Cinema Marta Stuchvik  

I’ll Be Back: The Makeup FX of the First Terminator Movie

Over 35 years ago, director James Cameron never could have thought that his low-budget thriller with a B-movie premise will turn into a cult classic. The Terminator franchise remains popular up to these days.

The 1984 film was met with huge critical acclaim. One of the most praised things about it was makeup. Special make-up effects creator Stanley Winston was responsible for this work. He is the person who came up with the idea of thin skin over the metal skeleton of Terminator.

Using sketches by James Cameron as a basis, Winston developed realistic plastic make-up. He made burnt skin, open jaw, and metal skull of Terminator that looked shockingly realistic. The best makeup designers in Hollywood worked hard to recreate the shades and texture of human skin. It took about three hours to apply complex makeup. This had to be done every shooting day over the course of five weeks. In total, Arnold Schwarzenegger spent almost 6 days in a makeup designer’s chair during the filming period.

In addition, the visual effects team created two silicone mannequins that copied Arnold in full growth. One of the dolls was used for the legendary eye surgery scene. The other one replaced Schwarzenegger for the truck chase scene.

The skinless Terminator was portrayed with the use of endoskeletons. A metal skeleton in full human growth replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger in some shots where the cyborg assassin appears in full height. It took a whole year for the visual effects team to create a robot for close-ups. The most complex structure comprised thousands of moving elements and weighed as much as 180 pounds. The arms and head of the cyborg were set in motion with levers.