Why Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Turned Down the Lead Role in TerminatorS

Arnold Schwarzenegger's new memoir Total Recall is out now, and there's a fascinating excerpt dealing with the making of The Terminator, over at the Sydney Morning Herald. In it, Schwarznegger explains why he originally turned down the role of the Terminator — because he was trying to play more heroic roles and didn't want to "go backwards" by playing a villain. Plus the Terminator has relatively few lines in the film, and Schwarzenegger didn't want people thinking his dialogue was edited out of the film because it wasn't working out.

But at the same time, when Schwarzenegger had his first lunch with James Cameron and the producers, he gave them a great explanation of how he would play the role, if he took it:

I told Cameron: ''One thing that concerns me is that whoever is playing the terminator, if it's O.J. Simpson or whoever, it's very important that he gets trained the right way. Because if this guy is really a machine, he won't blink when he shoots.

''When he loads a new magazine into his gun, he won't have to look because a machine will be doing it, a computer. When he kills, there will be absolutely no expression on the face, not joy, not victory, not anything.'' No thinking, no blinking, no thought, just action.

I told him how the actor would have to prepare for that. In the army, we'd learned to field strip and reassemble our weapons by feel. They'd blindfold you and make you take apart a muddy machinegun, clean it and put it back together.

''That's the kind of training he should do,'' I said. ''Not too different from what I was doing in Conan.''

I described how I'd practised for hours and hours learning to wield a broadsword and cut off people's heads like it was second nature. When coffee came, Cameron said suddenly, ''Why don't you play the Terminator?''

''No, no, I don't want to go backward,'' I said.

Tons more, including why the Terminator set was hellish and why Cameron nixed Schwarzenegger's idea of having the Terminator get tipsy, at the link. [SMH]