Way before his star turn in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer, rock icon Billy Idol could have had a film career that stretched way further than his cameo eight miles high. At the dawn of the ’90s, the former Generation X frontman was seemingly one of the hottest properties around in Hollywood and could have been cast in two of 1991’s most iconic movies.
However, things did not go to plan for Idol or Hollywood. On February 6th, 1990, Idol was involved in a near-deadly motorcycle accident, which was so bad that doctors feared they might have to amputate a leg. Idol was hit by a car as he drove through a stop sign when returning home from the studio sessions for his fourth solo album, Charmed Life.
Prior to the accident, legendary film director Oliver Stone had chosen Idol for a major role in his polarising biopic The Doors, but due to the severity of Idol’s collision, his role was reduced considerably. However, still showed what he could do in front of the camera when he appeared as Jim Morrison’s drinking partner, Cat.
That summer, arguably the year’s most iconic film was released, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It turns out that everybody’s favourite cockney rocker was James Cameron’s first choice to play the brilliantly evil role of T-1000, but due to the accident, it was impossible. There was no way that Idol could have played such a physically demanding role.
Famously, the role was recast, and Robert Patrick landed the job, and now it is hard to imagine anyone but him playing the T-1000. In a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Patrick revealed: “Billy Idol was set to do the role of the T-1000, as I understand. I can tell you that I saw Billy’s image when I went to Stan Winston after I got the role”.
“My agent sold me to the T2 casting director (Mali Finn) as a cross between David Bowie and James Dean,” Patrick added. “So, I was trying to create an intense presence while I was sitting with Mali. I had this intense stare, which she liked”.
Patrick’s different take on the role diverged from what Cameron originally envisaged, but he loved it. He trained hard for the role, and by the time of filming, he could sprint long distances without breathing heavily, creating that unrelenting, murderous demeanour that makes the T-1000 so iconic. His running scene is one of the most memorable in all of cinema and one of the Terminator franchise’s standouts.
Imagining Billy Idol in the role is a strange experience. Surely watching him play the T-1000 would have been captivating, but clearly, destiny had other plans for him. Imagining Terminator 2 without Patrick as the T-1000 is virtually impossible, so fair play to him.