It’s not every day that you get to speak to one of your heroes but that’s pretty much how everyone at loaded feels about William Wisher, one half of the writing duo behind Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
As sequels go, few compare to T2, which saw James Cameron and Wisher deliver a movie that was bigger and better than the original in almost every conceivable way.
Don’t get us wrong: Terminator is a seminal slice of ground-breaking sci-fi and a historic film expertly made by a young filmmaker operating on a shoestring budget. But, as big-budget blockbuster sequels go, Terminator 2 takes some beating, from the memorable performances through to the equally imaginative action set-pieces and special effects.
It’s all underpinned by a script that’s the right mix of heady action and intelligent science fiction storytelling and we’ve got Wisher and Cameron to thank for that.
With Terminator 2 Judgment Day out now on 4k UHD Blu-Ray, 3D BLU-RAY , BLU-RAY, DVD and digital download, loaded spoke to Wisher about writing the sequel to one of the 1980s best movies, what the future holds for Terminator and where the idea for the T-1000 first came from.
loaded: How did you end up co-writing Terminator 2?
William: Jim Cameron and I met when we were teenagers after he moved to the US from Canada so I had known him a long time. Jim written the treatment for Terminator was but asked me to write a couple of scenes – the police station scene and some of the early Sarah Connor scenes.
Because I was familiar with the characters and because there was a time constraint that meant he had to write Terminator 2 in something like six-and-a-half weeks, he called me and said ‘Hey T2 is on, do you want to write it with me?’ and I said yes straight away.
loaded: What was the biggest challenge you guys faced when it came to writing the movie?
William: The biggest challenge was a philosophical one: Why are we doing this? In other words, if you are just going to make a sequel to make money, go do something else.
So, we felt like we needed to take the story and complete it. Now, you can try and complete a story and say ‘okay, we are going to answer all the questions fans have and close out this thing’ but you know in the back of your mind they can make 25 sequels if they feel like it but our idea was to complete the story.
We asked ourselves where these characters would be? We decided Sarah Connor would probably have ended up in a mental institution after the first movie while the young John Connor would be in foster care. Then we had to come up with what would be a good villain because the idea of having an Arnold fight and Arnold was instantly boring to us. We wanted to change it up and make Arnold the good guy.
These became reasons to us to make us feel we were totally justified in making a sequel that would be completely different but also touch on the original story while also closing out the story.
loaded: Where did the idea for the T-1000 originate from?
William: When Jim wrote the original treatment for Terminator, the idea was that the Terminator would be an infiltration unit. This was before Arnold was cast of course, but the idea was that he would be this very average looking person who could easily move through society without being noticed.
Then when it came to T2 and Arnold was this iconic character, we decided to go back to Jim’s original idea of this everyman villain. The liquid terminator thing just seemed like a really good idea plus we could actually do it – in the intervening seven years between the two films, computer graphics had come along and meant it was actually possible to do this stuff.
We tried to ask ourselves: what would be the opposite to the hard technology of Arnold and the answer was soft technology, so we decided to make him a shape shifter. We spoke with Industrial Light & Magic and basically, we would pitch all these ideas and they would always say yes and they always delivered. The T-1000 came out of trying to find a different kind of villain that Arnold could fight who could be formidable but quite different.
loaded: Were there any scenes in the original script that you liked which didn’t make the final cut?
William: Once we finished the script, Jim went out and shot that script. A few scenes were cut for various reasons but one scene I liked that didn’t make the cut was when they are in the garage and they take out Arnold’s CPU and change it from ‘read’ to ‘write’ so he is able to learn. That’s been restored in some of the director’s cuts though, so I am happy that made it. Nothing was changed or rewritten on set though.
loaded: You were previously in talks about writing another Terminator sequel – what happened with that and what direction do you think the next instalment should take?
William: I don’t want to second guess what they are going to do. There was a brief period in time after Terminator 4 where MCG contacted me about doing the next two. He wasn’t as happy with the film as he had hoped to be and wanted some ideas. One of the main ideas I had was that they should un-kill Sarah Connor. Also, let’s take the story to the final future battle and wrap the story up.
Then there was a big lawsuit that had nothing to do with any of us and then that all went away. I don’t know what they are doing with Terminator 6. I know Linda Hamilton and Arnold are both back but I’m not involved in it. James Cameron and Tim Miller are though and it’s going to be great.
loaded: Do you think Terminator 2 merits inclusion in discussions about the best sequels of all-time?
William: A lot of the people over the intervening years have told me they consider it among the best sequels they have ever seen. I think it’s in that conversation in terms of sequels that surpass the original. We caught lightning in a bottle. A lot of things can go wrong on films like this but fortunately they didn’t for us.