One of the most iconic lines in ‘80s action movies is Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 Terminator, decked out in leather jacket and sunglasses, telling an unimpressed cop that “I’ll be back.” As it turns out, though, Schwarzenegger wasn’t happy with it, and lobbied Terminator’s director and co-writer James Cameron to go for the slightly different, “I will be back.”
Helpfully supplying a bit of trivia that can easily be weaponized to annoy anyone going to see the new Terminator with one of the series’ die-hard fans, Arnold discussed the surprisingly contentious line as part of a recent GQ interview about his most famous roles.
“When I read the ‘I’ll be back’ line, I said to Jim Cameron, I said, to me it sounds weird when I say ‘I’ll be back,’” Schwarzenegger recalls. “He says, ‘How would you say it?’” and Arnold says he thought it would “sound better” if it went “I will be back” instead. Cameron disagreed, though Schwarzenegger insisted it sounded “more machine-like” his way. “[Cameron] says, ‘look, you don’t correct my writing, I don’t correct your acting,’” Arnold continues, adding that the director allowed multiple takes of both versions to see which one sounded better.
“First of all, I thought it was a clumsy line and number two, I of course had no idea that anyone would ever repeat it,” he says. Schwarzenegger details the people who then started coming up and asking him to say the line the way it was in the movie. Eventually, he relented. Looking back on how popular the phrase became, Arnold says it wasn’t expected at all: “Even when I said ‘Hasta la vista, baby…Maybe the way I say it makes it kind of unique,” he continues, then graciously goes on to recite the pronunciation of some other Arnold classics like Kindergarten Cop’s “It’s not a too-mah!” and Predator’s “Get to the chop-ahh!”
The decision not to go with the longer version of the line may seem like a small thing, but consider the ripple effect. What would modern culture look like if Schwarzenegger had his way? Would we all do away with our beloved contractions, ushering in whole new form of modern English slang? Study the rest of the video, which includes Arnold’s thoughts on his work in everything from Pumping Iron and Conan The Barbarian to Total Recall, True Lies, and Jingle All The Way, to imagine other alternate realities that could’ve been if Arnold’s whims went other ways over decades past.
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