It has been 30 years since James Cameron’s Arnold Schwarzenegger star vehicle Terminator 2: Judgment Day debuted in theaters as the sequel of 1984’s The Terminator. The sequel, which is one of the highest-grossing films of all time, is also credited as one of the best action films in cinematic history. But the story of Terminator 2 that made it a blockbuster and is still lauded for its novelty was actually not how it was originally envisioned by Cameron.
We all know how Terminator 2: Judgment Day went. In 2029, the artificial intelligence Skynet sends a new, advanced Terminator, T-1000, back in time to 1995 to hunt down and kill John Connor, thus preventing him from becoming the human resistance leader in the future. T-1000 is made of a mimetic poly-alloy that allows out to take on the shape and appearance of anything it touches, making it more dangerous than any other Terminator. To help and protect his past self, future Connor sends another Terminator, T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back in time, who then goes up against the much advanced T-1000. But this was not always the storyline that James Cameron had in mind.
In a recent chat with The Ringer, James Cameron talked at length about the making of the second film in the Terminator franchise. He shared that the sequel finally ended up happening not because he was itching to make it as he had already moved on to other films. He actually got a call from Carolco Pictures (who held the rights to the franchise at the time) to make a second film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Terminator. But the most interesting part about the chat is how Cameron originally planned to pitch Schwarzenegger against…himself in the film.
Cameron shared that from the very beginning, he had decided that in Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger will play a heroic Terminator, T-800, sent back in time by the human resistance to protect a young John Connor from the deadly intentions of Skynet. But initially, Cameron didn’t plan on T-800 going up against the dangerous T-1000 in the first part- his intention was to make the T-800 sent back by human resistance to first engage in an ultimate showdown with a similar T-800 sent by Skynet.
Thus, first Skynet would have sent an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator back in time, followed by the resistance getting their hands on another Arnold terminator and reprogramming it to save the young John. After this evil T-800 was defeated, Skynet would send their super-weapon, the more advanced T-1000 to complete their agenda. But his co-writer, William Wisher was against the idea from the beginning, as he found the plotline of Arnold fighting himself “just boring.”
“When I first conceived the story idea, it was in two parts. In the first part, Skynet sent a cyborg with a metal endoskeleton and the good guys sent the protector. The protector crushes him under a truck or throws him through some big gear structure or machine,” Cameron explained. “And then, up in the future, they realize the ripples of time are progressing toward them. They still haven’t won the battle.
So, after a lot of brainstorming and discussions, Cameron decided to do away with the whole T-800 vs T-800 arc and instead, began the film with the arrival of T-1000 and made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed Terminator face off against him instead. Looks like the credit goes to Wisher for putting his foot down in the face of the entire Arnold vs Arnold fiasco and joining hands with Cameron to fashion a sequel that still remains one of the best films in the franchise.