Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood fame exploded in 1984 when he starred in the science-fiction movie The Terminator.
Seven years later, he returned for Terminator 2: Judgement Day – but things were extremely different.
This time around, Schwarzenegger’s killing machine android was a good guy. Instead of trying to kill Sarah Connor and John Connor, he was their protector.
But when Arnie first read this detail in the script, he became intensely worried about how it would work narratively.
Speaking to The Ringer, director James Cameron recalled Schwarzenegger coming to him in confidence and admitting he had some fears about the next movie.
Cameron recalled: “We were pals at this point. Post-Terminator, we rode motorcycles together.”
Schwarzenegger said: “Jim, I have a big problem with the script.”
The Titanic director replied: “Well, what is it?” Arnie said: “I don’t kill anybody.”
A little stunned by this, Cameron explained: “I know, right? They’ll never see that coming. Nobody will guess it.”
Schwarzenegger ended up pushing Cameron on the issue, saying: “I know, but one thing is surprise. Another thing is I don’t kill anybody and I’m the Terminator.” (sic)
Eventually, Cameron would go on to explain to Schwarzenegger that the Terminator not killing was a strong narrative device, and showed how he was learning to adapt to a more human way of thinking.
The actor remembered thinking at the time: “How do you make people believe that this is the same guy we’ve seen in the first Terminator? Now all of a sudden, he’s protecting the human race and protecting this kid? How do I switch over to that?
Schwarzenegger wrestled with the concept, but eventually saw the light.
“It was strange,” he said. “But I thought, ‘If we pull it off, it will be huge.'”
Terminator 2: Judgement Day $520.9 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing movie of 1991. It was also the third-highest-grossing film of all time, as well.