Before Arnold Schwarzenegger was ultimately cast, the role of The Terminator’s villainous T-800 cyborg was offered to two other action legends.
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger was ultimately cast, the role of The Terminator‘s villainous T-800 cyborg was offered to two other action legends. While many iconic movie roles didn’t go to the actor originally courted to play them, in the case of the T-800, it’s almost impossible to even imagine anyone but Schwarzenegger in the part. No role has ever fit the Austrian Oak better, and while his detractors might claim that’s only because the character is robotic, it takes a lot of effort to so perfectly play a machine.
Since the original film, which first started Schwarzenegger’s launch to superstardom, he’s returned to play various versions of the T-800 in four of the five Terminator sequels, with the other still offering a CGI cameo by the actor. Most recently, Schwarzenegger played a reformed T-800 dubbed Carl in 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, who after killing John Connor and no longer having any further programming, came to empathize with humans and regret its past actions.
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Yet, Schwarzenegger wasn’t the first, second, or even third choice for the role. In fact, studio executives tried to get James Cameron to cast him as Kyle Reese. Here’s a look at the actors who passed on the project before Cameron decided to give the T-800 role to Schwarzenegger.
Terminator: The Actors Who Almost Played the T-800
Oddly, OJ Simpson was actually one of the initial suggestions by the studio to play the T-800 in The Terminator, long before he was known as a accused murderer instead of a football great. Cameron shot the idea down. More serious consideration was given to action icons Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson, but both turned the T-800 role down, in Gibson’s case because he didn’t feel he was right for it.
Stallone already had Rambo under his belt at that point, while Gibson was known for Mad Max. Other notable names that were reportedly considered at least briefly for the T-800 role in The Terminator include Tom Selleck, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Jurgen Prochnow, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang, Chevy Chase, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Kevin Costner, John Travolta, and Harrison Ford.
While that’s quite the varied group of actors, it’s important to remember that just because an actor was “considered,” doesn’t mean James Cameron and producers could’ve actually gotten them to sign on, or even entertain the idea. It’s common practice in Hollywood to consider many actors for a big leading role. While many of those names might sound crazy when compared to Schwarzenegger, Cameron originally imagined the T-800 as a true infiltrator, with a look that didn’t stand out in a crowd, which certainly is far from the Austrian Oak.
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