Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most famous Hollywood actors of the action genre, has made some pretty amazing revelations as of late. For starters, his famous catchphrase from The Terminator (1984), “I’ll be back,” would have sounded a lot different if director James Cameron hadn’t argued to keep it. Then, he wasn’t even allowed to voice the German version of the film. He also explained how his co-star surprised him when they showed up to film the movie’s sequel.
One of Schwarzenegger’s most shocking Terminator disclosures involves casting for the film. Read on to hear how O.J. Simpson almost snagged the titular role – and the unexpected reason he didn’t end up getting it.
‘I’ll be back’ was first used in The Terminator (1984)
The popular 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, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to travel back in time and kill future resistance leader, Sarah Connor.
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 that Schwarzenegger delivers his iconic catchphrase, “I’ll be back,” for the first time. This line went on to become the actor’s most famous, even topping a 2012 audience poll of the top movie quotes of all time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t want to say his famous catchphrase
Even though the phrase is etched in pop culture history today, there was a point where it almost didn’t happen. When asked for his thoughts about the line during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed, “I think about how it was an accident.”
During filming, Schwarzenegger and James Cameron butted heads over the line, as the former was unconvinced 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.
Instead, he suggested the line be changed, so he could say, “I will be back,” avoiding the contraction. Ultimately, Cameron wasn’t onboard. 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 some debate, Cameron convinced Schwarzenegger to give the line a go, explaining, “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 the actor say it in different ways until he found a version he was 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, saying he thought they “sounded stupid.”
Repeating the line time and time again
Eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger finished the scene with a version of the line he was okay with – and thank goodness he did. As he explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “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.”
He added, “So that’s where it started and where it ended up. It’s wild.” Despite its rocky beginning, it’s a catchphrase that’s stood the test of time and followed Schwarzenegger around.
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 explained. “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?”
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son-in-law even used the line
The line has trickled down to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son-in-law, fellow actor Chris Pratt. In an interview with New York Live in 2021, Pratt explained that he used the same line while filming of one of his own movies, The Tomorrow War. However, he did his own take, knowing it could never live up to his father-in-law’s iconic delivery.
“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 shared. “‘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.
Schwarzenegger didn’t voice the German dub
Thanks to his Austrian roots, Schwarzenegger’s first language is German. However, when Terminator was released globally, including a German dubbed version, the actor did not provide the voice of his very own character. Instead, this task was given to German voice actor Thomas Dannebeeg, who had his own opportunity to deliver the iconic line.
While it may seem strange that Schwarzenegger didn’t provide the German dub for himself when he was capable, the reason why is pretty sound. Schwarzenegger’s accent is considered to be rural by Austrian and German standards. As such, producers felt it would be pretty unbelievable for a futuristic cyborg to travel back in time and sound lower class and colloquial.
Linda Hamilton surprised Arnold Schwarzenegger on set
As the first Terminator film was such a success, it was inevitable a second would be in the works. It took seven years to be released, giving the cast plenty of time to prepare.
It’s hard to believe Arnold Schwarzenegger would feel physically inferior, given his early years as a body builder and his winning five Mr. Universe and seven Olympia titles. However, when he showed up to set to film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, one of his co-stars made him feel exactly that way.
Linda Hamilton, who played Sarah Connor, spent the time leading up to the roll training hard. Between films, her character was meant to be preparing for an impending robot apocalypse, so it makes sense that her return saw her in incredible shape.
Schwarzenegger described when he first saw Hamilton to Business Insider, saying, “A few days before we start shooting, Jim Cameron says to me, ‘Let’s all get together and have a nice dinner.’ Linda comes in and she takes her sweater off and I’m looking at her arms. Veins on the biceps, and then triceps. Everything was like a bodybuilder but except miniature.”
Seeing her made the actor feel some type of way, with him recalling, “I said, ‘I can’t believe that son of a [expletive] is [expletive] more cut than me.'”
The role could have gone to… O.J. Simpson?
In the 2023 Netflix docu-series, Arnold, the legendary action star revealed that former NFL player O.J. Simpson was almost cast as the titular character in The Terminator. However, the producers had doubts about whether movie-goers would believe he was a convincing “killing machine.”
In the documentary, Arnold Schwarzenegger is joined by James Cameron as they reflect on the actor’s rise to fame in the 1970s. Cameron recalled a conversation with Mike Medavoy, co-founder of Orion Pictures. He’d initially considered Simpson for the lead role 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.’ I said, ‘Well, which is which?’ Those two names just sounded so wrong to me.”
He also described his first encounter with Schwarzenegger, 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, due to doubts regarding 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, O.J. Simpson found himself at the center of “the trial of the century,” 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 pair’s deaths in 1997.
In Arnold, Schwarzenegger shared how James Cameron persuaded him to take on the role of the Terminator, saying, “I said, ‘Look, whoever it is, he has to go and be totally unlike a human being.’ 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, telling Cameron, “‘No, no, no, I don’t want to play villains. The character only has 26 lines.'” But after three days of contemplation, he called the director back. “‘Every time I reread it, I visualize myself more and more playing Terminator,'” he explained. “I told him I’m in, and then we started prepping.”
Arnold is currently available for streaming on Netflix.