Arnold Schwarzenegger Explains Which Disgraced Star Was Originally Cast as The Terminator


  • Arnold Schwarzenegger almost missed out on playing The Terminator in James Cameron’s iconic 1984 movie.
  • OJ Simpson was originally set to be cast as The Terminator, but his enthusiasm was too much for the role.
  • Schwarzenegger’s mechanical delivery of the T-800 added to the success of the Terminator franchise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has once again discussed the fact that he almost didn’t play The Terminator in James Cameron’s 1984 movie. In an appearance on the Smartless podcast, the 76-year-old action movie icon shared the story of how he originally wanted to play Kyle Reese in the movie, and a very different actor was in line to play the machine from the future.

While discussing many aspects of his career, Schwarzenegger touched on a story he has touched on before, of how ex-NFL star-turned Hollywood actor OJ Simpson was originally set to be cast in the role that would make the Austrian Oak a megastar. Simpson would later become known for his comedic turn as Norberg in The Naked Gun films, then more famous for his fall from grace in the 1995 trial that saw him acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, who were stabbed to death. The actor would then be found liable for their deaths in a later civil trial.

During the podcast, Schwarzenegger explained:

“I think OJ Simpson was cast, not yet a contract signed, but was cast already to play The Terminator. So Cameron was trying to talk me into playing the Terminator and I said, ‘Nah, I want to play Reese.’ He said, ‘No, you understand the Terminator. You talk about how he has to walk and turn his head like a machine. That’s exactly what he has to do.’ “Anyway, he talked me into it.”

According to the former Californian Governor, Simpson’s enthusiasm ended up losing him the role, whereas Schwarzenegger’s ability to play a soulless killing machine was perfect for the iconic part that he would continue to play for more than three decades.

Related: Terminator Movies in Order: Chronologically and by Release Date

The Terminator Franchise Succeeded Because of Schwarzenegger

Warner Brothers Pictures

Although there are many “what if” casting moments throughout the history of Hollywood movies, it is hard to imagine the Terminator franchise becoming the success it did without Arnold Schwarzenegger’s almost mechanical delivery of the T-800 being at its metallic heart.

The idea of someone such as OJ Simpson taking on that role, and Schwarzenegger being instead cast in the role of Kyle Reese, sounds like it is something that would have killed the movie before it had a chance to spawn one of the greatest movie sequels of all-time. In the end, this is the reason James Cameron is seen as one of the greatest directors in Hollywood, with the ability to bring together the right cast, the right script and with a keen eye for small details that have led him to hold three spots in the top five highest grossing movies chart.

While the careers of Schwarzenegger and Simpson could not have been much different, whether the change of casting in The Terminator would have put them both on a different trajectory is something we will never know. However, for the sci-fi franchise, it is hard to see how it could have been more of a success without Schwarzenegger leading the way.

The movies of the Terminator franchise are available to stream on Max and Netflix in some territories. Meanwhile, Netflix is currently preparing to unleash an anime Terminator series on the world in 2024.


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