact. I told Jim that. I said there should be no joy, no gratification, no kind of victory lap of any sort. Just the mission, complete. I go through these points. Jim, afterward, says to me, ‘F***, you analyse it better than the way I have written it. Why don’t you play the Terminator?’”

But as Schwarzenegger recalled, “I said, ‘The Terminator only says 27 lines.’” Thankfully, even with the minimal dialogue, Schwarzenegger was persuaded to take up the role and in doing so, he gave us a film and a character that became cinematic gold.

Schwarzenegger went on to add that audiences were drawn to the Terminator’s absence of all feeling. “People really admired the character, because he was able to do things they all wanted to do. Everyone wants to wipe out a police station when they get mad at the police. We had a test screening. We showed it to 50 cops. They all applauded when I wiped out the police station – because it was not a human being doing it, it was the machine doing it,” he said.

One things for sure, Schwarzenegger took the role very seriously when he eventually landed it. As he describes in the memoir, “I worked with guns every day before we filmed, and for the first two weeks of filming I practiced stripping and reassembling them blindfolded until the motions were automatic. I spent endless hours at the shooting range, learning techniques for a whole arsenal of different weapons, getting used to their noise so that I wouldn’t blink.”

If there were hesitations from Schwarzenegger in terms of taking up the role, they certainly abated with the success of the film and he later went on to star in the sequels. Now, audiences can look forward to seeing the 72-year-old back in action, in the role that catapulted him to success and international stardom. Schwarzenegger will star in Terminator: Dark Fate, which is slated to hit theatres on November 1.


Via GQ Australia