Study Guide

The Terminator Production Studio

Production Studio

Pacific Western Productions and Hemdale Film Corporation

Producer Gale Anne Hurd bought The Terminator script for $1. Yes, you read that right. The Terminator, a film that made $78 million and started a money-minting franchise, was purchased for the same amount as a McDouble. We like to imagine she paid in unrolled pennies, but this cannot be confirmed.

This deal easily nominates Hurd for the Savviest Producer in Hollywood History award, but as with all awards, this honor would be bestowed only with the blessing of hindsight. At the time, it was an incredibly risky move.

The deal specified that scriptwriter James Cameron would be allowed to direct. Again, today that's a no-brainer, as Cameron has directed the two top-grossing films of all time. But when the deal was penned, the only directorial credit to Cameron's name was Piranha II: The Spawning. The title kind of says it all, right?

It was also the first film produced by Hurd's then shiny new production company, Pacific Western Productions. While the company was able to secure distribution from Orion, it had to secure financial backing from somewhere else.

Enter John Daly at Hemdale Pictures. Cameron convinced Daly to finance The Terminator after an unsolicited pitch that involved actor Lance Henriksen breaking into Daly's office dressed as a futuristic cyborg. Rather than serve them restraining orders, Daly handed them $6.4 million. That may seem like a lot of money…until you consider the budgets most other films operated on, even in the '80s. Then you realize it's kind of chump change.

Undeterred, Cameron and Hurd marched onward. Based on interviews and various accounts, Cameron appears to have had creative freedom to make the film he wanted to; the producers' main concern was that he stayed within budget. Cameron noted, for example, that producers "begged [him] to write more of the scenes as daytime because of the perceived cost difference" (source). Based on how much of the film takes place at night, we're guessing that suggestion was politely ignored.

Of course, the point of these budgetary requests was entirely practical. As Hurd noted, "Success for us meant being able to make another movie. It didn't mean box-office success or critical success—our goal was to be able to do it again. Anyone who doesn't feel that way should not be in the business" (source).

And Hurd handily reached that benchmark. The Terminator was financially successful enough for her and Pacific Western to keep on keeping—in spectacular fashion.

Hurd would team up with Cameron again for numerous films, among them Aliens, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. More recently, she served as the executive producer for AMC's hit TV shows The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. She's even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (source).

Still, we have to wonder if Hurd ever stays up at night, wistfully wondering about the McDouble purchase that could have been…

Yeah, probably not.

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