I have never let my love for the Terminator franchise, or James Cameron be a secret. It is one of the greatest story lines in contemporary cinema and my personal favorite for best franchise of all time. I often watch the movie as background noise when writing, and tend to keep it always in my subconscious. (I like to think I'm being hunted from the future.) That kind of love has led me to learn more and more about the films I love. There's nothing better than learning new things that you didn't realize about your favorite films...so I thought I'd share some....
5 Things You May Not Know About The Terminator:
The most enthralling thing about the terminator franchise is the concept of the universe. These days there are thousands of rehashed wanna-be ideas for Science Fiction that attempt to be what James Cameron's idea really was, a truly original spin on epic. So how did he come up with such an awesome idea?
Cameron was actually in Rome...sick in bed with a really high fever when the idea hit him. As a writer I can definitely say that some of my better ideas have hit me at the absolute worst times possible.
" I think also the idea, because I was in a foreign city by myself and I felt very, sort of, disassociated from humanity in general. It was very easy it was very easy to project myself into these two characters from the future who are out of sync, out of time, out of place...you know, that sort of thing. I had always wanted to do some sort of really definitive robot story because it had really never been done." - James Cameron-
No. No it hadn't James Cameron. Not like that. Not like you did. It's crazy how much a person can see in their head, but when they can take that and turn it into film and actually show you what they see? That's magic. And I don't think anyone doubts James Cameron's magic.
2: LA: 2029: All the future scenes were miniature models and cardboard cut outs.
All those epic battle scenes with lasers and Kyle running around throwing grenades and saving lives? Movie magic from the 1980's. The entire set was a miniature built in a warehouse. Considering this was James Cameron's first feature film, the budget wasn't huge, especially in 80's currency. There had to be a way to make it work and all it took was a little mastery of forced perspective.
There were skull replicas of several sizes. One of the key tricks was to set a full size skull in the foreground with tinier ones a few inches off to give the appearance of depth. The set was well made, but still constructed out of cardboard. In order to hide any flaws and to make this small world appear more realistic, they used smoke to cloud it up and give the appearance of a heated battle. Walnut dust was used to make the explosions seem more fiery. When it is atomized it makes for a fantastic visual.
3: The entire tanker truck explosion scene was a miniature as well.
They were filming outside of the police armory in LA. The helicopter, ammo and various other supplies on the roof made it so that the city wouldn't let them film there. So they created a 1/6th scale miniature in Burbank in a parking lot in front of Fantasy 2. (Where was NECA back in the day?) They actually even filmed the scene with Sarah after the explosion, BEFORE they finished the 1/6 scale. So they had to make that wreckage match everything from that shot in this tiny little world.
"Jim Cameron originally wanted to blow a full size tanker truck up..." - crew member.
Which doesn't surprise me. James Cameron is really good at blowing shit up and not over doing it. I secretly think that Michael Bay longs to be Cameron in his pyrotechnic driven movies. But even though Cameron didn't get the full size tanker, what he did get was pretty sweet: 42 explosions on an 8 foot model. And they got to blow it twice.
The first attempt with the miniature they pulled the wheel, including the entire axel. They had already starting setting off the charges so they had to just let it blow. (Plus, who doesn't like to blow stuff up?) They then went back and in 2 DAYS built a brand new replica to perfection...and blew it up. You can see that explosion anytime you watch the film. They only had one take.
4: THE MUSIC: MADE IN A GARAGE
The music was the last thing they added to this film. Cameron wanted to make sure that the story was visually there before worrying about whether or not music would carry you to the promised land. By the time they got to it, there was no money left.
It was literally made with no time and no money in a garage on keyboards. The composer Cameron hired went in to screen the film, thinking that Cameron was just another Director who had a vision without the ability to show it. Once he saw it was there, the music came naturally.
At one point he said, out loud in front of Cameron, "If he gets up one more time, I'm leaving." He left the theatre thinking that the job left with the words from his mouth. However, Cameron loved the comment and it actually helped solidify his role in making one of the most important Sci-Fi films of all time.
5: Arnold originally read for Kyle Reese.
Arnold originally went in to meet with Cameron for the part of Kyle Reese. "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." Schwarzenegger says with an ear to ear grin. It wasn't just the story that gripped him, but everything the Terminator did. (He was apparently a big fan of punching through the punks stomach at the beginning.) However, being as polite as Arnold is, and as fresh as Cameron was at the time, neither spoke up and left the meeting without voicing their opinion.
Arnold wanted to be The Terminator. Cameron wanted him as the Terminator. But it wasn't until Cameron sent Schwarzeneggar a rendering of him (See Above) as the character that they both made the decision to make him the T-800. Could it have been any different? Actually, yes. The reason Arnold was reading for Reese is that Cameron originally had Lance Henriksen (Bishop in Aliens) in mind for the part. He even did the original artwork with Henriksen's likeness which you can see in the artwork below. I think we can all agree that in the end, the right choice was made.
Henriksen still ended up in the film playing the role of Detective Hal Vukovich. The movie, however would have been very different with the original concept of a smaller, regular size robot who blended in with a crowd being taken down by a larger than life action star such as Schwarzenegger. But if anyone could literally fight a T-800 it probably would have been Arnold in his prime.
"The visual concept was that this terminator was an anonymous character that could just walk out of a crowd, just one face in a crowd....And that concept changed because Arnold does not vanish into a crowd." - James Cameron-
...No. No he does not.
BONUS: JAMES CAMERON IS APPARENTLY BOMB AS HELL AT ART
And then I know I already used it, but it's my personal favorite: the T-800 holding a kitchen knife....