There are plenty of Hollywood urban legends that turn out to be bogus, but one that has endured is the rumor that O.J. Simpson almost starred in The Terminator. That is true, and Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about that bit of trivia once again in a new interview.
“James Cameron said when we came out with Terminator, he said Terminator would have never worked if Schwarzenegger wouldn’t have talked like a machine,” Schwarzenegger told TMZ's Harvey Levin on Fox News' Objectified. “I think that the first choice was O.J. Simpson. They said he didn’t look as much of a killer and all that stuff. So I don’t know, I mean it just felt like I was more believable to be the machine.”
The rumor about Simpson's connection to Terminator has been talked about for years. Orion Pictures approached James Cameron with casting the football star as the titular killer robot from the future, but he shot down the idea. The director thought audiences wouldn't believe Simpson could play a killer.
“[Orion chief Mike] Medavoy came to me and [producer Gale Anne Hurd] and he said, ‘Are you sitting down? You must sit down," Cameron told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. "I want O.J. Simpson for the Terminator. Gale and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘You’ve got to be f- - -ing kidding me. How do we get out of this?'"
Medavoy admitted to coming up with the idea after seeing one of Simpson's Hertz commercials, where he displayed his athletic abilities. Medavoy said he approached Schwarzenegger about playing Kyle Reese, who was played by Michael Biehn in the final film.
“Medavoy came up to me at a screening and told me that they already had the Terminator cast with O.J. Simpson,” Schwarzenegger told EW in 2014.
In an August 2017 interview with The Guardian, Cameron said he told Medavoy to his face that casting Simpson was a terrible idea.
"I was like: ‘Hey Mike! Bad idea! You’re going to have this black athlete chasing this white girl around LA with a fricking knife and a gun? We’re not doing that,'" Cameron recalled. "Which was fortunate, but also unfortunate in that life ended up imitating art there.”
Of course, the original 1984 Terminator film hit theaters without Simpson in it and turned Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Beihn and Linda Hamilton into stars. It was followed by four sequels.