Arnold Schwarzenegger is 70 years old today, and throughout his life the brawny Austrian has had so many successful careers it’s almost dizzying. He won Mr. Universe back in 1969, served as the 38th governor of California, and has starred in what seems like a limitless number of movies. However, for all his accomplishments, the actor is best known for three small words: “I’ll be back.” (Cue the car crash.)
It’s been over 32 years since audiences were blown away by The Terminator after its release in theaters in 1984. Since then, fans have obsessed over Schwarzenegger’s role as the cyborg assassin, skyrocketing Arnold and his simple line into superstardom. In fact, the two are so famous, “I’ll be back” has been ranked as the 37th best movie line of all time and Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of the Terminator landed him solidly as the 22nd best villain of all time by the American Film Institute.
But surprisingly, the famous phrase wasn’t originally written that way in the script. Director and writer James Cameron’s originally scripted line was actually, “I’ll come back” instead of “I’ll be back.”
Cameron eventually changed the line into how it’s known today, but Schwarzenegger got a little nervous about his Austrian accent and wanted to change the line once again. In 2012, the actor admitted in a GMA interview, “I could not pronounce ‘I’ll,’ so I just kept saying to Jim Cameron maybe I should just say, “I will be back.” I said it sounds more like a machine.”
But Cameron didn’t take kindly to the actor’s pitch, and the two had it out on set. Cameron put the argument to bed by demanding Schwarzenegger just read the script, and the rest is history.
All the drama was worth it in the end. Together Cameron and Schwarzenegger created a pop-culture phenomenon that has permeated beyond the Terminator franchise. “I’ll be back” has made cameos in numerous movies, including Commando (1985), The Running Man (1987), Last Action Hero (1993), and even Expendables 2 (2012), just to name a few. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that even after all these years the line is still alive outside of the movies as well. In his commencement speech to the University of Houston class of 2017, Schwarzenegger reprised his famous line to wild applause (Jump to 21:50 to see moment).
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