“I’ll be back” remains Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most notorious movie line. The former bodybuilder and governor of California rose to superstardom after his role in the massively successful film, The Terminator, but nobody saw it coming.
Schwarzenegger himself wasn’t too moved by several of his lines, including his signature catchphrase. Luckily, he listened to director James Cameron and delivered it in his full-on, Austrian accent, and became immortalized by the phrase.
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t like his ‘I’ll be back’ line in ‘The Terminator’
Although it’s by far the most infamous line of his career today, Schwarzenegger wasn’t a big fan of his trademark phrase in The Terminator. For whatever reason, it didn’t feel right rolling off his tongue.
“When I read the ‘I’ll be back’ line I said to Jim Cameron, I said, ‘To me it sounds weird when I say I’ll be back,’” Schwartzenegger told GQ. “Then he says, ‘How would you say it?’ And I said, ‘I will be back.’ And he says, ‘No, I think it sounds better, ‘I’ll be back.’”
Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron couldn’t see eye to eye on the line
Before long, the disagreement over the line became a back and forth between Schwarzenegger and Cameron about their professions. However, Schwarzenegger relented and decided to do things Cameron’s way.
“I said, ‘But it’s more machine-like if you say, ‘I will be back,’” Schwartzenegger continued. “He said, ‘Look, I don’t correct your acting, don’t correct my writing, ok?’ And that was it.”
Cameron made sure to emphasize that they could do as many takes as they wanted until they found a version of the line they both liked.
“And so he says, ‘Look we just say it 10 times in a row,” Schwarzenegger said. “‘We just say it, and say it, and say it, and then we get it right and then we can pick one or the other. I understand that you don’t feel comfortable with the I’ll and all this, but let’s just shoot it. And so that’s what they did.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger was shocked by the popularity of the line
Even though Cameron had supreme confidence in both his writing and the potential of the film, Schwarzenegger had doubts. He didn’t love his role, and couldn’t see why anyone would love the phrase.
“First of all, I thought it was a clumsy role of mine, and number two, I, of course, had no idea that anyone would ever repeat it, period.”
Once the movie came out and fans kept approaching him, asking him to repeat the line, Schwarzenegger realized how impactful the line was.
“It was amazing the excitement that you saw amongst people when I said this line. And then more and more as they start picking up and other people started using it, and now I think it became the most used line ever in the movie history.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger credits his delivery for the line’s popularity
Regardless of Cameron’s confidence in the line, Schwarzenegger believes a bit part of its popularity lies in his style of delivery.
“I think that we don’t know ahead of time … I think that it’s a lot of times the way I say it, but I don’t think you ever know when you look at the script that this line will be repeated very often.”