It is 20 years since Terminator 2: Judgment Day opened in US cinemas, so to celebrate here are 20 facts about the film you may not know.
1. It is technically an independent film
The first Terminator was made outside the studio system, as it was funded by Hemdale Pictures and distributed by Orion. Although the original film was a box office hit in 1984, the sequel was held up by various legal issues which were only resolved when Carolco stepped in to purchase the rights. Run by Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, the company had become very successful in the 1980s on the back of the Rambo franchise – First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1984) – the latter of which Cameron co-wrote. So, although a big budget spectacular, it was independently financed outside the studio system.
2. James Cameron had previously sold his rights to the franchise for $1
Although he created the iconic character and story, Cameron sold his stake in any future sequels for the nominal sum of $1 before the first film was even made. His reasoning was that this was the only way he would be allowed to direct his first feature film. As it established his career, he later said that was the price of a ‘Hollywood education’. In 2009 he told the Toronto Sun :
“I wish I hadn’t sold the rights for one dollar. If I had a little time machine and I could only send back something the length of a tweet, it’d be – ‘Don’t sell.’
Although he was paid a reported $6m to write and direct T2, he has never seen any money from any of the subsequent films, TV shows or merchandising.
3. The film has a strange connection with the Rodney King incident
The biker bar scene where the T800 arrives was filmed just across the road from where LAPD officers assaulted Rodney King in March 1991. The famous amateur video, shot by George Holliday, is reputed to have two bits of footage on it. One is the T2 crew filming shots of Schwarzenegger and Furlong on a motorbike in the San Fernando Valley and the other – shot later – is of several police officers beating the crap out of King.
The resulting trial of the officers and their controversial acquittal triggered the LA riots of April 1992.
The irony is that the villain of T2 is a cop. When writing the script several months before filming, Cameron wrestled with what form the T-1000 would settle on and in Rebecca Keegan’s biography ‘The Futurist’ explained why he chose a police officer:
“The Terminator films are not really about the human race getting killed off by future machines. They’re about us losing touch with our own humanity and becoming machines, which allows us to kill and brutalise each other. Cops think of all non-cops as less than they are, stupid, weak and evil. They dehumanise the people they are sworn to protect and desensitise themselves in order to do that job.”
4. The groundbreaking visuals involved the first version of Photoshop
Dennis Muren of ILM was in charge of the 35 CGI artists who achieved the ground breaking visual effects of T2. Using techniques that had been pioneered in The Abyss (1987) and Willow (1988), the breakthrough came with a new piece of software that was the first version of Photoshop.
John Knoll of ILM and his brother Thomas Knoll (a PhD student at the University of Michigan) had developed the program, and like the chip in the movie which takes Cyberdyne in new directions, it allowed them to create the remarkable liquid effects in the pseudopod sequence in The Abyss (the first film ever to use Photoshop) and the morphing transitions in Ron Howard’s Willow (where humans turn in to animals).
For Terminator 2 Cameron decided to go much further and have a major character which was heavily reliant on the emerging digital tools. ILM created a version of what would become the scene where a silvery T-1000 walks out of the fiery wreckage of a burning truck.
Cameron was impressed and the visual effects budget ended up being $6m (a huge sum at the time), but it raised the bar for the entire industry. Muren and ILM would build on their work by creating the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park (1993) – if you look closely at the scene where Cyberdyne Systems is introduced you can spot an inflatable dinosaur hanging from the ceiling.
5. Billy Idol was the original choice for the T-1000
Hemdale had wanted O.J. Simpson to play the Terminator in the original film and T2 had its own strange moment of casting when Billy Idol was considered for the role of the T-1000. Cameron even featured the rocker in early concept drawings for the character but after he got injured in a motorcycle accident Idol was replaced by Robert Patrick.
6. English censors had major problems with two scenes
The BBFC objected to the scene in the psychiatric hospital where Sarah Connor picks a lock with a paper-clip, as they felt it was too realistic and might encourage people to copy it. They also had issues with the shoot out at Cyberdyne Systems where the T-800 shoots several SWAT team members in the leg as it resembled the old IRA practice where paramilitaries shot victims through their kneecaps.
7. Two sets of twins were used in the film
Two scenes utilised a pair of identical twins to create the illusion of the T-1000 in disguise as another character. Don and Dan Stanton (who had previously been in Good Morning Vietnam) played the hospital security guard who gets caught out at the coffee machine. Linda Hamilton’s twin sister was used as a double in the climactic fight and another (deleted) scene involving a mirror.
8. It was the most expensive film ever made
At a budget of $102m it was, at the time, the most expensive film ever made. But, like the Rambo movies, it was funded by pre-sales to foreign distributors. With Schwarzenegger and Cameron now much more bankable figures at the box office, Carolco not only raised the budget easily but had even made a profit before the film was released. Cameron’s future films Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) would also become the most expensive made up to that point, as well as the most successful.
9. Cameron also produced Point Break whilst preparing T2
During the preparation for T2, Cameron also served as producer on Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Cameron had married Bigelow in 1989 and had also directed her in a music video (‘Reach’ by Martini Ranch), where she played the leader of a cowgirl gang.
Point Break was originally known as Johnny Utah and Bigelow was determined to cast Keanu Reeves in the lead role, which puzzled Cameron as the actor was best known for the Bill and Ted movies. The film would open the week after T2 in July 1991 and was a box office success which established Reeves as an action star.
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger was initially disappointed with his ‘good’ character
Cameron completed the script in a marathon 36 hour writing session in May 1990, just before flying to the Cannes film festival where Carolco officially announced it. When Cameron first told him of the idea that the T-800 would kill anyone, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a little concerned that the Terminator would not actually terminate anyone.
11. Part of Robert Patrick’s anatomy had to be digitally removed from one scene
For the scene where the naked T-1000 arrives and steals the cops clothes, the effects team had to digitally remove a sensitive part of Robert Patrick’s anatomy. But on video versions of the film it partially showed up, prompting Cameron to later joke that he wanted his money back for the “digital willy removal”.
12. Linda Hamilton became deaf in one ear during filming
In the elevator sequence where Sarah Connor escapes from the hospital with John and the T-800, Hamilton went for a bathroom break and forgot to put her ear plugs back in. When Schwarzenegger fired his shotgun at the T-1000 above right by her, it resulted in serious hearing loss in one ear.
13. Practical make-up was blended with the CGI
The visual effects by ILM were skilfully blended with practical special effects and make-up from Stan Winston’s studio which involved the deteriorating face and body of the T-800 and the changes in the T-1000 as it got shot and physically distorted.
14. The sounds of the film were a lot cheaper than the visuals
The sound of the T1000 morphing was achieved in a number of cost-effective ways. When it moves through the bars at the psychiatric hospital, we are hearing the sound of a can of dog food being emptied. Another foley effect was achieved by dipping a condom-covered microphone into a mixture of flour and water and then shooting compressed air into it.
15. The freeway chase involved some highly dangerous stunt work
Cameron shot the helicopter chase on the freeway himself as his Steadicam operator felt it was too risky. If you look closely you’ll see an actual chopper fly under the freeway overpass and in a later shot just clear a bridge. Cameron implicitly trusted his helicopter pilot, but also admitted that a stunt involving the T800 jumping on to a moving truck was “really dangerous” and that he wouldn’t have done it in later films.
16. The ending was changed late on
The original ending saw an older Sarah Connor look at her son John playing with his daughter in a peaceful future scenario but was cut after a test screening at Skywalker Ranch. Carolco felt it would ruin any future sequels and Cameron relented with a rewrite just one month before the film’s release, using road footage from the scene just before the attack on Cyberdyne Systems. The first ending can be seen in later special editions of the film.
17. It was the highest grossing film of 1991 and won 4 Oscars
When it eventually did open on July 4th weekend in 1991, it opened in 2,274 cinemas and half of all tickets sold in America were for T2. It earned $54 million during that weekend and would eventually gross $204 million in the United States and $519 million worldwide.
At the 64th Academy Awards it won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Make Up, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. It was nominated for Best Cinematography and Film Editing.
18. Despite the huge success of T2 Carolco later went bankrupt
Although Carolco made had major hits such as T2 and Basic Instinct (1992), the company played a risky game in the early 1990s. As their budgets grew, they needed to have hit after hit to sustain their growing costs. Whilst major studios had the protection of a larger corporate owner, Carolco eventually came to grief with the disastrous releases of Cutthroat Island and Showgirls in 1995. Both were costly flops and the company filed for bankruptcy, with most of their assets being purchased for $50 million. Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna later created C2 Pictures which produced Terminator 3 in 2003.
19. It got a timely DVD release in August 1997
T2 has been released by several different companies on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray. In 1993, the Special Edition cut of the film was released to Laserdisc and VHS, containing 17 minutes of never-before-seen footage including a dream sequence featuring Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, a scene where John Connor prevents Sarah from destroying the Terminator and the original epilogue of an elderly Sarah in the future.
The subsequent “Ultimate Edition” and “Extreme Edition” releases also contain this version of the film. When it was first released on DVD as a single disc in August 1997 – the same month as the original ‘judgement day’ in the film.
20. Skynet went live around the same time as Google
In the film we learn that Skynet goes live on August 29th 1997, whilst in real life the domain name for Google was registered on September 15th 1997. Coincidence? 😉