How different would the movie industry be today if “The Terminator,” as we know it, didn’t hit theaters three decades ago? Where would Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career have ended up? As the oral history over at EW shows, things could turned out very wrong for James Cameron and his iconic sci-fi film.
Of all the new information in the oral history, the craziest and shocking detail is that the casting for the film had some interesting possibilities, namely that Orion president Mike Medavoy told Cameron and co-writer/producer Gale Ann Hurd that he wanted, “O.J. Simpson for the Terminator and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the good guy, whatever his name is.” Yes, that O.J. Simpson. Why? As the former studio chief said, “At the time, O.J. Simpson had one of those commercials for Hertz where he jumped over a counter and ran to get a rental car. It was all of that stuff, which I thought the Terminator should have.”
Needless to say, James Cameron was dubious. “Medavoy came to me and [producer Gale Anne Hurd] and he said, ‘Are you sitting down? You must sit down. I want O.J. Simpson for the Terminator,” he recalled. “Gale and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘You’ve got to be f- - -ing kidding me. How do we get out of this?”
Two things stopped the Juice from playing the Terminator, Cameron’s awareness of the problematic nature of having “an African-American man chasing around a white girl with a knife” and how well he hit it off with Schwarzenegger during a meeting Cameron hoped to torpedo the idea of casting of the former bodybuilder. The rest, as they say, was history. The rest of the history is filled with great anecdotes—including Cameron’s continuing grudge against the head of Orion for not fully supporting the film—and it’s well worth it for fans of Cameron’s original film and the series as a whole.
If you still need some T–800 Model 101 in your life after reading the piece, why not pick up the recent 4K remaster of “The Terminator.” Watch the original trailer below, along with the Hertz commercials that swayed Medavoy to consider The Juice in the first place.