In the early 1980s, before he gained a notorious reputation, O.J. Simpson nearly played the part of the Terminator in the first movie of the franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who eventually played the lead role, was to play the part of Kyle Reese, the human soldier sent back in time to save Sarah Connor.
Mike Medavoy and Gale Anne Hurd, producers of "The Terminator," cautiously approached director James Cameron about casting Simpson. Medavoy had seen a Hertz commercial featuring Simpson leaping over a counter towards a rental car. His athleticism, Medavoy felt, would be great for the character. Not to mention, Simpson was already famous.
Cameron, on the other hand, was vehemently against casting Simpson over Schwarzenegger. At the time, Simpson was a beloved athlete and pop culture icon. There was no way people would think he was a killer, Cameron argued. Not to mention, there were racial implications: "I wasn't interested in an African-American man chasing around a white girl with a knife," said Cameron.
Schwarzenegger went on to be cast as the Terminator, and it turned out to be a career-defining role. Simpson starred in more Hertz commercials several other movies, most notably "The Naked Gun" franchise. His reputation then would take an infamous and, in this case, ironic turn after standing trial for double murder in 1994.