We’re all pretty familiar with the stories of James Cameron’s Terminator and Terminator 2 at this point, but we bet most of you didn’t realize the two films were originally conceived as one tale – and were only changed because Cameron concluded there was no way he could make a film featuring the liquid metal T-1000 with a budget of only a few million dollars.
The director detailed his original vision last weekend at the Hero Complex Film Festival in Los Angeles. It’s an interesting story in that it demonstrates how real-world concerns greatly influenced the story of the first Terminator film. Cameron needed to write something that would get him a job directing and that was possible to make in Los Angeles for very little money. The decision to go sci-fi was even more practical – he simply concluded other directors with his level of ability would be less likely to work on the genre. Ah, art and commerce combining to create movie magic…
Check out Cameron’s version of the story below, which certainly draws parallels to the way Lucas envisioned and chopped up Star Wars.
“I sat down to write the Terminator, I think it was in Fall of ’82. And I was sleeping on a friend’s couch hoping my car hadn’t been repossessed. So I was trying to write a vehicle to get a directing gig, basically. I was being very mercenary about it. I thought, “Okay. It has to take place in the streets of LA. It’s gotta be something we can shoot down and dirty – location, available lighting – all that sort of thing, and we’ll just inject.” But my expertise came from visual effects and production design. So I knew there were other filmmakers who could just do the down and dirty production thing, probably better than me even or at least as well. What was my competitive edge? Science fiction.
So now let’s think about what kind of science fiction story can you tell in the streets of the present day. It’s obviously not going to be a space story that takes place on another planet. So space was out. So then it was time travel. And it got really simple. See what I mean? So it was all this kind of reductive logic.
But then my imagination went nuts and I wrote a story in which they send this endo-skeletal terminator, which was their warrior, and he gets destroyed by the Kyle Reese character halfway through the story. Then the guys in the future - the machines, the bad guys – send another robot, although its this liquid metal robotic character. And that’s the story that I wrote.
So the T-1000, wasn’t called that, but it already existed in the original story. Then I realized there’s no way we can make that for, whatever, $4 million, so I cut the whole back half off the story and expanded the front half and that’s Terminator 1. Never dreaming there would ever be a sequel. I was just paring it down and whittling it down.”
We think this worked out for the best – as much as we love Kyle Reese, watching Arnold’s T-800 fight Robert Patrick’s T-1000 was a way higher stakes match-up.
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