In 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a relatively unknown bodybuilder and James Cameron was a young director, just starting out in Hollywood. Then came The Terminator. This science fiction action film changed the playing field, launching a multimillion dollar franchise and catapulting these and other stars to fame.
The Terminator tells the story of timid, unsuspecting waitress Sarah Connor and the cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill her before she gives birth to the future savior of humankind. That’s quite a storyline! And that’s exactly what critics and audiences across the world thought when they saw the film, complete with mind blowing special effects, epic fight scenes, and a captivating list of characters.
Nobody had pegged this movie for success, but it hit the box office with a bang and held on through four sequels (and another in the works), comic books, video games, and more. It’s definitely a visual and special effects masterpiece, but let’s face it – this film wouldn’t be what it is today without the stars who made it big back in the early years of the franchise.
So, as the sixth Terminator film goes into production, we take a look back at the heroes and villains from the earlier films. We will always remember them for the roles they played in this remarkable film franchise, even though many of them went on to have long and successful careers. Want to know where they are now? Read on to find out!
Then: Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator
“I’ll be back!” Despite his many claims to fame, Arnold Schwarzenegger is still probably best known for playing the Terminator, or T-800, the cyborg assassin sent back from the year 2029 to kill Sarah Connor in order to prevent her son from growing up to save the human race from a machine uprising. Schwarzenegger got his start as a champion bodybuilder, winning a number of prestigious competitions for the title of World Champion Bodybuilder, before making the move to acting. He was rejected from numerous auditions because of his bodybuilder figure, accent, and name, before finally making it big as Conan the Barbarian in 1982. Then, in 1984, The Terminator was released, which allowed him to say “Hasta la vista, baby” to his struggling actor days.
Now: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career didn’t stop with the Terminator franchise. He went on to star in a number of subsequent films including action flick Commando, thriller Total Recall, and comedy Kindergarten Cop, before deciding to try his luck in politics. Schwarzenegger ran for governor of California and was elected in a special recall election on October 7, 2003, going on to win reelection in 2006 and serving a full term. He earned the nickname “The Governator” (a combination of his most famous role and political title), and the election made both national and international news. He also gained some notoriety for his marriage to Maria Shriver, and subsequent divorce when the news broke that he had fathered a child with their housekeeper. Schwarzenegger enjoyed enormous success throughout his careers, first as a bodybuilder, then as an actor, and finally as a politician. What’s next, you ask? Well, as it turns out, he’s slated to come back in the sixth Terminator film!
Then: Bess Motta as Ginger Ventura
Bess Motta’s character, Ginger Ventura, was Sarah Connor’s best friend and roommate in The Terminator, before coming to an unfortunate end at the hands of the T-800. Despite not having much screen time, Ginger undeniably made her mark on the franchise with her graphic death scene. The cyborg found her in his search for Sarah Connor, and she and her boyfriend were the unlucky victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prior to her role in The Terminator, Motta was a popular aerobics instructor on the Canadian exercise program 20 Minute Workout.
Now: Bess Motta
Bess Motta has appeared in only a handful of film roles since Terminator. She played Rita the Waitress in the 1987 TV series New Monkeys and more recently starred as Judy Garland in the short film Monty. She also made an appearance on an episode of the Disney Channel series K.C. Undercover. These days, however, Motta is more frequently seen onstage, in 2016 winning an Ovation award for her performance in the L.A. production of The Boy From Oz.
Then: Marianne Muellerleile as the wrong Sarah Connor
There is another, less fortunate, Sarah Connor in The Terminator, this one played by Marianne Muellerleile. The T-800 goes through a phonebook, assassinating all of the Sarah Connors he can find in his search for his target. Although this would be impossible today (when’s the last time you saw a phonebook?), it was a pretty good strategy at the time. Muellerleile’s Sarah Connor was listed above the sought-after Sarah Connor in the phonebook, and was thus quickly killed off. Muellerleile later said that at the time, she hadn’t thought her small role in The Terminator was a big deal, and was surprised by how the film (and her scene) took off.
Now: Marianne Muellerleile
Even if you don’t know it, chances are you’ve seen Marianne Muellerleile in something. She has over 200 television and film credits from 1977 to today, and is perhaps best known for her roles as the tattooist in the 2000 thriller Memento and as Ruta from One Fine Day starring George Clooney. She has also had a number of guest appearances on TV shows such as Desperate Housewives and more recently, Elementary. In addition, she has been working in theater since 1972, appearing in a number of productions throughout her long career.
Then: Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Michael Biehn plays Kyle Reese, the young soldier sent back from the future to protect Sarah Connor, so her son John Connor can grow up to lead the Human Resistance. The hardened and battle-scarred young soldier is one of the main protagonists in The Terminator, saving Sarah Connor’s life and eventually falling in love with her and fathering the child destined to lead the Resistance. Interestingly, although Reese’s age is 22 in the script (an earlier version had him as only 21-years-old), Biehn was 27 when he was cast for the role – surprising by Hollywood standards, considering Hamilton was in her 30s at the time.
Now: Michael Biehn
Not straying too far from his famous breakthrough role in The Terminator, Michael Biehn is best known for his roles in science fiction films, mostly playing soldiers or military personnel. Biehn got on well with Terminator director James Cameron, going on to star in his other films Aliens and The Abyss, as well as over 40 other movies during the 1980s and 1990s. Fun fact: Biehn has been bitten on the hand in every James Cameron film he’s been in!
Then: Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor
In Terminator Salvation, released in 2009, John Connor has married Kate, who in this film is played by Bryce Dallas Howard. This tough woman is a high ranking and respected officer in the Human Resistance, as well as a medic, who despite being told by John to stay at the base, tags along to recapture one of Skynet’s facilities. She proves her bravery in battle, even though she finds out she’s pregnant with John’s child shortly before the fight begins.
Now: Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard has found a great deal of success since Terminator Salvation was released in 2009. She most recently gained recognition for her role as Claire Dearing in the latest installments of the Jurassic Park franchise. In addition, she appeared in the films The Help and 50/50 as well as a widely viewed and praised episode of the television series Black Mirror. The multi-talented daughter of director Ron Howard, Bryce is also a director, producer, writer, and model.
Then: Claire Danes as Kate Brewster
Claire Danes played John Connor’s future wife, Kate Brewster, in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. In this film, the new terminator T-X model comes back from the future to finish off as many of John Connor’s future team as possible, including Kate, who in this film, really just gets to know her future husband. The two escape with the help of a reprogrammed T-850 and try to stop Kate’s father, General Brewster from accidentally activating Skynet, the system that will one day lead to the rise of the machines.
Now: Claire Danes
Claire Danes has had a long and varied career since Terminator 3, starring in many films and winning a number of awards. She was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and was was given a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. Although she started acting and became famous as a teenager, she was able to transform her career as she grew up, continuing to receive critical acclaim through the years. She currently stars as Carrie Mathison in the television series Homeland.
Then: Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor
Time travel and altered timelines allowed a new actress to play the role of Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, released in 2015. This time, Emilia Clarke took on the starring role of Sarah, the future mother of Resistance leader John Connor. She was protected and mentored by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 from a young age and grew up to be a fighter. According to reports, the set of Terminator Genisys was notoriously chaotic and tumultuous, so much so that Emilia Clarke said that director Alan Taylor got “eaten and chewed up on Terminator. He didn’t have a good time. No one had a good time.” The studio pressure seems to have been just too much for the production, and the film went on to underperform at the box office.
Now: Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke admitted that she was relieved that Terminator Genisys flopped, and was happy not to do any more Terminator films even though they were in her contract. The actress is best known for her portrayal of Daenarys Targaryen in the hit series Game of Thrones, the performance that thrust her into the spotlight. She has since been cast in a wide range of roles, but is particularly notable for playing strong women. Following Terminator Genisys, she went on to star in Me Before You and to try her hand at another science fiction film, playing Qi’ra in the 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Then: Shawn Schepps as Nancy
Shawn Schepps had a small but important role in The Terminator, playing Nancy, Sarah Connor’s co-worker at Big Jeff’s Restaurant, who raises the alarm and first tells her that another Sarah Connor has been murdered. She shows Sarah the news that a woman named Sarah Connor, who was a mother of two, was killed, saying, “You’re dead, honey!” Her other famous line, “Look at it this way: in a hundred years who’s gonna care?” made her a hilariously memorable character.
Now: Shawn Schepps
An actress, writer, and producer, Shawn Schepps has been involved in a number of other films and television shows since her small role in The Terminator. She made a guest appearance in an episode of Golden Girls and is known for playing Alison on the hit TV series Weeds, among her many notable acting credits. As a writer, she is credited with a number of screenplays and television episodes, including Drumline and two episodes of Weeds.
Then: Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams
One of our favorite things about the later Terminator films (although they received lower ratings than the early films) is the role that strong women play in the story. In Terminator Salvation, Moon Bloodgood plays Blair Williams, a battle-hardened fighter pilot in the Human Resistance. John Connor trusts and relies on this no-nonsense pilot, and she goes on a number of missions as a member of his resistance group. This is one of Bloodgood’s most notable roles, and it helped launch her acting career.
Now: Moon Bloodgood
Moon Bloodgood has been a model from a very young age, making Maxim’s “Hot 100 list” four times in the 2000s. Since her breakthrough role in Terminator Salvation, Bloodgood played Detective Paxson in the series Burn Notice and later Dr. Anne Glass in the television series Falling Skies from 2011 – 2015, receiving a great deal of praise and critical acclaim. She can now be seen as a series regular on the medical drama Code Black, playing Rox Valenzuela.
Then: S. Epatha Merkerson as Tarissa Dyson
S. Epatha Merkerson joined Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, playing the unfortunate Tarissa Dyson, whose husband is unwittingly responsible for the downfall of humankind. Sarah Connor learns that Tarissa’s husband, Miles, is at the helm of the technology that ultimately leads to the machine takeover. Tarissa is an innocent bystander as Sarah and The Terminator infiltrate her home and shoot (though not kill) her husband. He is later killed by a SWAT team, as he detonates a bomb that would destroy his life work, thus preventing Judgement Day (the robot uprising).
Now: S. Epatha Merkerson
S. Epatha Merkerson has gone on to be an immensely successful actress, winning an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild award. Merkerson is best known for playing Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the TV series Law & Order, and more recently played Sharon Goodwin on drama series Chicago P.D., Chicago Fire, and Chicago Med. In addition to her prestigious television career, Merkerson has appeared in a number of Broadway and off-Broadway productions and was nominated for several theater awards, as well.
Then: Robert Patrick as T-1000
Starring as the main villain in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Robert Patrick plays T-1000, the more advanced android assassin that can change shapes to impersonate other people or fashion weapons for himself. The T-1000 takes the identity of a police officer named Austin in order to attempt to track down and kill the young John Connor. Patrick was cast in the role as a deliberate contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800, portraying a sleeker, more advanced Terminator than the original.
Now: Robert Patrick
To this day, Robert Patrick is a well known actor, famous for a number of starring film roles including Charlie’s Angel’s: Full Throttle, Spy Kids, and Flags of Our Fathers. He is immensely successful in television as well, gaining recognition for his work in the X-Files and more recently Scorpion, among many other credits. He is known for playing bad guys, and has a very good reputation in Hollywood, often praised by his co-stars and fans for his work ethic and consistency.
Then: Jenette Goldstein as Janelle Voight
In Terminator 2, John Connor lives with foster parents while Sarah is in prison. Jenette Goldstein plays John Connor’s foster mother, Janelle Voight, who John is not too fond of. This helps him out though, because when he speaks with her on the telephone, he notices that she is being much nicer than usual, leading him to realize that she has already been killed and is being impersonated by the T-1000. This was Jenette Goldstein’s second film working with James Cameron – she was already famous for her portrayal of the tough marine Vasquez in his film Aliens.
Now: Jenette Goldstein
Jenette Goldstein can be seen in a number of films since Terminator 2, including Titanic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and she has made guest appearances in TV series such as ER and 24. She has also worked in theatre throughout her career, performing in New York, Los Angeles, and London. In addition, Goldstein is a successful entrepreneur, having started Jenette Bras, an undergarment line for women with curvy figures, which has been met with much approval and rave reviews.
Then: Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Serena Kogan
In Terminator Salvation, Helena Bonham Carter was cast as Dr. Serena Kogan, who plays a small but important role in the rise of the machines. Kogan is a geneticist who convinces Marcus Wright to donate his human body for research, before she passes away from cancer in 2004. Then, in 2018, her face is used to communicate with the cyborg Marcus, who helps John Connor and the resistance. Bonham Carter reportedly accepted the role because her then-partner Tim Burton is a big fan of the Terminator franchise.
Now: Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter is an immensely successful actress, renowned for her versatility, and has starred in everything from independent films to large Hollywood productions. She is known for playing Queen Elizabeth in the period drama The King’s Speech and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series. She frequently collaborated with Tim Burton, who was also her partner for several years, on a number of films including Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Most recently, Bonham Carter can be seen playing Princess Margaret on the Netflix series The Crown.
Then: Nick Stahl as John Connor
In Terminator 3, the grown up John Connor, played by Nick Stahl, is living in hiding in Los Angeles after the death of his mother. He wants nothing to do with Skynet or the whole saving humanity thing, but the new terminator T-X unit comes searching for him, and he is forced into action. He and future wife Kate try to stop Kate’s father from activating Skynet, which would ultimately lead to the rise of machines against humanity.
Now: Nick Stahl
Nick Stahl has appeared in many films since Terminator 3, but has also run into some bad luck. After rising to fame as a child star, Stahl worked consistently until 2011, when he dropped out of the spotlight. He struggled with substance abuse and behavioral problems, even spending time behind bars, and was reported missing twice in 2012 by his then-wife. Now, he’s back in action, and has two new films, The Haunting of Nicole Brown Simpson and American Dream, slated to come out in the next couple years.
Then: Sandrine Holt as Detective Cheung
Sandrine Holt plays the small yet important role of San Francisco Police Detective Cheung in Terminator Genysis. She and partner Lieutenant Matias go on a manhunt for Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, along with the Guardian, the terminator who is protecting them. Later on – spoiler alert – Cheung is revealed to be a terminator model T-3000, and sheds her human disguise. Cheung shoots two federal agents as well as Matias in her attempt to get to Sarah and Kyle.
Now: Sandrine Holt
British-Canadian model turned actress Sandrine Holt has had a relatively successful acting career since her debut in the 1991 biography film Black Robe. She gained recognition for her recurring role in the TV series 24, and for playing Terri Morales in action horror film Resident Evil: Apocalypse. More recently, she played Gillian Cole on the critically acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards and Sandrine Renault in drama series Hostages, in addition to numerous recurring roles and guest star spots in television shows across the networks.
Then: Christian Bale as John Connor
Christian Bale reportedly said that he never wanted to be in Terminator Salvation, but finally agreed to play the part after refusing three times, just to spite all of the people who told him not to do it. Bale plays John Connor, who in this film, is the leader of his own team of soldiers in the Human Resistance against the machines. And who could forget Bale’s expletive laden rant against director of photography Shane Hurlbut, which went viral?
Now: Christian Bale
At the young age of 13, Christian Bale was cast in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, launching him to fame. Since then, he’s starred in a number of blockbusters and independent films, perhaps best known for playing Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy. He is famous for drastically changing his appearance for the roles he plays, including dropping 62 pounds to play an insomniac in The Machinist in 2004 and more recently, putting on weight and shaving his head to play Dick Cheney in the upcoming film Backseat.
Then: Jadagrace as Star
Star may be cute, but she’s tough. Played by Jadagrace, Star is a mute eight-year-old girl in Terminator Salvation, who is in the care of resistance soldier Kyle Reese. She can sense when a non-human cyborg is nearby, which makes her very useful in fighting for the Human Resistance. Kyle found her after the rise of the machines, and he has taken care of her ever since. The two have even developed a type of sign language in order to communicate.
Now, nearly ten years after Terminator Salvation was released, young Jadagrace is developing her career as an actress and singer. In 2012 she starred in The Jadagrace Show, a short lived live action musical about a young girl who is discovered after her music videos go viral. Jadagrace then went on to release her first single Run Dat Back in 2012, and signed a recording deal with Capitol Motown in 2015, recording her single Vibe which was released in 2016. In 2017, she released her EP, My Rules.
Then: Edward Furlong as John Connor
At age 13, Edward Furlong rocketed from obscurity to fame when a casting director spotted and invited him to audition for the role of John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Even though young Edward had not considered acting before, he agreed, and James Cameron chose him for the part. Furlong was a natural on camera and had the raw talent they were looking for, and he quickly becoming a teenage star. He won an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Role and a Saturn Award for best young actor for his performance.
Now: Edward Furlong
Unfortunately, Terminator 2 was the high point of Edward Furlong’s career. Although he went on to star in some other high profile movies including Little Odessa and American History X, he began to struggle with substance abuse. Furlong also had a relationship with a woman nearly twice his age, leading to trouble at home and later in court. Furlong has appeared in small television and film roles sporadically since then, but has struggled to get his life back on track.
Then: Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Linda Hamilton starred as heroine Sarah Connor in both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. As the future mother of John Connor, Sarah Connor is the main target of the terminators, cyborgs sent back from the future to kill her. In the beginning, Sarah Connor is a carefree young waitress, but as she progresses through the films, she becomes a powerful force of her own. Hamilton toughened up between the two films in order to portray the resilient, empowered mother who would raise and protect the young John Connor, future leader of the Human Resistance.
Now: Linda Hamilton
Terminator fans are excited (and we are too!) about the news that Linda Hamilton will reprise her role as Sarah Connor in the new Terminator 6 film, due out in 2019. The movie is still in production, so we don’t have too many details yet, but we do know that Hamilton is getting into shape to portray warrior Sarah Connor once more. Although she is still best known for her work in The Terminator, Hamilton is also recognized for starring in the television series Beauty and the Beast and more recently sci-fi TV thriller Defiance. Hamilton was briefly married to Terminator director James Cameron, and has a daughter with him, but they divorced shortly afterwards.
Then: Kristanna Loken as the T-X
The first female terminator in the films, Kristanna Loken put on 15 pounds of muscle in preparation for her role as the T-X Terminatrix in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Playing an even more advanced terminator sent back to find and murder John Connor, Loken took a mime class before shooting the film, learning to communicate with her body, since her character had so few lines. Dressed all in leather, the tough T-X works to terminate as many of John Connor’s future Resistance officers as possible.
Now: Kristanna Loken
Kristanna Loken said that playing the T-X Terminatrix “opened doors” for her, kickstarting her acting career. Following this breakthrough role, Loken went on to star in films including BloodRayne and Bounty Killer, and television shows such as The L Word and Burn Notice. The tall blonde 5’ 11” actress is also a model, having started modeling at age 15, and a producer, who co-executive produced the television show Painkiller Jane, in which she starred, as well.