It’s hard to imagine any other actors in the roles of Sarah Connor and the terminator, but a few different people were considered.
Inspired by a fever dream in which he saw a metallic skeleton emerging from a huge fire, James Cameron wrote The Terminator for himself to direct. The story of a killer cyborg going back in time from a future ravaged by war between humans and machines to assassinate the mother of the leader of the resistance was a tough sell in Hollywood, but Cameron managed to secure a budget to shoot it.
One of the keys to making this complicated movie work was casting the perfect actors to play Sarah Connor, the relatable everywoman protagonist, and the T-800, the unstoppable cybernetic antagonist.
10 Sarah: Sigourney Weaver
Five years after her groundbreaking lead performance as Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver was considered to play a different sci-fi badass: Sarah Connor.
James Cameron would go on to direct Weaver in Aliens, a sequel to Alien, as his follow-up to The Terminator, and it was just as highly acclaimed as its predecessor.
9 T-800: Sylvester Stallone
The two biggest names in ‘80s action cinema were Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone – a pair of musclebound A-listers whose intense rivalry blossomed into a beautiful friendship over the years – so it makes sense that one was considered for the other’s most iconic role.
While Cameron waited for Schwarzenegger to fulfill his contractual obligation to the Conan sequel before filming The Terminator, he filled his time by taking on a writing assignment: the sequel to the Stallone-starring First Blood.
8 Sarah: Meg Ryan
Five years before she and Billy Crystal would revive the romantic comedy genre with When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan was considered for the more action-oriented role of Sarah Connor in The Terminator.
Ryan’s everywoman charms, paired with the fact that she was one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s, make her a promising choice for Sarah. But Linda Hamilton, of course, turned out to be perfect.
7 T-800: Michael Douglas
Cameron and his team considered Michael Douglas to play the T-800, but with his movie star charisma and everyman qualities, Douglas might have been better-suited to the role of Kyle Reese.
Before Michael Biehn was cast as Reese, the producers considered Mickey Rourke, Sting, and Bruce Willis. Mel Gibson was also up for a part, but it’s unclear if it was Reese or the T-800.
6 Sarah: Jennifer Jason Leigh
James Cameron considered Jennifer Jason Leigh for the role of Sarah Connor, but ultimately deemed the future star of The Hateful Eight to be too young at the time.
He still wanted her in the movie, so he cast her to play Ginger instead. However, she ended up being replaced in that role at the last minute by Bess Motta.
5 T-800: Tom Selleck
It’s been rumored that Tom Selleck was offered the role of the T-800 in The Terminator, but had to turn it down because filming clashed with his TV series Magnum P.I.
Jürgen Prochnow was also considered to play the T-800, which is ironic because he ended up playing Arnold Schwarzenegger in See Arnold Run, a biographical drama about Arnie’s fun for the office of Governor of California.
4 Sarah: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
That’s right, Sarah Connor could’ve been played by Elaine Benes. Long before she was cast as Jerry’s “kinda short, big wall o’ hair, face like a frying pan” ex-girlfriend on Seinfeld, and even longer before she was cast as Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was offered the role of Sarah Connor.
However, she turned it down in order to do Saturday Night Live instead. A lot of actors turned down the role of Sarah to do other projects: Kate Capshaw turned it down to star in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Kathleen Turner turned it down to star in Romancing the Stone, and Daryl Hannah turned it down to star in Splash.
3 T-800: Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford could’ve added the T-800 to a list of iconic roles that includes Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard, but the producers decided against offering him the role.
Richard Gere, Kevin Kline, and even Randy Quaid were considered for the role before Cameron eventually found his perfect Terminator in Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2 Sarah: Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis was under consideration for the role of Sarah Connor, having played a young woman on the run from a relentless killing machine to some success in John Carpenter’s Halloween a few years earlier.
The massive list of actors considered to play Sarah before Hamilton was cast includes Glenn Close, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sharon Stone, and Debra Winger (who received an offer, but turned it down).
1 T-800: O.J. Simpson
The producers of The Terminator considered casting O.J. Simpson as the titular cyborg in a move that surely could’ve harmed the franchise’s future beyond 1994.
However, when Orion executives approached James Cameron with the idea of casting Simpson, the director ironically rejected the idea because he didn’t think audiences could be convinced that Simpson was a cold-blooded killer.
NEXT: Back To The Future: 5 Actors Considered To Play Marty (& 5 For Doc)
10 Best Movies About Heroes Who Are Wrongfully Accused, Ranked
About The Author