How Two Loyal Friends Encouraged James Cameron To Create The Terminator

After getting fired from his first directing job, James pitched his friends the idea for The Terminator.

Both Randy Frakes (left) and Bill Wisher (center) encouraged James Cameron to create The Terminator.

James Cameron was sick with a fever in a hotel room in Rome, on the first film of his directing career — Piranha II — even though he'd already been fired.


In Rome, he'd been trying to get access to see the film, and be involved in the editing, but was now running out of money, and surviving off the room service trays of other hotel guests.


Then, the nightmare that would change the course of his life: the robotic man chasing him. It would become the inspiration for a new story — a new film he could write, and direct, and control to make sure he wasn't cut out of the process again.


Once back in Southern California, James pitched his friends on the idea. He was crashing for a few weeks at the Pomona home of Randy Frakes, who'd co-directed their short film Xenogensis and graciously offered James a place to stay. They sat at a small patio table in Randy's backyard with another longtime friend, Bill Wisher (who'd starred in Xenogenesis) as James shared a rough outline for his story.


"Well, that's a great fucking story," said an inspired Wisher after James had finished. "Do that."


James' nightmare vision and the beginnings of The Terminator are depicted in the third episode of BLOCKBUSTER: THE STORY OF JAMES CAMERON — the award-winning "biopic podcast" series, starring The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand, from filmmaker and journalist Matt Schrader.



BLOCKBUSTER is free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and all other platforms. BLOCKBUSTER is winner of Adweek's Creative Podcast of the Year, and earned two Webby Honorees and NYF Radio Awards, including for Best Podcast Miniseries.


James quickly got to work. Randy helped finesse some of the larger story points while Bill helped write some of the dialogue scenes.


In fact, because Bill lived further away at the time, he would call to read his changes, which James would record with a tape recorder.


With a story in place, thanks to the support of Randy and Bill, James knew he needed a producer to help him find a studio willing to let him direct it. It would be harder than he thought.


That story is featured in the next Episode 4 of BLOCKBUSTER: THE STORY OF JAMES CAMERON, free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other platforms.


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