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In many ways, writer/director James Cameron and actor Michael Biehn rose to stardom together in the 1980s. They collaborated on three films, two of which — 1984's The Terminator and 1986's Aliens — still rank among the best science fiction movies and action movies of all time. The third film, The Abyss, never quite rose to the same ranks, but in many ways its ambitious imagery was a precursor to the kind of technologically advanced filmmaking Cameron continues to explore now in his Avatar franchise. Both Cameron and Biehn have continued to make movies since, but while Cameron has reunited with other stars of his '80s classics like Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver, he has not yet invited Biehn back for another go 'round. According to Cameron, that could change soon.
The Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy new interview with Biehn this week, charting his career rise through films like The Terminator and his more recent scaling back of his career to work on smaller films and spend time with his children, and since so much of his most famous work is linked to Cameron, talk of their now-dormant collaboration came up quite a bit. After The Abyss, Cameron directed Terminator 2 (which Biehn couldn't return for since his character was dead), True Lies, and Titanic, all without a Biehn reunion. Then came Avatar, a film years-in-the-making that Cameron showed Biehn a script for when the actor stopped by the director's office all the way back in 1998. At the time, Cameron was waiting for technology to catch up with his vision for the film, but there was possibly a role there for Biehn somewhere down the line. In fact, according to Biehn, as Avatar began developing he was up for a key role in the film: That of Colonel Quaritch.
"For nine months, I thought I was going to be playing the part Stephen Lang played in Avatar, and I ended up not getting it," Biehn said.
As for why he was passed over, Biehn said Cameron ultimately decided to cast Sigourney Weaver in Avatar as Dr. Grace Augustine, and didn't want the audience to look at one of his heroes and one of his villains and immediately make an Aliens connection as they were trying to get used to the new world he was building. Cameron confirms that part of the story, but told THR that he never actually had a specific Avatar role planned for Biehn.
"I understood," Biehn said." I'd been disappointed too many times to be depressed for more than 24 hours."
So, three decades after The Aybss, is there still an opportunity for Cameron and Biehn to work together again? According to Cameron, there could be a role for his longtime collaborator in one of the later Avatar sequels, and since he's making four of them, there's plenty of potential room to fit Biehn in.
"It’s a good idea to put him into a performance capture character in Avatar 4 or 5, I’ll have to think about that," Cameron told THR. "But no promises. In any case, I do look forward to working with him again."
Seeing Biehn pop up in another of Cameron's franchises would be fun, particularly since the actor seems to have sworn off the other two Cameron brought him into. In the same interview, Biehn noted that he's been approached in the past to make cameos in other Terminator projects, but that he found the idea "ridiculous." He's also done with the Alien films after his character was unceremoniously killed off in Alien 3, a decision which led to Biehn and his agent fighting to keep his character's chestbursted body out of the film.
"I've never seen anything past Aliens. I've never seen Aliens, 3, 4, 5. I didn't watch Covenant. I have no interest in anything like that. Any movie I'm close to or movies I wanted that I didn't get, I just don't watch them. There's no reason to put myself through the pain of 'I could have done so much better than that,'" he said.
So, if we want Biehn back in a big-screen sci-fi franchise, we should apparently root for that Avatar 4 role.