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16 Things You Might Not Know About The Terminator

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The Terminator was released with little promotion on October 26, 1984. James Cameron, its little-known writer and director,  had recently been living in his car, fresh off of getting caught breaking into the editing room of his only other directorial effort, Piranha II: The Spawning. With a production budget of just $6.4 million, it eventually earned over $78.3 million, making it one of the highest grossing movies of the year. On its 30th anniversary, here are some things you might not have known about the movie.

1.THE IDEA FOR "THE TERMINATOR" ALL STARTED WITH A FEVER DREAM

James Cameron had a tumultuous experience making his directorial debut in 1981's Piranha II: The Spawning, but as he once put it, sometimes "nightmares are a business asset." While in Rome for the horror movie's release, Cameron had a fever dream of a "metal death figure coming out of a fire."

2. BUT HARLAN ELLISON LATER SUCCESSFULLY WON AN OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT OVER THE CONCEPT

According to Ellison, The Terminator was a "ripoff" of an episode of The Outer Limits he had written in 1964 titled "Soldier," itself an adaptation of his 1957 short story "Soldier From Tomorrow." Orion Pictures and the outspoken author settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Cameron later referred to Ellison as a "parasite who can kiss my ass."

3. JAMES CAMERON SOLD THE SCRIPT TO "THE TERMINATOR" FOR $1

There would never have been any lawsuits if James Cameron didn't take a lot of risks to get the movie made in the first place. As the legend goes, Cameron's agent hated the idea of the film, so Cameron, who was living in his car at the time, fired him. An even more courageous move was Cameron's insistence that he direct The Terminator, despite only having Piranha II: The Spawning on his resume. Instead of simply selling the script that had gotten some production studios' interest for a decent sum, Cameron sold the script to producer Gale Anne Hurd for one dollar, with the stipulation that he be allowed to direct his vision. The gamble paid off in every respect, and when the North American rights to the franchise revert back to him in 2019, that car/apartment will be even more distant of a memory.

4. LANCE HENRIKSEN WAS THE FIRST ACTOR TO DRESS AS A TERMINATOR

Before James Cameron arrived at a pitch meeting with Hemdale Film Corporation producers, actor Lance Henriksen made an impression by kicking open the door and acting as the title character while wearing a leather jacket with gold foil smothered on his teeth. The performance was so believable that the secretary dropped her typewriter onto her lap. Henriksen would play Detective Hal Vukovich for his trouble.

5. THE STUDIO WANTED THE HERO TO HAVE A CYBORG DOG SIDEKICK

Because of the paltry $6.4 million budget, Cameron was mostly left alone by his financiers, Hemdale and Orion Pictures. Mostly. Hemdale's John Daly one request was for Cameron to cut out the striking final images of the movie in the factory, which earned him a '"F*** you! The film isn't over yet" in response. Cameron was a little more receptive to Orion's two suggestions, and supposedly less colorful in his responses. The first was to "strengthen the relationship" between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, which was a note that Cameron took. The other was for Reese to have a cyborg canine companion. That sadly did not happen.

6. THE STUDIO ALSO WANTED O.J. SIMPSON TO PLAY THE TERMINATOR

It's been bouncing around the Internet for so long that you probably think it's an urban legend, but Orion co-founder Mike Medavoy even admitted a few months ago that he had strongly suggested O.J. Simpson for the part of the title role, and Cameron dismissed the thought because Simpson came off as too nice of a guy.

6. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS INITIALLY GOING TO PLAY KYLE REESE

When James Cameron went to have lunch with Schwarzenegger to discuss this, he had a change of heart and asked if he would consider playing The Terminator instead, after Schwarzenegger kept telling him how he thought the T-800 should act. Even though he had a lot of opinions on the character, Arnold initially didn't like the idea of playing the villain, having just found success playing the heroic Conan in Conan the Barbarian, but eventually agreed. The awkwardness returned at the end of the meal, when Cameron realized that he had forgotten his wallet.

7. STING WAS OFFERED $350,000 TO PLAY KYLE REESE

At the time, Sting was still playing bass and writing songs for The Police, and was committed to star in Dune. Another musician, Bruce Springsteen, was considered, even though he had no movie acting experience, as well as Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell, Tommy Lee Jones, Mickey Rourke, Michael O'Keefe, Scott Glenn, Treat Williams, Christopher Reeve, and Mel Gibson. Bruce Willis was another young actor viewed as the potential good guy cyborg that didn't get the part. Jai Courtney, the actor who played Willis' son in A Good Day to Die Hard, will play Kyle Reese in The Terminator reboot Terminator: Genisys.

The role of Kyle Reese went to Michael Biehn, despite disappointing producers by using a Southern accent in his initial audition. Once his agent explained to the producers that the accent came from practicing for a part on a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof stage production which he didn't even get, Biehn got another shot and won the part.

8. THE PRINCIPAL ACTORS HAD DOUBTS ABOUT THE MOVIE

According to Nigel Andrews' book, True Myths of Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Life and Times of Arnold Schwarzenegger, from Pumping Iron to Governor of California, while being interviewed on the set of Conan the Destroyer, Schwarzenegger referred to The Terminator as "some shit movie" he was doing. Linda Hamilton admitted that she was "a little snobby" and had Shakespearean aspirations for her career, and had doubts about the movie she was about to do. When Michael Biehn told his actor friends he was doing a movie with Schwarzenegger, they sarcastically told him, "Well, good luck with that."

9. SCHWARZENEGGER TRIED TO CHANGE THE LINE "I'LL BE BACK"

Thinking he had trouble pronouncing "I'll" properly, Schwarzenegger asked James Cameron if he could say, "I will be back" instead, with the reasoning being that The Terminator would not speak in contractions. After Cameron shot back with, "I don't tell you how to act, don't tell me how to write," he assured his star that they will shoot ten takes and pick the one that sounded best. In Shawn Huston's novelization of the film script, the line is "I'll come back."

10. SCHWARZENEGGER ONLY HAS 58 SPOKEN WORDS IN THE MOVIE

Technically, The Terminator says more than Arnold's 17 sentences, but one is an overdubbed voice of a cop, and the other is in Sarah Connor's mother's voice, when the Terminator was trying to trick her.

11. LINDA HAMILTON BROKE HER ANKLE BEFORE SHOOTING

To work around this, all of the scenes where Sarah Connor runs from The Terminator were shot at the tail end of the shooting schedule. In one draft of the screenplay, Cameron wrote that Connor had an old figure skating injury that required surgical pins in her tibia. When the T-800 kills the first two Sarah Connors, he cut their legs open to look for the surgical mark. This was taken out of the final cut.

12. YOU CAN ACCESS THE TERMINATOR'S POINT OF VIEW IF YOU STILL HAVE AN APPLE II

If you own an Apple II, and you enter "] call -151 *" p at the basic prompt, you get The Terminator's view.

13. IN POLAND, THE FILM WAS RELEASED AS "THE ELECTRONIC MURDERER"

The Polish word for "terminator" loosely translates to "apprentice," which doesn't really capture the essence of what James Cameron and company were going for. When the movie became popular in Poland, the subsequent films stuck with the original titles.

14. THE LOW BUDGET CAUSED A LOT OF PHYSICAL PAIN FOR THE CREW

When The Terminator's hand is getting pummeled by a lead pipe by Kyle Reese, it was Tom Woodruff Jr., who worked special effects, allowing his hand to get the beating of a lifetime. Naturally, he lost feeling in his fingers. As a reward, James Cameron sent him a Christmas card that read, "Merry Christmas. Hope the feeling comes back to your fingers someday.”

15. DAVID HYDE PIERCE HAS REPEATEDLY DENIED THAT HE IS IN THE MOVIE

IMDb still lists David Hyde Pierce's first role as the co-driver of the tanker truck hijacked by The Terminator, even though the actor has gone out of his way to point out that it was a different actor with the name David Pierce.

16. THE TEASER TRAILER WAS NARRATED BY THE VOICE OF OPTIMUS PRIME

Peter Cullen was the original voice of Optimus Prime, and reprised his role for the new Transformers movies. Cullen has range—he also was the voice of Eeyore from 1988-2010.

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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