The Terminator franchise has become one of the most iconic movie franchises in American history, but the story behind the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, wasn’t always set in stone.
James Cameron, the co-writer and director of The Terminator (1984), as well as the co-writer, producer, and director of Judgment Day, told The Ringer that he initially thought Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reprised his role as John Connor, should actually play two separate T-800s—one heroic and one evil.
“When I first conceived the story idea, it was in two parts. In the first part, Skynet sent a cyborg with a metal endoskeleton and the good guys sent the protector. The protector crushes him under a truck or throws him through some big gear structure or machine,” Cameron explained “And then, up in the future, they realize the ripples of time are progressing toward them. They still haven’t won the battle.”
The idea was eventually scrapped after co-writer William Wisher maintained that Schwarzenegger fighting against himself was “just boring.”
Cameron and Wisher eventually were able to craft a different story for Judgment Day. In the sequel, a more advanced Terminator, the T-1000, which has the ability to shapeshift, is sent back in time to kill 10-year-old John Connor in order to prevent him from growing up and becoming the leader of the human resistance. This prompts Connor in the future to send another T-800 back in time to protect his younger self and destroy the T-1000.
Cameron explained that he had not been eager to film a sequel to The Terminator, which debuted nearly seven years before Judgment Day ultimately released, but he had been contacted by Carolco Pictures to make another Terminator movie. Despite his apparent disinterest in continuing the series, Terminator 2: Judgment Day proved to be incredibly worthwhile, bringing in more than $500 million at the box office worldwide, which is six times more than the original movie and the most of any of the six films in the franchise.