Vin Diesel was seriously considered for the role of the central Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines villain, the T-X, and this casting would have reshaped both the actor’s career and the future of the franchise. The history of cinema is filled with near-misses that could have changed entire franchises and redefined the careers of their creators. For example, before Johnny Depp made the character an instant icon, Matthew McConnaughey almost played Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
However, the Terminator franchise is particularly famous for its many rejected, unrealized, or scrapped plans. As proven by the fact that the Terminator franchise has rebooted its timeline four times now, the series is not afraid to toy with the expectations of viewers. However, this can sometimes be a problem for the Terminator movies, with each new Terminator movie feeling like it belongs to a separate series.
This issue began in earnest with the arrival of 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a belated sequel that immediately upset fans by unceremoniously killing Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor offscreen. While the viewers’ discontent was perhaps somewhat unwarranted, considering that two versions of Sarah Connor appeared in later movies (one played by Hamilton and one not), this was only the beginning of the problems with the messy plot of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The sequel also made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-850 a goofier, more comedic presence (complete with infamous disco shades), and introduced the first divisive villain of the franchise, the T-X. Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s T-1000 was always going to be a hard act to follow. Despite Kristanna Loken’s best efforts, the T-X failed to make a mark as an unforgettable franchise villain. However, after the success of The Fast & the Furious, there were discussions about making the T-X a male character, so that Vin Diesel could take on the role.
How Vin Diesel Almost Played The T-X
Before over 10,000 women auditioned to play the T-X, there were talks about making the villain another male Terminator model to capitalize on Vin Diesel’s emerging stardom. The actor had an undeniably impressive blockbuster streak from 2000-2001 and his work in Pitch Black and The Fast & The Furious convinced the Terminator franchise producers that he could be a worthy opponent for Schwarzenegger. While Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines eventually went with Loken and a female T-X after all, it is tough to tell which of these options was the right call and whether Diesel playing the T-X could have improved the lukewarm reception of the sequel.
How Vin Diesel Would Have Changed The T-X
There is a good chance that the already middling reception of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines would have been even worse with Diesel in the role of the T-X. While he has proven himself to be a talented comedic performer too, Diesel is primarily seen as a taciturn, stoic action lead a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. As a result, Diesel’s version of the T-X could have felt too similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original Terminator. This was exactly why the producers sought out a lithe, more diminutive star like Robert Patrick to redefine what a Terminator could look like in the first sequel, and was why Cameron’s idea of a female Terminator model was such an intriguing one for the second sequel.
How Diesel’s Casting Could Have Effected Terminator 3’s Tone
That said, while Diesel and Schwarzenegger’s screen personae could have clashed due to their similarities, the awkward tone of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines might have been salvaged by Diesel’s casting. This could have resulted in the R-rated action movie about the end of the world taking itself a little more seriously, since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines appeared to take Loken’s casting as an opportunity to adopt a jarringly broad, cartoony tone. Although the Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines cut scenes indicate that earlier drafts of the sequel were more self-serious, (through no fault of Loken’s) the choice to make the T-X a female villain resulted in corny gags, like her inflating her breasts to get out of an interaction with a police officer. This was the sort of broad, tension-deflating humor that the original darker Terminator movies didn’t indulge in, and the sort of joke that Diesel-led iteration of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines may have been less likely to attempt.
How Terminator 3 Would Have Affected Vin Diesel’s Career
While starring in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines would likely have had a net negative impact on Diesel’s career due to the above-mentioned similarities between him and Schwarzenegger, this would not have necessarily spelled disaster for Diesel’s future. While director Tim Miller’s later, darker Terminator reboot Dark Fate was relatively well-reviewed but failed to win over viewers, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines didn’t do as well with critics as the earlier outings had, though the sequel did succeed at the box office. Diesel had a few critical flops around the same time (such as The Chronicles of Riddick and The Pacifier), but he has never been a critical darling before or since and these poorly-reviewed outings didn’t adversely affect his popularity with audiences.