James Cameron revealed he had a little chemical creative boost from illegal drugs while he was penning the script for Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The 1991 action film is poised to celebrate its 30th anniversary next month, marking three decades since the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led sequel became the massive box office and pop culture success fans know and love today. Speaking in an interview recounting the storied history of Judgement Day’s rise to the top, James Cameron revealed that one of the film’s core protagonists was born out of a combination of experimenting with ecstasy as well as a well-timed Sting song.
“I remember sitting there once, high on E, writing notes for Terminator, 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,’” James Cameron told The Ringer. “That’s where the kid came from.”
“The kid,” better known as John Connor, set the stakes for the first film in the franchise in 1984. John is the man who would lead humanity against Skynet and its machine uprising, but only if his mother and a protector from the future were able to stop his prenatal assassination. It seems that fans have a combination of Ecstasy and Sting’s 1985 track Russians to thank for James Cameron writing Connor into the sequel as a troublemaking teen played by Edward Furlong.
While James Cameron would likely not condone the use of Ecstasy to stimulate the creative process, he’s hardly the first director to openly discuss how substance abuse helped, and in some cases hurt, their creative endeavors. UPROXX notes that beloved directors such as Lars von Trier, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, John Cassavetes and more have previously admitted to letting drugs fuel a bit of their art. Stephen King, for example, has been very vocal in the past about how cocaine use impacted his creative process on the film Maximum Overdrive in 1986.
However, it appeared to work for James Cameron. Judgement Day grossed $520.9 million worldwide the year it came out and remained the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time for well over a decade, according to Box Office Mojo. While the filmmaker’s story and direction certainly played a role in the sequel’s popularity, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that TriStar Sony used this film to completely reinvent the ways that major summer blockbusters were marketed.
Terminator 2 inundated the public with tie-ins with fast food and soft drinks, trading cards, toys, action figures, video games and much more. In fact, Sting isn’t the only musician to thank for bringing audiences Terminator 2 as they know it today. James Cameron notes that the studio went around him directly to Schwarzenegger to make a tie-in music video for Guns N’ Roses’ track You Could Be Mine.
“They go to Arnold—they didn’t talk to me—and they say, ‘We want you in a music video with some act,’” James Cameron told The Ringer. “Arnold says, ‘OK, 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 flip open Billboard: ‘Guns N’ Roses makes sense. We’ve got a rose in the movie and bloody guns. Good, do it.’”
As Den of Geek notes, the release of a new Guns N’ Roses song would have created immense hype at the time regardless of any movie tie-in given that it marked their first full album release of new material since 1987’s Appetite for Destruction, save for a few covers and low-key song releases. Add in Schwarzenegger donning his now-iconic Terminator 2 biker outfit to a video that would play relentlessly on MTV and the track was a hit that helped propel the seemingly unavoidable movie to new, previously unheard of heights.
Although he wasn’t looped into the creative process behind the You Could Be Mine video, even James Cameron notes in his interview that it helped bring the movie to more acclaim and subsequent follow-ups.