Most Terminator fans know that James Cameron originally intended a different ending for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, referred to as the future coda. This original filmed conclusion shows a brighter future thanks to the T-800 Model 101, featuring an old Sarah Connor reflecting about a Judgment Day that never occurred, and her son John Connor fighting a different fight now, as a U.S. Senator.
But after a test screening resulted in almost a universal negative audience response to this happier ending, Cameron relented to studio pressure and quickly put together a makeshift replacement ending that contained reused footage taken from the heroes’ approach to Cyberdyne earlier in the film (plus a Linda Hamilton voice over recording.) James Cameron later conceded his original ending for T2 was not the right one.
While promoting the 3D theatrical re-release of T2, writer & director James Cameron revisited this ending change while talking to the Gazeta, and recounted the small amount of time he had left to do it in.
JAMES CAMERON: According to the script, at the end of the film we saw Linda, 62, all in make-up. But the viewer was definitely not morally ready to see the 62-year-old Sarah Connor. Now I understand that if you decide to show a character in (old) makeup, you need to say something about it somewhere at the beginning of the movie, and then live the life of this character on the screen with her. You can not suddenly take (the character) and grow her old at the last second, even if the make-up is done masterfully – thanks to Stan Winston.
JAMES CAMERON: “But anyway, Mario and Andy (the producers of T2) did not like this finale, and they persuaded me to come up with a new one. The final footage of the highway going nowhere was added in the editing studio just the next day. I asked for the very same shots from the highway in fact, this is the very beginning of the scene, in which the camera vertically pans and shows the building of Cyberdyne (that you see earlier in the movie). Look at the final shots of the film, then rewind – it’s all the same frames.In general, either I had to use these eight seconds of the highway, or I needed to use something else, but there was no time left for it.
JAMES CAMERON: Now I needed to come up with a narration that would fit in these eight seconds. After several attempts that did not fit timing-wise, I found the phrase which ends with “If a machine, a terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” I called Linda Hamilton and dictated it to her on the phone. She was sitting at the recording studio in Los Angeles at that moment. We did not even have time to bring her to our post-production studio near San Francisco. She immediately wrote down this phrase, and we put it in the sound track. In general, we had only two or three days to come up with that ending.”
And we are so happy he did.
We’ll be back.