When The Terminator hit theaters on October 26, 1984, it took the world by storm. James Cameron’s futuristic thriller redefined both the post-apocalyptic and time-travel sub-genres, while introducing fascinating concepts about the dangers of modern technology. It also cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger’s status as one of the biggest action icons of the 1980s and beyond.
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The movie launched the career of James Cameron, who went on to direct the top two box-office earners of all time, Avatar and Titanic. It also boosted Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose monotone delivery and muscle-bound swagger made a cyborg assassin the height of cool.
Schwarzenegger originally read for the part of Kyle Reese. In his fledgling acting career, he had already played the title character in Hercules in New York, and Conan the Barbarian, and naturally wanted to be the hero of The Terminator movie. Although he may have first been put forward for this role by his agent, Cameron was cool on the idea: “I was very negative on the idea of Arnold playing Reese.”
And Schwarzenegger, at lunch with Cameron after his reading, couldn’t stop thinking about the Terminator: “The more I read the script, the more I got fascinated by the Terminator – the bad guy – which I thought was the real cool guy. We were talking along the lines of me playing the heroic character.”
After looking at a mocked up painting that Cameron had made of him as the Terminator, Schwarzenegger had made up his mind: “I am the Terminator, I’m gonna make this call now, I called [Cameron] right away and I said ‘I want to play the Terminator,’ and the deal was made.”