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‘Terminator 2’ star Robert Patrick decided to pursue acting after life-changing boat accident

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Robert Patrick, best known to many audiences as the unstoppable T-1000 in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” wasn’t always set on becoming an actor.

In a new interview with the Wall Street Journal, he revealed that though he was interested in acting from a young age, he didn’t pursue it because “that wasn’t done in my family.”

Instead, while living in the Cleveland area, he worked in a bank and dabbled in modeling before a life-changing boat accident inspired him to pursue his dream.

Patrick said, “In 1984, I was piloting a 30-foot boat that belonged to a buddy when it capsized and sank. Five of us were in the water, including my brother, Lewis. The boat hadn’t been properly prepped.”


He continued, saying he swam three and a half miles to shore for help.

“With each stroke, I prayed and promised myself that if I survived, I’d pursue acting,” he recalled.

Patrick made it to a Cleveland yacht club where he got help and “We rescued everyone.”

After that, he “vowed to move to New York or Los Angeles and become an actor. I flipped a coin, and it was L.A. I packed a bag and drove out.”

Close up of Robert Patrick on the red carpet

He noted, “At first, I was awful, but I had a look, a swagger and something people were picking up on. Things fell together fast.”

Patrick lived in his car until he met a woman who gave him an apartment and told him about a nearby restaurant that was hiring. There, he met someone who recommended that he audition for a play because “They needed me to create an edgy presence.”

He landed a few roles in films like “Eye of the Eagle” and a Roger Corman film, “Warlords from Hell,” before being cast in “Die Hard 2.”

The now 65-year-old “realized I was an artist before I was allowed to feel like one. It just kind of came out of me.”


Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2

In a 2015 interview with NPR, Patrick recalled, “I had a view of the Hollywood sign. I would sit there and look at that Hollywood sign and, ‘Alright, you’re here, let’s make something happen.'”

He said of landing the “Die Hard 2” role that he “went out to my car and I literally sat there and cried for a bit. I remember that. I was so joyful.”

After his role in “Die Hard 2,” Patrick was cast as the T-1000 in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the shape-shifting villain opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed, heroic original Terminator.

In a 2017 interview with Salon, Patrick said his iconic role almost went to Billy Idol, who got in a motorcycle accident: “That paved the way for a young Robert Patrick to get an audition with the great casting director Mali Finn.”


Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in a scene from Terminator 2

According to the actor, “[Director] James Cameron was looking for an unknown,” and Patrick had been in a handful of movies besides “Die Hard 2” and was doing a play at the time he was cast.

Of creating the memorable character, he recalled, “Basically, what you see on-screen is what I came up with in the audition. I hadn’t even seen the script yet, but once I read it, I knew my instincts were right on.”

The role in “Terminator 2” also proved to be another life-changing moment for the actor, who was battling drug and alcohol addiction when he was cast.

“I was actively participating in drugs and alcohol when I got the role, unbeknownst to anyone that was hiring me,” he told Salon. “I was a consumer. I smoked two packs a day. Being an ex-athlete and realizing that I was taking on one of the most athletically challenging things of my life, I was going to have to eschew all that. I set it all down, cold turkey. I consumed no alcohol or drugs, from pre-training, shooting and right up until I wrapped.”


Robert Patrick posing on the red carpet in 1991

Patrick admitted he still struggled with alcohol after the completion of filming and didn’t get completely sober until after he did “Striptease” with Demi Moore in 1996.

“I’m 21 years sober, and my life has benefited greatly,” he said at the time. “I have a sponsor, and I try and live by example. I’m a devout Episcopalian, and it took me a long time to get honest and get to know myself. The thing that was really lacking in my life was spirituality.”

His career continued to flourish with roles across film and television, with a total of 169 credits to his name so far. Most recently, he appeared in season 2 of Amazon Prime’s series “Reacher.”

Robert Patrick posing at a table at a comic con

“You can fail, and I failed quite a few times. But you got to find faith in something. If you don’t, you’re going to live a life of ‘I wish I woulda,'” he told NPR.

“I’m not living that life of ‘I wish I woulda.’ I’m living the life that I wanted to live. And that’s the satisfaction that I carry with me every day.”

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