Arnold Schwarzenegger in conversation with James Cameron: Terminator, sci-fi and robots

The two legends behind Terminator come together for AMC's must-see series: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction.

In 1984, James Cameron revolutionized the science fiction genre with an explosive blockbuster featuring former body- builder Arnold Schwarzenegger as an unstoppable, cybernetic killer. The unprecedented success of The Terminator—a brainy thriller predicated on time travel and the notion of intelligent machines - transformed Cameron into one of Hollywood’s most sought-after directors and catapulted Schwarzenegger into the top echelon of international action stars. In the wake of the film’s success,

[Read more: All you need to know about James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction]

Arnold Schwarznegger

The UK premiere of James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction will be on Tuesday, June 19th – exclusive to BT customers.

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Schwarzenegger starred in a string of hits, many of them sci-fi blockbusters, such as Predator (1987), The Running Man (1987), and Total Recall (1990), director Paul Verhoeven’s trippy Philip K. Dick adaptation about a man whose virtual vacation to Mars goes deeply awry. Schwarzenegger reunited with Cameron for 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which upended conventional notions of what could be wrought on-screen with its introduction of the T-1000, a liquid metal villain (portrayed in the flesh by Robert Patrick). The duo remained close friends through decades that saw the Austria-born Schwarzenegger ascend to the governorship of California.

In the 2010s, Schwarzenegger returned to action and science fiction on-screen, appearing in the Expendables franchise and even resurrecting his most iconic character for 2015’s Terminator Genisys. In a wide-ranging conversation, Schwarzenegger and Cameron—who are currently hatching a new Terminator project—recall the fateful lunch meeting that landed the actor his breakthrough role and consider the limitless possibilities afforded by time travel and next-level technology.

James Cameron

JAMES CAMERON: You’ve done a lot of science fiction movies. You’ve seen all kinds of different machines, intelligent machines. You played an intelligent machine.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that what’s interesting is when you have been involved in the business as long as I have, and you see something starting out that is called science fiction, and then all of a sudden it becomes kind of science reality in a way. We’ve talked about that many times. What is so unbelievable is that as I have done Terminator movies, one after the next, the first one has literally become a reality—other than machines becoming self-aware. Just the very simple thing like the Terminator looking at someone, guessing the body weight and who he is and that.

JC: Scanning.

AS: Now you have an app on a phone and you can point it at someone and tell the age and what they look like and everything about that person. It’s amazing how things have become a reality. What’s so entertaining in a way is that you have come up with those things. Of course, you have been always a person that has read just about every science fiction book. Right?

JC: Pretty much every one.

AS: You told me that you read like one book a day. I mean it’s unbelievable to read a book a day. You know, how the technology actually plays out and becomes more and more a reality.

JC: In [The Terminator], we showed flying machines that were drones that were shooting people on the ground. We had machines on tracks like big tanks that were gun platforms that were shooting people. They have those now. They have them in a prototype form. So, we’re actually entering a kind of era of machine combat. The question is, how smart do we make these things and how much responsibility do we give them? I know you’ve spent a lot of time overseas in dealing with the military and talking to the troops, to our people that are on the front line in harm’s way. What do you think about machines taking over some of those duties?

AS: I think it’s terrific technology, and it’s developing very rapidly now. But what I personally like about all of this is—about the science fiction itself and being a machine and playing a machine and doing science fiction movies—you can do much more and get away with it. I love action movies, you know. Even when you do Commando (1985) and you’re over the top, you still can only get away with so much. People say, “Oh come on! You know this is ridiculous.” But if you play the Terminator, and you walk through a wall or...

JC: Take machine gunfire.

AS: That’s right. Yes. It makes it much more entertaining. For instance, [in Terminator 2] two Terminators have a wrestling match, and you grab each other and you throw each other against the wall, and the wall breaks. A cement wall breaks. Right? And you have the cable, the steel’s sticking out and stuff like that. Then he grabs you and throws you over there and the ground breaks. Everything breaks around you. People say, “Wow. You know if you throw a regular human being around, you could not do that.” Or jumping down or doing certain things or getting beaten like in Terminator 2. The amount of beating that I got from the [T-1000], right? It totally killed me. I mean I had no arm. One leg was destroyed. But then all of a sudden, the eyes started lighting up again.

JC: You had a back-up power supply.

AS: If you do a movie about reality you could never do that. I think that’s what makes it so entertaining when you do science fiction. You get away with much more. You can actually ramp it up and give people more entertainment. I just watched Terminator 2 [in] 3-D for the first time, and that was a perfect proof again just how big you can go [with] something if, of course, you have a good director and a good writer. It was fantastic. It’s really amazing this movie in 3-D, how well it works.

JC: The interesting thing about the end of that film is that we believe, as an audience, that the Terminator has learned some degree of emotion. Talk about how you prepared for that movie—to play someone with no emotion who was trying to figure out how humans act, why they do the things that they do.

Arnold Schwarznegger and James Cameron

AS: I always was impressed [by how] Yul Brynner played in Westworld his character, being a robot cowboy. He was really intense, and I always got the feeling when I watched him that he was actually a machine. There was no human element there whatsoever. So, I wanted to play the Terminator kind of like that. To make sure that if you kill somebody, there should be no joy shown. If you shoot, you shouldn’t blink, and if you get shot, you shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself. Show absolutely nothing. The way the Terminator walks has to be machine-like, the way he scans and looks has to be machine-like. The eyes cannot blink. It’s very important also when you talk that the Adam’s apple doesn’t go up and down. One has to pay attention to the minute details because with the big screen now and with close-ups, this is where you see everything. I thought that was extremely important to train every day with the guns, the cocking of the shotgun and all this stuff.

JC: Where I’m going with this is that by the end of [Terminator 2], I think we as the audience believe that the Terminator has started to learn an emotional response to some limited degree. He talks about how he’s got a neural net processor. It’s designed to learn and to observe people, and he starts to form a bond with John Connor.

AS: The beginning, it was totally playing it straight. And then number two, the way it was written was that he starts getting a little bit of information and learning and actually really enjoys the relationship with the kid, playing this father [figure]. That by itself is a huge breakthrough—that he would enjoy some- thing. As I explained in the movie, the more time the Terminator spends with human beings, the more he learns and adopts human behavior. It doesn’t mean that he’s off being a machine. He’s still the machine, but there’s still little traces. That actually makes it very interesting from an actor’s point of view. How much you do that, how subtle you bring this through.

JC: But not go too far.

AS: You have to check that yourself. But the director comes in [to say] dial it back a little bit or bring it up a little bit and all that stuff. Because sometimes you shoot the ending of the movie way before it is the last day of the shooting, so you need help with [finding the right intensity of the performance]. But the key thing is, you do it in a subtle way.... You can then make it a real, emotional scene, which I think we were able to successfully do. When the Terminator looks at [John Connor] and [says], “I understand why you cry,” and he touches his tears—you see the Terminator actually showing an ounce of sensitivity and emotions there. It was really wonderful, that development and that arc throughout the movie.

The UK premiere of James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction will be on Tuesday, June 19th – exclusive to BT customers.

AMC is available free of charge in the UK to BT TV customers on channel number 332 and to BT Sport Pack subscribers on Sky channel 192.

AMC is also available in HD on both BT TV and Satellite with an HD subscription.

AMC is the exclusive home of critically acclaimed shows such as The Terror, Fear the Walking Dead and Snatch.

New to BT? Get BT TV today >
Got BT Broadband? Add BT TV >
Got BT TV? Watch AMC now on channel 332 and catch up on the BT Player >

Excerpt provided by Insight Editions from James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. © 2018 AMC Network Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.

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