Arts & Entertainment

THE TERMINATOR Arm and Eye Repair Breakdown

James Cameron

Lesson time 13:02 min

James shares the low-budget tricks he developed to create realistic moments when the Terminator performs surgery on himself.

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Topics include: Realistic Low-Budget Practical Effects


[MUSIC PLAYING] JAMES CAMERON: Arnold Schwarzenegger sucked up a whole bunch of our budget. What we had left to make the movie wasn't a lot. It was around-- around, as I said, around $4 million for a-- for a pretty ambitious film of a lot of big action sequences. And, as anybody knows, night street photography can be expensive, big action sequences are expensive, big stunts are expensive. Visual effects, creating a future world is expensive, and doing prosthetic makeup can be expensive. But, you know, I also knew that it could be done on a shoestring because I'd worked for Roger Corman for a few years and we'd done all that stuff. So, once again, the key was preparation. So clearly these storyboards were drawn in that-- in that six-month interval after I knew I had Arnold and I had time to plan. So this is clearly-- Arnold has been-- his likeness has been incorporated into the storyboards. So he enters the room. He's a shadowy figure. He turns on the light. We see the effect of Reese's firing back at him and the car chase and the crash and everything. His eye has been smashed, it's swollen shut. We're starting to realize that he's partially biological, that he's a cyborg. And-- but we don't know exactly why he's-- we don't know yet why he's bulletproof. We don't know he has this-- we don't know that he has this endoskeleton inside him. We just know that he seems to be kind of bulletproof, but we don't know why. And we're being led to believe that he's a biological organism. He's bleeding, he's swollen, and so on. So it's-- in a funny way, it's kind of a misdirect. So he sits down, he looks at a place where his arm was hit by Reese's 12-gauge shotgun. And he's prepared himself in advance in case he needs repairs. He reaches over, picks up an X-Acto knife, and it begins to cut his wrist open. And then I even took the liberty of working with my friend Stan Winston to figure out how we were going to do it, because we wanted to see his hand moving, we wanted to see the actuators, the hydraulic actuators moving in his forearm. And so we came up with the idea that he would-- he would hide his real arm. He would have a false arm, and there'd be a puppeteer underneath the table coming up through a hole in the desk. His hand was inside a sort of glove that continued this way. It was actually quite a clever solution. I incorporated that into the storyboards. That's how Stan and I decided that we were going to do it. So he cuts his wrist, and then he-- you know, we see him-- we see him working. We don't see what he's doing, we don't see the surgery step by step. He puts down the X-Acto knife. A little bit of blood on it. And then we see the result of it. Now I had elected that he basically kind of flayed open all of the skin of his forearm and we all-- we see the mechanism underneath. And this was meant to be the big reveal. He's a cyborg. He's a machine with some kind of fleshy outer coating. When we actually did the sce...

About the Instructor

From The Terminator and Titanic to Avatar, James Cameron has directed some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Now, for the first time in his 40-year career, he opens up about his process. Through behind-the-scenes breakdowns, James shares his approach to developing ideas, storylines, and characters; harnessing technology; and worldbuilding on any budget. Explore the innovation and imagination behind epic moviemaking.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

James Cameron

Academy Award–winning director James Cameron teaches you the tricks of the trade and shares his approach to epic moviemaking on any budget.

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