Modern blockbuster cinema has become increasingly risk-averse, with the major studios content to lean on the same formula over and over again until it fails, in which case a reboot is just around the corner. James Cameron has never been one to stick to convention, though, and it can’t be overstated just how much he turned things on their head when Terminator 2: Judgment Day entered development.
For the last 30 years, the sci-fi series has been regarded as a big budget behemoth powered by visual effects and expansive set pieces, but Cameron’s 1984 original was a lean and mean thriller that cost a little over $6 million to produce. Not only was the follow up Hollywood’s first $100 million movie with the industry’s first fully-CGI humanoid character, but Arnold Schwarzegger’s T-800 was re-positioned as the hero of the story.
The veteran star has rarely played villains in the decades since Terminator 2 was released, but in a new interview Cameron revealed that the leading man was initially confused by the concept of being the good guy and protecting Sarah Connor, when he’d spent the entirety of the opener trying to wipe her off the face of the planet.
“I could tell there was something bugging him, right? We were pals at this point. Post-Terminator, we rode motorcycles together. And he said, ‘Jim, I have a big problem with the script’. I said, ‘Well, what is it?’. And he said, ‘I don’t kill anybody’. I said, ‘I know, right? They’ll never see that coming. Nobody will guess it.’
He said, ‘I know, but one thing is surprise. Another thing is I don’t kill anybody and I’m the Terminator’. This is happening on some terrace at Cannes and everybody’s looking. I’m like, ‘Let’s talk this out’. I give him all the reasons how it’s going to work. He said, ‘I know, but everybody knows I kick in the door and shoot everybody. That’s what I do’.”
Schwarzenegger was firmly established as one of the industry’s two premiere musclebound meatheads by the end of the 1980s alongside Sylvester Stallone, having lent his talents to shoot-em-ups like Commando, Raw Deal, Predator, Red Heat, The Running Man and Total Recall in the years since his first collaboration with Cameron, so it’s admittedly understandable that he’d find himself questioning the director’s conscious decision to have Terminator 2‘s most iconic figure deliberately shy away from mowing down reams of interchangeable goons, but it was evidently the right call.