Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Played The Best Fantasy Villain

Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down the role of Kurgan in the original Highlander film.

By Chad Langen | Published

arnold Schwarzenegger

After portraying the titular antagonist in 1984’s The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down the opportunity to star in another ‘80s classic. While appearing on an episode of the “Inside of You” podcast, Clancy Brown, who plays the Kurgan in the fantasy action-adventure movie Highlander, revealed that the film’s producers initially wanted Schwarzenegger for the role.

However, having previously played the T-800 in James Cameron’s sci-fi classic, the 75-year-old actor passed on the part because he didn’t want to portray any more villains.

“Then they go out to Arnold Schwarzenegger because he had just done Terminator,” said Brown. He also went on to explain that although the producers wanted the Austrian-American actor for the part of the Kurgan, they knew it would require a bigger budget for Highlander. Not only did Schwarzenegger’s unwillingness to play another bad guy benefit the 1986 film financially, but it also did wonders for Brown, seeing as how his role in the feature is undoubtedly one of the most memorable of his career.

The Kurgan is a brutal and powerful Immortal who gets his jollies from taking the heads off other Immortals. Even though Arnold Schwarzenegger passed on the chance to portray the remorseless and savage antagonist in Highlander, he reportedly inspired the actor who eventually took on the role. Clancy Brown is said to have based his performance as the film’s villainous warrior on Schwarzenegger’s role as the T-800 in The Terminator.

In addition to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown has stated that Sean Connery also turned down the role of the Kurgan in Highlander. Of course, unlike Schwarzenegger, the Oscar-winning actor went on to star as another character in the Russell Mulcahy-directed action picture, Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. He reprised the character in the 1991 sequel Highlander II: The Quickening.

Although he never achieved the same level of stardom as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clancy Brown has had a long and healthy career as an actor. After landing his breakout role as the Kurgan in Highlander, the 64-year-old actor has accumulated over 300 acting credits since. Currently, he voices the money-hungry owner of an underwater fast-food joint in the long-running kids’ series SpongeBob SquarePants.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger likely doesn’t regret passing on the Highlander role. For nearly two decades, he was one of the biggest action stars on the planet, appearing in a string of genre blockbusters such as Predator, Commando, True Lies, T2: Judgement Day, and Total Recall. Just recently, he signed on to reprise his role as Julius Benedict in the long-awaited follow-up to 1988’s Twins.

Even without the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Highlander became a cult classic and launched the careers of several of the film’s stars including Christopher Lambert and Clancy Brown. Additionally, it has inspired several film sequels and television spin-offs over the years. A remake is actively being developed with John Wick director, Chad Stahelski, attached to helm the project.

In the 1986 original, an immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponents, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”. Russell Mulcahy directed the film from a screenplay by Peter Bellwood and Larry Ferguson. In addition to Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery, the cult hit stars Roxanne Hart, Beatie Edney, Alan North, and Sheila Gish.