Why Arnold Schwarzenegger Initially Had No Interest In Playing The Terminator

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Cameron changed Schwarzenegger’s mind by assuring him that, even as a villain, audiences would love his character. “Cameron said that he’d shoot it in such a way that all the evil stuff that I do will be totally excused by audiences because I’m a cool machine,” Schwarzenegger explained, “And so cool that some of the people will cheer.”

The T-800’s likeability went up even more in the second film. Not only did he play an ally this time around, but he got to spend more time peacefully interacting with humans. There’s a lot of comedy to mine out of this robot not quite understanding the many nuances of human behavior, especially when the behavior’s coming from a young kid like John Connor. Watching him pick up ’90s slang is charming, even if (or maybe because) he has no understanding of what makes the slang fun in the first place. His interactions with humans invite us to look at ourselves in a fresh light, appreciating all the little quirks of being human that we typically take for granted. 

Most notable is that despite the movie’s constant reminders that the T-800 has no emotions, that doesn’t stop us from humanizing him anyway. Even as he straight-up tells us that he would kill John and Sarah without any hesitation if his programming ever told him to do so, by the end of “T2” we can’t help but see him as a friend. Playing an emotionless machine might seem like a thankless role, but Schwarzenegger imbued the character with constant hints of something deeper going on beneath the surface. He somehow brought depth to a lifeless machine and gave us one of the best performances of his career in the process. 

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