O. J. Simpson as the Terminator?
In EW’s oral history of the 1984 sci-fi classic, director James Cameron recalls his reaction when Orion Pictures proposed the retired NFL superstar as the lethal killing machine from the future. “[Orion chief Mike] Medavoy came to me and [producer Gale Anne Hurd] and he said, ‘Are you sitting down? You must sit down. I want O.J. Simpson for the Terminator. Gale and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘You’ve got to be f- - -ing kidding me. How do we get out of this?”
“That did come out of my mouth,” Medavoy says. “At the time, O.J. Simpson had one of those commercials for Hertz where he jumped over a counter and ran to get a rental car. It was all of that athletic stuff, which I thought the Terminator should have.” Medavoy was serious enough in his thinking about Simpson that he approached eventual Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger with the offer of playing the brave soldier from the future, ultimately played by Michael Biehn. “Medavoy came up to me at a screening and told me that they already had the Terminator cast with O.J. Simpson,” says the former California governor.
“I don’t think it went any further than that, I don’t think we went beyond the idea,” Medavoy says, adding, “Jim didn’t like the idea at all.”
Interestingly, it was Simpson’s pleasant persona that turned off Cameron. “This was when everybody loved him, and ironically that was part of the problem—he was this likable, goofy, kind of innocent guy. Plus, frankly, I wasn’t interested in an African-American man chasing around a white girl with a knife.”
After more Hertz commercials and comic parts in the The Naked Gun and its sequel, Simpson, of course, would gain infamy in 1994 when he stood trial for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson was ultimately acquitted of the murders, though a civil court later awarded a wrongful death judgment against him.
Cameron laughs when considering the irony. “We might have reconsidered after he had killed his wife.”