Actor Michael Biehn (The Terminator, The Abyss, Tombstone) is returning to his childhood state of Nebraska on Friday night May 24th, for a screening of James Cameron’s Aliens, in which he starred as Corporal Hicks alongside Sigourney Weaver. Film historian Bruce Crawford is presenting the film in Omaha at Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Hall as a benefit to raise money for the Nebraska Kidney Foundation. It will be Biehn’sfirst visit back to the state since he moved from Lincoln when he was fourteen.
Biehn appeared on KGOR’s Mornings with Montez and Shari Show to promote the event and shared stories of making The Terminator with director James Cameron, a relationship which led to his role in Aliens a few years later.
“People ask me all the time if I knew The Terminator was going to be a hit. Actually, it had everything going against it,” Biehnsaid. “My agent called and said they were going to send over a script called The Terminator. I asked who was directing and they said Jim Cameron. I said ‘Who’s Jim Cameron?’ and they said he works with Roger Corman alot, who was known at the time as the King of the B and C movies, and that Jim was the director of Pirahna 2 but had been fired. I asked who was producing and they said Gale Anne Hurd and I said ‘Who’s Gale Anne Hurd?’and was told that she works with Roger Cormanalot too. I’m thinking this is not sounding good. I asked if there were any actors attached to it and was told Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the time he was nobody. He was Mr. Universe and he had done Conan the Barbarian. I asked what it was about. I was told it was about a man from the future who fights against the machines who have taken over, who then comes back in time to fight a Terminator who is chasing a woman who works at Bob’s Big Boy. Anybody who tells you that they read that script and told you that they thought it was going to be a hit—it’s just not true.”
Biehn ultimately decided to take the part. “I looked at the character of Kyle Reese and thought I could play it and not get too hurt if the movie was silly. He was so tough and at the same time he had this heart of gold and there was a nice love story. I thought if they could pull this off there might be something.”
Schwarzenegger’s option for the Conan sequel Conan the Destroyer got picked up which led to a 3-month delay on production of The Terminator. Biehn got to spend those three months with James Cameron and special effects wizard (and Terminator designer) Stan Winston. “Once I got down to the studio and I saw how passionate Jim was and I got to see all of the designs—from that point on I knew the film wasn’t going to be an embarrassing as I thought it would be.”
When the film was finally released in 1984, it did respectable box office business, earning around $40 million on a $6.5 million budget. But it was not in the Top 20 box office hits of the year. Biehn said he thinks most people discovered it on VHS.
Biehn believes that it was the critical and commercial success of Aliens in 1986, and its seven Academy Award nominations,which led people to look back at The Terminator in a different light. “It got pretty negative reviews when it came out. Siskeland Ebert gave it two thumbs down. Now if you look on Rotten Tomatoes, it has 100% positive reviews.”
What was the highlight of making for him? “Doing the love scene with Linda Hamilton,” Biehn laughed. “Actually I think that’s one of the reasons the film works so well—it’s got a beautiful love story. You don’t often see that in an action movie.”