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Arnold Schwarzenegger And James Cameron Clashed Over Famous ‘Terminator’ Line

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Hundreds of thousands of words in the English language, and just three can transport the listener instantly. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “I’ll be back” as the Terminator is one of the most enduring moments in film history – and it almost never was, as he and director James Cameron found themselves at odds regarding how the simple sentence should be uttered.

The Terminator was released in 1984 and kicked off a sprawling franchise with an impact on pop culture that’s felt to this day, with Skynet still representing an ominous opposing force audiences can reference still. It helped perpetuate Schwarzenegger’s film career and gave him some remarkably memorable moments. However, Schwarzenegger and Cameron never anticipated “I’ll be back” being among those famous scenes – after all their bickering, that is.

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James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger share the truth behind the famous “I’ll be back” line

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron argued about how to say his I’ll be back line / ©Orion Pictures Corporation/Courtesy Everett Collection

Netflix has a new docuseries, Arnold, a three-part program already available on the streaming platform. It is broken up into sections titled “Athlete,” “Actor,” and “American.” Discussing his film career, Schwarzenegger provided insights into the revolutionary Terminator and the creative process that went into every word and intonation.

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“Sometime in the middle of the shoot, we’re doing this police station scene. The line is, ‘I’ll come back.’ It wasn’t meant to be like a big moment at all,” shared director Cameron. “It was literally meant to be, on its face, ‘No problem, I’ll come back.’ For some reason, Arnold didn’t say, ‘I’ll come back.’ I said, ‘Well, just say ‘I’ll be back.’ Keep it simple.”

Schwarzenegger, however, had his own creative vision and thought he should say “I will be back” in a machine-like manner. Cameron wanted the contraction. Schwarzenegger remembered Cameron asking him, “Are you the writer?”

“And I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Well, don’t tell me how to f—ing write.'”

A career that’s included a bit of everything

Schwarzenegger’s transition from bodybuilder to movie star was not a clear one. “It’s a weird adjustment to go from bodybuilding to becoming an actor,” admitted Schwarzenegger. He had even been told his Austrian accent could be a huge deterrent among American audiences, sabotaging his dreams of movie stardom.

JAMES CAMERON’S STORY OF SCIENCE FICTION, (aka AMC VISIONARIES: JAMES CAMERON’S STORY OF SCIENCE FICTION), from left: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, (Season 1, premieres April 30, 2018). photo: Michael Moriatis / ©AMC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Then along came Conan the Barbarian. It was not his film debut – that designation belongs to Hercules in New York – but it did continue the trend of embracing both Schwarzenegger’s uniquely towering, muscled physique and his accent, making him not just qualified for the role, but perfect for it too.

What is your favorite iconic line by the Governator?

CONAN THE DESTROYER, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1984, ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

RELATED: Meet Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Five Children Who Have All Gone On To Be Successful

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