Ending The Terminator
Date: November 1984
By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
Thanx to Jamin for sending in the Starlog magazine!
Exchanging broadsword for bullets, Arnold Schwarzenegger emerges as a death-dealing android from a far-off future, charged with a task that may change history -- the killing of an innocent woman and her unborn child.
The quiet residential neighborhood in Van Nuys, California was filled with curiosity as cast and crew set up for some of the final scenes of The Terminator, a new SF adventure. Children stood at a respectful distance, watching their hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as her prepared to go before the cameras. Occasionally, the braver kids edged in closer, asking for autographs. Smiling and laughing, Schwarzenegger posed for pictures with them and chatted briefly.
Later, he related his feelings about his young fans. "I think it's the muscles that first get them," he says. "They all wish they were big and strong and could do the things my characters do. I really like kids, and I enjoy having them around. Also, they're the ones who put their money down to see the movies. I want them to know that I'm the kind of person they think I am."
However, in this movi, matters are a bit different. It's no more Mister Nice Guy for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is the Terminator, the villain. "The Terminator is a Cyborg -- on the surface he looks like a man, but he's a machine," Schwarzenegger explains. "He comes from the future, the 21st Century. He comes to present-day Los Angeles to kill a woman whose unborn child will be the ancestor of the man leading the revolt against the 21st Century Government. He's a machine programmed to kill."
Originally, Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered the role of Reese, the guerilla fighter who follows the Cyborg assassin back through time to try to prevent the change of history. "Mike Medavoy at Orion told me about the script," Schwarzenegger recalls, "and said there was this great role, a hero who must destroy a machine which can't be killed. I really liked the script; it was one of the best action-adventure scripts I have ever read. As soon as I started reading, though, I knew I wanted to play the Terminator. In every film I've been in, I always play a hero. In this one, I finally get to play a really bad guy. It's very different for me, an I'm enjoying it."
Or, as one of the neighborhood kids remarked while watching Schwarzenegger knock down a door and open fire on the woman inside, "It looks like it's going to be fun!"
Co-writer/director James Cameron, who previously helmed Piranha II, felt Schwarzenegger would fit the rol as the baddie well. "To me, Arnold is the only actor to play Terminator," he says. "I knew right away he would be perfect. The Terminator is an imposing creation, and it needed someone who looked as imposing as Arnold to carry it off."
The premise of The Terminator emerged while Cameron and producer/co-writer Gale Hurd were working together on Battle Beyond the Stars. "I was production manager and Jim was art director and director of photography for the special effects unit," Hurd explains. "Jim came up with the idea. I thought it would make an exciting films. He went off and started the script, and eventually, I worked on it with him. With his background in special effects, it seemed natural for him to direct. When we completed the script, we were convinced we had all the ingredients for a succesful movie."
But putting those ingredients on film is another matter. Hurd laughs as she recalls what happened next. "We had the script finished in May 1982," she says. "We shoppped it around, and in November 1982, Orion told us they wanted to distribute it. We didn't start production until late March 1984. It took a year-and-a-half to put together the financing, even with the carrot that Orion wanted it!"
Jim Cameron's background in art and FX direction led to the involvement of top production people including Stan (Heartbeeps) Winston, (FANGORIA #14) who is creating the special makeup and mechanical FX. "Jim is an artist," Winston explains. "He came to me and he had the script, but more importantly he had the drawings of what he wanted things to look like. He knew what would have to be done to achieve that look. I have never worked with a director before who had that kind of understanding for my work. There have been a couple of times we've had differences of opinion, but I have to say Jim's vision has been right."
"My work has been much easier because we speak the same language. Since the Terminator goes through many different changes during the film, the work is very demanding. It's probably the hardest film on which I've ever worked, but it would be much harder with someone other than Jim directing it."
The Terminator is being shot entirely on location in Los Angeles, with the only set work confined to miniatures for some effects. "I've never done a movie this way before," Schwarzenegger admits. "It's very different to get up and drive to work every day from your home." He laughs, thinking about some of the film's rather outré locations. "I tell you, I have seen parts of Los Angeles I didn't know existed! Downtown, shooting at night, finding these people living in the alleys, it's amazing!"
Much of the shooting has been done at night. "I think our circadian rhythms have been totally shot", says Schwarzenegger. "We've been getting off work at 5:30, driving home at dawn, trying to sleep during the day. It's just the reverse of what I'm used to doing."
Michael (The Fan) Biehn portrays Kyle Reese, whose job is to terminate the Terminator. Paul Winfield has already completed his work as LAPD Lieutenant Taxler. It is he who must be persuaded by Vukovich, played by Lance (The Right Stuff) Henrikson (STARLOG #78), after the Earthman has been convinced by Reese that it is possible for a 21st Century revolution to have an important action played our in 20th-Century Los Angeles."
"Vukovich meets Reese first and doesn't believe his story about where he's from and all," Henrikson explains. "Then, he has an experience with the Terminator, and realizes Reese is right. He becomes Reese's ally, trying to stop the Terminator."
Henrikson's previous association with director Cameron on Piranha II led to his work on Terminator. "We had been through this real fiasco in Jamaica, and when something like that happens, you become really close," Henrikson recalls. "The thing I appreciate about Jim is that he really wants to make movies. He'll go to any length to get it going. He has the tenacity of a pit bull! As an actor, it's great to work with a director who knows exactly what he wants to do. It gives you the security to put as much as you can into the character and not hold back."
Linda Hamilton, the heroine of Children of the Corn, portrays Sarah Connor, the woman the Terminator has traversed time itself to kill. "I enjoy the role because my character has to really take care of herself," Hamilton says. "She's terrified of the Terminator, and, at first, she's also terrified of Reese, because she thinks he's the same kind of thing. When he tells her what's happening and that he's there to help her, she doesn't believe him. But in the end, she wins, because she's strong, too."
The film calls for fast-paced action, with Schwarzenegger terminating numerous Los Angeles residents while searching for his assigned victims, but it isn't all shoot-em-up. "There are some very humorous incidents," the actor explains. "The Terminator is a machine that can learn. He watches television to understand this time period. But he's very one-dimensional; he's a machine. Sometimes he doesn't get it right. He goes to a store and tries to buy something which won't be invented for another 20 years. Then, he gets confused when he can't get it. Another time he watches a beer commercial and drinks beer and wheels around the room drunk. He doesn't know what's happening. Those scenes lighten up the heavy action."
Jim Cameron is a longtime science-fiction aficionado. "I probably read much more science fiction when I was a kid than I do today, but that early stuff had a strong influence on me," he notes. "I wouldn't call myself a 'fan' exactly, but science fiction which talks about the possible unforseen effects of what we're doing interests me." In listing his favorite writers, Cameron thinks of Robert Sheckley and Ray Bradbury.
"I'm not that interested in Arther C. Clarke's science fiction, where the technology is the star of the story. Expecting the technology to save us makes for bad stories. I'm more interested in stories about people."
Cameron's intention with The Terminator is to cause people to think about future ramifications of today's technological advances. "I mean, we are very close to creating thinking machines, and that kind of development could be perverted in the future into a machine like the Terminator," he states. "Of course, the story is meant to entertain, but I also hope the audience will think about what we may be creating. All technological development has had unplanned for side effects."
Both Cameron and Hurd are graduates of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking. "I first came down to Los Angeles after graduating from Stanford," says Hurd. "A friend got me an interview with Roger about a job as his administrative assistant. When he got to the interview's end, he looked at me and said, 'What do you eventually want to do in this industry?' I really hadn't thought about that. My background in school was communications and business, so, I decided producing was what my abilities suited. Roger gave me many oppertunities to learn that hands-on."
"When you look at the people who got their start with Roger, who have gone on to become major artists in their fields, you must appreciate him. He turned people loose and let them show what they could do. I think this industry owes Roger Corman a debt which can never be repaid; I only wish there were a few more like him so more people could get that first shot."
Hurd's involvement with Corman meant a quick move from executive assistant to Director of Advertising and Publicity, where she ran New World's marketing department. Hurd served in various production capacities for Battle Beyond the Stars and The Lady in Red, and then she became assistant director for Alligator and, in 1981, co-produced Smokey Bites the Dust. "That was a lot of work to do in seven years, and I don't think there's another company in Hollywood where I could have had that experience and responsibility that fast," Hurd says.
Speaking of The Terminator, Gale Hurd concludes, "The budget on this is a bit over six million. For a film with these effects, that isn't a big budget; it's very low-budget! This budget has forced us to be very creative in what we do, but I feel when it's finished, you will see every penny up there on the screen in The Terminator."
Extra special thanx to Terminator fan Jamin for sending in the Starlog magazine to be typed over to present to you all for in-depth reading! Jamin, you rule!