Arnold Schwarzenegger Had A Wild List Of Demands To Star In 2003's "Terminator 3": Huge Salary, Private Jets… We're Just Getting Started

By on November 8, 2023 in ArticlesEntertainment

Back in the early 2000s, Arnold Schwarzenegger's mega-star status had begun to dim somewhat, and he was beginning to take seriously an exit from Hollywood to go into politics. But excitement for Schwarzenegger to return to the role that made him a superstar in the first place, the time-traveling T-800 cybernetic organism in James Cameron's "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" was still high. High enough that the actor managed to get a pretty outrageous contract to make the film.

Schwarzenegger's contract for "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" shows how far the film's producers were willing to go all out to secure him for the project (remember, this is back before any "Terminator" films or TV shows had come out without Schwarzenegger's involvement).

Schwarzenegger's contract required 21 drafts between the summer of 2000 and December 2001. It ended up running a hefty 33 pages. And to say Schwarzenegger came out well in the deal is an understatement.

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His base salary for the movie came to $29.25 million on a "pay or play" basis, which means he would have gotten the fee even if the movie itself had fallen apart. His contract also guaranteed a $1.6 million-per-day overage fee for every day the film ran behind schedule.


Arnold also received a $1.5 million "perk package," to be used for private jet transportation, deluxe hotel accommodations on location, limo service, personal security, and of course a traveling gym trailer for pumping iron in between takes.

Producers Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna had invested heavily in the rights to the "Terminator" franchise, but the project's numerous other financial backers required Schwarzenegger's presence in the film to secure their involvement. So in order to make the movie, they pretty much had to concede to every demand Schwarzenegger made, and he didn't stop with the above pay package.

Backend Points

The star also got an incredible 20 percent cut of every penny the film makes, not just in movie theaters and home video but extending to TV and video game licenses and even in-flight movie arrangements. And Schwarzenegger's version of this back-end deal was much more favorable than the usual Hollywood star contract, with all the movie's revenue minus cost being counted towards his cut, and none of the accounting tricks these contracts use to only count some of a film's profits toward such agreements.

Schwarzenegger also got a fair amount of creative clout on the film. He had his choice of director and supporting actors, and got to bring his own hand-selected crew of hairdressers, makeup artists, and other backstage personnel onto the film.

Incredibly, even with all this, "T3" is not the most lucrative project of Arnold's career. The largest payday of his career likely came from a less likely title: 1988's "Twins" in which he, co-star Danny DeVito, and late director Ivan Reitman had a 45 percent stake in the movie itself, foregoing any money at all up front.

As Schwarzenegger himself once explained on an episode of Chris Hardwick's podcast, the gamble that the film's director and stars took on "Twins" paid off in a big way:

"The movie went through the roof internationally and domestically. I think we all made more money on that movie than on anything we've ever done, even though I had salaries of $30 million dollars on some movies… This was the biggest payday because we owned a percentage of EVERYTHING. TV rights, cable rights, merchandising… We owned that money and made a fortune."

And according to Schwarzenegger, "Twins" was a big payday for everybody else who worked on the movie too:

"It was one of those typical examples, that when you're not that money hungry – just doing something for the money – then things workout really well. Sometimes much better, because it's your passion for the project, it's your interest in the project… It creates a whole different relationship with the studio and your workers around you. Everyone who worked on the movie got more money than we got! Everyone was in a good mood, the movie turned out fantastic."

"Terminator 3" brought new life to what was nearly a dormant franchise, and ended up being one of the top grossing films of 2003, and Schwarzenegger's final starring role before his election as Governor of California. And more than 20 years later, the contract he and his legal team put together to secure his participation is still an impressive showbusiness feat.

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