'Terminator' at 30: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd on the Making of the Movie

'The Terminator'

The sci-fi cult classic that propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame starred the Austrian bodybuilder as an artificially intelligent robotic assassin targeting a woman named Sarah Connor and her protector in the year 2029. Director James Cameron's film spurred a legacy, including the two-season television spinoff Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Although Fox opted not to renew that series, a new project is in the works to revitalize the franchise for television.

The players recall what happened 30 years ago when a sci-fi movie no one expected to be a hit launched careers (including Arnold Schwarzenegger's), a couple of marriages and a franchise that has grossed $1.4 billion worldwide

This story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine


Cameron, now 60, and Gale Anne Hurd met on Roger Corman's 1980 release Battle Beyond the Stars, for which they were responsible for keeping the art department on budget, and quickly developed a mutual admiration. (Hurd would become Cameron's second wife, from 1985 to 1989.) Cameron recalls a story conference Terminator executive producer John Daly called three days before filming began: "Before John can open his mouth, Gale says, 'I think it's ridiculous we're having a story conference three days before we start shooting,' and she stands up and walks out. I'm sitting on the couch, and I'm like, 'Yeah, what she said.' " The movie was shot for only $6.4 million (and grossed $78 million worldwide), and, says Hurd, "We went through the really low-budget battle together -- and when you can trust someone having started out together, that person's always got your back."

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There was no need for a stunt double when it came to the now 58-year-old actor (not in the group photo because he wasn't shooting that day) carrying out one of his trickiest sequences, which involved jumping over a bar with a shotgun in hand. Marvels Hurd: "We thought, 'That's going to have to be a stunt person because there's no way the actor can do that.' But that was him. It was absolutely remarkable."

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During the filming of Orion Pictures’ The Terminator, the cast and crew gathered in front of the house in Van Nuys, Calif., used in a scene where Schwarzenegger’s Terminator first goes in search of Hamilton’s Sarah Connor.


Hamilton, now 58, injured her ankle shortly before filming began, and, according to Hurd, Cameron said: "If she were on the L.A. Rams, she'd be playing on Sunday. Shoot her up with some painkillers, wrap it, and send her out there." Hurd refused to follow that advice but did move the shooting of the star's most strenuous running scenes toward the end, so she would have time to heal. "Linda never once complained," recalls Hurd of Hamilton (who later would be married to Cameron from 1997 to 1999). "I knew she was in agony and was gritting her teeth. Whatever she was asked to do, she did so with a smile."

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Coming off 1982's Conan the Barbarian, he wanted to play heroes, not villains, so he initially met with Cameron about the role of Kyle Reese (which ultimately went to Biehn). But the director convinced Schwarzenegger, now 67, that even though he'd be playing a killing machine, the audience would root for him. Remembering that first meeting, Cameron says: "I was looking at him and thinking he could make a pretty good Terminator. He's like a bulldozer."


Hurd, now 58, says her mentor, Roger Corman, "taught me that more important than everything else is to believe in myself. Ninety-nine people rejected The Terminator, but we only needed that No. 100. Roger did teach me that you can do just about anything, and all you need is some wire and some grip tape."

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The movie's first assistant director, she was part of a team of women who, notes Hurd, held key positions on the film. "Here we are, making what people perceive as a testosterone-driven film, but it's really the story of Sarah Connor -- even though it's called The Terminator," says Hurd. Magruder has gone on to work regularly with the Coen brothers, most recently as first A.D. on 2010's True Grit and 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis.


Long before cameras rolled, the makeup artist, who hails from a family of renowned makeup artists (his grandfather Jack Dawn worked on The Wizard of Oz), had a connection to Hurd. "My mother was Jeff's grandfather's secretary when he headed the makeup department at MGM back in the '40s," says Hurd. "It just shows you what a small business it is."


Hurd jokingly blames Tothpal, the film's hairstylist, for her bad hair day in this group photo. "I was supposed to be on the Today show or one of those shows, and he said, 'Let me do your hair,' " she recalls. "I said, 'Can I have it a little more auburn?' He did two processes, and I ended up with a tight fuchsia perm. That is the least-flattering hairstyle I've had in my life. Peter was convinced I was going to fire him."

During the filming of Orion Pictures' The Terminator, the cast and crew gathered in front of the house in Van Nuys, Calif., used in a scene where Schwarzenegger's Terminator first goes in search of Hamilton's Sarah Connor.