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Arnold Schwarzenegger defined what it was to be The Terminator in the original film back in 1984. Since then, other actors have joined the franchise and created different kinds of Terminators, but Arnold is still the gold standard. Arnold plays one of two Terminators in the new film Dark Fate, but as the expert he also had a significant influence in how Gabriel Luna played the brand new Terminator.
Luna recently told Men's Health that he looked to Arnold for advice on how to play the role of the emotionless killing machine, and while Schwarzenegger mostly wanted Luna to create the new role himself, he did offer some tips, make everything look easy, and don't blink. According to Luna...
I only asked him once, when we were in the gym, and he let it be known to me that he wanted me to create something of my own. But what he was able to offer when I pressed him a little further was that it’s effortless. Everything has to be done in an effortless way. When you fire a weapon, you fire it from the hip—there’s no reason to look down the sight [of your gun], because you have a target already, in your eyes.?.?.?. No blinking, just automatic gunfire.
The simple fact that a Terminator doesn't need to aim a gun in a traditional way, because the machine is able to do the aiming internally, makes perfect sense, and goes a long way to explaining all the other things that a Terminator can do without it ever looking like it's working hard.
However, the minor detail that the Terminator doesn't blink while firing was apparently a much bigger deal for Arnold than you might expect. It was apparently one of the rules set out in the very first Terminator film that the machine would not blink. Though Arnold admits that it's actually difficult to pull off.
The no blinking is very difficult to do. In the first movie, we made mistakes where I did blink.
Apparently, if you go back and look at the first movie and the scene where Arnold kicks in a door before shooting one of the other women named Sarah Conner, you'll see that he does blink, though he doesn't in the rest of the film. Maybe that's why he spends so much of the movie in sunglasses.
However, when Terminator 2: Judgment Day came along, Arnold was dedicated to not making any more mistakes, saying...
And then when we got to the second movie, I said to Jim [Cameron], ‘There’s no room for mistakes. There will be no blinking, ever.’
It's this dedication to getting the Terminator just right that ultimately is what led to Arnold Schwarzenegger getting the role in the first place. Originally, Arnold was going to play the hero Kyle Reese in the first movie, but director James Cameron realized the actor had given such thought to playing the machine that it's the role he should be playing. According to Arnold...
I got fixated on the Terminator. He’s a machine. So everything has to be matter-of-fact. I told Jim that. I said there should be no joy, no gratification, no kind of victory lap of any sort. Just the mission, complete. I go through these points. Jim, afterward, says to me, ‘Fuck, you analyze it better than the way I have written it. Why don’t you play the Terminator?’
It was certainly the right call. The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like a walking brick wall made the Terminator that much more terrifying. It's unlikely anybody else would have felt that way up against Arnold as the hero.
Arnold returns as the Terminator, though also one of the good guys, in Terminator: Dark Fate November 1.