Terminator 2: how it was made, in its makers’ own words

As the reissued Terminator 2 arrives on Blu-ray, here's a first-person account of how James Cameron's sci-fi action classic was made...

On its release in the summer of 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day represented a milestone in special effects – a CGI blockbuster that paved the way for Jurassic Park, The Matrix and the kinds of summer spectacles we commonly see in cinemas today.

A little over 25 years later, it’s remarkable how well this once cutting-edge movie holds up; remastered and reissued earlier this year in a new 3D edition, T2 still contains everything you’d want from a great action thriller – engaging characters, an intimidating villain, and beneath all the surface gloss and eye-popping action, timeless and resonant themes.

What’s fascinating about Terminator 2 is that, although it represented a huge gamble both technically and financially, it was also made in a relatively short space of time – little more than a year from the completion of its screenplay and its release. As the new T2 emerges on Blu-ray, then, here’s the story behind this classic film’s making – straight from the mouths of some of its key personnel…

Before T2, there was The Terminator – a low-budget sci-fi thriller that was such a sleeper hit that it immediately put writer-director James Cameron on the map, and cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger’s status as a Hollywood star. One of the key creative players in The Terminator was William Wisher – an old buddy of Cameron’s since high school. Together, they’d made Xenogenesis in the late 1970s, a sci-fi short that helped Cameron get his first job as an effects guy for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.

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WILLIAM WISHER: When [James Cameron and I] first met, I wanted to be an actor, and I got over that within a few years, but he’d be working on something and he’d sort of say, “You’re an actor, come on over. How would you say this line?” I kind of slowly got into writing, which I was sort of interested in, but then I became disillusioned with acting, and became a full-time writer – which sounds a lot easier than it was. We kind of learned writing and filmmaking together as kids, so I helped him out a bit on Terminator 1. 

He’d written the treatment for that – he wrote the script, but he asked me to write some of the scenes in it. The police station scenes, the Sarah Connor scenes – the early ones, when she’s working at the coffee shop. Really, for time’s sake, he said, “I’ve gotta get this thing done. Can you help me out?” So I became familiar with it, and cut to about seven years later, about the spring of 1990, he said, “Hey, Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna have gathered the rights, and they want to make T2. We’re already behind schedule, so do you wanna write it with me?” I said, “Absolutely.” I think we started that afternoon – I drove over to his house.

Although The Terminator was a big hit in 1984, prompting Cameron and Schwarzenegger to talk about making a sequel right away, the project never quite came off in the 1980s. This was partly due to clashing schedules, as co-star Linda Hamilton signed on for TV’s Beauty And The Beast and Schwarzenegger made a string of other increasingly outlandish action sequels. The rights, too, were in a tangle, with half belonging to Cameron’s ex-wife, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and the other in the hands of Hemdale, the independent studio who bankrolled the first film. It took Mario Kassar, and his mini-major studio Carolco, to finally get the wheels on T2 moving.

MARIO KASSAR: With the first one, James had it set up at Hemdale, a company run by a Britsh guy named John Daly, with Orion [distributing]. A friend of mine sent me the screenplay and said, “Read this.” I read it, and I said, “This is great. Can I be involved?” He said, “No, it’s at Orion.” I met James Cameron and I said, “If anything happens, if it doesn’t work out, then please come back to me and I’ll do it in a minute.” But obviously, they ended up doing it, and they invited me to a screening of the movie. I knew it was going to be a good, but he did a great job.

I said, “James, please. Next time, please come to me with whatever – I just want to work with you.” He had a one-picture deal with Orion – he wasn’t attached for sequels or whatever. And he came to see me, and he’d been trying to do a sequel to The Terminator for years – it was very complicated for several reasons. When James divorced, his ex-wife, Gale Anne Hurd, still owned half of the rights. Then you had Arnold and James – it was complicated.

They called me and said, “Mario, can you try and put it together.” I wanted to do it so badly, even though it was a challenge. So what I did was, I made the deal with Cameron, and then I had to make the deal with Gale Ann Hurd. Her agent in those days was Lou Pitt, who was also Arnold’s agent.

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Already the rights were $15 million or something like that, I don’t remember the exact number. She wanted a certain amount. Then James came back with the effects – he’d done a 20-minute reel before he’d made the movie. He could show me the effects before he started shooting. How the guy comes up from the floor, the finger goes through the eye. I said, “This is so amazing.”That cost over $10 million to do – which I financed, but when I saw the effects, they gave me the 100 percent conviction to go with the budget, because it was a very high budget in those days.

WILL WISHER: Jim [Cameron] phoned me up one day and said Terminator 2’s on, we have six to seven weeks to write it, because the release date had already been set – the schedule was working backwards from that.

So we got together, and first we wrote side by side in the same room, taking turns at the keyboard. We wrote out, effectively, a treatment which became the script. The term Jim likes to use is a scriptment. We spent a couple of weeks doing that, and that was the whole movie, really. Then we cut it in half, and went off to our own corners and fleshed it out into screenplay form. Then we got back together, glued the two halves together and spent, in my memory, about three days going over it and polishing it up. Jim printed it, stuck it in his briefcase, the car came and picked him up, and off he went to Cannes.

With the rights at Carolco and the project a go, Cameron began looking around for filmmakers who could help him realise his vision. One of those filmmakers was Stephanie Austin, who was then a producer in Carolco’s television arm.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: I was actually producing a television project, and Walter Copeland, who was the head of production, said, “Oh, Jim Cameron wanted to meet you.” He’d seen a television special I’d made called The Day After, and I’d been producing it, but I’d also been on a team that did some innovative visual effects in terms of a nuclear [war]. He’d seen it, and he was impressed by it, and asked if he could meet me.

I thought, “Why does a guy like Jim Cameron want to meet me?” I mean, I’d been producing this little TV thing! And so I went to his office and read the first few pages of Terminator 2 and decided I should go home. Because there was no way I could produce this for the amount of money he’d said he wanted to make it for, which was about the same as the original Terminator. As you know, that turned out to be a ridiculous concept! [Laughs]

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When Terminator 2: Judgment Day was announced at Cannes in May 1990, it caused a ripple of interest, partly from Schwarzenegger fans and those who enjoyed the first film, but also the Hollywood press – particularly as word got around that the budget was soaring from an initial estimate of $80 million to nearer the $100 million mark. Suddenly, Cameron was at the helm of the most expensive movie of all time – a project that, some Hollywood trade papers predicted, could prove to be a financial disaster for Carolco.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: We were under tremendous criticism throughout the whole project, because for its day it was a very big-budget movie. And because, in the beginning they tried to downplay the expense, and as I say, Jim had told people that he wanted to make it for about the same budget as the original Terminator, and he had this entire rough idea of how we would do that. But you know, the techniques change, and people’s expectations change, and we didn’t want to skimp on delivering a product.

MARIO KASSAR: It’s like your brain’s divided in two. On one side, you’re so excited to be part of this movie, then on the other side, you look at all the studio executives and newspapers – Variety and even CNN business – they were all criticising the budget on the movie. At the end of the day, I didn’t even listen anymore – they were more interested in the budget than the movie, which is unfair to the director. You can’t stop them, so I ignored them – and obviously, when it was a hit, they all kind of back-tracked. As they say, a success has many fathers. But when a movie doesn’t work, everybody disappears.

As well as the huge budget and media scrutiny, the cast and crew had to deal with a tight deadline: T2’s distributing studio in the US wanted the film ready for July 1991, meaning Cameron had little more than a year to get a project with cutting-edge special effects in the can.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: You’re staring down the barrel of a gun, really, because once those release dates are announced – as it is today – they get locked in stone. You’re competing with other studios’ products for those dates, and you’ve made certain commitments. Those are monetary commitments as well. The pressure was tremendous, literally from the first day. I think I started work the same day or the day after I read that script, so we definitely had to hit the ground running.

MARIO KASSAR: It was for memorial day in the summer, but nowadays – we’re talking years ago – I don’t like working backwards from a date. I think you should go and make your movie, and if it’s good and it comes out at the right time, then it’s the right time. But studios have a tendency, and we were a mini-studio at the time, so we had to think like them. The studio distributing it also wanted it for memorial day, so we had to work backwards so that it was ready in time. With studios now, that’s the day they want to release their big movies, but that doesn’t mean that every movie released on memorial day’s going to make money. It has to be a good movie, too. 

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WILLIAM WISHER: The two big changes were, let’s make Arnold the good guy instead of the villain, because that would be really cool and different. Then we said, okay, now we need a villain. The idea of Arnold fighting another Arnold is about as boring as it gets, so we thought, what would be the opposite of Arnold? If Arnold is this sort of hard technology, the ultimate hard technology, then the T-1000 would be the ultimate soft technology – not weaker, but just softer, you know? He’d be a shape-shifter. CGI had come along enough that they could physically do it, so we would talk to the guys at ILM from time to time as we were writing this thing as we got an idea. So for instance, we’d say, hey, we want to do a practical jump with a motorcycle, and then we need to have him [the T-1000] pull himself into the helicopter. That’s just one example. And so we’d call them up and say, here’s what we wanna do, can you do that? And they’d always say, yeah, we can do that! Then they probably went into a minor panic, but they delivered on everything. They never came back to us and said they couldn’t do something.

To oversee T2’s digital effects, which were unprecedented at the time, Cameron turned to ILM’s Dennis Muren, who’d surfed the wave of evolving VFX from the computer-controlled shots of Star Wars to the pioneering early CGI of the mid-1980s. Indeed, Cameron’s previous film, 1989’s The Abyss, had already laid a bit of the ground work for the morphing villain in T2. The main worry was, if the CG effects didn’t work, then the entire movie could potentially fall apart.

DENNIS MUREN: A lot of work had been done with reflective figures in computer graphics – that’s a much simpler problem than having to put skin on something, you know, to make it look like an animal, a dinosaur or something like that. But the flexibility, making a walking character that looks like it’s made out of mercury or chrome, and making it look like it has weight and actually in the shot is what was really extremely difficult. That’s what was successful. And it took us a long time to do – we spent months and months on that show. I think it was 52 shots or something like that.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: When Jim did The Abyss and the water snake effect, that sparked some ideas about how one might build a character out of this, you know, effect. We all had an inkling, but you just had to sit through the first production meeting with Jim to realise that things were going to be a lot bigger in every way. He had a hugely ambitious vision for the movie and, as I say, I got to about page eight of the script, I was reading it in his office under secure circumstances, and I asked if I could take a break. I actually called my lawyer and I said, “Listen, I should just leave right now, because there’s no way I can make this movie for this amount of money.” So it’s not like I went into it blindly.

The script was extremely ambitious, and as I say, these were visual effects that had never been conceived of, or actually built at that time. And of course we were challenged by render times and how complicated it was just to produce these effects, because the access to mainframe computers was limited at the time. I think we were using every mainframe in northern California when we were doing the film!

DENNIS MUREN: A lot of that stuff was Stan Winston – he had a whole group of people that did a lot of it. The robotic arm, the heads. Not when the [T-1000] is coming apart, but when it’s wiggling around – all that was full-size stuff. But I don’t think that they could have gotten much farther with that because it had never been done before with robotics. It probably would’ve been impossible to do. Everybody’s working on the cutting edge. I really wanted to come up with shots that had never been seen before, that could never have been done any other way. That’s what sort of knocked people out about it. But it’s not like there was a backup if the CG failed. There really wasn’t for that. If we hadn’t made the CG work, or Stan hadn’t made his stuff work, then Jim wouldn’t have had a movie – and he knew that. Whereas with The Abyss, the film he made before, he could have cut that scene with the pseudopod out and nobody would have known the difference. He was taking a huge chance, we were taking a huge chance.

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As production geared up, composer Brad Fiedel began work on T2’s score. Fiedel had already provided the percussive, unforgettable electronic music for the original Terminator – and now, at Cameron’s behest, he had to create a soundscape that could match the director’s bigger, more ambitious sci-fi vision.

BRAD FIEDEL: I had a nice early start on T2, so I was on the project as they started shooting or a little bit before that. I was really able to develop the full library, at that point, of sounds. Like the sounds of the T-1000, and all these different elements – a particular kind of orchestral string sound that wasn’t a real sound, you know.

Most of the sounds in Terminator 2 actually originated organically – they were organic, acoustic sounds that I [compiled] through the technology that had become available. So I was cutting edge with the music technology the same way Jim was with the CGI technology. It seemed to blend well. At some point we realised that I was about to do the music for the most expensive film ever made at that moment – in my garage, basically. So we made that decision, and I think it served the film well. It’s a bigger, richer sound, mostly because of the technology – Terminator 1 was mostly all oscillators and synthesizers, just coming out of the wall socket, you know? A lot of the sounds in T2 were generated by real things – real air moving in a room, of something being played but then twisted.

To play the stealthy, more advanced Porsche against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lumbering Panza tank, casting director Mali Finn cast her net wide among Hollywood’s hopefuls. Indeed, one early choice for the role of the shape-shifting T-1000 was former rock star Billy Idol; all that changed when Idol sustained an injury that put him out of the picture. Then, one day, a relatively unknown actor went in for an audition.

ROBERT PATRICK: I was a complete unknown. My agents told me that they were looking for someone who could create an intense presence. They’re not going to let me read the script. But the whole auditioning thing was new to me as well, at the time. I had only been in Hollywood for a short time; I’d done a bunch of Roger Corman movies. I’d done a couple of plays. I was doing a play when I got this audition. So I was good on my feet and ready to ad-lib, improv, come up with some stuff.

The limited amount of training I had worked for me and I knew they wanted an intense presence, so I figured out how I create that in the time that they’ve given me. It was one of those situations where I was the right guy at the right time. And Mali Finn, the casting director, was perceptive, and picked up on what I was trying to get her to acknowledge – that I could do it, and I got through her into the next stage, which was the videoing of me improving on these themes that they were giving me. Essentially what you see in the film is what I created in the audition. So I was really, right in sync with it, not having read the script and knowing what the character was – just based on what they were telling me. “You’re sense-aware. You’re tracking.”

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The cool things that I didn’t know about were that they were looking for someone that physically looked like me. They had previously cast Billy Idol. He got injured, and I had been described as a cross between David Bowie and James Dean. And that was a physical thing that Jim was looking for. It was really the way I looked that got their interest. And then all of the stuff that I brought with it – the things that they didn’t know about going in were that I was a physical actor. I was a stunt guy. I’d done a bunch of movies for Roger Corman where I’d done my own stunts, so I was really adept at movement. I had a certain athleticism that lent itself for the role.

The reality is, I seem to recall, as nervous and insecure as i was as an individual, I do recall when I got the audition, that I was going to get it. It was just one of those feelings that you have. I knew it was going to happen, even though I was scared that it wasn’t going to happen, I knew it was going to happen. It was weird. 

DENNIS MUREN: Robert was good. He came up here – that’s actually behind ILM in Orange County. He stripped down, we put a camera on the side of him, so in some shots he had a grid behind him. Steve Williams, the animator, studied that and discovered that he’s got a little gait to him – he moves in a certain way that nobody else does. It was then that we started to realise how incredibly difficult it is to do a person. I don’t think any of us quite knew that before – how one person is different from another. It’s based on their weight and inertia – all sorts of things. But without that gait, it didn’t look like Robert Patrick, and Steve really managed to follow it perfectly so that it looks just like it him.

Robert was great, too. He said, make sure none of these photos get out, because it’ll be very embarrassing!

They were great, because they put the effects shots right at the beginning of the schedule, so maybe the first shot we did was the storm drain, with the T-1000 walking out of the fire. That may have been close to the beginning of what we were doing. Then for the next two or three weeks we got a lot of work. We got the kitchen scene in the kid’s house – we did that right at the beginning. So we had a good bunch of scenes we could go away with and start we working on our shots.

As filming got underway around Los Angeles in the autumn of 1990, the pressure to get the film shot began to build. Besides the deadline, there was the added stress of making sure the live-action shots matched perfectly with the effects that were already being conceived at ILM – for the actors, this meant hitting marks precisely in take after take. For Cameron, a renowned perfectionist, the frustrations were difficult to hide. During production, Cameron’s outbursts – “Damn it! That’s exactly what I didn’t want!” – were so widely joked about that, on the last day of shooting, the crew wore t-shirts with these ‘Cameron-isms’ emblazoned across them.

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STEPHANIE AUSTIN: Throughout the production, we tried to do things… I had the art department print up a roll of bullet hits that were patterned off the bullet hits on the T-1000 effect. Don’t forget that character’s named after me: if you look at him when he’s in his police uniform, it says Austin on his name tag. So we used to do fun things – if [Cameron] would yell at somebody, we’d keep this roll of self-adhesive bullet hits and then put them on their backs. We came up with lots and lots of crazy t-shirts – yes, many of them with sayings of Jim’s. And also at one point, everyone was so exhausted when we working right through the holidays, that we frequently chanted, “T3 without me!”

That was one. I mean, I can still remember Jim calling me up on New Year’s Eve and asking me to meet him out in Fontana at the steel mill set early the next morning on January 1st. It was that kind of atmosphere. Very high stress.

ROBERT PATRICK: It was high stakes. It was a daunting thing. I had to battle my own insecurities. I had to stay committed to what I was going to do – the performance, the physicality. I worked my ass off, I trained four months before, getting into shake with Uzi Gal. We developed on all these themes we’ve discussed. Every time I got in there, stepped up and got on the mark, I had to make sure I knew how the T-1000 would react in all these situations: all the movements. It was like acting under a microscope. There were a lot of frustrating things: marks I had to hit. I had to keep my eyes here [points straight ahead].

“I can’t find the fuckin’ mark because I can’t look at the fuckin’ mark!”

“I know but you gotta hit the mark!”

It was that kind of thing. Being patient. Keeping myself under control. These are the things I remember! It was hard. It was hard but very rewarding. Jim is an intense man, who knows what he wants and he’s gonna get it from you. I wish every actor had the experience of working with a James Cameron, because I’ve never worked with anybody as exact and specific, and really understanding the vision he’s trying to pull off. When we were making that movie, he was my general, he was my commander in chief, and I just said, “Yes sir, no sir.” I just approached it from a military point of view. There was no debate – it was, “Figure out how to fuckin’ do this”. And you do it. And it’s gotta be interesting. Pressure!

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I was scared at a certain point. In my head I was saying, “God, am I doing enough? Is this working?” There was also a part of me that was worried I was gonna get fired! 

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: I think when Robert Patrick came in, his physicality and this perfect translucent skin – he had this otherworldly appearance that really just locked him in immediately. He had developed some ideas about how he would behave as the T-1000, with those darting eyes. He really came in with the whole character. So it wasn’t just his physicality – it was his technique. He was almost like a snake or something.

Patrick took to the T-1000 character to such an extent that he began suggesting ideas for the villain’s distinctive mannerisms – including his habit of running around with his fingers outstretched.

ROBERT PATRICK: My idea was, my hands can be anything, so they’re gonna be blades, so while I’m running, there’s an efficiency to the way I run – and then I want to be able to, if I get there, to just [mimics stabbing me someone in the face with a blade] schmmmlump!

You know, I can put a blade in him. You know what I’m saying? That’s how it came about. That was the performance; it wasn’t me studying dialogue, trying to figure out what’s my emotion here, and where am I going there, and what do I want. It wasn’t that – there’s only one thing I want. I want that fucking kid. And how was I gonna get him? Target acquisition. How do we physically manifest that, and make people understand that that’s all he wants. Everything’s focused on that – every layer of the character. The reason for the head tilt: one, it looks menacing, but two: it creates a forward movement. There’s no distraction, no white noise with this guy. He’s all – whoosh! – right after you. That’s the theme you go with. So every time he takes a hit, he’s right back to the core. That was the fun part about it.

WILL WISHER: We went back to our original idea on The Terminator, which was that he was an infiltration unit, but that was before Arnold was chosen to play the Terminator. He’s so iconic, it was a brilliant decision, but if you think about it logically, a 6’2″ Bavarian bodybuilder is not an infiltration unit. So we went back to his original concept of an average, invisible guy, but then because CG had evolved, we could make a shape-shifting thing and put him in a uniform – to give him authority on the street, that kind of thing. All of that came rather quickly.

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I was initially quite nervous about turning Arnold into the good guy – I think Jim was too, a little anxious. We thought it was a good idea, but then we also realised that by the time we got to T2, he’d made all these lists of best villains ever in cinema. We were gonna just break that and make him a good guy. Intuitively, we thought it was a great idea, but we wondered whether everyone would hate us! [Laughs]

We called Arnold and told him what we had in mind, and he said, I trust you guys, go do it. So we committed to it; we said, yeah, people will like this. This is good.

The production of Terminator 2 went right down to the wire. Even as the 4th July release date approached, the filmmakers were still rendering shots down – the most difficult being the effects sequence where the T-1000 meets its end in a vat of molten steel.

DENNIS MUREN: There were many of them, but maybe that last shot in the film – where he’s bubbling up and boiling. Turning inside out in the molten steel. That took weeks and weeks to render, and the resolution on it – we were trying to make it 2,000 lines across to be able to get the reality right there. I had to do a lot of that at less than 1,000, just to get the render done in time to be in the movie. Some of the frames went down to Silicon Graphics, some of them went to universities across the country, you know. We had connections with render farms here, render farms there, and then we could put all those frames together to get that shot. It was a nightmare, that one.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: When you have a July 4th release, many of these effects took months and months and months to render. Really, it was trying to perfect each one of these visual effects shots, which of course multiply like bites over the course of the production. On no film can you predict exactly where you gonna need to change your original concept. 

DENNIS MUREN: The original CG look for the chrome guy looked terrible. Jim said he wanted him to look absolutely perfect – clean and everything, and flexible and changing shape. And I just thought, no, you don’t want that, because it’s not going to look real. You never see that in real life – it’s going to look like an effect. So I went in and muddied it up a little bit, so that the surface isn’t 100 percent reflective. The light’s scattering, it’s a little dirty, so even looks reflective and perfectly clean, if you look at it closely, it’s really not at all. That’s what anchors it into the shot.

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You see it a lot in movies, where CG doesn’t look right, because they didn’t understand the importance of all those things that go into making something real.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: There were certainly moments during the production when I got those phone calls saying, “What on Earth are you doing?” [Laughs]

I can remember, around the Christmas holidays, and we had put together three reels to show Mario, so we took that into the Carolco screening room and we were under tremendous pressure. There was much talk of how we were going to trim stuff and how we were gonna cut this back, and where do we save money. It was very, very difficult, and very tense. We showed them the three reels of the picture, and as we walked out of the screening room, Mario turned to Jim and I and he said, “Wow. I guess it’s worth it. But how did you ever spend this amount of money?”And Jim just said, as quick as you like, “Oh, I don’t know. Ask her!” [Laughs] As if he had nothing to do with anything! It was pretty funny.

BRAD FIEDEL: The T-1000 was a crazy sample of a room full of brass players warming up and just playing. It sounded like craziness. It sounded like a bunch of brass players went in a studio and you told them, “You’re an insane asylum. You’re a Bedlam of instruments.” That’s what the sample sounded like. And then I took it down into a speed and a pitch that was not recognisable. When I played it to Jim, or trying to describe it, it sounds like a weird machine room somewhere, but with monks. Like, artificial intelligent monks chanting in a weird chapel or something. And actually, it’s so atonal and avant garde, when I first played it for Jim, he said, “That’s too avant garde for me, I’m not into avant garde”. Right? And I said, “Well, you know Jim, you’re creating something that people have never seen before, and it ought to sound like something people have never heard before to support that.” 

Rarely can you do that. Jim hears something and he likes it or he doesn’t like it. But that one, I was able to kind of help him into accepting it – let’s put it that way.

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: We were rendering these effects up until maybe two days before. We were sleeping on the floor of the laboratory at the film lab, because we were on 24-hour shifts. [Consolidated Film Industries] was an unusual choice because they were a smaller lab, but Jim really liked the timer there – so yeah, we were doing round-the-clock shifts and sleeping there, and the president of CFI actually offered us his office, so that’s where we all slept, on the floor. We’d get up in the wee hours to see another timing. Yes, we were all on edge, and some of this stuff was being delivered literally at the last minute.

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MARIO KASSAR: We got the print to the theatres the night before – I mean, everything was at the last minute, but it worked out. 

STEPHANIE AUSTIN: We had two screenings, one was a kind of a family and friends screening that we had up on George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, where we were mixing, and that screening was so successful, with people standing and clapping. But it was family and friends – it was people who worked at the ranch. It gave us a good indication. But when we had the first screening down in LA for the studio, with a public audience – cast and crew, executives, etcetera – that screening tells you immediately. I’ve rarely been in a room where there was that much enthusiasm. People were stamping their feet and clapping for ten or 15 minutes. Cheering and clapping. It was so wildly enthusiastic, and also, literally, people are looking around going, “We really pulled this off.” You know?

MARIO KASSAR: People were flabbergasted by the whole movie. Everything fit together so perfectly – the effects weren’t just spaceships flying around and laser beams. They were what I call organic special effects, and they were amazingly good. It’s perfect.

After that, a lot of special effects started copying [Terminator 2]. Obviously, Star Wars is a different kind of thing, but what James is good at is using effects to tell a story – not just for show. In a lot of movies, you have the same old story pumped up with effects and loud music to cover it up, so it looks like you have something out of this world.

ROBERT PATRICK: Look, it blows my mind that people still recognise me from the movie. It blows my mind, the impact it’s had on people. Because, you know, I am who I am, and I played that part, and so I have all my shit, but to see how that’s affected people, and to meet people, it’s really rewarding. But I’ve had police officers that look like me that are proud of that fact! I don’t deserve it, you know what I mean? It’s too much for me to even comprehend.

DENNIS MUREN: The thing that people don’t think about is, when you go to make a movie, when you do the live-action part of a movie, we’re all trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. The actors are trying it, the directors are trying it, the camera guy’s trying to do it. I don’t think you’ll find any kind of computer program that’s going to try to do something that hasn’t been done before, unless you get into AI of some sort, and then who knows what the heck you’re going to get? It’s always going to be people pushing it, or you’re going to get a copy of what you’ve seen before.

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WILLIAM WISHER: I think that’s why people responded to it so well, even if it’s only on an unconscious level – once Arnold and John Connor and Sarah are united, so to speak, these shots of them driving down the highway in the desert, it’s really kind of a weird, fractured family. Sarah’s this emotionally compromised character.

On one hand she loves her son, but she also knows that the universe has fated him to be the rebel leader of an army that will defeat Skynet, so she’s gotta toughen him up. She can’t just… one of my favourite bits is when, right after the escape from the Pescadero [Institution], Sarah reaches around into the back seat where John is, and at first he thinks she’s hugging him. Which is the thing he wants the most in the world! And then he realises, no, her hands are moving over him to check to see if he’s been injured. The look on his face is just, “Oh my God! I thought that was a hug! I’m never gonna get one from you!” All of that is really good, emotional stuff, and I think it’s that that makes the surrounding action [work]. Because if you don’t care about the people, then it doesn’t matter how big the explosion is, it’ll be boring, you know?

So that’s always been my theory: if you’re going to do an action film, what you’re really making is a dramatic film with themes that are universal, and matter, and then you surround that with car chases and gunshots. And then people care. At heart, it’s a dramatic film. T2 is not an action film in my mind – even though there’s plenty of action in it.

Terminator 2 Judgment Day is out now on 4k UHD (including Blu-Ray), 3D Blu-ray (including Blu-ray), Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.