The atmosphere was electric as men and women scattered back and forth across the freeway, each one with a specific purpose as they lay down their preparations for the evening’s events. More than two miles of the major road had been closed off while a Hollywood ensemble took over the location, the ostentatious production designing an elaborate chase sequence involving a SWAT truck and a police helicopter. It was late in the evening on a Thursday in November 1990 when thirty-six-year-old James Cameron took control of the camera, and as his crew gave a wide berth around the action, he followed the helicopter as it performed one of the most dangerous stunts ever committed to celluloid. This section of the Terminal Island Freeway, also known as Route 103, ran from Sepulveda Boulevard to the Long Island Naval Shipyard, but on the night in question, Cameron was shooting a sequence in which the heroes of his story are pursued by an unstoppable menace from the future, and in a moment of inspiration his helicopter pilot decided to take the set-piece one step further. Barely hovering above the concrete, the villain was to close in on the truck as they attempted to make their escape, but now the pilot proposed that he fly below the underpass, a stunt that everyone on set immediately protested to. Everyone, that is, except Cameron. In the six years since he had broken into the mainstream with his first commercial hit, he had gained a reputation as a fearless and uncompromising filmmaker, but this time even his most loyal collaborators felt that this was a step too far. ‘The camera crew said, ‘We won’t shoot that!’’ he later recalled. ‘So I said, ‘Okay, fine, I’ll shoot it myself.’’ And it was just me and the insert driver following the helicopter through there.’

By the time of its release in the summer of 1991, Cameron’s latest motion picture, the science fiction action sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, had become a fixture of the tabloids, due to its excessive budget and dangerous stunts. The New York Times had declared it the most expensive movie ever made, while also describing it as a ‘slam-bam, ultraviolent action thriller.’ But eight months before its highly-anticipated debut, Cameron was debating with Chuck Tamburro, the pilot tasked with performing the show-stopping manoeuvre, on whether or not he could pull off such a spectacle. ‘He said, ‘Just give me a few minutes to work on this. I’m gonna fly down there,’’ continued Cameron. The filmmaker had already demanded the impossible with his screenplay, which had dictated that the helicopter would narrowly miss an oncoming car, before crashing directly into the back of the SWAT truck. But it was Tamburro, a veteran of such action classics as Commando and Die Hard, that was determined to take the scene to a whole new level. As paramedics waited close by in case the stunt went awry, the helicopter slowly lifted from the asphalt and travelled across to its mark, where it awaited Cameron’s order to commence the chase. As the crew took shelter behind a chain-link fence, the truck skid away along the freeway, and a moment later Tamburro was in pursuit. The truck moved through the overpass with ease, but then time stood still as everyone waited for the helicopter to follow. Remaining in pursuit, the pilot navigated under the bridge, the blades of the rotor less than eight feet from the concrete surface, before finally emerging unscathed on the other side. As Tamburro guided the helicopter back down to earth, a roar of applause erupted from the crowd of spectators that had protested so hard against this moment. ‘He knew exactly what he could do, and how to do it,’ declared Cameron. ‘These are things you should not do with a helicopter, but these guys were so good!’

Cameron had barely overcome the nightmare that was The Abyss when cameras began rolling on Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the fall of 1990. His previous picture, an underwater fantasy, had forced the cast and crew to work submerged in a large tank to simulate the depths of the Caribbean Sea, resulting in emotional breakdowns, violent outbursts, and near-death experiences that ultimately overshadowed the movie’s release. ‘It was a bitch,’ insisted his lead actor, Ed Harris, when looking back on the experience. And yet despite a modest performance at the box office that fell short of the expectations of its studio, the visual wonders that Cameron was able to put on display with The Abyss was enough to convince him that digital special effects, then still in its infancy, would one day have the power to allow filmmakers the opportunity to present anything to their audiences, limited only by their own imagination. And upon seeing the potential that this new technology promised, he felt compelled to return to a concept that he had first conceived almost a decade earlier, one in which a shapeshifting assassin from another time travelled to present day to destroy the future saviour of the human race. The science of the mid-eighties had prevented him from exploring this idea in any credible way, but now he was convinced that he could finally bring this image to fruition. But with each project he had attempted to outdo his past accomplishments, and yet he was not eager to relive the chaos of The Abyss. Still, Cameron had never been one to back down from a challenge, and as the story of his killer from the future began to grow, so too was his conviction that he could make the most outrageous and exciting motion picture of all time.

‘Jim Cameron is the type of director who pushes you to the edge,’ admitted actor Leo Burmester during the promotion of The Abyss. ‘But he doesn’t make you do anything he wouldn’t do himself.’ Following his dismissal from the set of his directorial debut in the early eighties, Cameron had envisioned a figure rising like a phoenix from the flames. The metallic skeleton, twisted and broken from an immense explosion, crawled from the wreckage, yet it remained single-minded with purpose, a creature that brings only death and destruction. It was this vision, conjured from a fevered dream, that would light the spark that, in just a few short years, would terrify audiences around the world during the tense final moments of a low budget science fiction picture. But as a struggling filmmaker lay sick in his bed, nightmarish visions of an indestructible robot from another time began to infiltrate his sleep, and by morning the genesis of The Terminator had formed. He imagined a war between man and machine, orchestrated by Skynet, a defence network that had become self-aware, and following a nuclear attack that had eradicated most of humanity, only a small band of survivors remained. But one man emerged from the chaos, a symbol of strength and defiance, who led the battle-worn soldiers towards victory: John Connor. By 2029, Synet sensed its own imminent defeat, and so a cyborg, a near-indestructible robotic endoskeleton covered with human tissue, was sent back in time to the year 1984: its mission; to terminate Connor’s mother, Sarah, before he was born, thus bringing an end to the resistance. But Connor sent back his own soldier, Kyle Reese, to save his mother, and by the time the cyborg was finally destroyed, Reese was dead and Sarah now burdened with the knowledge that her unborn son was destined to one day become mankind’s last hope.

No one had high expectation for The Terminator when it was released in October 1984, the same month that saw the arrival of Wim Wenders’ acclaimed character piece Paris, Texas and Brian De Palma’s controversial thriller Body Double. A low-budget science fiction film starring a former bodybuilder, that dabbled in time travel and robots, was initially dismissed as a gimmick, but when audiences began to experience it for themselves, they were unprepared for the imagination, visual assault, and emotion that the picture had to offer. ‘The Terminator is a blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso moviemaking, terrific momentum, solid performances, and a compelling story,’ announced Variety in their glowing review, while also praising the casting of rising action star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the titular role of the near-indestructible assassin. Other critics would also cite the note-perfect casting of the villain. ‘There’s something downright satisfying about seeing this big, loveable lug play a remorseless heavy, and one hopes the mean streak has not run its course,’ wrote the Hollywood Reporter. ‘Terminator 2, where are you?’ While sequels had become commonplace by the time that The Terminator appeared on the big screen, with Paramount unleashing a new instalment of their lucrative Friday the 13th franchise on an almost-yearly basis throughout the eighties, a follow-up to Cameron’s breakthrough success would be seven years in the making, by which point Schwarzenegger had cemented his status as an action hero. But neither the director, nor its star, had given up hope on creating a second film, and even as Cameron enjoyed success with the sci-fi horror sequel Aliens, and Schwarzenegger became a household name with Commando and Predator, the thought of Terminator 2 was never far from their minds.

‘Science fiction has always asked the great and profound questions: What is it to be human? What is our place in the grand scheme of things? Are we alone in that vastness, or part of a great community? What does it all mean? What will happen next? Are we doomed, or destined for greatness?’ proclaimed Cameron in 2018’s James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. ‘It’s a genre that’s not afraid of the deepest philosophical abyss. This thematic depth hooked me as a teenager, after the flashy robots and slavering monsters lured me in as a kid. I started as a rabid consumer of sci-fi novels, films, and television. I gorged myself on every paperback and magazine I could find with a spaceship or robot on the cover. I stayed up till the wee hours for every Friday night creature feature. I knew the black-and-white B-movies of the fifties by heart. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of every alien invasion strategy; every pod, or spore, or meteor-borne blob of goo by which they came to walk among us.’ When The Terminator was released in the autumn of 1984, the science fiction genre was enjoying something of a resurgence, with the eighties promising exciting innovations in the world of technology. With the advancement in home computers, cellular telephones, and computer games having a significant impact on everyday life, this new decade promised a post-Star Wars world of endless possibilities that inevitably had an influence on both fantasy writers and filmmakers. Arthur C. Clarke followed his seminal novel 2001: A Space Odyssey with the long-awaited sequel 2010: Odyssey Two, while William Gibson ushered in the era of cyberpunk with the cult classic Neuromancer. Science fiction on the big screen had become even more prolific, with the Philip K. Dick adaptation Blade Runner pushing the boundaries of special effects, while the Australian action epic Mad Max 2 depicted a post-apocalyptic world in which its survivors scavenge for food and fuel in a hostile environment.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron

‘I can pinpoint exactly when I first became really excited about film,’ Cameron told Fangoria in 1984. ‘It was 1968, when I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, at the age of fourteen, and saw a film that was a piece of art, completely independent of all my preconceptions of what a film is supposed to do. It made me aware of visual possibilities and musical possibilities that had never occurred to me before, and had me thinking for the first time that it was something that I’d really like to do.’ In a 1992 interview with Four Screenplays he elaborated further; ‘I borrowed my dad’s Super 8 camera, and would try to shoot things with different frame rates just to see how it looked. I had a fascination with it, but I couldn’t see myself as a future film director. In fact, there was a definite feeling on my part that those people were somehow born into it, almost like a caste system. Little kids from a small town in Canada didn’t get to direct movies.’ While he found minor work shooting industrial films in the mid-seventies, it would be upon viewing Star Wars in 1977 that Cameron finally realised what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The fantasy picture, written and directed by a young filmmaker called George Lucas, took the world by storm, and its overnight success had significant repercussions on the film industry. Prior to its release, science fiction had fallen out of favour with the public, but by the end of the seventies every producer, both mainstream and independent, were desperate to create their own imitator. Cameron’s first attempt at making his own Star Wars came the following year with Xenogenesis, a twelve-minute short film financed through a consortium of local dentists, that depicted a young woman and her cyborg companion who travel the stars in a sentient spaceship in search of a new home, only to find a long-abandoned station populated by a domestic robot. When it becomes aware of their presence it attempts to destroy the cyborg, but the woman comes to his rescue in an exosuit, and the two fight to the death.

Remaining unfinished and serving as a production reel for potential employers, Xenogenesis was a blueprint for many of Cameron’s subsequent big budget productions, from the cyborg of The Terminator to the use of an exosuit to fight an otherworldly entity, a concept he would return to almost a decade later with Aliens. Although plans to develop the short film into a feature were ultimately abandoned, Cameron used the footage to enter the world of special effects when he joined the legendary New World Pictures, a production company owned by independent pioneer Roger Corman. One of the countless studios attempting to emulate the success of Star Wars, Cameron soon found himself working on a space fantasy called Battle Beyond the Stars. Having made a suitable impression designing the hero’s spaceship, Cameron soon began rising through the ranks of New World, working on such B-movies as Galaxy of Terror and Android, until he was eventually promoted to head of the special effects department, while also cutting his teeth as a second unit director. It would be during the time that he spent on Escape from New York, a science fiction action thriller from cult filmmaker John Carpenter, that he would later draw influence in the creation of The Terminator. Michael Myers, the demented killer of Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic Halloween, would provide inspiration for the eponymous cyborg assassin in The Terminator, being both a silent force of nature that remains emotionless, and an unstoppable, pure personification of evil. It would be during this time at New World that Cameron finally felt he was ready to direct a motion picture of his own.

In 1978, Corman had produced a tongue-in-cheek monster movie called Piranha, in which the residents of a rural community are devoured by a school of mutant flesh-eating fish. In much the same way that Battle Beyond the Stars had attempted to capitalise on the success of Star Wars, Piranha had been one of several low-budget creature features released in the wake of the Jaws phenomenon of the mid-seventies. The movie had become an unexpected success with both audiences and critics, and while Corman had made no attempt to secure the rights to a sequel, his associate, Jeff Schechtman, was approached to develop a followup. With notorious producer Ovidio G. Assonitis onboard to finance the project, Piranha 2: The Spawning was to mark the directorial debut of Miller Drake. Despite all the pieces having fallen into place, conflicts soon began to grow between Assonitis and Drake, and eventually the latter was removed from the production. With no director to oversee their Jamaican set, Cameron was brought in as a last-minute replacement. ‘When I was in Jamaica, the Italian producer decided that it would be a really good idea if he wrote and directed some second unit scenes on the island’s other side with some topless women,’ he admitted in 1986. ‘So, I later went to Rome and ingratiated myself back into the production. Well, I wavered on the edge of fighting and running for a while, and I stayed to fight because I had worked really hard on it. Also, I got some pretty good performances out of the actors, and I knew that, dramatically, the story was working. I went there, and the producer wouldn’t show me certain reels.’ It was during this mission to Rome that Cameron developed a severe fever that would result in visions of a damaged-yet-relentless robot crawling from a fire, and by the time he returned to the United States, he knew that if he was ever to get the opportunity to direct a second motion picture, then this science fiction movie he had envisioned would be it.

And much like how John Carpenter had Debra Hill, his partner both personally and professionally, as his must trusted collaborator, during his time at New World, Cameron had grown close to a rising producer called Gale Anne Hurd. ‘I had written a treatment and most of the first draft of The Terminator, which she become involved in polishing,’ recalled Cameron to Starlog in 1984. ‘Our strength in doing the movie was pooling our resources and forming an impenetrable barrier to anyone who wanted to take it away from us or change the concept.’ Despite Gale Anne Hurd having been an unproven producer, with only the long-forgotten Smokey Bites the Dust on her résumé, her time under the tutelage of Corman had taught her how to make every cent count, and she would put these lessons into practise on The Terminator. And no soon had development on the project begun, it was clear from the outset that Hurd would be to Cameron what Debra Hill was to John Carpenter. ‘I learned that I’m a fairly quick study,’ Hurd told Interview Magazine in 2017. ‘The other key ingredient to success, I learned, is relying on not only the kindness of strangers, but the kindness of colleagues. It wasn’t the backstabbing industry that I had been warned about. There were so many kind, generous, and supportive people without whom I never would have succeeded.’

While the climax of The Terminator had promised of more to come, Cameron had not created the movie with a sequel in mind, and so as fans, the industry, and even his leading man demanded another story, he was unsure of where he could take the premise next. After all, even though the war against the machines seemed inevitable, both the hero and villain had both perished, and the saviour of humanity was yet to be born. ‘It was actually Arnold who got me thinking about it,’ explained Cameron. ‘He loved the role and was interested in doing it again. But I didn’t write the first film with a preconceived notion of doing a sequel. To me, The Terminator was a pretty self-sufficient story, even though it had a lot of side alleys that could easily be explored in a sequel.’ Despite Cameron’s insistence that he remained conflicted on developing a follow-up, Schwarzenegger remained adamant that it would one day become a reality. ‘Jim and I always had a clear understanding, even before the first Terminator was finished, that there would be a second, and that we would do it together or not at all,’ he claimed. ‘It didn’t hurt our chances when the first Terminator came out and was hailed as a thinking man’s science fiction film by many major publications. It took a while to get the legal side of the sequel ironed out, but in the ensuing years, it became very obvious that people really wanted a sequel. Everywhere I travelled, the question would always be, ‘When will there be another Terminator movie?’ I’m glad things finally worked out and we were able to give people what they wanted. Jim had some really good ideas about what the second one should be, even before the first Terminator was completed; the ideas he had excited me to the point where I said, ‘The movie has to be made somewhere down the line.’’

A boy and his Terminator 

While on paper, The Terminator may have sounded like an exercise in schlock, a ham-fisted attempt to ride on the science fiction coattails of Star Wars, in reality it was an intelligent character piece that served as a warning of mankind’s obsession with playing God, and how this could only lead to our inevitable destruction. At the centre of it was Sarah Connor, an unexceptional woman who became the target of an unstoppable killer, and through a trial-by-fire must come to embrace the mother of the future that she is destined to be. One criticism levelled at the majority of sequels is their reliance on merely being a carbon copy of their far superior predecessor, and so if Cameron was to return to the world of Sarah, her son John, and the war against the machines, then he would need to develop a story that served as a worthy follow-up. And for this overwhelming task he turned to his close friend William Wisher. Following his starring role in Xenogenesis, Wisher performed uncredited writing duties on The Terminator, before being tasked with adapting the screenplay into a novel alongside co-author Randall Frakes. And so Cameron felt that he was more than qualified to help develop a concept for a sequel. ‘Jim pulled this old, yellow sheet of paper out of his notebook and showed it to me. It was an idea, basically a couple of sentences, that he had jotted down a long time ago. It read, ‘Young John Connor and the Terminator who comes back to save him,’’ said Wisher. ‘The idea of a boy and his Terminator seemed funny, and we both had a good laugh at it. But after we finished laughing, Jim looked at me and said the Terminator 2 project was coming together, and this was the story we ought to do.’

With this central premise in mind, Wisher would travel to Cameron’s home in order to share and embellish their ideas, first starting with the notion of another Terminator being sent back to protect ten-year-old John Connor. But if a Terminator is now the protagonist, then what would make a formidable villain? ‘Bill and I discussed a lot of ideas, one of which was a ‘two Arnold’ concept, in which there would be a good Terminator and a bad Terminator, both played by Arnold,’ revealed Cameron. ‘Two things turned me away from that concept: first, it felt gimmicky; and second, I knew that, visually, we would have to do something to distinguish the good Terminator from the bad Terminator. It would have meant having Arnold in appliance make-up for the whole five months of the shooting schedule, and I didn’t want Arnold Schwarzenegger cranky with me.’ The turning point came when Cameron decided that the heroic Terminator had to be the underdog, so that the audience could sympathise with him. ‘We began to realise that if the audience was going to root for the good Terminator, his adversary had to be more threatening and more powerful than he was. But then we were faced with a dilemma – what is bigger, stronger, and more terrifying than the Terminator? We couldn’t just build a bigger hydraulic machine, because that would stray too far from the basic concept of the Terminator as an infiltration unit. What is the point of imitating human beings if you imitate them in such a laughably noticeable manner that they no longer work as infiltrators?’

Although they had no clear understanding on what their antagonist would be, or what kind of scope the story would tell, Cameron and Wisher worked tirelessly to develop the world of Sarah Connor a decade on from her near-death experience with the Terminator. ‘We wrote the treatment for it, and Jim has a term which is called a scriptment, which is a process I also use, where you start out writing your treatment, and just continue to expand it until you finally have a screenplay,’ Wisher explained to Flickering Myth. ‘With Terminator 2, we wrote it at his house, taking turns at the keyboard, writing it out loud, so to speak, coming up with ideas and all that. Then once we got to the end, I think it was about fifty pages, roughly, we cut it in half. He expanded one half, and I expanded the other half, and the movie was all there. Then once we were done with that and both halves were in screenplay form, we got back together and spent three days in the same room, going over it.’ During the initial brainstorming sessions, Cameron suggested an idea he had toyed with when developing The Terminator several years earlier. ‘Eventually, we would up with the idea of the T-1000,’ said Cameron. ‘In one of the earliest drafts of The Terminator, I had actually incorporated a sort of liquid metal robot that could take any form. Then John Carpenter’s The Thing came out, which was another shape-changing kind of monster, and so I abandoned the idea. But I never lost that image of a liquid metal endoskeleton.’

But with this idea now in place, the writers faced two difficulties: one would be how to depict the liquid metal villain in a way that would inspire the special effects artists that were hired to design it; and the other was how to depict the good Terminator. And despite having forged a career as a hero in the years since he had first portrayed the Terminator, Schwarzenegger seemed somewhat apprehensive to play a less menacing version of the role. ‘I was a little thrown when Jim sat me down at a restaurant and told me his concept for my character in the film,’ he admitted in his memoir Total Recall. ‘How can the Terminator not kill anyone?’ I asked. ‘He’s a Terminator! That’s what people want to see; me kicking in doors and machine-gunning everybody.’ I was suspicious that the studio was pulling back and trying to make the Terminator into something rated PG. That had destroyed Conan, and I didn’t want to see it happen to The Terminator. ‘No, no, no,’ said Jim. ‘You’re still really dangerous and violent. But this time the Terminator come back when John Connor is a kid, and he’s programmed to protect him. He’s not the villain anymore. The villain is a new, smaller, even scarier Terminator – the T-1000 – that is programmed to kill John Connor. Your Terminator has to stop it.’ The killing was still there, but it was done by the T-1000. As soon as I understood that the movie was going to stay R-rated, I relaxed.’ And now with both their villain and hero in place, Cameron and Wisher’s next task was deciding what kind of woman Sarah Connor had become.

As The Terminator entered pre-production in 1983, the lucrative slasher cycle of the early eighties was gradually coming to an end. Having first become a regular fixture of the American box office following the surprise success of Friday the 13th in the summer of 1980, an array of derivative pictures over-saturated cinemas and drive-ins across the country, each one following the template laid out by either Friday the 13th or its inspiration, Halloween, almost note-for-note. In each of these low budget horror films, a group of naïve teenagers were stalked and slaughtered one-by-one by a lurking figure that watches from the shadows. Michael Myers had become the archetypal slasher villain, and while Cameron’s cyborg would hide in plain sight and only target those singled out for its mission, there were notable comparisons between the monster in The Terminator and Carpenter’s earlier thriller. In between the robotics, time travel, and prophecies of the end of the world lay the story of a young woman terrorised by an unstoppable killer, a formula the horror genre would recycle for decades to come in the guise of the final girl. First introduced in the mid-seventies with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, during a time when the women’s liberation movement had begun to make a significant impact on the western world, the final girl would be the female hero of a story who, after all potential saviours had perished, is forced to defend herself and ultimately defeat the monster. ‘She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror, and of her own peril,’ detailed author Carol J. Clover in her 1992 analysis Men, Women and Chainsaws.

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger

When the first Terminator travelled back in time to 1984, it did not come face-to-face with the legendary warrior that Sarah would ultimately become, but instead found a weak and naïve young woman that struggled with the same generic day-to-day concerns as everyone else: a dead-end job, bills, and a failing love life. But with a decade having passed since that encounter, the writers were aware that it was their responsibility to give Sarah a character arc as complex and intriguing as Schwarzenegger’s. ‘The last time we saw Sarah, she was driving to Mexico with a .357 on the seat, and a baby growing in her belly,’ Wisher told Fangoria. ‘Now it’s ten years later, and the question Jim and I had to face was what she would have done during those years. She would have been carrying around all this horrible knowledge, so we knew that when we picked her up, she was going to have changed. There were a lot of ways we could have handled Sarah: we could have fixed it so she forgot the entire experience, but that would not have made sense. We also had to make a decision on how we were going to handle the young John Connor. One of the things we considered was having the son grow up with his mother. But that kind of took the edge off, so we decided to have them separated, and have John grow up in an unloving foster home.’ While Sarah had remained somewhat underdeveloped during The Terminator, or at least until she finally stood her ground during the final moments of the film, for the sequel they intended to make her a three-dimensional character. ‘I saw Sarah as being the more interesting character this time around,’ confirmed Cameron. ‘In fact, the big problem going in was that Arnold’s Terminator wasn’t very interesting to me at all. I had to change him in a way that would make him something other than the same character in the first film. I solved that problem by giving him the capacity to adapt to emotions and, in a way, become good.’

Despite not being the first actor considered for the titular role in The Terminator, Schwarzenegger had become a household name following its unexpected success in the mid-eighties, and would become one of the leading action stars of the decade. Born in a small village in Austria two years after the end of the Second World War, Arnold Schwarzenegger spent a childhood in poverty, but while in his teens he developed a passion for bodybuilding, and would spend hours each day at the local gym. He would also idolise Steve Reeves, a former Mr. Universe who had become a star following his performance as Hercules. Reeves’ success would inspire Schwarzenegger, and by the time he was twenty he had already been crowned Mr. Universe. ‘I still remember that first visit to the bodybuilding gym,’ said Schwarzenegger in his 1977 memoir Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. ‘I had never seen anyone lift weights before. I found myself walking around them, staring at muscles I couldn’t even name, muscles I’d never even seen before. The weightlifters shone with sweat; they were powerful-looking, Herculean. And there it was before me; my life, the answer I’d been seeking. It clicked. It was something I suddenly just seemed to reach out and find, as if I’d been crossing a suspended bridge and finally stepped onto solid ground.’ Following in the footsteps of his idol, in 1968 Schwarzenegger was cast as the hero in the comedy Hercules in New York, but it would be the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, released a decade later, that convinced filmmaker John Milius to cast Schwarzenegger in the lead of his sword-and-sorcery blockbuster Conan the Barbarian.

When his name was suggested to Cameron for the heroic role of Kyle Reese, the director had little interest in entertaining the notion, but as a courtesy agreed to meet the young actor. With Cameron’s first choice for the Terminator, Piranha 2: The Spawning’s Lance Henriksen, having been rejected by the studio, and the director under pressure to cast former football star O.J Simpson, he was eager to bring the meeting to an end, but during their discussion it soon became clear that Schwarzenegger had clear designs on how he thought the Terminator should be portrayed. ‘I found that, in reading the script and speaking with Jim, I became more and more enthusiastic with the character of the Terminator, rather than Reese,’ confirmed Schwarzenegger while promoting the movie. ‘So, after our meeting, Jim Cameron called me back and offered me the title role, because he felt that I locked into the character, and had some good ideas on how it should be played. I make my career decisions according to how I feel about the role, rather than how the people out there will feel about my screen image. If your decisions are always based on trying to outguess the public, trying to figure out what will make you a bigger star and more popular, you will run into serious trouble. Richard Gere, for instance, was a big success in American Gigolo, but after that he played the same sort of character in two films, and he fell on his face. Or Sylvester Stallone, trying to do the same sort of thing with Paradise Alley as he did with Rocky, and it just didn’t work.’

Before Cameron could bring Terminator 2: Judgment Day to life, he needed to somehow unravel certain legalities surrounding the rights to the first picture. The Terminator had been financed through an arrangement between three entities: a production company called Hemdale Film Corporation, the television network HBO, and distributor Orion Pictures. But both Cameron and Schwarzenegger had felt dismayed at their relationship with Hemdale and so refused to collaborate with them once again, yet without their participation a Terminator sequel seemed unlikely. Another complication they faced was that Cameron’s marriage and professional relationship with Gale Anne Hurd, his producer and co-writer on The Terminator, had since fallen apart, and so negotiations would also have to be made with her if they were to obtain the rights to the story. Their saving grace would come with Carolco Pictures. Formed in the mid-seventies by Lebanese producer Mario Kassar and his partner Andrew G. Vajna, the studio first found success in 1982 with the Stallone action drama First Blood, while Cameron would participate in the writing of its sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II. Other notable hits included Angel Heart and Iron Eagle II, although these would pale in comparison to the commercial success of the Schwarzenegger science fiction flick Total Recall. ‘They had to have a certain quality,’ said Kassar on the films produced by his studio. ‘They had to have names. Because Carolco was independent, we relied on foreign sales.’

Despite facing an estimated fee of $15m to buy out both Hemdale and Hurd, Carolco were determined to purchase the rights to Terminator 2. ‘With the first one, James had it set up at Hemdale, a company run by a British guy named John Daly, with Orion. A friend of mine sent me the screenplay and said, ‘Read this!’’ recalled Kassar to Dean of Geek. ‘I read it, and I said, ‘This is great. Can I be involved?’ He said, ‘No, it’s at Orion.’ I met James Cameron and I said, ‘If anything happens, if it doesn’t work out, then please come back to me and I’ll do it in a minute.’ But obviously they ended up doing it, and they invited me to a screening of the movie. I knew it was going to be a good, but he did a great job. I said, ‘James, please. Next time, please come to me with whatever. I just want to work with you.’ He had a one-picture deal with Orion; he wasn’t attached for sequels, or whatever. And he came to see me, and he’d been trying to do a sequel to The Terminator for years; it was very complicated for several reasons. When James divorced, his ex-wife, Gale Anne Hurd, still owned half of the rights. Then you had Arnold and James – it was complicated. They called me and said, ‘Mario, can you try and put it together.’ I wanted to do it so badly, even though it was a challenge. So what I did was, I made the deal with Cameron, and then I had to make the deal with Gale Ann Hurd. Her agent in those days was Lou Pitt, who was also Arnold’s agent. Already the rights were $15m, or something like that, I don’t remember the exact number. She wanted a certain amount. Then James came back with the effects – he’d done a twenty-minute reel before he’d made the movie, so he could show me the effects before he started shooting: how the guy comes up from the floor, the finger goes through the eye. I said, ‘This is so amazing.’ That cost over $10m to do.’

The special effects that Cameron would utilise for Terminator 2 proved to be among the most inventive and breath-taking that audiences had ever seen, and this would come together through the symbiotic marriage between practical and digital effects. The design of the cyborg endoskeleton for The Terminator almost a decade earlier had already proved groundbreaking, but by the dawn of the new decade audiences had since been subjected to even more elaborate imagery. While Cameron had conceived and designed the Terminator, the demands of creating such an intricate cyborg would fall to someone else. The seventies had seen a significant advancement in Hollywood special effects, with a new generation of artists such as Rob Bottin, Tom Savini, and Rick Baker exploring the potential of prosthetics, but for The Terminator, Cameron required something more; a cyborg that was gradually stripped of its flesh, until only a metal skeleton remained. Having first approached Dick Smith, the celebrated artist renowned for his work on both The Exorcist and The Godfather, Cameron was suggested a rising young artist in the field of special effects, one that could bring his vision to fruition. ‘What I thought was cutting edge was deciding to not have a guy in a robot suit,’ claimed Cameron in 2009. ‘But a flesh-covered endoskeleton? That was new. So for me it was all about how we could develop stop-motion animation and puppetry to create a true robotic endoskeleton. The team at Stan Winston Studio jumped into it and made it work.’

How I could push the envelope

When Stan Winston moved from Virginia to California in the late sixties, he had dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian or actor, but following a make-up apprenticeship at Disney he knew what his calling should be, and by 1973 had won a Primetime Emmy for his work on the made-for-television film Gargoyles. After collaborating with Henriksen for the first time on the splatter movie Mansion of the Doomed, Winston found further success with the hit musical The Wiz, but as the decade made way for the eighties, he found himself working on a slew of low budget horror films. By the time Cameron walked through the doors of his workshop, Winston had become a highly respected artist in the field of special effects, but aside from the occasional fantasy, all directors ever demanded from him were mutilations, decapitations, and eviscerations. But with The Terminator he had found a project that would test his skills and imagination, one that truly allowed him to elevate the art of effects to new heights. ‘I became very interested in how I could push the envelope to do things people hadn’t seen before,’ he recalled in 2006. ‘I was really exploring what I could do beyond make-ups. And then I saw this ‘making of’ documentary on The Dark Crystal, which started me thinking about using puppet technology to do articulated characters we couldn’t do with make-ups on people. I got really excited about the idea of creating characters as puppets, using the techniques that Jim Henson had pioneered. I studied how he designed heads and hands for his characters, and how he built the various puppeteering rigs, and then I stole from him shamelessly.’

Winston’s talents were demonstrated to their full potential during the climax of The Terminator, when a tanker truck driven by Schwarzenegger explodes and his body staggers from the wreckage, finally collapsing amongst the flames. For a moment Sarah and Kyle believe they have succeeded, but suddenly the mechanical endoskeleton rises from the flames, Cameron’s feverish dream becoming a reality three years after his ill-fated mission to Rome. The two heroes are chased into a nearby factory, where the genius of Winston and his team of artists were on full display. Taking his last stand against their enemy, Reese ignites a pipe bomb and forces it into the Terminator’s thoracic plate, and a moment later the explosion tears the machine at the waist. An injured Sarah crawls across the grated floor towards Reese, only to find that her lover had sacrificed himself so that she could survive. And still the Terminator remains functional, reaching out for her as it crawls from its own wreckage, determined to complete its mission. To achieve the bisection of the Terminator, Winston’s crewman Richard Landon devised a rudimentary replica of the endoskeleton that was rigged with an explosive, with the upper half of the body connected to cables that the operators pulled in order to simulate the torso being propelled into the air from the blast.

With barely any fight remaining and yet driven by animal instinct, Sarah crawls from her predator and climbs under a large hydraulic press, the cyborg desperately reaching out with its metallic claws as she kicks and pulls herself to safety. Finally emerging from the other side, she pulls down a metal gate to hold it in place and then blindly fumbles her hand across the control panel. The two lock eyes for the final time before Sarah scowls, ‘You’re terminated, fucker!’ And in that moment the warrior within is finally revealed. With the Terminator having been the result of various different puppets and operators, its death under the hydraulic press would mark yet another replica, one built using a collapsible polyurethane. But when its destruction did not go to plan, one of the special effects crew was forced to improvise. ‘I took one of the chrome-plated resin skulls we had for the endoskeleton puppets,’ revealed John Rosengrant, whose subsequent work alongside Winston would include Aliens, Predator, and Jurassic Park. ‘I covered it with very thin sheet lead. I carved into that lead to create an eye and part of the face, and then painted it; and that’s what we used. That’s the final endoskeleton head you see being smashed in the press in the movie. I had less than an hour to do this, but I liked it. I always found that I liked the situations where everybody is desperate and you have to wing it, those situations where all your plans go out the window and you have to think of something quick.’

But when Winston was contacted to once again resume his duties for Terminator 2, it soon became clear that he could not merely recycle his work from the previous film, as the demands for the T-1000 dictated that they would have to develop puppets and animatronics even more complex than the first time. And while computer-generated effects (CGI) would play a significant role in the creation of the character, the majority of the work would fall on Winston and his team. ‘Jim came up with just hundreds of insane, impossible effects, which is what he always does,’ laughed Winston. ‘There were more effects in the first two minutes of this script than there had been in the entire first movie!’ Yet all his past achievements would pale in comparison to what was being asked of him for Terminator 2. ‘Jim wanted to do everything we could do live,’ he told author Jody Duncan. ‘Even though the CG water pod from The Abyss had been the inspiration for the liquid metal Terminator, Jim was still smart enough about getting what he could with live effects. Then, CG would be used to augment that. Usually, for example, we would do an effect for the T-1000 injury or destruction – such as a crowbar slicing him down the middle, or bullets hitting his chest – and then ILM would close the wounds digitally. And then, of course, any time you saw the full metal T-1000 walking around, that was a CG character. What was really significant about this movie was that, for the first time, a character was created through a seamless blend of live-action animatronics and CG.’

While Winston once again handled the prosthetics and animatronics, the digital effects were supplied by one of the largest special effects companies in the world. Industrial Light and Magic had been created out of necessity in the mid-seventies when an enthusiastic young filmmaker by the name of George Lucas was developing visual effects for a science fiction picture he was directing called Star Wars. With no companies that were able to provide the talents required for his space opera, he finally decided to build one of his own. ‘I knew it was going to move very fast, with this giant space battle at the end. Only in those days, you couldn’t do that. I thought, ‘Well, I’d better figure it out.’ It was destined to be my undoing,’ confessed Lucas to Wired when looking back on the birth of ILM. ‘We hired a handful of people – a lot of young kids, basically. Very few of them had worked on a feature film. I wanted to set up shop in San Francisco, but there was no film processing lab, so John [Dykstra] insisted we stay in Los Angeles. We found an industrial warehouse space in Van Nuys, next to the airport. We had about forty-five people working for us. The average age was twenty-five or twenty-six.’ While ILM would oversee the extensive special effects for not only Star Wars but its two sequels, the company soon became the go-to effects house for fantasy and science fiction productions, resulting in them handling similar duties on such blockbusters as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In 1989, they created an alien life form that manipulates water in order to create a physical shape in The Abyss, an achievement that was enough to convince Cameron that the time had come to introduce the world to his liquid metal T-1000.

T-1000 Conceptual Art

Although The Abyss had served as Cameron’s introduction to the wonders of digital effects, the script for Terminator 2 would demand more of him, as not only did he have to orchestrate large action sequences, but now he also had to take into account the special effects that were to be added in post-production. ‘Some of the computer graphics being done at Industrial Light and Magic rely on a fairly static frame in order for them to work, so I’ve tried, within those scenes, to keep the style consistent with the requirements of those effects shots,’ claimed Cameron. ‘But, for the most part, I haven’t really changed my style of directing and, in fact, it has been pretty much the other way around; my style of directing has forced the effects people to come up with other ways of doing their effects. Basically, this whole mixture of directing style and special effects is going to boil down to the content of the image, rather than the style of the image. That’s what’s going to make Terminator 2 compelling.’ But even with the new possibilities that digital effects now afforded them, Cameron knew that they had to keep the T-1000 as grounded as possible. ‘There had to be limits about his shape-changing,’ the director explained to author Ian Nathan. ‘Could it turn into a Coca-Cola machine? No, because it can’t change its mass. It certainly can’t change its weight; weight and mass are two physical constants. But it can become things. It could not turn into a small dog because it was too big; there was too much mass, too much material. It could mimic weapons, but it couldn’t mimic a weapon that would actually fire. A gun has moving parts, and there’s gunpowder inside a brass shell, so it can’t make itself into that.’

Once Cameron and Wisher had completed the screenplay for Terminator 2, and both were satisfied that it served as a worthy follow-up to the first picture, Cameron intended on presenting it to Arnold Schwarzenegger. ‘I wound up writing until the very last second, where I had to get in a limo and squirt to the airport, and jump on a big charter jet that Carolco was using to fly all of its stars and filmmakers to Cannes in early May of 1990,’ laughed Cameron. ‘And I’m scrambling down to the wire to get this script done and printed out, and my printer fucked up. I’m printing this thing out and I’m supposed to have left already twenty minutes ago. I literally pull it out of the laser printer hot, put a clip on it, and shove it in a gym bag, and haul ass to the airport. And I walk on the plane, and all of the big agents, and movie stars, and filmmakers in Hollywood are all sitting there, all in their seats, and you could hear a pin drop. And I have to walk all the way down the aisle past all these accusing eyes. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, you think you’re special, don’t you? There’s always one.’ I’m like, ‘I know, guys, I know. I’m sorry.’ Anyway, as I’m going by, I hand the script to Arnold.’ Schwarzenegger would also recall the flight to Cannes. ‘By the time we landed, we’d read it, and we were jumping all over the plane in excitement about how big and technologically sophisticated the story was,’ he enthused. ‘I never expected Terminator 2 to just be an ordinary sequel: Cameron is a big believer in surprising the audience, and I felt confident that Terminator 2 would be as amazing and unexpected as the original. But this script blew me away. I asked lots of questions about the shapeshifting T-1000 that my character would be fighting against – it was a challenge to imagine a machine made of liquid metal alloy. That’s when I realised that Jim’s knowledge of science, and the world of the future, went way beyond the ordinary.’

As Sarah would reveal during the opening narration, on 29 August 1997 mankind faced extermination, when three billion souls perished as the machines launched a nuclear attack against their creators. Hiding among the ruins of civilisation were the survivors, who had christened the moment that the devastation came as Judgment Day. The machines were ruled by an artificial intelligence known as Skynet, and when it saw its own defeat at the hands of John Connor, the leader of the resistance, it sent a Terminator back in time to assassinate his mother, Sarah, before he was born. When that failed, it sent a second, more advanced, T-1000 to target John when he was only ten-years-old. Once again fearing that the actions of Skynet could threaten his very existence, John sent a reprogrammed Terminator back to act as his protector. But Sarah no longer has custody of her son, having been committed to a psychiatric institution following her attempt to destroy a factory owned by Cyberdyne Systems, the company that would one day create Skynet. And as a result, John is raised by foster parents that seem emotionally distant and disinterested in his development. She had attempted to prepare him for the coming war by teaching him the art of hacking into computer systems, while surrounding them both with guerrilla solders and mercenaries, anyone that could train John in the fundamentals of survival. But now she is cut off from the world, and he has since been raised to believe that she is delusional. As a result, he has grown to despise her and everything that she stands for, not realising that her outrageous claims of a nuclear war were all true, and that once again their lives are in danger.

Cameron had decided from the very beginning that Sarah would return as the protagonist, but as the script developed they realised that there was a comparison between her character and the heroic Terminator. Both began the story as emotionless beings with a clear mission in mind: protecting John Connor. And as the events unfolded, both discovered an element of humanity within them that brought them to understand why the human race was worth saving. But in preparation for Judgment Day, Sarah had transformed her own body into a killing machine, and through that metamorphosis she somehow lost her instinct to be a mother. ‘She has so little, and no one really believes her and her story – including her son,’ explained Linda Hamilton, who returned to the role of Sarah after her breakthrough performance in The Terminator. ‘By the time you discover them in this film, he doesn’t really believe that any of it was for real, either. Everyone tells him, ‘Your mom’s so crazy,’ and he has bought into that. Sarah’s also living with the spectre of nuclear war. She knows when it will happen, so she’s bitter and broken. She’s pretty hard inside.’ The role reversal between Sarah and the Terminator would not be lost on the actress. ‘The irony in this film is that Arnold is the a better mother than I am,’ she acknowledged, ‘and I’m a better Terminator than he is.’

A culmination of several females in his life – his mother, the fearless woman; his first wife, the waitress – Sarah Connor represented something personal for Cameron, and so the casting of the character was paramount. Among the actresses brought in to read for the part was twenty-one-year-old Jennifer Jason Leigh, who had made her big screen debut in 1981 with the slasher movie Eyes of a Stranger, before landing her breakout role in the cult comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But of all the young hopefuls who would audition, the one that made the greatest impression on Cameron and Hurd was Strasberg graduate Linda Hamilton. Having recently completed work on the Stephen King adaptation Children of the Corn, the twenty-seven-year-old actress had little interest in The Terminator when she was first introduced to the project. ‘I was a New York-trained actress,’ Hamilton told Smashing Interviews Magazine. ‘People were excited about the first script for The Terminator, and I’m not sure why because Jim Cameron didn’t really have a huge following or a big name at that time. But the fact that Arnold was in it, I was like, ‘Hmmm, I will reserve my judgement.’ I actually went to the set. He started before I did. I don’t think anybody would’ve called him a great actor in those days, but I went and watched him as the Terminator, and thought, ‘Okay, this is working.’’ Although Hamilton was initially dismissive of the project, Cameron and Hurd saw Sarah Connor as the heart of the story and the emotional connection with which the audience could invest in the events of the movie. ‘Look at the journey of Sarah Connor; she works as a waitress, she doesn’t know what she is going to do with her life, and then finds out she is the key to the continuation of the human race in the war against the machines,’ described Hurd. ‘And she finds the strength within herself to take it on. We all have that strength.’

I couldn’t wait to take my clothes off

In order to prepare for the role of Sarah for Terminator 2, Hamilton was forced to endure an intense exercise regime that was intended to transform her body into a muscle-bound heroine. ‘I knew that I had turned myself into a fierce warrior fighter woman protecting her son,’ she told Polygon in 2019. ‘That was just the physical work, and I definitely handled that. But I also had to reach deep within myself to figure out who she is at this stage in her life, and with such high stakes, you reach deeper. I’ve never really seen her as a heroine, because she’s not a fantastic mother. She’s a fierce protector but, you know, the things that really create motherhood, or the nurturing, Sarah was not good at. She was just so on mission with John. It was interesting to play a woman who was very, very loud. She’s just so on mission that a lot of other things have dropped away that would be terribly important in terms of raising a child. So I never saw her as heroic. I just saw her as one hugely flawed woman who’s pretty much going through hell.’ And for Hamilton, building her biceps for the role was an experience that she would come to relish. ‘All last summer, I couldn’t wait to take my clothes off,’ she declared during the promotion of the movie. ‘I’d pull my little crop-top up – I had a running bra on – for anyone who wanted to see. It’s just wonderful when you fall in love with your body. Arnold was low-key at first, but when he saw how strong I was, he was thrilled.’

While both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton trained vigorously for their roles, Cameron was determined to cast an actor less physically imposing and more sleek and sinister as the T-1000. And although he had been eager to dismiss casting O.J. Simpson as the villain of the first film, for the sequel he was willing to embrace another medium of popular culture for his antagonist. London-born Billy Idol had first found minor success as the frontman of the punk group Generation X, but it was as a solo artist in the early eighties that he finally found fame, enjoying hits on both sides of the Atlantic with White Wedding and Rebel Yell. Although he had little in the way of acting experience, Idol had a quality that Cameron found ideal. But Idol’s dream of becoming a movie star came to a standstill on 7 February 1990 when he ran a stop sign on his Harley-Davidson and crashed head-first into an oncoming vehicle. Idol suffered a broken wrist and leg, and would endure several hours of surgery to repair the damage between his right knee and ankle. As a result, he was unable to meet the physical demands of the role. ‘I had to act that scene where he goes to the stepparents with the picture,’ he told Rolling Stone three decades later. ‘But the trouble is that I had this terrible limp. And James Cameron said, ‘The only problem is, I really need you to be able to run.’ And I’m just about walking, you know? It was going to take me a while to really get a hundred percent back to normal. And even with the CGI thing, there was no way they could really fake it right then, really.’

The responsibility to find a replacement for Idol wold fall to Mali Finn, a casting directing whose résumé included The Untouchables and Flatliners. Thirty-one-year-old Robert Patrick had, much like Cameron, started his career on a succession of low-budget pictures for the legendary Roger Corman, before landing a minor role as a henchman in the action sequel Die Hard 2. ‘I was a complete unknown,’ he later admitted. ‘My agents told me that they were looking for someone who could create an intense presence. They’re not going to let me read the script. But the whole auditioning thing was new to me as well, at the time. I had only been in Hollywood for a short time; I’d done a bunch of Roger Corman movies. I’d done a couple of plays. I was doing a play when I got this audition. So I was good on my feet and ready to ad-lib, improv, come up with some stuff. The limited amount of training I had worked for me, and I knew they wanted an intense presence, so I figured out how I create that in the time that they’ve given me. It was one of those situations where I was the right guy at the right time.’ And even though Idol was no longer associated with the project, sketches created by both Mike Trcic and Shane Mahan of Stan Winston Studios were left strewn around their workshop. ‘I can tell you that I saw Billy’s image when I went to Stan Winston after I got the role,’ he confirmed to Heat Vision. ‘My agents sold me to the Terminator 2 casting director as a cross between David Bowie and James Dean. So, I was trying to create an intense presence while I was sitting with Mali. I had this intense stare, which she liked.’

Once Patrick landed the role of the T-1000, he was more than aware of the difference in size between himself and Schwarzenegger, and so approached his own character in a different way to that of his co-star. ‘Here I am, coming in at six feet, and a hundred-and-sixty-five, so I’m definitely the little guy. But that doesn’t make me any less formidable. I’m quicker, and I don’t need to throw any punches because I have other tricks up my sleeve,’ he teased prior to the film’s release. ‘Jim told me, ‘I want you to be a sponge. I want you to absorb things from the outside, to get in touch with your body.’ I looked into animal and insect imagery to develop the lack of substance, and absence of wasted motion that my Terminator has. I studied the killer instinct in animals and insects, where they lock onto a target and will walk through anything that gets between them and their intended prey. Basically, my task was to develop all the internal stuff that defines the T-1000’s intensity and lack of emotion. Jim’s direction, and the effects of Stan Winston and Industrial Light and Magic, took care of the rest. Arnold was very helpful in maintaining the integrity of both of our characters. During the fight sequences, he would let me move him around. He would fight me in such a way as to show off my powers and qualities. He worked real hard to sell my character as well as his. Trying to get my movements to match ILM’s was real tough. Scenes as simple as coming into frame and hitting a mark were made more complicated because of the way I had to move my body. If one movement was even an eighth of an inch off, it could blow the scene. When my Terminator would be using certain powers, Jim would sometimes have me contort into really strange and uncomfortable positions, yet I would have to come across as cool and perfect at the same time.’

With Schwarzenegger having played the villain in the original film, Cameron attempted to keep the audience guessing as to which of the two time travellers have been sent to protect John Connor, and which is tasked with his destruction. But if the promotion of the movie, which leant heavily on the fact that the action star was now the hero, had not already ruined the surprise, then the sinister music that accompanies the scenes depicting the T-1000 left little doubt. And yet for Schwarzenegger’s first scene following his arrival, he makes his way into a nearby biker bar, still fully nude after moving through time, in order to obtain clothing and a mode of transport. The emotionless violence that he displays in this scene re-enforces the fact that he is a Terminator, but lacked the bloodshed that his earlier counterpart had been responsible for when he procured clothing from a punk at the Griffith Park Observatory. And yet despite the obvious ruthlessness of the biker bar scene, the conditions in which this sequence was shot adds a humorous element to the proceedings. ‘Arnold walks into the bar wearing the loudest pair of Hawaiian print board shorts that he can. And everyone in the bar is supposed to keep a straight face, but it all actually worked out okay because they all looked down in surprise,’ recalled Cameron with a smile. ‘And what he was trying to go for was they were all reacting to his enormous crank, I guess. So now that you have the image of Arnold walking through the bar with these purple Hawaiian print board shorts on, you’ll never see the scene the same way. And I think he was wearing a pair of brown Bass Weejuns as well.’

Edward Furlong and James Cameron

While Schwarzenegger’s Terminator adopted a biker visage, the T-1000 took the more pragmatic approach by murdering a police officer and stealing his cruiser. From there, he is able to operate as a highly-effective infiltration unit by hiding in plain sight, an authority figure that is both feared and respected by the everyday citizen. John Connor, meanwhile, is an obnoxious prepubescent that rebels against authority, resents his foster parents as much as his real mother, and has already become a thief and delinquent. With John one day becoming the saviour of humanity, the casting of the character would be just as important to that of the antagonist. ‘I grew up watching Predator and Total Recall. I really looked up to Arnold throughout that whole movie,’ revealed Edward Furlong who, at the age of just thirteen, made his acting debut alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And yet despite the significance of the character, Cameron would admit that he came to conceive his role in the sequel under the most unorthodox of circumstances. ‘I remember sitting there once, high on E, writing notes for Terminator,’ he admitted in 2021. ‘And I was struck by Sting’s song, that, ‘I hope the Russians love their children too.’ And I thought, ‘You know what? The idea of a nuclear war is just so antithetical to life itself.’ That’s where the kid came from.’ But Furlong would come to be involved in Terminator 2 in a way that many youngsters could only dream of: he was literally plucked from the street and thrust in front of a camera. ‘I was at a Boys’ Club, and the Boys’ Club is a place where there’s a lot of video games, and places to hang out for kids,’ he explained. ‘And there’s a casting director, her name was Mali Finn, and she came over and said, ‘Can I talk to you?’ And I go, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know. What did I do?’ And she goes, ‘I would like you to try out for Terminator 2.’ Well, me with my weird memory, she writes down my name, my address, and everything. And I’m on my way home with my aunt and uncle, Sean and Nancy, and I said, ‘Guess what! I’m going to try out for a movie.’ They go, ‘What movie?’ ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 6, I think.’

With the majority of the movie relying on either John’s relationship with his mother, or his friendship with the Terminator, Cameron knew that taking a chance on casting an unknown in the role could have disastrous consequences on the entire picture, but he also felt confident that Edward Furlong was the right person for the character. ‘Our casting director had a tape of Eddie, and she showed it to me because, despite the fact that he was inexperienced, there was something very interesting about him. So I looked at the tape, and there was definitely a glimpse of something special there, even though he really had no idea how to act, and he kind of fumbled through the scene,’ said Cameron. ‘I was terrified to cast him. It was the single scariest creative decision of the film. The whole film, all the money, and all the work, and all the energy that was spent, could go right down the toilet if the character of the kid didn’t work. But I gambled on Eddie because he was the only one of all the kids I saw who could create a strong emotional response in front of the camera. He was able to cry. Watching him go through some of those scenes, I would get a lump in my throat – none of the other kids had come close to eliciting that kind of emotional response. He was absolutely real, and I think that comes across on the big screen.’ Furlong was more than aware that he lacked the experience to be an actor, but the confidence of Finn was enough to convince him to audition for the role. ‘The only acting I had done before this movie was to carry boxes around in a junior high play. This whole Terminator thing started out as a lark; suddenly, I’ve got a career,’ joked Furlong. ‘I had to learn how to ride a motorcycle, and how to load and unload a gun. I also had to learn a little bit of Spanish. Eddie’s supposed to be this streety sort of kid with a good mind who can adapt to any situation, so I had to be able to handle things in a believable manner.’

As both the Terminator and T-1000 hunted John Connor, Sarah remained in the psychiatric facility, where she is under the watchful eye of Dr. Silberman. Much like everyone else, her psychiatrist dismisses her stories of the future as fantasy, and after each violent outburst she is sedated and returned to her cell. The role had required very little from Hamilton the first time around, but with Terminator 2 she would not only take on a physical transformation, but an emotional one too. ‘It has been a wonderful sort of completion for me, starting something years ago, then coming back and playing the same woman – but the same woman who has taken a different direction. You get to have a closure of sorts in your performance,’ stated Hamilton. ‘Now she only has two purposes in life: look after her son, and try to help the world, save it from itself a little bit. She has lived a very rough-and-tumble existence; hanging out with terrorists, gun runners, and crazy ex-military Green Berets, trying to prepare her son, John, for his mission as the leader of the rebellion. As a result, she has lost her ability to deal with his emotional needs, including the love that a mother should provide. So, she’s lost, and he’s lost. A woman who grows and transforms on screen is always a wonderful thing to play. Sarah went from a vulnerable, normal girl to someone who finds all of her deep reservoirs of strength, and comes through it all. The first film succeeded, not just because it was a great action picture, but a love story as well. It was more than just shoot-‘em-up and blow-‘em-up. The love story drew many people who ordinarily wouldn’t have liked the picture, the whole chase, the whole struggle; it was for a purpose. It was a message picture.’ By the time the events of Terminator 2 begin to unfold, Kyle Reese – the soldier who travelled back through time to protect her, to love her, and to father her child – had been dead for ten years, and the moment in which mankind is almost annihilated is closing ever near, and yet her son is still unprepared for the role that he must play.’

The world that John has taken for granted is shattered when he is confronted with the truth as two imposing figures close in on him. Unsure on who to trust, the ominous biker reveals his motives when he shields the young boy from a barrage of gunfire, before instructing him to flee while standing his ground against the police officer. But he is no match for the T-1000, a faster, stronger, and more adaptable assassin, one that can easily heal from his wounds. As John escapes on his bike, the T-1000 commandeers a truck and gives chase. John finally finds himself in a flood control channel, believing that he has successfully evaded the menace. But a moment later the truck reappears on a road above and, smashing through the concrete wall, crashes into the channel below. This dangerous sequence was choreographed in minute detail by Cameron’s stunt co-ordinator Gary Davis, the thirtyeight-year-old veteran whose prior stuntwork included The Lost Boys and the skateboard drama Gleaming the Cube. The scene in question was shot in a quiet residential area in Reseda, Los Angeles, on 24 October 1990, barely two weeks into principal photography. Production designers had removed a section of the concrete wall and replaced it with soft plaster, which the tow truck had been instructed to crash through. A dummy was placed behind the driver’s seat and cables attached to the vehicle in order for a rig to assist in the fall into the channel. It was set-pieces such as this that served to justify the $1m budget that had been allocated for the stunt department. ‘Two smaller tow trucks were attached to the stunt truck by an elaborate pulley system. If they could reach ten miles-an-hour quickly enough, the six-to-one gear ratio would propel the stunt truck at sixty miles-an-hour when it hit the ramp,’ wrote an article published by the New York Times. ‘The crew had until noon, when the city’s conditional use permit was to expire, to complete the jump. Not getting the shot, and losing the site, would have meant a financial loss well into six figures.’

There are a litter of police officers standing close by, but on close inspection it is clear that each one is a stunt double for the T-1000, while the actor, Robert Patrick, confers with his director. Cameron then climbed into a moto-cam, a motorcycle attached with a camera unit, and takes his place further down the channel. The driver of the stunt truck was draped all in black in order to obscure their presence from the camera, and once Cameron was satisfied, the truck was launched through the plaster wall while he watched on with childlike amusement. ‘This was a fun gag,’ he later beamed. ‘It actually goes awry slightly. When the truck lands, it breaks its steering gear, or its tie rod. And you can see the tie rod on camera-left. And so the truck launches up the embankment. And so we matched it; we had it so it went out of control.’ Once the truck continues the pursuit of John Connor, the Terminator then appears on his Harley-Davidson and follows the T-1000 by riding off the side of the bridge and down into the channel. Although this would be once again performed by the stuntman, the majority of the subsequent chase scenes, in which the Terminator pulls John onto the back of his motorcycle, and then proceeds to fire his shotgun at the truck that is trailing him, would take a total of six weeks for the filmmakers to capture on film. ‘We started rehearsing the stunts months in advance,’ explained Schwarzenegger. ‘In that spectacular chase scene in the dry Los Angeles drainage canal, the Terminator is supposed to blast away one-handed with a sawed-off, ten-gauge, level-action shotgun while driving on a Harley: pulls out the gun, aim, fire, spin it to recock it, fire again, and so on. It all sounded great in the script, and it was doable – just a matter of reps, reps, reps. But the preparation was pure pain and discomfort. I couldn’t wear a glove because it would get stuck in the gun mechanism, and I took the skin off my hand and fingers practising a hundred times until I mastered the skill. Then I had to learn to do it while riding the Harley. Then I needed to put the riding and the gun skill together with the acting. It’s hard to watch when you’re driving, and look where the director wants you to look at the same time.’

Even after completing the complex stunt involving the truck crashing into the channel, Cameron then had to orchestrate the ensuing chase sequence, in which the T-1000 closes in on the John and the Terminator, forcing the latter to open fire on their attacker even while navigating his way through the tunnels. But the director knew that if they could achieve the image that he had in his head, then Terminator 2 would become a visual action spectacle. ‘It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I like the no escape metaphor. On a roadway, you always feel like you can turn off. But in a canal, there’s no exit,’ said Cameron. ‘One of the biggest limitations was that the entrances and exits were few and far between. So we had to get our vehicles and equipment into the canal sometimes miles away from where we were actually shooting. It was your basic logistical hell. Another problem was that the canals were coated with green algae on the bottom, which made them extremely slick. We couldn’t even walk down there. We had to clean them with high-pressure water jets and dam the water. It turned into a whole hydro-engineering project, which caused the first of many Abyss flashbacks. There is a sense of reality and immediacy that I strive for. In the canal chase, there wasn’t a single shot where the camera was stationary, except for when Arnold’s motorcycle jumped off the side; and that was a deliberate rest note that I felt was needed in the middle of all the high-speed action. When I shoot action sequences, I make a conscious stylistic decision to create mayhem. But mayhem can’t come from mayhem, it has to come from extreme organisation.’

Even as the Terminator fights to keep John alive, the realisation that everything his mother had told him was the truth, and that one day he would lead the human race against their oppressors, forces him to make the first definitive decision of his life: to save his mother, no matter the odds. Ordering the Terminator, which has been reprogrammed to obey his commands, they make their way to the institution where Sarah has spent the last few years of her life, only to find that his mother is already attempting to make her escape, and the T-1000 is prowling the hallways in search of her. The sight of the Terminator, the monster that had once tried to kill her, is like a sucker-punch to her gut, but John tries to reassure her that the monster is now their friend, and that another, even deadlier monster, is now the real threat. But as they try to escape the hospital, the T-1000 refuses to subside in its mission. As they reach an elevator, it charges towards them, its arms morphing into blades that it thrusts between the doors, prying them open, only to come face-to-face with the Terminator’s shotgun. After a shell tears through its skull, it staggers back as John and his mother watch on in horror as its head slowly begins to reform. This achievement, which would leave audiences in 1991 shocked with amazement, were created through an effective collaboration between Stan Winston’s workshop and Industrial Light and Magic. And it was this relationship that would ultimately bring the dinosaurs back from extinction after six-million years for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 fantasy Jurassic Park.

This will be impossible

Up until this point, it had been Robert Patrick’s performance that had brought a sinister quality to the T-1000, but for the moment in which his face is torn to pieces from the shotgun blast, this was when Winston’s team were brought in for the action. ‘The endoskeletons, which had been the big deal on Terminator, were the least of our problems on Terminator 2,’ said John Rosengrant, who had previously worked with both Winston and Schwarzenenegger on Predator in 1987. ‘By far, the most challenging things we did for Terminator 2 were these physical effects involving the T-1000 character. We did a lot of in-camera magic tricks for that; splitting open bodies, finger blades, heads blowing open, bullet-hit wounds. Every day, there was something new and challenging to do.’ The designing of the various models and puppets that would be used to create the T-1000 brought all hands on deck, with Winston overseeing every aspect of its creation. ‘The first thoughts out of my head were, ‘How will we do that?’ and, ‘This will be impossible,’’ confessed Winston on the task that his workshop now faced. ‘But I’ve had those thoughts on every film I’ve made with Jim. I knew I would find ways of doing what had to be done. But I also knew that Terminator 2 was going to be another incredibly difficult assignment. Jim and I sat down and discussed the concept in great detail. He was acting out scenes and ideas. I immediately sensed his enthusiasm and realised what was ahead. And I wanted to be involved in Terminator 2 because the concept was so unique and challenging. If anything, working with ILM gave us a boost. We felt that the real-life, physical things we provided would enhance what they were doing, and that what they came up with would enhance our work. It was a good relationship that started in pre-production, where each house asked the other, ‘What do you need from us to make your job easier?’’

While Fantasy II, the effects house created by Gene Warren Jr., was tasked with creating the miniature robots and crafts that were utilised during the opening sequence, which showed the future war and Connor’s role in mankind’s victory, it was the joint partnership between Stan Winston Studio and Industrial Light and Magic that brought the T-1000 to life. Dennis Muren, one of the leading figures in ILM, who had lent his craft to such blockbusters as Star Wars and Ghostbusters II, utilised morphing software that would help transform the character from the actor Robert Patrick to the liquid metal Terminator. Scanning the performer’s face and body, this was then loaded onto a computer to create a three-dimensional model of the T-1000. ‘I think all of us, starting with Jim of course, were trying to do something that had never been done before. We were not copying anything. All of us, I would say, are bored with reality,’ Muren told Screen Crush in 2017. ‘Going into Terminator 2, and any Cameron movie, you go into it wanting to do something that had not been done before, that was absolutely original.’ Elsewhere, Muren discussed the experience of working with Patrick on the creation of the character. ‘Robert was good. He came up here; that’s actually behind ILM in Orange County,’ he said. ‘He stripped down, we put a camera on the side of him, so in some shots he had a grid behind him. Steve Williams, the animator, studied that and discovered that he’s got a little gait to him; he moves in a certain way that nobody else does. It was then that we started to realise how incredibly difficult it is to do a person. I don’t think any of us quite knew that before, how one person is different from another. It’s based on their weight and inertia, all sorts of things. But without that gait, it didn’t look like Robert Patrick, and Steve really managed to follow it perfectly so that it looks just like it him.’

Even as Winston and ILM worked to create the special effects that would service the character, Patrick was developing the role his own way, using his experience of working on low-budget fantasy pictures with Roger Corman – a history that he shared with Cameron – and finding a way to connect with the mentality of an emotionless assassin. ‘I’d worked my way up and done a bunch of films with Roger Corman, and got rehired by them because I could do my own stunts. I had some sort of presence, and I was able to deliver on a performance,’ he explained. ‘That served me when I got the role with Jim, because he knew the experience I’d gone through, and if I’d been hired by them more than once, then I must’ve been doing something right…I remember I was talking to everybody about how I was going to approach that role, and I was like, ‘There’s got to be something off about this guy. And I don’t know how to articulate what I want to do, but I just want to make something off about this guy.’ So that was kind of my subtext. I never approached it as though I was playing a cop. I always approached it first and foremost that I was the T-1000. And then I would react in the scenes based on how the T-1000 would react. So that was my core. That was my foundation. Making the T-1000 a singular thing in itself. I remember knocking on the door. ‘Okay, I’m a cop, but I’m a machine first: I’m the T-1000.’ And I’m trying to be human. That was my subtext as an actor. Hopefully it worked!’

But it was not only Patrick that had to develop a character that was ostensibly without personality or emotion. Schwarzenegger was returning to the role that had made him a superstar, but Cameron had no interest in revisiting the character in the exact same way. While he had struggled to overcome this issue during the writing process, he had eventually agreed with Wisher that the solution was to somehow allow the Terminator to learn and understand emotions. This was achieved by Sarah removing his CPU, a neural net processor, and changing the function from read-only. ‘One of the most difficult parts of locking onto this character were the dialogue scenes. I had to answer questions and rattle off dialogue in a nonhuman, non-emotional way like a tape recorder. If I came across in a natural, nonmechanical manner, Jim would yell cut and we would have to shoot the scene over,’ admitted Schwarzenegger. ‘I had to act like a cyborg, which meant I couldn’t show any kind of human fear or reaction to the fire, explosions, or gunfire that were going off around me. That can be difficult when you’re walking through a door with its frame on fire, trying to reload a gun and, at the same time, thinking in the back of your mind that people have accidents doing these kinds of stunts, and that it might be my turn.’ Cameron was also aware of the pressure of delivering a version of the character that was both faithful to the one depicted in The Terminator, but unique enough to not merely be a carbon copy of its predecessor. ‘I just had to do what was dramatically right for the story,’ he confirmed. ‘I was only concerned that his character be enough reminiscent of what he was before that we wouldn’t violate the story. It was a fine line to walk; when is it violent enough to be consistent with the character, but not so violent that you begin to erode your own moral stance?’

With Sarah having escaped the T-1000 and reunited with her son, they take refuge in the desert, while demanding that the Terminator reveals the history of Skynet. He informs her that the one most responsible for its creation was a scientist at Cyberdyne called Miles Bennett Dyson. Arguably the most harrowing moment of the film would come with a nightmare of Sarah’s, in which she imagines playing with her son in a park, only for a nuclear blast to tear through the city, ripping apart buildings like they were made of paper, while Sarah’s body is cremated from the intense heat. Nuclear attacks had been a concern for many Americans ever since the beginning of the Cold War in the fifties, with the fear of communism used as propaganda by both the government and media, and so this image of streets engulfed by flames as an explosion consumes a city was one that sent shivers down the spine of many cinemagoers in 1991. For this sequence, Winston’s team created three life-size puppets to depict her disintegration, which would utilise a relatively new technology called cyberscanning, that allowed the actress to be scanned and then transformed into a three-dimensional image, which was then fed through into Styrofoam for the artists to mould. ‘All the nuclear dream puppets were shot on stage, on an outdoor replica of the playground in downtown Los Angeles, where Hamilton had performed the moments leading up to Sarah’s fiery destruction,’ wrote Duncan. ‘For the initial shot of Sarah bursting into flame, Winston’s crew built a head-and-torso Linda Hamilton puppet that had cable-operated arms, a flexible hydraulic hose in the neck to allow the head to rock back and forth, and articulation in the jaw to create the screaming expression.’

Designing the Nuclear Explosion

Although the image of Sarah Connor bursting into flames was effective, it was the effects of a nuclear explosion that was the most disturbing. The sight of buildings been blown to pieces, trees torn apart, and cars blown along the streets like litter were among Cameron’s most haunting visuals. To assist with this set-piece, the director turned to yet another workshop for assistance. ‘Brothers and fellow Roger Corman alumni Robert and Dennis Skotak created the scene at 4 Ward Productions,’ detailed Nathan in Terminator Vault. ‘They began by watching footage of every atomic test ever recorded, and fictional depictions, like the TV movie The Day After – Cameron presented them with a ‘best nukes’ tape. But they had to reconfigure what a desert test would do in a city: ‘show what would happen to it in a few split instants if it were ever hit with a nuclear explosion,’ Robert Skotak says. To simulate the initial blast at the playground set, built at a location overlooking downtown L.A., they combined live-action plates of real morning sunlight dissolving into sunset. The sequence then cuts to a high-angle view of a model cityscape for the radiating shockwave (created by an air gun) to ripple outwards, shattering buildings as it goes. The brothers created the effect at the leading edge of the blast by mixing a still plate of the urban area, a matte painting of Hiroshima-like ruins, and miniature buildings created by rotoscope animation. The street-level destruction involved the ‘implosion’ of hundred-thscale models.’

It is this nightmarish vision of the future, and her knowledge of the death and destruction that is yet to come, that motivates Sarah to take action and attempt to stop the inevitable holocaust that awaits. Having carved the words no fate next to where she had slept, a reference to a message that Kyle Reese had delivered from her son, John and the Terminator both determine that she intends on changing the future by killing its architect: Miles Dyson. While the Terminator theorises that this act could prevent the nuclear war, John re-emphasises the value of human life to his cyborg companion, and insists that they cannot allow her to fulfil her mission. Although she perceives Dyson as a monster, in reality he is a family man, a loving husband and father, who believes that pursuing his goal of creating artificial intelligence will one day benefit mankind. ‘I read the script and loved the character, and went in to audition and interview,’ recalled Joe Morton a veteran of the small screen, who would return to the action genre three years later with 1994’s Speed. ‘What I think won me the role was at some point James asked me what I felt was about Miles Dyson, and I said, ‘What made Miles Dyson important is a joke that Richard Pryor told.’ And James said, ‘And what was that?’ And I said, ‘The reason black characters die off early in sci-fi films, or in them at all, is that Hollywood doesn’t think they’ll be there in the future.’ The joke in question came from Pryor’s acclaimed 1976 album Bicentennial Nigger, in which he commented on the lack of African-American representation in genre cinema. ‘I went to see Logan’s Run, right?’ he told a sold-out crowd. ‘They had a movie of the future called Logan’s Run. There ain’t no niggers in it! I said, ‘Well, white folks ain’t planning for us to be here.’ This punchline clearly made an impression on Cameron, as Morton would be cast in the role of Dyson. ‘He obviously knew what I was saying,’ confirmed Morton in a separate interview. ‘It was a long, kind of, I hate to use the word tradition. In every sci-fi movie I saw, there was a black character in it that was killed off early. Or there was no black character at all.’

The transformation that Sarah underwent as a result of her nightmare morphs her into the warrior that Reese had heard John tell tales of in the future, and gathering together an arsenal of weapons, she sets out to assassinate Dyson before he can bring about the birth of Skynet, effectively becoming a Terminator herself. The role of Sarah in Terminator 2 would prove far more complex than in the original film. ‘Truthfully, it felt a lot better than the first one, because I was playing an empowered woman. That was so much better than playing the victim who’s terrified all the time,’ Hamilton told the New York Times in 2019. ‘Also, I’m kind and compassionate, but I’m not really gentle. I would hug my kids when they were babies, and they’d go, ‘Ow!’ There’s something in me that’s incredibly fierce that I have to work against, but that fierceness works for Sarah Connor. I remember in the early days of my career, one director said, ‘Wow, you come quick to this anger stuff.’ My father died when I was young, and my mom was left widowed with four very young children. Basically, I think she was overwhelmed. She definitely fought depression, and we just really weren’t allowed to express ourselves. I asked her once, ‘Why weren’t we allowed to speak and express our anger?’ And she said, ‘Well, there were four of you and only one of me.’ I think I got very lucky that I was paid to go out and play rage in a safe environment.’ During the promotion of the movie, Hamilton discussed Sarah’s decision to murder Dyson. ‘At one point, Sarah decides the only that she can stop the horrible apocalypse that’s going to happen is to kill the man who builds the microchip that starts the war,’ she said. ‘It’s her fate, and she seizes it. She just tightens up and goes to do it. In that sense, she’s unstoppable, and becomes kind of a Terminator herself. It’s odd, because the Terminator in this movie is edging towards a bit of humanity, while Sarah turns herself off just a bit. In that sense, she’s just a brutal, deadly, killing machine – more so than he is.’

For Morton, the character of Dyson proved fascinating, and one he was more than eager to develop. ‘He was certainly studying the artificial intelligence, which was very ahead of the times of what science was about,’ he claimed. ‘He discovered something, as it says in the film, to all kinds of things that they never would have thought of.’ In Terminator 2, Dyson has worked tirelessly to reverse-engineer the microchip and surviving robotic arm of the original Terminator that Sarah had destroyed under the hydraulic press. Cameron had included a scene at the end of his screenplay for The Terminator, later adapted by Wisher and Frakes into a novelisation, that saw two employees of the factory, revealed to be the property of Cyberdyne Systems, stumbling upon the CPU chip that, over the ensuing decade, would provide Dyson with the inspiration that he needed to pursue his dream of creating artificial intelligence. ‘He discovers that the evolution of his discovery is a robot, or army of robots, that tries to destroy mankind,’ continued Morton. With Sarah having wounded Dyson but unable to deliver the fatal shot, John and the Terminator arrive to find a terrified family, and a warrior struggling with her own morality. ‘Her reality is in the future, in the Terminator’s world,’ confirmed Cameron. ‘And at some level, she has said to herself, ‘In order to survive in that world, I have to become like that creature. I have to be without emotion, without compassion and pity. Because three-billion people are going to die, and if I start to think about even one of them, I will go crazy.’ It’s what happens to the human mind when it deals with the unthinkable. We don’t embrace the idea of nuclear war on an emotional level, because it’s too horrible. But Sarah is forced to, and that makes her unlikeable and a bit crazy. The dramatic meat of the story is her finding her way back again. That’s what the movie is about – not the shoot-’em-up chase stuff.’

In order for Dyston to understand Sarah’s motive, and his own responsibility for the events to come, John hands the Terminator a knife, which it uses to slice down its forearm and wrist, before tearing off the flesh to reveal the robotic arm underneath, one identical to the remains of the first Terminator that had been reverse-engineered. Winston had already demonstrated his skills at showing the deterioration of the Terminator during the first movie, in which the cyborg repaired a damaged eye in a scene reminiscent of Luis Buñuel’s avant-garde classic Un Chien Andalou. Inspired by an exhibition at Disneyland called Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, an animatronic stage show launched in 1965 that demonstrated the full potential of the technology, Winston took an array of photographs of Schwarzenegger, made a lifecast, and then created moulds of his head. ‘Normally, if someone wanted to create a dummy of an actor, they would take a lifecast, pull out a positive of that, and then carve in the eyes, and so forth. But if you want an exact replica of an actor, you can’t do a straight lifecast, because of the distortion that occurs in the casting process,’ explained Winston. ‘The material tends to pull down the face and create a kind of death mask look. I wanted to push the art of making dummies, and make these puppets perfect replicas of Arnold. So, using photographs, we resculpted the lifemask to take whatever distortions there was out of it, and to make it a more perfect replication of Arnold.’

I feel a pride of ownership

For the scene in Terminator 2, mechanics co-ordinator Richard Landon operated the Terminator’s hand like a puppet, with the fingers opening and expanding via radio control. While they were reusing the designs of the cyborg from The Terminator, Winston’s crew made several subtle alterations for the sequel. ‘The first Terminator robot was made of plastic material, like a lens cap that might have the look of chrome, but is really plastic,’ insisted Shane Mahan who, between the two films, assisted Winston on the special effects for Aliens and two Predator pictures. ‘We’d run the robot pieces through an electrostatic process to apply a metallic finish; but in shooting the first Terminator, we’d found that it chipped very easily. That was a heavy action film – as this one would be – and we were constantly bashing that thing through walls. So, by the end of shooting The Terminator, the endoskeleton puppets were literally patched together with paints and tin foil. There were little patches all over them to hide where the metallic finish had flaked off. By the time we got to Terminator 2, we used an actual chrome process for making the endoskeleton. It was a heavier material, but it made the endoskeleton puppets more durable, and the metallic lustre was much more authentic-looking. It made a huge difference. The advances of materials and engineering allowed us to make something that was both lighter and more durable. We didn’t have to put steel and solid epoxy inside these things. Everything was laid up with more consideration for the weight. They still had enough weight to feel authentic; but they were more operational.’ With the demands of the special effects being a major factor in the film’s success, Cameron was concerned that since Winston had made his directorial debut with the low-budget horror Pumpkinhead in 1988, he may now be reluctant to work on a picture that he had not directed. ‘It will never be the case of, ‘Well, Stan Winston is directing now, so he doesn’t want to do effects anymore,’’ said Winston. ‘When Jim approached me to do the creature effects for Terminator 2, my answer was an emphatic, ‘Yes!’ I wouldn’t want anyone else to do them, in fact, because I feel a pride of ownership in the original Terminator. Also, I love working with Jim, because he always makes our stuff look terrific. The best our work has ever looked has been in James Cameron films.’

With Dyson now aware of his role in humanity’s annihilation, he is determined to change the course of the future, and so accompanies John and his companions to Cyberdyne’s headquarters, where they intend on destroying both the CPU microchip and arm from the first Terminator, thus making the creation of Skynet impossible. But by this point, the Terminator and Sarah are both wanted fugitives following their escape from the psychiatric facility, and so when one of the guards recognises them, the authorities are immediately informed. When the building becomes surrounded by armed police officers, the Terminator makes his way towards a window, but John demands that he remember his earlier promise: I swear I will not kill anyone. ‘What made my character challenging is that this time the Terminator is adopting human behaviour patterns as the plot unfolds,’ said Schwarzenegger in his memoir. ‘It was typical Cameron genius to have character development in a machine. The kid says to the Terminator, ‘No more killing, I promise,’ and orders me to talk less like a dork and more like a person. So the part has me transforming from being a killing machine to something that’s attempting to be human, but not always getting there. I’m not very convincing the first time the kid gets me to say, ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’ Gradually, the Terminator becomes humanised, but only to a certain extent. It’s still very dangerous and causes a lot of mayhem. Still, compared to the T-1000, I am definitely the good guy. We were shooting the scenes out of sequence, so we were always having to figure out the right degree of humanity for the Terminator to show for that stage of the plot. For the first several weeks, I was constantly asking Jim, ‘Is he too human now, or not human enough?’’

Perhaps ironically adhering to Richard Pryor’s theory that African-American characters always perish in science fiction films, during their attempts to destroy the Cyberdyne headquarters, the SWAT team arrive and open fire on the group, repeatedly striking Dyson in the chest and stomach, causing him to collapse with the detonator. In order to buy his comrades some time, he holds a heavy object above the detonator as he takes his last breaths, his gasping slowing to a silence as the SWAT team run for cover. As the life finally exists his lungs, he thrusts down on the trigger, setting off a chain reaction. For Dyson, filming his death scene proved to be the most memorable experience of the shoot. ‘The day that we did it, first of all James allowed me to do the stunt myself, which was great,’ Morton told IGN. ‘And then, when we’re actually shooting the actual death, we couldn’t come up with anything that we really liked. And I told him that I had been in a car accident a year or so beforehand, and my lungs had collapsed. Since the character had just been shot in the chest, I assumed his lungs were collapsing, and showed him how I was breathing. At which point, we both got excited about the idea; he set up the lights, and et cetera, et cetera, and we shot the scene. But before we finished that scene – he was halfway through, he hadn’t really quite finished the end – he decided he wanted to simply take a look; you remember, right after this scene, Linda sort of scoots around to the other side of the laboratory, and the SWAT team blows out all the windows. Well, before we brought out the camera to shoot any of that stuff, James wanted to see those windows blown out, simply so he could see what it looked like, in order to shoot it. And that to me was a big deal. I had just come from doing Brother from Another Planet, with maybe $360,000, not $360,000,000. So that was a big deal to me.’

It was late one evening in early November 1990 when hundreds of local residents took their place on the hills surrounding a two-storey office building on Bayside Parkway in Fremont, where Cameron and his crew raced to prepare for a difficult-yet-crucial shot for the movie. As Dyson finally succumbs to his wounds and presses down on the trigger, the explosives that Sarah and the Terminator had spread out around the Cyberdyne headquarters are ignited, and as they attempt to escape in the elevator, the building around them bursts into flames. Cameron is once again like an excited child with an expensive toy, as the production have hit the jackpot. This office complex deep within Silicon Valley has been scheduled for demolition, and as the supporting actors dressed in Los Angeles Police Department attire take their place in the carpark outside, their director waits for the moment to come. A third floor has been built in order to make the building look even more imposing. ‘As word got out that the movies were in town, a crowd gathered each night in a nearby field to watch,’ wrote Nathan. ‘The locals brought picnics and sleeping babies. Some sat with their binoculars on bales of hay delivered by pickups, passing cups of coffee, and cheering whenever the Terminator pulled the trigger.’ For Cameron, the experience was like some kind of big-budget pantomime. ‘We set up every camera we had so that we wouldn’t miss one little detail of the building blowing up – second unit cameras and main unit cameras, and even a special camera that was there to do effects photography,’ he grinned. ‘We had a window of time in which we were actually permitted to do the explosion – it had to be late enough that we wouldn’t disturb rush hour traffic on the nearby freeway and freak everybody out, and yet early enough not to disturb people’s sleep. So it had to be done between ten and midnight, and the police had to shut down the two adjacent freeways that were within sight of the building. I set up all the cameras and the extras, and the stung guys in the foreground, choreographed all of that action, and then got in a helicopter and took off to shoot it from the air.’

With the Terminator stealing a truck from the SWAT team, they finally make their way from the building with the CPU microchip and robotic arm, but the T-1000 is close behind, riding its motorcycle through the window of a third-storey office and crashing into a helicopter, before ordering its pilot to get out. The ensuing chase, which would include the dangerous under-the-bypass stunt performed by Chuck Tamburro, culminated in a crash into a steel mill. As the workmen sound the alarm and vacate the site, the contents of a liquid nitrogen truck pour out across the forecourt, soaking the T-1000 until it finally freezes like ice. The Terminator raises his weapon and opens fire, causing it to shatter into thousands of small pieces. But as the intense heat from the mill causes the small shards to melt, they watch in horror as the pools of liquid metal flow back together, and the T-1000 gradually reforms. Despite all the elaborate stuntwork and pyrotechnics that the production boasted, it was the creation of the villain that was of a major concern for Cameron. ‘I talked to Dennis Muren at ILM,’ explained the director. ‘I said, ‘I’ve got an idea. If we took the water character from The Abyss, but it was metallic so you didn’t have the translucency issues, but you had all the surface reflectivity issues, and you made it a complete human figure that could run and do stuff, and it could morph back into a human, and then turn into the liquid metal version of itself, and we sprinkled it through the movie, can we do it?’ He said, ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow.’ Tom Sherak ran all distribution for Fox for years, and he said, ‘Who would have known that we made a $60m movie that was just a test run for Terminator 2?’ They were still stinging a little bit from the fact that The Abyss broke even, just barely.’

For Patrick, who received acclaim for his menacing turn, he was more than aware that as much of the responsibility had fallen on the special effects artists as his own performance. ‘I’ve said this many, many times; the T-1000 is a group effort,’ he admitted. ‘It is a whole ensemble of people that came together to make the T-1000 the T-1000. It’s the part that I brought, it’s Jim Cameron’s vision, it’s Stan Winston and his animatronics, it’s Dennis Muren and ILM. It’s all those parts together. My part was to create a common denominator for everything to make it seamless. That you would accept all the different elements that were happening. And it is all under the conducting of Jim Cameron. Everything that we did was groundbreaking; technology and performance. It was like acting under a microscope. It had to be precise, it had to be exact, you could not do it just so-so. You have to do it exactly right, and it was frustrating. It was literally walking out of the fire and the knee had to be so precise. And it was an amazing thing to go through. There was no half-assing by anybody, and I remember him telling me, ‘We are making movie history here, this is never been done.’’ Muren would concur that what they had attempted on Terminator 2 was unprecedented. ‘I think all of us – starting with Jim, of course – were trying to do something that had never been done before. We were not copying anything,’ he insisted. ‘Going into Terminator 2, and any Cameron movie, you go into it wanting to do something that had not been done before, that was absolutely original. And I think a lot of work that’s being done now is imitation.’

Edward Furlong

Remaining both the warrior and protective mother, Sarah lowers John down to safety while she stands her ground against the T-1000. The Terminator, their protector, now appears to have been defeated. But she refuses to give up her son to save her own life. As John takes refuge, his mother appears before him, but as she calls out and he moves closer to her, a second version of his mother appears from behind and opens fire, revealing that the first woman was the T-1000 in disguise. This scene would make less sense in the theatrical version, as in Cameron’s director’s cut the T-1000 is shown to be malfunctioning since its destruction in the liquid nitrogen, and so John is easily able to determine which was really his mother. But in the theatrical cut, his reasons for believing the second Sarah are less clear. While audiences may have believed that the two Sarahs were created through digital trickery, this was in fact achieved through the casting of Hamilton’s twin sister. Leslie Hamilton Gearren, who would pass away in 2020 at the age of sixty-three, was the second twin to be used in the shoot, following the casting of siblings Don and Dan Stanton, who portrayed a security guard at the psychiatric institution, and the T-1000 adopting his appearance, respectively. ‘They were going to use a process shot for the double, but they flew Leslie in and were delighted,’ Hamilton told Entertainment Weekly. ‘We were shooting in freezing temperatures in a steel mill, and they had to wet us down. Leslie got a glimpse of how tough it can be to do this stuff.’ But even after the T-1000’s ploy is revealed, Sarah and John now find themselves cornered in the steel mill, standing on a bridge that overlooks a sea of molten steel.

Out of shotgun shells and out of time, Sarah realises that all hope is gone, but suddenly the Terminator reappears and opens fire with his grenade launcher, burying a projectile deep into the T-1000’s abdomen, and causing it to explode in such a violent manner that it is unable to repair itself. It lets out a high-pitched scream of metallic pain as its body, twisted beyond recognition, staggers backwards and falls into the molten steel below. Dubbed by the crew as the ‘pretzel man,’ this effect was designed by Winston’s crew, and then redesigned in seconds on a napkin by Cameron. ‘The first puppet was a spring-loaded replica of Robert Patrick in splayed-open position, which could be closed up through cables, then released to create the initial exploding action, while a pneumatic ram drove the head upwards,’ explained author Jody Duncan. ‘The puppet was mounted onto gimbals at the ankles to create a teetering motion, while other body movements in the head were radio-controlled, while spinning head action was cable-controlled. A third, non-articulated puppet had a thirty-five-pound weight in its back to aid its fall into the molten steel, which was actually an underlit gelatinous concoction created by the special effects team.’ With the T-1000 finally defeated, the Terminator reminds John that his own CPU must be destroyed in order to avoid Cyberdyne reverse-engineering the technology yet again. In the film’s most emotional moment, John pleads for his friend to stay before Sarah, who offers her hand in friendship, lowers the Terminator down into the molten steel, sacrificing himself for the sake of mankind.

Working in the conditions that the cast and crew were forced to endure in the steel mill were a gruelling experience for all involved, but Cameron was determined to create an atmospheric finale to his story. ‘The biggest mistake I ever made was mixing molten steel with people. We wound up getting some good shots, and it looked very much like I imagined it when I wrote it – kind of the pit of Hell. But it turned out to be a very hard thing to do,’ admitted Cameron. ‘There have been other movies that attempted similar kinds of things. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, for example, did a lot of stuff with molten magma. But there has never before been the necessity of immersing a human being in molten steel, because that is not physically possible. If it happened, the character would just burst into flame – which is a relatively easy effect. But in this case, it was a complex, interactive sequence. The sad thing is that we spent all of that time and money and, ultimately, it’s not that spectacular. The audience will just assume we did it somehow, but it won’t impress them because it’s kind of a mundane thing. Molten steel, big deal. They’d be impressed by an alien spacecraft, and yet that would really be a much simpler thing to do. We studied several films that featured the making of steel. The part of the process that seemed the most graphic to me was the moment that the steel pours from one vessel into another, so we wanted to simulate that. In reality, they don’t even do that anymore. Now they have a slide gate that opens at the bottom of the ladle, so you would actually see very little of the molten steel as it poured into the slot below. But – as always in moviemaking – the point isn’t what something really looks like, but what the audience expects it to look like. If it looks the way they imagined it, it is real to them.’

While The Terminator had revelled in its nihilism and fear of the future, Terminator 2 embraced the possibilities of what the unknown had to offer, with Sarah and John believing that they had finally prevented the nuclear war that would bring the world to its knees. As they leave the steel mill and face the road ahead, Sarah says, ‘I face it now for the first time with a sense of hope, because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.’ Not only did the Terminator help to save John Connor, and prevent the destruction of the human race, but he also helped to rescue the humanity that had become lost in Sarah Connor. She had feared technology, almost hated it, but now that same technology had helped Sarah rediscover herself. It is this sense of optimism that would help the sequel appeal to a wider demographic than its predecessor, with the possibility that they may have saved the lives of three-billion people. Her knowledge of Skynet, and her determination to prepare for its arrival, had forced her to sacrifice her compassion and her nurturing instincts, and instead she came close to becoming a heartless killing machine, much like the Terminator. But now, with her son beside her, she can become the woman that had been denied of her. As the film fades out of its final reel, they ride off towards an undetermined future, but one they are feeling hopeful to embrace.

Even before principal photography had come to an end, the filmmakers faced pressure from the studio to deliver the picture in time for its summer release. ‘I can remember, around the Christmas holidays, we had put together three reels to show Mario, so we took that into the Carolco screening room, and we were under tremendous pressure,’ recalled Stephanie Austin, who had stepped into the production void left by Gale Anne Hurd. Having started her career in the early eighties on a succession of made-for-television movies, including the nuclear apocalypse drama The Day After, Terminator 2 would serve as Austin’s mainstream debut. ‘There was much talk of how we were going to trim stuff, and how we were gonna cut this back, and where do we save money. It was very, very difficult, and very tense. We showed them the three reels of the picture, and as we walked out of the screening room, Mario turned to Jim and I, and he said, ‘Wow, I guess it’s worth it. But how did you ever spend this amount of money?’ And Jim just said, as quick as you like, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Ask her!’ As if he had nothing to do with anything! It was pretty funny. We were rendering these effects up until maybe two days before. We were sleeping on the floor of the laboratory at the film lab, because we were on twenty-four-hour shifts. Consolidated Film Industries was an unusual choice, because they were a smaller lab, but Jim really liked the timer there – so yeah, we were doing round-the-clock shifts and sleeping there, and the president of CFI actually offered us his office, so that’s where we all slept, on the floor. We’d get up in the wee hours to see another timing. Yes, we were all on edge, and some of this stuff was being delivered literally at the last minute.’

No sooner had filming come to an end that Cameron was hard at work on post-production, desperately trying to complete the picture for its impending release. ‘I had about the same amount of time in post-production for Terminator 2 as I had on Aliens,’ he revealed. ‘So I knew that it was possible to complete a complex effects film in that amount of time. The most important thing was staying on top of it while we were shooting – editing scenes as they were shot. I just had to realise that I wasn’t going to get a day off until the film was in the theatres – that was a given. And that was part of the challenge of making the movie. It was not only a logistically-difficult picture, and a dramatically-ambitious picture, it also had to be done on a ridiculously short schedule. So what else is new?’ And while Industrial Light and Magic would oversee the digital effects once principal photography had been completed, for Stan Winston Studio the journey had come to an end. ‘Winston had to lay off thirty members of his expanded crew when the massive Terminator 2 project came to an end,’ detailed Jody Duncan in The Winston Effect. ‘J. Alan Scott, the new hire, was among those let go at the end of Terminator 2. ‘Back in those days,’ Scott said. ‘Stan would call up each person who was being laid off individually, just to personally thank them for their work, and to explain that the job was over. It was a nice personal touch. The day the lay-offs started, the announcement would come over the intercom: ‘So and so, please go up to Stan’s office.’ And as soon as the first person got laid off, we all knew what was coming down. So almost no work got done that day, because all we were doing was pretending to work while we nervously listened for our names over the intercom.’’

Winston would not be the only veteran of The Terminator to return for its sequel, however, as another alumni to apply their trade once again was composer Brad Fiedel. In the years since his first collaboration with Cameron, Fiedel had worked on the Academy Award-winning drama The Accused, and the cult television series Midnight Caller. ‘I actually like when directors talk to me about their film, and about individual scenes, in non-musical terms, more like they would speak with an actor about back-story, motivation, etc.,’ he said in 2019. ‘For the first Terminator, Jim showed me the film without any temporary music, which gave me a clean slate for my imagination. A few days later, I presented my idea for the main theme. Since this worked well for him, we were off and running with a good base of trust. On Terminator 2, we had an interesting challenge of relating to the first film, while evolving with the great expansion of story, budget, visual effects, etc. We were in sync most of the time, but I remember a few times we had different ideas for the approach. One was the canal chase. I had done a test cue and Jim didn’t like it. He said something like, ‘You are scoring the big, lumbering truck coming after him, and I want you to give more support to the feeling of the kid on the little motorbike, trying to get away like a scared mouse.’ This is the kind of direction I was referring to. It allowed me the freedom to find the musical solution. Jim always knew frame-by-frame what his film was about, and was almost always able to communicate that clearly. This made for a very constructive conversation, and allowed me to give him what he needed under very high-pressured schedules.’

You get the biggest band in the world

But Fiedel was not the only one tasked with contributing music to Terminator 2, as the studio and distributor, TriStar Pictures, were eager to enlist a major artist to promote the picture. ‘The machinery at TriStar Sony is working, and they say, ‘Well, we’ve got to do a music video,’’ explained Cameron. ‘And they go to Arnold – they didn’t talk to me – and they say, ‘Okay, look, if you’re going to do a music video, you get the biggest band in the world. I don’t even care who they are.’ They flipped open Billboard. ‘Guns N’ Roses makes sense. We’ve got a rose in the movie, and bloody guns. Good, do it.’’ Ever since breaking into the mainstream in the fall of 1987 with the iconic hit Welcome to the Jungle, Guns N’ Roses had become one of the most notorious rock ‘n’ roll acts of the decade, balancing their brand of no-holds-barred anthems with a lifestyle that had a clear emphasis on sex and drugs. By the summer of 1991, anticipation was high for their long-awaited double album Use Your Illusion, and with drummer Steven Adler now replaced by Matt Sorum, the first taste of this new sound that fans would enjoy came with the song You Could Be Mine. ‘They have been big, big fans of Terminator, and have expressed it many times,’ claimed Schwarzenegger. ‘And I have been a fan of their music. So we checked into what it would be like to do a video together, or get some of the music.’ Like many tracks that surfaced on Use Your Illusion, the genesis of You Could Be Mine was found in the creation of their debut album Appetite for Destruction, with the passage, ‘With your bitch slap rappin’, and your cocaine tongue, you get nothing done,’ included on the liner notes to their earlier classic. This was not the first time the band were featured in a motion picture, with their music previously making appearances in The Dead Pool and Day of Thunder, but for Terminator 2 they were given the opportunity to shoot a promo video.

Filmed on the stage of one of their regular haunts in Los Angeles, the clip would be a performance piece which incorporated footage from the motion picture. The director recruited for this would not be Cameron but Jeffrey Abelson, who had previously performed similar duties for the Friday the 13th series when he collaborated with rock veteran Alice Cooper. ‘We had a specific screening; it was just for us, the cast, James and myself, and Guns N’ Roses,’ Schwarzenegger told The Ringer. ‘I think that Axl Rose was extremely impressed. I remember him going to Jim and saying, ‘I’m in!’’ The experience of shooting the promo allowed the group the opportunity to embrace another medium of pop culture. ‘We hung out, we got along really, really well,’ recalled guitarist Slash on their time with Schwarzenegger. ‘And he gave the whole band jackets from the movie; these great, French, leather biker jackets with bullet holes everywhere. We shot some footage of us coming out of the dressing room, the stage door, at The Roxy in L.A., where we come face-to-face with Arnold in his Terminator gear. And it was all pretty funny!’ The video would be a collaboration between Abelson and Stan Winston, who had already directed the teaser trailer for Terminator 2 the previous year, and soon became a regular staple of MTV, then an indispensable marketing tool. You Could Be Mine was released by Geffen Records in June 1991, just two weeks before Terminator 2 made its debut, and more than lived up to the high expectations of their fanbase, reaching number three on the Billboard Rock Chart, and climbing to the same position in the United Kingdom. It had served to whet the appetite for not only Use Your Illusion, but also Terminator 2, which was finally about to make it to the big screen.

As the release date for Terminator 2 grew nearer, Cameron may have acted confident to the media, but in reality he was terrified. Sequels had come to be considered a safe bet by Hollywood, an easy way to capitalise on an already-established brand, but when that sequel costs in excess of $100m, expectations and demands are understandably high. And while Cameron had already enjoyed success with his sci-fi sequel Aliens five years earlier, he could not forget the disaster that was Piranha II: The Spawning. ‘With Aliens, I had everything to lose and nothing to gain, and it’s pretty much the same situation with this film,’ he confessed to Starlog prior to the movie’s release. ‘I don’t have four pictures lined up for me to make after this one. If Terminator 2 fails, I could be in big trouble, which is why, for me, the filmmaking process becomes an all-encompassing thing. I could have made a safer picture at this point in my career, but that would make me a hack, and I’m not a hack.’ In a separate issue of the same magazine he added, ‘I’m not playing it safe by doing Terminator 2. My career could be in real trouble if this film doesn’t do well. It’s like Aliens was – I had everything to lose, and nothing to gain. But I didn’t get into filmmaking to play it safe.’ Cameron had barely overcome the lukewarm reception to The Abyss when TriStar Pictures released Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the first week of July, more than a year after he had first invited William Wisher to his home to discuss story ideas for a sequel. The film opened domestically in over two-thousand cinemas, and earned a reported $5m on its first weekend, far-exceeding the expectations of both its creators and studio. By the time its initial theatrical run came to an end, the movie had eclipsed the success of the summer blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and had collected a worldwide gross of $520m. Any fears that Cameron had of suffering another failure at the box office were soon replaced by an overwhelming sense of relief as the motion picture became the cinematic event of the year.

The Terminator had taken critics by surprise upon its release in 1984, offering more imagination and heart than they had anticipate, but expectations were high for its followup, and so it would take a move that was truly exceptional to win them over a second time. And for the most part, Cameron once again succeeded. ‘Storming with relentless, carpet-bomb intensity, Terminator 2 is at nucleus an apocalyptic story in the sci-fi form of man vs. machine,’ wrote the Hollywood Reporter. Elsewhere, Kim Newman of Empire said, ‘With James Cameron needing to re-establish himself commercially after the semi-flop of The Abyss, and Big Arnie revisiting the role that still stands as his best, there was obviously a lot of pressure on this one to deliver the goods, and it certainly does. No one can walk out of this and say they didn’t see the whole $100m up there on the screen in exploding vehicles, wrecked buildings, monster effects, and sheer sweaty action.’ Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times, meanwhile, noted that, ‘The key element in any action picture, I think, is a good villain. Terminator 2 has one, along with an intriguing hero, and fierce heroine, and a young boy, who is played by Furlong, with guts and energy. The movie responds to criticisms of excessive movie violence by tempering the Terminator’s blood lust, but nobody, I think, will complain that it doesn’t have enough action.’ Many other critics would praise the performances of its cast, particularly the revised roles of both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton. ‘Cameron again offers the sci-fi crowd a fiercely heroic female lead, albeit one who looks like she’s been going to Madonna’s physical trainer,’ commented Variety.

But not all reviews praised the motion picture, with many criticising the middle-act, the excessive violence, and the film’s running time. ‘The first hour has a genuine emotional pull,’ admitted Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. ‘This reckless indifference to human life is, of course, intrinsic to the appeal of Terminator 2. The movie is a great big feast of wreckage. But that’s also what makes it a bit numbing.’ The Guardian were also cynical towards what they considered as the film’s lack of momentum. ‘Terminator 2, at a hundred-and-thirty-six minutes, is inclined to sag two-thirds of the way through, as if cranking up for its final, crunching, and ultimately tearful denouement,’ wrote Derek Malcolm. Peter Travers, the veteran critic for Rolling Stone, expressed a similar sentiment. ‘Still, the film’s relentless pummelling grows wearying at a hundred-and-thirty-five minutes,’ he claimed. ‘The first Terminator, a half-hour shorter, was leaner and meaner. Cameron and co-writer William Wisher saddle the game Hamilton with too many rants about peace. Cameron is not skilled at preaching – a similar moral stance marred the climax of The Abyss. And the good Terminator’s cornball farewell feels out of place for Schwarzenegger and the film. It’s the equivalent of making a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, in which Hannibal the Cannibal becomes a vegetarian.’ Arguably the most critical publication towards the movie was Time. ‘For a good while, Terminator 2 operates persuasively on the gut level where most moviegoers live,’ they stated. ‘As for Hamilton, who in The Terminator had been a precursor for all the tough-as-kryptonite women in Cameron’s later films, she degenerates into a radical ranter, like Patty Hearst in her S.L.A. phase. Is this worth $100m? Who cares?’

While some critics may have felt overwhelmed by the visual and emotional spectacle on display, audiences could not get enough of Sarah Connor, her son, the future hero of the resistance, and their new Terminator friend. And for all those involved, the experience of making Terminator 2 was exhausting, arduous, unpredictable, and emotionally-draining, but one that ultimately proved fulfilling. And all their hard work paid off in spades when they finally saw the end result on the big screen. ‘People were flabbergasted by the whole movie,’ admitted Mario Kassar, who had authorised the budget of almost $100m the previous year. ‘Everything fit together so perfectly; the effects weren’t just spaceships flying around and laser beams. They were what I call organic special effects, and they were amazingly good. It’s perfect. After that, a lot of special effects started copying Terminator 2. Obviously, Star Wars is a different kind of thing, but what James is good at is using effects to tell a story; not just for show. In a lot of movies, you have the same old story pumped up with effects and loud music to cover it up, so it looks like you have something out of this world.’ For Dennis Muren, whose work with Industrial Light and Magic brought the T-1000 to life in all its groundbreaking glory, the emotional payoff that Cameron achieved with the film was more than worth the hard work that went into its creation. ‘I think it’s right up there near the top with Star Wars,’ he boasted. ‘The Wizard of Oz has some great stuff in it, there’s a number of others, but I think that’s right near the top. I always credit Terminator 2 as being equal at least to Jurassic Park, because we had so many things in it that had never been done before that came together. And Jurassic is kind of the next step; we added skin to the effects, which was a major problem; to make them not look like plastic or artiOcial dinosaurs. And also the performances were very difficult in Jurassic Park. But I think the two Olms are equivalent. That’s my favourite part of my career, doing those two. For about a four-year period, we would look at the dailies and say to ourselves, ‘Did we do this? This isn’t even possible!’ You’ve imagined this your whole life, but you’ve never seen it. It was very exciting and very liberating.’

With Terminator 2: Judgment Day reaching commercial heights that even Cameron and Carolco could not have imagined, it was inevitable that talk would soon turn to the possibility of a sequel, but for its creators, the story had come to an end. ‘This isn’t so much a sequel as it is a part two of a very fascinating adventure,’ claimed co-writer William Wisher. ‘We’re finishing that story, and as far as I’m concerned, it should stay finished. Is there room for a third Terminator? Of course there is, and if there’s enough money involved, there’s always going to be a way of making another one. Personally, I can’t think of anything to do with a third film. Somebody might be able to think of something, but it won’t be me. Everything we had to say about the Terminator has been said. One of the things Jim and I talked a lot about was whether there should be another follow-up. And we made our decision in the way we wrote Terminator 2. There are no back doors in this film. We wrote this movie so that the fat lady sings!’ For Cameron, who had turned down the opportunity to develop a sequel to Aliens, creating Terminator 3 would have been an easy next step, developing a follow-up to the greatest success of his career thus far, but he had little interest in working on a motion picture that he was not fully committed to. ‘I have no idea where I would take a third film,’ he confessed, echoing the sentiment of Wisher. ‘Although I’m sure I could come up with something if I thought about it for a while. But I’m not really interested in doing that. Terminator 2 brings the story full circle and ends. And I think ending it at this point is a good idea.’

But for Schwarzenegger, who was as responsible for the creation of the Terminator character as Cameron, he remained conflicted on whether or not he wanted to return to the role a third time. During the promotion of Terminator 2, he had expressed a disinterest in the concept of sequels. Indeed, his only previous attempt, 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, was savaged by critics upon its release, and disowned by its star. ‘I won’t be doing sequels to Total Recall, Commando, Predator, or Twins,’ he insisted. ‘I was contacted about doing a sequel to Commando, but I had no interest; it was the same thing with Predator. A Twins sequel was never thought in anybody’s mind, and neither was a sequel to Red Heat. But it has been the same routine with just about every movie I’ve ever done. People have come to me, and said, ‘Let’s do a sequel,’ and have thrown a lot of money at me, but I basically did not want to be involved. There’s so little time to do all the things I want to do that I can’t see any reason to get bogged down in sequels.’ Yet during the promotion of Terminator 2, Schwarzenegger remained dedicated to the films he had created with Cameron. ‘There has been a magic to these films,’ he declared. ‘They have a look, and the filmmakers’ creative talents have translated them into something other than just successful sci-fi action films. What the Terminator movies have meant to me, and the people who have enjoyed them, can only be described as magic. I don’t necessarily want to leave the magic behind, and who says we have to? According to what we know about the future, there were hundreds of Terminators built. The story of the Terminator could go on forever.’


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