The Aliens Star Who James Cameron Almost Cast As The Terminator

Lance Henriksen, who played the android Bishop in Aliens, was almost cast as the cybernetic antagonist of The Terminator.

By Vic Medina | Published

Long before Titanic, Avatar, and Aliens made him an A-list director, James Cameron struggled to get what would become his breakout film, The Terminator, on the big screen. He had a number of actors under consideration to play the killer cyborg from the future, including Mel Gibson and OJ Simpson, but Cameron had another actor in mind: Lance Henriksen, whom he worked with on his directorial debut, Piranha II: The Spawning. The now 82-year-old Henriksen didn’t get the role that Arnold Schwarzenegger played so iconically, but he came much closer to playing the part than most fans know.

Although best known for his role as Bishop in Aliens, Henricksen very nearly played The Terminator because his naturally-steely demeanor was just what Cameron was looking for. He envisioned a Terminator that could blend in with a group of people, not stand out with a muscle-bound frame. According to MovieWeb, Cameron even created concept art with Henriksen as the Terminator, which is particularly creepy, and follows a trend of less-hulking cyborgs that later films tried out.

Although Henriksen didn’t get the lead role, Cameron did give him a role of Detective Vukovich, one of the cops investigating the Sarah Connor murders. Cameron would call on him again to star in Aliens, where he shared the screen with Terminator cast members Bill Paxton (who played one of the punks Schwarzenegger confronts at the beginning of the film) and Michael Biehn, who played Kyle Reesed in the earlier film; the soldier sent from the future to save Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Henriksen, Paxton, and Biehn are actors Cameron likes to work with; along with Sigourney Weaver and Schwarzenegger.

Lance Henriksen as Bishop in Aliens (1986)

Lance Henriksen has gone on to become something of a legend among genre film fans beyond his Aliens role. Although widely recognized as a great actor, his appearance in so many iconic films put him in a class by himself, with roles in The Quick and the Dead, Hard Target, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the Pumpkinhead film series. His TV appearances include Millennium, Into the Badlands, and NBC’s The Blacklist.

The New York City native also has an extensive voice-over career, having provided voices for the shows and video games including the Mass Effect game series, The Legend of Korra, TRON: Uprising, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He just may be the only actor in Hollywood to be able to claim he has fought Aliens, Predators, Pumpkinhead, Pinhead, Bigfoot, Superman, the Autobots, Mr. T, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and of course, The Terminator.

Henricksen would go on to revisit the Aliens franchise after Alien3 in 1992. He played Charles Bishop Weyland, the founder of Weyland Industries and the model for the Bishop robot, in 2004’s Alien vs. Predator, and voiced Bishop in a number of Aliens video games, including Aliens: Colonial Marines. He never revisited The Terminator franchise, although he very nearly reprised his role as a wheelchair-bound Detective Vukovich in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, having survived the first film in a scene that was scrapped during the script stage.