Terminator Tales: Myths & Facts about the First Film

James Cameron's The Terminator is one of those rare movies that defined a genre, but the movie is even more remarkable if you know what happened behind the scenes. Imagine an alternate reality in which Bishop from Aliens was the T-800, or where rock singer Bruce Springsteen was Kyle Reese. Crazy, right? Yet this beloved film franchise could have gone in an entirely different direction had a few things worked out a little differently. Read on to learn some of the strangest myths and facts surrounding the first movie in the Terminator film franchise.

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MYTH: The Terminator role was made with Arnold Schwarzenegger in mind.

Schwarzenegger was the perfect terminator, but he wasn't even the first guy to audition for the part. That would be actor Lance Henriksen, who made such a strong impression that he was given a role as a police officer in the film. Some things are meant to be, though, and Henriksen being a cybernetic organism was one of them. He'll always be best-known for his role as Bishop in the 1986 sci-fi hit Aliens, another genre-defining classic directed by James Cameron.

MYTH: James Cameron probably made lots of money when he sold his script for The Terminator.

If you were a film producer, how much would you pay for the script to one of the most successful, genre-defining films of all time? How about $1? That's exactly how much James Cameron charged when he sold the script for The Terminator to producer Gale Anne Hurd. However, Cameron's bold move came with a big string attached - the requirement that he be allowed to direct the film. The deal more than paid off for Cameron, who is now among the film industry's most revered directors.

MYTH: The technology used to create the T-800's vision was high-tech special effects.

The Terminator was actually a low-budget movie, and the "Terminator vision" was no exception. What you see through the eyes of the T-800 is actually the source code for the Apple II checksum program. If you have an old Apple II sitting around, you can check this out by entering "] call -151 *" at the prompt.

MYTH: Nobody disputed James Cameron's claim as the father of The Terminator.

An outspoken author by the name of Harlan Ellison claimed the concept of The Terminator was stolen from a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits titled "Soldier," which he wrote. He said his work on that episode was inspired by a 1957 sci-fi short story called "Solder from Tomorrow," in which a battle-hardened soldier from thousands of years in the future travels back in time and warns of upcoming Armageddon. Orion Pictures settled with Ellison out of court.

FACT: The part of Kyle Reese was offered to Sting, the singer.

Sting was THIS CLOSE to being the father of the human resistance. He was offered $350,000 to play the part of Kyle Reese, but he turned it down because he was already starring in Dune in addition to his roles with The Police. Bruce Springsteen was also considered for the part. The role eventually went to actor Michael Biehn - other actors considered were Tommy Lee Jones, Kurt Russell, Mickey Rourke, Mel Gibson and Christopher Reeve.

MYTH: The "I'll be back" line was improv by Arnold.

Not only was Arnold's most famous line scripted by James Cameron, but Schwarzenegger actually wanted the line changed to "I will be back," which he thought would be easier to say with his accent. Cameron was fixed on the line standing as is, but he agreed to shoot multiple takes of Arnold's line so they could choose the most audible clip.

FACT: Schwarzenegger only says 58 words in the movie.

Clearly, Arnold wasn't cast for his great speaking abilities. He only says 17 sentences throughout the entire film. His character says more, but with voices dubbed over while the T-800 is impersonating other characters.

FACT: Orion Pictures had strongly considered O.J. Simpson for the role of The Terminator.

Sometimes, the best things in life are those things that don't happen. This is one of those things. Very recently, though, Orion co-founder Mike Medavoy admitted that he'd wanted Simpson to be the T-800. Even more funny is that Cameron objected because he thought O.J. was too nice.