T-1000 AND TERMINATOR size each other up. Terminator moves first. He grabs T-1000 in his massive hands but the T-1000 snaps back with a counter-grip. After about two seconds of intense slamming, the walls on both sides of the corridor have all the plaster smashed in, and the two battling machines have blasted through the wall and disappeared. JOHN, totally stunned by all this, remembers to move. He staggers to his feet. Stumble-runs toward the parking garage. 44C THIRD LEVEL CONCOURSE. A plate glass window EXPLODES and Terminator crashes through to the tile floor like a sack of cement amid the screaming crowd. 44D T-1000 turns without a word and heads back through the store after John, accelerating slowly into a loping, predatory run.
In that screaming crowd stands William Wisher, wearing a denim jacket and clutching a Pentax. He stands shocked as the T-800 gets to its feet after having been flung through a glass window by Robert Patrick. He is the replacement for ‘Japanese Tourist’, but the friend of James Cameron who should have been stood there instead had missed their flight.
Wisher, co-writer of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and life long friend of Cameron’s would have a minuscule amount of time to craft what would become one the greatest action movies of all time.
“We had a very narrow window in which to write the script because the release date had already been chosen, so everything worked backwards from that and so we got together and we worked at Jim Cameron’s house and we wrote a treatment or as we like to refer to it a ‘scriptment’ – a treatment that keeps expansing and turns into a screenplay – and we did it side by side, taking turns at a keyboard, spent a couple of weeks doing that and came up with all of it basically and then we cut it in half.
I took one half, Jim took the other and we wrote and expanded those two halves into a screenplay. That didn’t take very long, then we glued them back together and spent as I recall about three days going over it again together side by side, then he printed it, stuck it in a briefcase on the last day and a car was coming on the last day to take him to con so he could have Arnold read it…”
With the release date already selected, although this was somewhat arbitrary according to the film’s producer, time was not a luxury Wisher and Cameron could enjoy.
“It was remarkably fast and you know often it takes months to write a script. But we knew each other very well already by then, I had done some work with him on the first Terminator. We’d been friends forever so we had a lot of time in the intervening years to probably get rid of the bad ideas, so when we sat down to do it, it came together very very quickly. Partly because it had to, but also because it just sort of did. It meshed.
…the very first thing we did was talk about, sort of philosophically, ‘Why make a sequel?’, because if it’s just to make money thats not a good enough reason. We thought ‘How can we justify this?’, ‘What cool things can we do?’ – very quickly we came up with the idea that, ‘What if we turned Arnold from the bad guy into the good guy?’ And now we had to create a new villain – we thought what’s the opposite of Arnold; this big tough metal Terminator. The opposite would be something softer and that’s where we came up wth the liquid metal and we made him an average size guy – we where trying to come up with something that would be a formidable but different villain for Arnold to fight.”
Cameron had originally intended Billy Idol to play the T-1000 but he was replaced by Robert Patrick after a motorcycle accident. Patrick found out because he would see Idol’s face on Stan Winston’s studio wall, presumably there to create prosthetics. Patrick trained intensely for the part, so intensely in fact they had to crank the power up on Furlong’s motorcycle in the shopping mall sequence, as Patrick kept catching him.
“And then the other thing was, where would Sarah Connor and John Connor be in their lives, roughly ten years on. We thought, of course she’d be in a mental institution. She’s running around telling people the world is going to come to an end – you’d get locked away for that. Then that told us, well, John Connor has to be in foster care, so he’s kind of a tough street kid. All these things fell together quickly because they seemed to make sense, like, this is probably what would happen to those people.”
It wouldn’t be difficult to convince Schwarzenegger of their plan to reverse his role from cinemas biggest badass to its biggest softie.
” – We called him up [Schwarzenegger] and we told him we were thinking about doing that, just to make sure he’d be okay with it – that was very early in the process, and he said, you know, ‘I trust you guys. Go ahead, do it.’ – That’s how it happened.”
‘The Terminator’ was a dark, gritty and brutal film and despite Sarah and the still unborn John’s survival at the end, she drives off into the inevitable judgement day and the coming war against the machines. By comparison, ‘Terminator 2’ is more compassionate and has been described as having a warmth at its core. Could T2’s continuing success be put down to its family values?
“Tough to answer. I think partly, because embedded in it are these iconic structures. One is once Arnold shows up and rescues Sarah and has John Connor in tow and they’re heading out on the highway, it’s a really strange fractured family – there’s sort of a Mum and a dad and a kid and I think that resonates with people, even on an unconscious level.
Then you have this mother/son relationship. She wants to love him dearly, but she knows he’s destined to become the leader of the resistance so she has to make sure he’s toughened up … she’s kind of emotionally compromised. All these things just seem to work dramatically.
And then there are the visuals … the T-1000, no one had ever seen anything like that before and between ILM doing the CG part and Stan Winston doing some of the practical effects, visually it was pretty seamless. I think it still holds up very well today.”
With James Cameron’s return to the franchise, Tim Miller of ‘Deadpool’ in the director’s chair and the return of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, what are Wisher’s hopes for the future of the franchise?
“Well I’m not involved in Terminator 6, I’ve heard a couple of things, that Linda’s coming back and Arnold is coming back and Jim of course is producing and Tim Miller is directing. I think Billy Ray is writing it I think it got announced the other day so I don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not currently involved so I don’t want to guess or second guess, but that’s a bunch of smart guys. So I’m sure they’re going to come up with something that’s really cool and new and unique and I’m looking forward to seeing it. Same as everybody else.”
Terminator 2 Judgment Day is released on 4k UHD, 3D BLU-RAY, BLU-RAY, DVD & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD on December 4th.