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Arnold Schwarzenegger almost refused to star in Terminator 2 because he didn't want to be a good guy

Austrian star had some understandable reservations about returning
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong in T2
[Photo: Tri-Star Pictures]

For many movie lovers, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still the pinnacle of the blockbuster genre  and peak Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie not only managed to eclipse its illustrious 1984 predecessor, but also blended special effects and storytelling with action, comedy and heart to create one of the most popular films of the last 30 years.

But, for a brief moment during the development of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, there was a chance that the blockbuster wasn’t going to see the light of day. That’s because Arnold Schwarzenegger originally had a problem with James Cameron and William Wisher’s plan to make the T-800 a good guy. William Wisher admitted as much to me when I spoke with the co-screenwriter about the impending 3D release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day — but he made sure to note that it didn’t take long for Arnold to change his mind.

“When we decided to turn Arnold into the good guy we did call him up. We spoke to him, and he explained what he wanted to do. He was a touch reluctant. Initially. But then we explained, ‘You’re going to be a bad-ass. You’re still going to shoot stuff and blow stuff up. Don’t worry about that. It’s just that you’re going to be working for John Conner instead of against him.’ And he was persuaded fairly easily, and jumped on board. And thank God he trusted us, because we couldn’t have done it without him.”

William Wisher then went into a little more detail regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brief, initial reluctance to playing the T-800 as the good guy to Robert Patrick’s villainous T-100, explaining that the Austrian was just trying to protect the character’s popularity as a foe.

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“I think it was primarily because by the time that Terminator 2 had come along, and this was 1990 – not when it was out but when we were making it - in the intervening years between 1983 to 1990, that character, the T-800, had already made more than a few lists of best cinema villains of all time. So Arnold was famous for being this Terminator villain,” Wisher noted. “And what we were going to do was wreck it. And change it. And flip it to being more of a hero. And I think he was a little bit concerned about undoing this great villain that he had made. But we promised him, ‘You’re still going to be a complete and utter bad ass.’ He was happy with that.”

It proved to be a wise choice from Arnold Schwarzenegger, because Terminator 2: Judgment Day not only evolved but also enhanced the franchise’s popularity, while making the character of the T-800 richer and more enduring. William Wisher went even further, insisting that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in Terminator 2: Judgment Day was ultimately more iconic than his previous portrayal in the original Terminator.

“And really, when you think of the Terminator today, the iconic image of Arnold as the T-800 really comes from Terminator 2 not Terminator 1,” Wisher declared. “It’s Arnold in the black biker leather jacket on a Harley Davidson and carrying a sawn-off shotgun. So T-2 made him even more iconic than he had previously been.”

You can remind yourself of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic performance as the T-800, as well as the all-round perfection that is Terminator 2: Judgment Day, by watching it in 3D in cinemas from Friday August 25.

 
 
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