O.J. Simpson was supposed to play the Terminator, with Schwarzenegger as Reese
It’s amazing to think just how bizarre this movie would’ve been with the original cast. Seriously, does it still work if Kyle Reese is bigger than the Terminator himself? When the film was coming together, athlete-turned-actor Simpson was a big names (this was before the famed car chase and all that followed). But, Cameron hated the idea before he was too “likable” and “goofy.” To make it even crazier, the studio wanted Schwarzenegger as the hero of the film, another idea Cameron hated. But, after having lunch with Schwarzenegger, Cameron realized he’d make a perfect robot killing machine. Thus, a franchise was born.
Cameron: “Gale and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘You’ve got to be f- - -ing kidding me.’ Mind you, this was before O.J. was actually a killer. We might have reconsidered after he had killed his wife. [Laughs] This was when everybody loved him, and ironically that was part of the problem—he was this likable, goofy, kind of innocent guy. [Laughs] Plus, frankly I wasn’t interested in an African-American man chasing around a white girl with a knife. It just felt wrong.”
Schwarzenegger: “I said, ‘No, no, no—look, the guy has 17 lines.’ I didn’t want to do that. I was building my career, being a leading man and not being a villain. But 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. And so cool that some of the people will cheer.”