The Terminator was a film that spawned one of the most film franchises of all time, solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger as an A-list star and set writer/director James Cameron on the path to some of the biggest box office returns of all time. The story of its creation is almost as far-fetched as the premise of the film itself. The story goes that while filming Piranha II: The Spawning, Cameron fell ill and dreamt of a metallic man crawling from an explosion grasping kitchen knives.
He immediately began penning a script based on this dream about two terminators fighting each other, one like the terminator we know from the film and the other a liquid metal terminator as seen in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Aware that technology at the time could not create the liquid terminator, he removed him and replaced him with a human resistance fighter, set the film initially in the future, but travelling back in time and the story of The Terminator was born.
Initially Cameron’s agent told him to stop working on The Terminator because he thought it had no value, to which Cameron fired him and continued working on the script. Once completed he needed to cast the two main roles and who better than two of the 1980s up-and-coming action stars in Schwarzenegger and Michael Biehn. Both men would go on to have different careers with the Austrian making some of the highest grossing films of the decade and the American playing Crpl. Hicks in Aliens and not a lot else.
The final piece of casting was for the mother-turned action hero Sarah Connor. Cameron chose unknown actress Linda Hamilton who along with Sigourney Weaver became the face of female ass-kickery in the 1980s. With the cast assembled, filming began and with Cameron’s keen eye on proceedings The Terminator speeds along at a high tempo with very little respite from the high levels of tension and terror. This culminates in one of the most memorable finales in science fiction film history.
With a pitch-perfect cast, a novel idea for a script and the latest top-range special effects The Terminator became a huge success that spawned numerous sequels and set Cameron on the way to untouchable director status. Still as relevant today as it was in 1984, it is a classic of science fiction action films and created the iconic villain of an entire era of film-making.