OJ Simpson Was Up For ‘The Terminator’ And Lost It Because They Didn’t Think He Was ‘A Killing Machine’


O.J. Simpson, the former American football player celebrated for his remarkable career as a running back in the NFL, achieved fame for his record-breaking performances with the Buffalo Bills and later with the San Francisco 49ers. Beyond sports, Simpson also made a mark in the entertainment industry as an actor, particularly during the ’70s and ’80s. He garnered attention for his roles in notable films like The Towering Inferno and the beloved The Naked Gun franchise.

In a previous interview, Arnold Schwarzenegger disclosed that Simpson, who recently passed away on Wednesday, April 10th, following a fierce battle with prostate cancer, was considered for the iconic role of the Terminator in James Cameron’s groundbreaking film of the same name. Ultimately, the role went to Schwarzenegger, propelling him to superstardom and forever intertwining his name with the iconic cyborg character.


OJ Simpson was initially in talks to play ‘The Terminator’

NFL LIVE, O.J. Simpson, 1991-, ©NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

During a 2019 interview with The Independent, Schwarzenegger disclosed that the late actor was initially billed to play the iconic role. However, despite Simpson being the first choice for the role, the director, James Cameron, harbored doubts about Simpson’s ability to embody the character. “it was actually O.J. Simpson that was the first-cast Terminator,” he told the news outlet. “Somehow [James Cameron] felt that he was not as believable for a killing machine. So then they hired me. That’s really what happened.”


RELATED: As OJ Simpson Turns 76, He Believes He Is ‘ Dying In Plain Sight’ And ‘The End Is Near’

The 76-year-old further stated that Simpson was very involved in the original production to the extent that the director even had his face as the concept for the movie’s artwork. “On the painting that I have at home – it was painted by Jim Cameron. Underneath my face is actually OJ Simpson’s face. It was already painted on it, with the leather jacket and the gun in the hand,” Schwarzenegger added. “I have the painting in my office. So if anyone would ever scrape off the part of my face, underneath will be OJ.”

TERMINATOR 2 : JUDGMENT DAY, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1991

James Cameron debunks claims that OJ Simpson was ever considered for the role

In a subsequent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Cameron refuted Schwarzenegger’s assertions regarding Simpson’s initial casting in the film. He explicitly dismissed any comments attributed to him regarding the artwork mentioned in the conversation. “Let me correct that right now, Arnold is literally just wrong. I know it’s hard to imagine! You don’t argue with Arnold,” Cameron admitted. “I didn’t make the painting for him. I made the painting for us, for the production, of him as the Terminator. There’s no OJ under that painting. OJ Simpson was never in the mix at all. That was rejected out of hand before it ever got any traction.”

WHO IS AMERICA?, O.J. Simpson, (Season 1, Episode 107, aired August 26, 2018), ph: ©Showtime / courtesy Everett Collection

The director later explained exactly how the conversation about Simpson came to be in the first place while appearing in a 2023 episode of Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? “Very early on, a highly placed person at one of the two studios that funded that film had a brilliant idea and called me up and said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ I said, ‘Well, no, I’m not.’ He said, ‘Are you sitting? O.J. Simpson for the Terminator!’” Cameron confessed. ‘”I said, ‘I actually think that’s a bad idea,’ it didn’t go anywhere.”

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