Back to IndieWire

James Cameron Reveals He Came Up with John Connor for ‘T2’ While High on Ecstasy

One of the most important "Terminator" characters was born from ecstasy and a Sting song.

Edward Furlong, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Edward Furlong, Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘T2’

© TriStar/courtesy Everett Collection, TR2 022 D, Photo by: Everett Collection (39185)

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is officially 30 years old as of July 1, 2021. The James Cameron-directed film is widely regarded as one of the best action films ever made and one of the best sequels ever made. To mark the 30th anniversary, Cameron participated in a lengthy oral history of the film published by The Ringer. While discussing the early writing process, the director revealed the idea to create Sarah Connor’s 10-year-old son, John Connor, hit him during an ecstasy trip.

“I remember sitting there once, high on E, writing notes for ‘Terminator,’ and I was struck by Sting’s song, that ‘I hope the Russians love their children too,'” Cameron said. “And I thought, ‘You know what? The idea of a nuclear war is just so antithetical to life itself.’ That’s where the kid came from.”

Who knew one of the seminal figures of “The Terminator” franchise was born out of a drug trip? It sounds like John came later in the brainstorming process, while the famous T-1000 (played by Robert Patrick in the movie) was there from the start. Once Fox got in touch with Cameron about doing a sequel, the director went straight to the VFX team to see if his idea for a liquid metallic character would work.

“I talked to Dennis Muren at ILM,” Cameron explained. “I said, ‘I’ve got an idea. If we took the water character from “The Abyss,” but it was metallic so you didn’t have the translucency issues, but you had all the surface reflectivity issues and you made it a complete human figure that could run and do stuff, and it could morph back into a human, and then turn into the liquid metal version of itself, and we sprinkled it through the movie, can we do it?’ He said, “I’ll call you back tomorrow.'”

Cameron continued, “Tom Sherak ran all distribution for Fox for years, and he said, ‘Who would have known that we made a $60 million movie that was just a test run for “Terminator 2?”‘ They were still stinging a little bit from the fact that ‘The Abyss’ broke even, just barely.”

The next piece of the puzzle was Sarah Connor herself, Linda Hamilton. “I called her up and I said, ‘Look, they want to pay us a lot of money to make a sequel. Are you in or are you out? But just between you and me, I don’t really want to do it if Sarah doesn’t come back and I don’t want to recast Sarah, so you got to say you’re in.'”

Cameron added, “And so she said, ‘Yeah, in principle, I’m in, but I want to be crazy.’ I said, ‘Well, what do you mean, crazy? How crazy?’ She said, ‘Crazy, like I’ve been driven crazy.’ I said, ‘Like you’re in an insane asylum, like you’re institutionalized?’ She said, ‘Yeah, sure. Let me play crazy. Let me go nuts.’ I said, ‘All right. Well, you’re going to get my version of nuts,’ and she said, ‘All right. I’m down.'”

Head over to The Ringer’s website to read the full 30th anniversary oral history of “T2” in its entirety.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox