O.J. Simpson Was Going To Be The Terminator But Wasn’t Believable As A Killer

O.J. Simpson was the first pick to be the Terminator, but no one thought he was believable as a killer.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

A Hollywood urban legend was mentioned by James Cameron a few months ago, but now, Arnold Schwarzenegger has confirmed it’s amazingly all true: O.J. Simpson was a finalist to be the Terminator. Insider reports that in his docuseries on Netflix, “Arnold,” the future Governor of California, talking with James Cameron, discusses how he was originally going to be the heroic John Reese while Simpson would be the killer robot from the future. It never happened because no executive thought Simpson was believable as a killer.

Contain the laughter, but in the 80s, O.J. Simpson was known more for being one of the NFL’s greatest running backs, and it was still a few years before he’d co-star with Leslie Nielson in The Naked Gun, becoming known as a comedy star in the process. Even during the casting, James Cameron admits he was never fully sold on Simpson as the Terminator, thinking that Schwarzenegger has the perfect face for the camera.

As it turned out, no one at Orion, the company producing The Terminator, thought O.J. Simpson would be believable as a cold, ruthless killing machine. 40 years later, that’s exactly what the Buffalo Bills great is known for, following the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, a crime that launched one of the most famous trials in history. Simpson was ultimately acquitted of the murder charge, but the damage to his image was done.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator

A civil trial years later would do lasting damage to O.J. Simpson’s finances, with a final judgment of $33 million awarded to the family of Ron Goldman. The ruling also granted Goldman’s family the rights to Simpson’s book, If I Did It, which was re-named If I Did It: Confessions Of The Killer, with the “If” reduced in size to be almost invisible on the cover. He may not have been the Terminator, but he’s believable as a killer.

More scandal followed O.J. Simpson in 2007, when he led a group of men into a hotel room in Las Vegas, robbing a sports memorabilia dealer at gunpoint. Simpson ended up convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery, serving nine years of his sentence before being granted parole. Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger became a Governor, had a scandal in which he admitted to cheating on his wife and fathering a child out of wedlock, but performed public penance and is now one of Hollywood’s elder statesmen and a strong advocate for the Special Olympics.

James Cameron’s gut decision to go with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator paid off with the birth of a long-running million-dollar franchise. The thought of either the roles being reversed or Schwarzenegger not being involved at all is so absurd it’s hard to take seriously. Had O.J. Simpson been in the film’s villainous breakout role, his acting career would have taken off, and he may never have ended up in that White Bronco, while Schwarzenegger would have likely wound up in another franchise, as he was destined to be a star.