Personal project – illustrating the Fourth Draft of the ” TERMINATOR ”
The initial screenplay draft, written sometime in 1983 by James Cameron, went through a few minor rewrites. The original idea for the titular robotic killer was to cast someone of average physique, anonymous face in the crowd who could blend in, hence the ‘infiltrator’ aspect mentioned in the film. The characterization was left up to the actor.
According to a number of documentaries and interviews, Lance Henriksen was cast in the role initially. Cast and crew anecdotes relay that he spooked quite a few people with his antics while getting into character, such as climbing around the building fire escapes in Venice Beach, and staring wordlessly at the onlookers. Henriksen envisioned the Terminator behaving akin to a praying mantis, silently stalking with an unnerving eerie presence and insect-like patience. Ultimately it would have been a portrayal with less raw brawn and more creep factor – until he would get up after being shot, shrug off being stabbed, and casually overpower bigger men who look like they should be the ones doing the damage. Sounds pretty groovy, doesn’t it?
Here I attempt to travel back in time so to speak, and conjure up some imagery of what that film may have looked like.
The draft in its entirety can be found here:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- EXT. SCHOOLYARD - NIGHT Silence. Gradually the sound of distant traffic becomes audible. A LOW ANGLE bounded on one side by a chain-link fence and on the other by the one-story public school buildings. Spray-can hieroglyphics and distant streetlight shadows. This is a Los Angeles public school in a blue collar neighborhood.
ANGLE BETWEEN SCHOOL BUILDINGS, where a trash dumpster looms in a LOW ANGLE, part of the clutter behind the gymnasium. A CAT enters FRAME. CAMERA DOLLIES FORWARD, prowling with him through the landscape of trash receptacles and shadows. CLOSE ON CAT, which freezes, alert, sensing something just beyond human perception.
A sourceless wind rises, and with it a keening WHINE. Papers blow across the pavement. The cat YOWLS and hides under the dumpster. Windows rattle in their frames.
The WHINE intensifies, accompanied now by a wash of frigid PURPLE LIGHT. A CONCUSSION like a thunderclap right over- head blows in all the windows facing the yard.
EXT. SCHOOLYARD - NIGHT 2 SLOW PAN as the sound of stray electrical CRACKLING subsides. FRAME comes to rest on the figure of a NAKED MAN kneeling, faced away, in the previously empty yard.
He stands, slowly. The man is in his late thirties, tall and powerfully built, moving with graceful precision. (*Earlier drafts describe an averagely built man in good shape, which is closer to Henriksen than Schwarzenegger, so please excuse the incongruity) C.U. - MAN, his facial features reiterate the power of his body and are dominated by the eyes, which are intense, blue and depthless. His hair is military short.* (I omitted this for artistic reasons*) This man is the TERMINATOR.
CRANE SHOT - SCHOOLYARD/CITY - NIGHT 2A/FX CAMERA MOVES UP as Terminator approaches the schoolyard fence beyond which is an embankment rolling down in darkness to the cityscape below. The school is perched at the edge of a pro- montory offering a respectable view of the urban sprawl teem- ing and glistening under a sullen sky. The night clouds are shot through with occasional flashes of LIGHTNING, presaging a thunderstorm.
WIDE as the CLERK, who looks like a sick lizard, pallid and paunchy, takes the rifle from a wall rack. He lays it beside the arsenal of perfectly legal anti-human artillery already on the glass counter. Terminator scans expressionlessly for additional selec- tions. CLERK Anything else?
75 INT. BEDROOM 75 TIGHT ON MATT, as his eyes open at the sound of a quiet, repeated CLICKING. UP ANGLE - PAST MATT, as the five-inch blade of an industrial razor-knife reaches full extension in Terminator's hand, right above him. It slashes viciously downward. Matt rolls and the pillow is SLIT OPEN where his throat had been. MATT Whoah! Terminator catches him by the hair and slashed down again. Matt grabs the wrist in both hands. The enormous muscles of his arms, which seem capable of bench pressing a Chrysler, strain and knot against the pressure of the killer's single arm... And still the blade moves closer to his throat.
Project is in progress, stay tuned for more!
Below are various designs, logos, poster and book cover mockups – click on the images to view fullsize: