James Cameron’s action/science fiction classic is one of the great blockbuster sequels of all time. A huge box office smash, and gamechanger in visual effects, we’ve got the story behind the scenes with some spectacular facts about Terminator 2.
Following on from James Cameron’s successful, low-budget The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released in 1991 as one of the biggest movies ever made. At $90-100m, the budget was the biggest in Hollywood history, the digital effects work was ground-breaking, and the film has gone on to become acclaimed as one of the great movie sequels.
We’re telling the story behind the scenes of one of the biggest blockbusters ever made with 25 fascinating facts about Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
1. The film is spectacular right from the off
The film starts in the dystopian future of Los Angeles, 2029. Machines have taken over and the first shots of the film are a display of their power as Cameron shows us several endoskeleton characters.
It is a huge opening. And, interestingly, to create the first 3 minutes of Terminator 2 cost more than the entire budget of The Terminator.
At this point, Cameron also shows us children in a playground. This is a recurring visual that he shows us three times. Firstly, we see it on a normal day. Then covered in ashes. And finally, on fire. Cameron did this to symbolize heaven, hell and purgatory. He also shows four mechanical horses in the playground, conjuring imagery of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The spectacular – and expensive – opening to Terminator 2
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bit of a joker on-set
Schwarzenegger returned from The Terminator, and the first time we see him in the film is very similar to his arrival in the first movie. Amid lightning cracks, smoke and explosions, a naked Arnold appears. Also, during filming, a random woman wandered into the bar, thinking it was open, and was confronted by Arnold wearing a pair of Bermuda shots. He said “It’s male stripper night” and she made a hasty exit.
The introduction to the T-800
3. The bar scene was almost omitted
There was a problem Cameron had with the biker bar scene, though. When the budget started to balloon during production, the studio asked him to remove the scene entirely. A studio executive spoke to Schwarzenegger and asked him to talk to Cameron on their behalf but Arnold turned them down and said: “Only a studio guy would cut out a scene like that.”
The biker bar scene
4. Cameron had to improvise on the set
One of the most famous moments in the movie is the chase sequence where the T-1000 (in a truck) chases John Connor on his dirt bike. The sequence was shot in a storm drain in the San Fernando Valley, but they did have a problem.
On arriving, the crew realised that the height of the truck was too great to pass beneath one of the bridges in the storm drain. This was relayed to Cameron, who just said, “Well, the f***ing roof’s going to have to come off then!”
And that’s why there’s now a moment in the sequence where the roof is ripped off the truck.
The storm drain chase sequence in the film
5. The movie was delayed by almost a decade
After the success of The Terminator in 1984, there was studio talk of a sequel almost immediately. However, there were issues that led to a 7 year delay in beginning production.
Cameron always knew he wanted the villainous Terminator in the film to be a liquid metal CGI creation. However, he had to wait for the technology to catch up with his ideas. Cameron experimented with CGI briefly in The Abyss in 1989 so, after that success, he decided the time – and technology – was right for T2.
However, there was another problem in that 50% of the rights to the franchise was owned by the Hemdale Film Corporation, and they didn’t want Carolco to produce a sequel, or Cameron to direct one. They actually wanted John McTiernan (who had directed Predator and Die Hard in 1987 and 1988) to direct Terminator 2. Then, in the late-80s, Hemdale hit financial difficulties and Carolco came in with a $5m bid for the rights to The Terminator series, which Hemdale had little choice but to accept.
6. Cameron was working to incredibly tight timescales
The deal with Hemdale was struck in 1990 and, despite Cameron not even having a concept for what the film would be, let alone a script, Carolco announced that Terminator 2 would be released in Summer 1991. That announcement came in the form of a trailer, directed by Stan Winston, that showed a Terminator assembly line.
So, Cameron had a problem. He had 1 year to write, direct, and edit the film. He called up his collaborator William Wisher – who co-wrote T2 – and said: “The good news is, we’re making the sequel; the bad news is, we are already several months behind schedule.”
So the film was greenlit, and James Cameron was making his sequel.
The teaser trailer for Terminator 2, directed by Stan Winston
7. Arnold went through the pain barrier for the role
During the truck chase scene mentioned above, the T-800 is part of the pursuit, too. He rides a Harley Davidson while firing a shotgun. He operates the shotgun with one hand, spinning it round to cock it, a technique which took Arnold Schwarzenegger weeks of practice to perfect. However, he tore some of the skin from his hands doing it. A doctor took a look at Arnold’s hand and said to Cameron they should stop trying to film it but, with tight timescales, Cameron said they had to keep going.
James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set
8. Iron Jim was in full flow on the film
James Cameron has a reputation for being a real taskmaster on his movie sets. This trait has earned him the nickname ‘Iron Jim’ and that persona revealed itself on Terminator 2.
In fact, Cameron reportedly annoyed and upset the crew on the film so much that, during production, they had t-shirts mocked up that said: “Terminator 3? Not With Me”.
9. Schwarzenegger made a small fortune from the movie
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the T-800. Returning from the first Terminator movie, of course, he plays a different instance of the same character in T2. Tasked with defending John Connor, the T-800 is sent back in time, becomes friends with John, and fends off the T-1000, learning what it means to be human along the way.
James Cameron received $6m for writing and directing Terminator 2. Schwarzenegger, though, was paid a huge $15m salary for starring in the film. This equates to $21,429 per word. On top of this, Mario Kassar – the head of Caralco – gave Arnold a Gulfstream II Jet, which was worth about $14m dollars.
When Schwarzenegger first read the script, however, he wasn’t a huge fan. In making a bigger-budget, more mainstream blockbuster than the first film, Cameron had changed the tone for Terminator 2, and injected quite a lot more humour into the script. Arnold complained to Cameron about the amount of jokes, and also the fact that the T-800 doesn’t kill anybody in the movie. Cameron had to convince him of this approach, and said, “I spoke to Arnold and told him he wouldn’t have blood on his hands and Arnold said ‘But Jim, I’m the Terminator.’”
Schwarzenegger did come round, however, and later said:
“Jim did an extraordinary job creating that character and whole phenomenon. I never thought we would do a sequel, or that catchphrases like ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘Hasta la vista, baby’ would catch on and be repeated thirty years later. And I never thought I would be asked to come back to a franchise like this, again and again. But… it all happened.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger relaxing as the T-800
10. It took a long casting process to find John Connor
John Connor is the protagonist of the movie. A 10-year-old boy who will grow up to become mankind’s saviour in the war against the machines, he is the target of the T-1000.
John is played in the movie by Edward Furlong but, before Furlong was cast, a young actor called Charlie Korsmo was offered the part. However, he had to turn it down because he’d already committed to a film called What About Bob? (1991), co-starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss.
The Casting Director on T2 – Mali Finn – was told by Cameron to look for a streetwise kid. She was struggling with the actors that came in to audition, so went to the Boys Club of Pasadena – a youth development program in California – and that’s where she found Edward Furlong. Finn said:
“Edward had never met his father and was estranged from his mother, like John, and he had a whole lot of attitude. I got him in front of Jim and Arnold and they were convinced he was the right choice.”
James Cameron talks about the casting of Edward Furlong
11. Some of Furlong’s scenes needed to be re-dubbed
A problem that Cameron had to deal with around Edward Furlong was the boy’s age. Furlong was 13, and going through puberty. The shoot was 8 months long so some of Furlong’s earlier scenes had to be re-dubbed in post-production because his voice had broken by the end of filming.
He’d also grown quite a lot in that time. In the scenes in the industrial complex at the end of the film, Furlong had to stand in a hole to maintain the same height difference with Linda Hamilton as in the earlier scenes.
Edward Furlong as John Connor
12. Arnold took young Furlong under his wing
Linda Hamilton has talked about Edward Furlong on the set. She said that because Furlong had grown up without a father figure, he looked up to Arnold. Schwarzenegger took him under his wing. And Hamilton would hear Arnold giving Furlong advice about women. She said:
“I think Arnold and Edward got along so well together because they were emotionally the same age.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong and James Cameron on the set
13. Robert Patrick went method for the role
The antagonist of the film is the T-1000. A liquid metal Terminator, the T-1000’s mission is simple: kill John Connor.
Played by Robert Patrick, the T-1000 was a ground-breaking creation at the time. And Patrick put in a lot of preparation to play the part of an emotionless robot as realistically as possible.
- Patrick trained with a rigorous running regime which involved breathing only through his nose. This was so he could do run on film without showing signs of fatigue.
- He practiced firing a pistol without blinking, like a machine might.
- He studied the head movements of the American bald eagle and copied them for how the T-1000 moves its head.
- And Patrick also studied the pattern movements of Great White Sharks when they’re going after prey.
Robert Patrick as the T-1000
14. Some unexpected names were up for the part of the T-1000
James Cameron’s first choice to play the T-1000 wasn’t Robert Patrick. It wasn’t even somebody mostly known as an actor. Cameron initially wanted British-American rock singer Billy Idol to play the liquid metal Terminator. The only reason Idol didn’t do it was that, due to a motorbiking accident, he had to pull out of the production.
There were a couple of more familiar choices who Cameron seriously considered. One was Michael Biehn – who played Reese in The Terminator. And, at one point, Cameron thought about having Arnold play both Terminators.
Steven Seagal also came close, as did the lead singer of heavy metal band WASP – Blackie Lawless. Lawless didn’t get the part because he was too tall – he was 6’4”. Reportedly, Arnold wanted him to play the part but Cameron said no.
Cameron then saw Robert Patrick in Die Hard 2, where he plays a minor role, and thought he’d be a good fit. He brought him in to audition, and cast him quickly on the back of it.
15. The film features some astounding practical effects work
Despite its relatively small $6.4m budget, the first Terminator film was praised for the quality of its effects work. Much of that was provided by special effects legend Stan Winston and his team, and the Stan Winston Studio returned to work on Terminator 2.
A recurring effect is seen in the moments when the T-1000 is shot, and bullet holes appear as silver, metallic wounds. Those wounds weren’t created with CGI, they were actually remote controlled squibs. On pressing a button, the squib would open up on Robert Patrick’s suit like a flower. ILM then used CGI to have the wound close and heal itself.
The Terminator endoskeleton we see in the opening scene is also very impressive. Built by Stan Winston and his team – the machine was a fully animatronic robot. A team of twelve puppeteers operated it with cables and radio controls. Some controlled the crushing leg, some the waist, some were on the neck, and others on the head and eye movements.
One of the most effective and simple practical effects in the film, though, wasn’t carried out by the Winston team. Several times during the film, the T-1000 takes on the form of another person. To do this, Cameron used twins to allow both the original character and T-1000 into the same shot. For example, the security guard in the hospital was played by twins called Dan and Don Stanton.
And at the end in the steel mill, when we see two Sarah Connor’s on screen at the same time – that was Linda Hamilton and her twin, Leslie.
Some of the incredible practical effects work from the Stan Winston Studio
16. Linda Hamilton had a bit of an arduous time during production
Returning from the first film, Linda Hamilton pays Sarah Connor. The mother to John, and traumatised by the events of the first film, she now resides in a mental institution.
And Linda Hamilton herself went through the wringer on the film. James Cameron has told a story about the action scene in the hospital. The T-1000 corners our three heroes in an elevator and begins to stab through the elevator ceiling, hitting Sarah. Filming the scene, Linda Hamilton took her ear plugs out, and the sound of the gunshots made her go permanently deaf in one ear.
Hamilton also went through extensive real-life weapons training before production from an Israeli commando called Uzi Gal. Three hours a day, six days a week for thirteen weeks. She learned judo, became an ace markswoman, and lost 12 pounds. She even learned to pick locks for real (like Srah does to escape from her hospital bed).
A lot of the character traits came from Hamilton herself. On returning for T2, she later said:
“I was doing another movie, but as soon as Jim showed me the script I turned it down and signed up with him. My only stipulation was that I wanted Sarah to be crazy and messed up, and Jim obliged.”
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2
17. Cameron did his research
One of the most memorable images in the film comes from Sarah’s nightmare sequence. Falling asleep in New Mexico, she dreams about the coming nuclear holocaust. Sarah walks up to a park full of children playing, including a young John Connor, when suddenly there’s a blinding light and fire rips through the city. People are set alight, Sarah is burned to a skeleton, and there are shots of the nuclear explosion decimating L.A.
One of the most astonishing things about the sequence is how well-researched it was. Cameron hired experts on nuclear warfare to act as consultants, and this scene specifically. And, after the film was released, Cameron received a letter from a nuclear laboratory thanking him for making what they called, “The most realistic depiction of a nuclear bomb going off ever. Hiroshima would have looked something like this.”
Sarah’s nuclear nightmare
18. A huge star turned down a role in the film
One of the key characters in terms of plot is Miles Dyson. The inventor of the neural-net processor which would lead to the development of Skynet, Dyson is played in the film by Joe Morton. Cameron, though, originally wanted somebody else as the scientist.
Cameron asked Denzel Washington if he’d like the part. Washington turned it down, though, and said: “No offense to Jim Cameron but when I read the script, I thought: All he does is look scared and sweat. I had to pass.”
19. The CGI effects were ground-breaking
Terminator 2 was a forerunner in CGI visual effects, with the liquid metal morphing effects of the T-1000 achieved almost entirely through digital work. Cameron had used CGI previously on The Abyss (1989), but it was still a risk to use CGI as heavily as he did on T2.
The CGI effects were created by industry legends ILM, and when Cameron gave the script to ILM he highlighted what parts he wanted to be CGI. The head of ILM was called Dennis Muren and he went through each one and categorised them as: Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Miraculous. 50% of them were marked as miraculous. And impressively, everything in the script appears in the finished film.
We only see 3 and a half minutes of CGI on the screen, but it was still a huge task to pull off. ILM’s CGI department had to grow from 6 people to 36 to take on Terminator 2. And if one person had done all of the work themselves it would’ve taken 25 years.
The pioneering CGI work in Terminator 2
20. Sarah is the new Reese
Sarah Connor plays a similar role to the one played by Kyle Reese in the first film. As the only person who knows the future that’s in store for mankind, she is branded crazy by most she comes in contact with.
Cameron marks Sarah’s transformation visually in the film. When our heroes break into the Cyberdyne labs, Sarah is dressed in a grey trench coat, very much like Reese wears in the first film.
Sarah dresses like Reese in the film
21. The movie repeats previous events
In writing his sequel, Cameron leaned on the time travel aspects of the narrative to explore some unique themes.
There is a cyclical element to the narrative. And that history is destined to repeat itself. Cameron portrays this by having certain scenes here mirror ones from The Terminator. Some of the key examples include:
- Both films open with a futuristic battle in a dystopian wasteland.
- The Terminator has a scene where Reese is interrogated by the police and loses his cool when they don’t believe his story. There’s an almost identical scene in T2 with Sarah in the hospital.
- In The Terminator, when Reese comes across Sarah in the Tech Noir nightclub he says, “Come with me if you want to live.” In Terminator 2, when The T-800 comes across Sarah in the hospital he says, “Come with me if you want to live.”
“Come with me if you want to live,” in Terminator 2
22. Cameron made Arnold cancel Christmas
The movie reaches its climax in a steel mill, where the final confrontation with the T-1000 takes place. During this sequence, the T-1000 shuts down the T-800 by ramming a steel pole through its back.
This sequence caused some problems. In the film, we see a shot where the T-80 reboots and its eyes flicker back to life. This shot wasn’t in the original script so it was never shot. However, Cameron thought they needed it because he thought it may confuse audiences when the T-800 suddenly turns up again. So they shot that after production, and actually filmed it on Christmas Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger was furious because he’d planned to spend Christmas with Bruce Willis, and was forced to cancel his festive plans.
The T-800 reboots in the film
23. There was an incredible attention to detail
Cameron went to the nth degree in displaying the differences between the two machines visually. An example of this is in the steel mill finale.
Having organic skin, we see sweat glistening on the T-800 in this sequence. On the T-1000 though, no sweat is visible.
24. The end of the movie could have been different
Terminator 2 ends with a Sarah voiceover explaining that the machine threat has seemingly been avoided. Originally, there was a different ending, though. Cameron’s first drafts featured an older Sarah sitting in the park from her earlier nuclear nightmare sequence. We also see an older John (with his child) who is now a Senator.
The studio did a test screening showing Cameron’s ending and the test audience said it was too positive compared to the rest of the movie. So Cameron changed it to what we see in the film.
The alternate ending to Terminator 2: Judgment Day
25. The film was received extremely well
Terminator 2 was a mega hit at the box office. Taking approximately $520m globally, it was the third-highest grossing movie ever made at the time.
Critically, it fared very well too.
Famous critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and said: “Schwarzenegger’s genius as a movie star is to find roles that build on, rather than undermine, his physical and vocal characteristics.”
Roger Ebert’s film critic partner Gene Siskel also gave the movie 3.5 stars out of 4. And he said: “Thanks to some truly spectacular – and at times mystifying special effects – as well as some surprisingly solid acting – this is one terrific action picture, more enjoyable than the original”
And Empire Magazine gave the film top marks – 5 stars – and said: “The rewriting of Arnie’s persona smacks of commercial cop-out, and, because it is a sequel, it’s less satisfying than the more idea-driven original, but this is still top-flight kick-ass entertainment.”
On Rotten Tomatoes today, Terminator 2 has 93% from critics and 94% from audiences. And on IMDb, the film has a huge 8.5/10. This leaves it number 36 on the IMDb all time list.
And we’re at the end of our list – 25 huge, spectacular and fun facts about Terminator 2 – one of the most popular movie sequels ever made. Please share on your social media platforms, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for lots of great video content.
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