Long before Terminator 3 happened, one man wrote a fan script, and it turned into a bit of a thing – here’s the story.

Back in 1996, there was no guarantee that we were going to get a Terminator 3. James Cameron had, since the huge global success of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day gone on to make True Lies, and was then in the midst of making Titanic. Enthusiasm from Cameron for a third Terminator outing was thin on the ground.

But others were keener. In particular, a man by the name of Daniel L Perez. And as it turns out, Perez was about to be at the heart of one of the first instances of a fan script being fuelled by the world wide web – and it was a story that didn’t go away in a hurry.

Inspiration

Perez was one of the many fans of Terminator 2, so much so that it inspired him to write a sequel of his own. He thus penned Terminator 3: Armageddon, a film that would have seen Sarah and John Connor fighting off three Terminators, including a new T-INFINITY model.

As Perez would explain to Empire magazine back in its September 1996 issue, “after the terminator is melted down, Sarah and John think that the battle is over, since everything that reinforces the existence of SkyNet was destroyed”.

He added that “without the existence of SkyNet, John Connor cannot exist in his present form. Because if it doesn’t exist, then John’s father, Kyle Reese, has no way to get back to the year 1984 to be John’s father”.

He built his script to address such time-travel paradoxes, and after penning a few further drafts, he sent it to literary agents, who turned it down. He then wrote to Lightstorm Entertainment – James Cameron’s production company – back in 1993. He got the standard response about Lightstorm not accepting unsolicited material, and that seemed to be that.

Perez picks the story up in an article he posted at IndyBay back in 2003 (an article we should note – not least to cover ourselves – that makes unproven allegations. In any lawyers are reading, stand down), and the tale continues a week after he got that Lightstorm rejection.

“I received a very strange mailing from Lightstorm”, he wrote. “I received a photocopied article about Hollywood producer Barry Diller. Within the article were underlined sentences about an Apple Powerbook computer and how he used it in the business. I interpreted these underlined phrases in the article as hints from someone inside Lightstorm Entertainment to buy an Apple Macintosh Computer to work on my script; which is exactly what I did. I bought a Macintosh LCIII through the reseller program at my local community college”.

On paper, it sounds like a stretch of a theory, but he took encouragement. After all, there’s a fairly potent question as to why he received such a mailing in the first place. A simple mistake, or did he have a friend within?

He didn’t wait to find out. He bought his computer and hooked up to nascent world wide web service CompuServe, back in those halcyon days where you had to dial in to access the internet. Like a subset of the web’s earliest users, he began to distribute his script via CompuServe’s bulletin boards, and had it promptly shot down by forerunners to the modern day internet trolls.

By 1994, he was losing heart, and tried in vain again to contact Cameron, and also this time Arnold Schwarzenegger. He didn’t get a bite, and in his own words, “I made a couple of disparaging remarks about Cameron himself which I later apologized for publicly”.

He parked his idea until 1995 when he sent it to a producer who was offering script reading services. That producer was a man called Victor West, who offered constructive feedback on Perez’s Terminator 3 script. Perez reawakened the project, and as the world wide web growing in popularity, a service called Geocities was offering people free webspace. Perez signed up (although he’d soon fall out with West).

>> FILM STORIES PODCAST: the stories of Terminator 3 – download the episode here.<<<

Firstly, he registered his script with the United States Copyright Office at the end of 1995, having logged an earlier draft with the Writers Guild Of America the year before. Then in January 1996, he uploaded his Terminator 3: Armageddon script, and it became a mini-Internet sensation. Over 1000 people – a lot by 1996 web numbers – had read it within a month of it being uploaded, and that number increased tenfold over the subsequent months.

Eventually, the press got wind of the story. Empire devoted a double page article to the project, and Perez found himself interviewed too on Norwegian radio about his work. He kept redrafting it too, and in 1997 he registered the domain name www.terminator3armageddon.com.

Separately, plans were being awakened for a formal Terminator 3, that would become Rise Of The Machines, ultimately released in 2001. A company called C2, born out of the ashes of Carolco, picked up the rights to the Terminator franchise in 1999, and hired writers to put a screenplay together. Perez – who had attracted no legal pushback from Lightstorm – did get a mail the same year from a Hollywood security firm asking him to take James Cameron’s home address off his website. Perez is clear this was an innocent mistake, and he thought it was Cameron’s office address he listed.

Perez took this to mean that Cameron was aware of his script, and he remains insistent that elements from Terminator 3: Armageddon crossed over into Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. He’s detailed his allegations – none of which are proven – on his website, linked earlier. For Lightstorm Entertainment’s part, whenever allegations were put to it, it flatly denied any knowledge.

What’s interesting about Perez’s story, though, is it’s the first case of a fan sequel script to a major franchise getting such online traction. Sure, we’ve seen lots of cases since – at one stage, a script for a G.I. Joe sequel was so convincing, that many were fooled into thinking it was the real thing. But Perez was a forerunner. Not the last, certainly one of the first.

In fact, his original website with the assorted drafts of the scripts is still available online. Take a look here.

As for the Terminator, the latest reboot of the series, Terminator: Dark Fate, has been and gone. Turns out that, to date, nobody who watched and loved T2 has ever been able to properly follow it. Maybe Dark Fate will have more luck…

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