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Arnold Schwarzenegger Opens Up About ‘The Terminator’ With Some Surprising Revelations

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / spaniard / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / spaniard / MovieStillsDB

Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most famous Hollywood actors of the action genre, has made some pretty amazing revelations lately. For starters, his famous catchphrase, “I’ll be back,” from The Terminator would have sounded a lot different if director James Cameron hadn’t argued to keep it.

One of Schwarzenegger’s most shocking Terminator disclosures involves casting for the film. Read on to hear how O.J. Simpson almost nagged the titular role – and the unexpected reason he didn’t end up getting it.

‘I’ll be back’ was first used in The Terminator

The 1984 sci-fi thriller, The Terminator, transported audiences to a futuristic dystopian world where machines have taken control, forcing humanity to the brink of extinction. A powerful artificial intelligence called Skynet employs a cyborg (Schwarzenegger) to travel back in time and kill the future resistance leader, Sarah Connor.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, in sunglasses and holding up a pistol.

The Terminator is one of Schwarzenegger’s most iconic roles. (Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Darcy / MovieStillsDB)

The film is action-packed and follows an engrossing storyline that saw the creation of five more films in the popular franchise. It’s in this first installment that Schwarzenegger delivers his iconic catchphrase, “I’ll be back,” for the first time. The line went on to become the actor’s most famous, even topping a 2012 audience poll of the top movie quotes of all time.

He didn’t want to say it

Even though the phrase is etched in pop culture history today, there was a point when it almost didn’t happen. When asked for his thoughts about the phrase during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Schwarzenegger said, “I think about how it was an accident.”

During filming, Schwarzenegger and Cameron butted heads over the line, as the former was unconvinced that it was going to work. Before filming the iconic scene, the two hashed it out. “Jim Cameron and I were debating how to say the line because I was not comfortable with saying ‘I’ll,'” Schwarzenegger explained.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron talking

Schwarzenegger and Cameron fought about how the actor should say it. (Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / anduska / MovieStillsDB)

Instead, he suggested that the line be changed so that he could say “I will be back,” avoiding the contraction. Ultimately, Cameron was not on board. This made the director angry. He snapped back, saying, “Are you the scriptwriter now? It’s just one word. Don’t tell me how to write. I don’t tell you how to act.”

After a bit of debate, Cameron convinced Schwarzenegger to give the line a go, saying, “Arnold, you think it sounds weird. It doesn’t. What makes it great is that you sound different than me or Charlie over there. That’s what makes it work.” Cameron suggested that the actor say it in different ways until he found the version he was most comfortable with. “I’ll keep rolling the camera. Then we’ll choose one,” Cameron told him.

During the interview, Schwarzenegger imitated the different versions he tried during filming, saying that he thought they “sounded stupid.”

Schwarzenegger doesn’t mind repeating the catchphrase

Eventually, Schwarzenegger finished the scene with a version of the sentence he was okay with. And thank goodness he did. He explained, “The movie comes out. I’m in Central Park. This guy comes up and says, ‘Say the line!’ … Now, a few days ago, I was skiing in Aspen, and the concierge comes up asking me to say the line.”

Headshot of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger says he has no problem repeating the line that has become world famous. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

“So that’s where it started and where it ended up. It’s wild,” Schwarzenegger said. Despite its rocky beginning, it is a line that has stood the test of time and followed Schwarzenegger around for the rest of his life. Thankfully, he doesn’t mind repeating the quote for fans.

“I’m the last one to get complicated and say, ‘I don’t want to compare myself to my movies or use a line from my movies,'” he said. “Hell, Clint Eastwood takes the clothes from his movies and that’s all he wears. So why would I be worried about using a line?”

His son-in-law even used it

The line has trickled down to Schwarzenegger’s son-in-law, actor Chris Pratt. In an interview with New York Live in 2021, Pratt explained that he used the same line during the filming of one of his own movies, The Tomorrow War. However, he did his own take on the line, knowing that it could never live up to his father-in-law’s iconic delivery.

Chris Pratt in a hallway, holding a weapon, people walking behind him

Chris Pratt in The Tomorrow War (2021). (Photo Credit: Skydance / Paramount Pictures / New Republic Pictures / Amazon Studios / yassi / MovieStillsDB)

“I’m just saying it like a guy who’s going into the room. There’s nothing iconic about it,” Pratt explained. However, he still showed the film’s trailer to Schwarzenegger. “I showed it in front of the whole family and I said, ‘I do have a line,'” he said. “‘I say, I will be back. And you’ll see it just pales in comparison to anytime you’ve ever delivered that iconic line.'”

During the interview, Pratt also said that Schwarzenegger often quotes himself. “He does it all the time, too. He’ll say lines from his movies and stuff. He’ll walk out and be like, ‘I’ll be back,'” Pratt explained.

During the interview, Pratt also said that Schwarzenegger often quotes himself. “He does it all the time, too. He’ll say lines from his movies and stuff. He’ll walk out and be like, ‘I’ll be back,'” Pratt explained.

The role could have gone to… O.J. Simpson?

In the new Netflix docuseries Arnold, the legendary action star also revealed that the former NFL player O.J. Simpson was almost cast as the titular character in The Terminator. However, producers had doubts about whether movie-goers would believe Simpson as a convincing “killing machine.”

O.J. Simpson at a

O.J. Simpson during Gala Fundraiser for Jesse Jackson at Casey Kasem’s Home in Bel Air, California, in 1984 (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

In the documentary, Schwarzenegger is joined by James Cameron, who directed The Terminator, as they reflect on the actor’s rise to fame in the late 1970s.

Cameron recalled a conversation with Mike Medavoy, the co-founder of Orion Pictures. He had initially considered Simpson for the role of the Terminator and Schwarzenegger for the character of resistance fighter Kyle Reese.

Cameron said, “I had been told by Mike Medavoy that the movie was all cast. ‘I got this all worked out. O.J. Simpson and Arnold Schwarzenegger,'” Cameron recalled. “I said, ‘Well, which is which?’ Those two names just sounded so wrong to me.”

Cameron also described his first encounter with Schwarzenegger and his striking appearance, saying, “I’m just sitting there watching him. It’s like when the sound goes down, and I’m just seeing how the lights kicking off the glass windows is hitting his face when the door opens. I mean, I’m thinking, ‘He’s got a hell of a face.'”

Schwarzenegger revealed that Orion Pictures had reservations about casting Simpson as due to doubts about his ability to portray a robotic killer convincingly. “During our conversation, it became clear no one was hooked to O.J. Simpson playing Terminator because he could not be sold as a killing machine,” Schwarzenegger said.

‘The trial of the century’

A decade after The Terminator was released, Simpson found himself at the center of “the trial of the century” in 1994, accused of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Despite being acquitted in 1995, a subsequent civil lawsuit held Simpson liable for the deaths in 1997.

OJ Simpson tries on a glove during his trial

O.J. Simpson tries on a leather glove allegedly used in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman during testimony in Simpson’s trial on June 15, 1995 in Los Angeles. (Photo Credit: Lee Celano/WireImage)

In Arnold, Schwarzenegger shared how Cameron persuaded him to take on the role of the Terminator. “I said, ‘Look, whoever it is, he has to go and be totally unlike a human being,'” Schwarzenegger explained. “The way he steps on the motorcycle, the way he runs, the way he gets up. Everything has to be exactly like a machine. He says, ‘Why don’t you play the Terminator? You totally understand that character. You are the machine.'”

Schwarzenegger admitted he was initially hesitant and said, “‘No, no, no, I don’t want to play villains. The character only has 26 lines.'” But after three days of contemplation, he called Cameron back and said, “‘Every time I reread it, I visualize myself more and more playing Terminator.’ I told him I’m in, and then we started prepping.”

More from us: Jason Momoa Said He’d Love to Redo the 1988 Film ‘Twins’ With Peter Dinklage

Arnold became available for streaming on Netflix on June 7th.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!