Mania Exclusive Interview: Terminator: Salvation Director McG -

Mania Exclusive Interview with McG

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Mania Exclusive Interview: Terminator: Salvation Director McG

McG attempts to fill big shoes.

By Rob Vaux     August 01, 2008

McG, director of Warner Bros' TERMINATOR SALVATION(2009).
© Warner Bros
Like many filmmakers today, McG got his start in music videos, producing work for the likes of Sublime, Korn and Cypress Hill. He then scored a huge success with the 2000 feature film version of Charlie's Angels followed by a less-then-well-received sequel in 2003. He grabbed another brass ring when he was selected to helm the fourth film in the Terminator saga, Terminator: Salvation. The film is due for release in May 2009. The director took a break from his shooting schedule to talk about the project at this year's San Diego Comic Con.
Question: The Charlie's Angels films were more or less your own, but with Terminator: Salvation, you're basically stepping into James Cameron's shoes. How do you approach that in a way that lets it be your own while still staying true to his vision?
McG: Truthfully, I think any filmmaker tries to go on a film-by-film basis and do what's right for what's in front of him. I'm very pleased with the Charlie's Angels pictures. With those movies, I was trying to break down the glass ceiling and say "you can make a successful female action picture." But that was a long time ago and I'm a different filmmaker now. I made a movie after that, We Are Marshall, about a plane crash. I've been afraid of flying for a long time, and I sort of needed to have that catharsis—that Joseph Campbell moment of facing what you're most afraid of. With Terminator: Salvation, I wanted to make a movie that's about posing ethical questions to the audience. A film that doesn't necessarily make things easy for them. Of course, this isn't designed to be an art picture, so you have to find a balance between that artistic take and a film designed to be seen the world over. We're very pleased with the way the film looks and feels so far, but you can be the judge. I'm hoping it has the right sense of grit.
Q: Did you consult with Cameron at all?
McG: We did. We'd had several phone calls and he knows that I respect him a great deal.
He was very encouraging, and we talked at length about the story. We talked about Sam [Worthington]'s character, who's new and who's key to the film. We talked about Cameron's experience on Aliens, picking up a franchise from another great director. Most particularly, we talked about not living in fear. It's a big responsibility taking on a franchise like this, but you have to move forward. Sometimes you've got to be on Happy Days before you become the great Ron Howard. Maybe you've got to be Spiccoli before you can be Sean Penn, and maybe you've got to do some time on 21 Jump Street before you can grow into the boots of Johnny Depp. There's nothing wrong with paying your dues, and I'm certainly willing to pay mine.
Q: Your star, Christian Bale, has come to the unwelcome attention of the tabloids this week. Is there anything you'd like to clarify or dismiss about that situation?
McG: I'm delighted to talk about Chris. He's the most professional, passionate actor you're going to find. It's just that simple. He is all about the work. He loves his wife, he loves his child, and he loves being an actor. He's not interested in materialistic things. He wants to come to work prepared, and… I mean I can't just go 'Christian, go camera left.' Chris is going to talk to me about what went into the decision to go camera left, which is wonderful. It provides the elegant opposition you want. You don't want people saying, 'yeah whatever, tell me what to do and we'll do it.' [The entire cast] challenges you all the time… and Christian sets an excellent example in that way. He's a big-hearted, good guy. I've worked with a lot of people and that's just who he is.
Q: Can you talk about Jonathon Nolan's involvement in the film?
McG: I would have to characterize Jonah as the lead writer of the film. I don't know how the WGA rules work, but honest to goodness, we did the heaviest lifting with Jonah. He's a very cerebral guy. You can see that in his work with his brother Chris, with Memento and The Prestige and of course the Batman pictures. They are deep, deep thinkers, and hopefully our film will reflect that.
Q: The early sequences look pretty intense. Was there any pressure to tone down the material and get a more teen-friendly PG-13 rating?
McG: None. Some of the people who green-lit the film are here in the room now and all of them are perfectly comfortable with an R-rated picture. We don't think about the rating when we're shooting. We just do what’s right for the story. I don't have a problem with a PG-13 picture. I just saw The Dark Knight and I thought it was immaculate. More importantly, I thought it was made compromise-free. So I'm not afraid of a PG-13 rating, and we're not rooting for anything in particular in that regard. But I'm not going to let the fan base down trying to target a rating. The only people who would give us a hard time about that are the studios--and you have to respect that, because they put a lot of money behind the film--but literally, those guys are right here. Jeff Blake is here from Sony, Jeff Robinov runs Warners, and they don't care. If they say, "deliver a rated R picture," then that's really liberating as a filmmaker. The film itself will rule the day, and we just do what we think is right for it.
Q: The continuity for this property can get a little nuts sometimes. What's your approach to the "Terminator timeline?"
McG: Well, T3 begins with a bit of a punt as far as what happened in the earlier films, and there's some juggling of the timeline. We're starting after the bombs have gone off--and I'm not going to reveal the exact date of that yet. The picture starts in 2018, and we've done the best we can to honor the timelines that have come before us. Beyond that, our dates simply come from doing a lot of research. We talked to a lot of futurists and scientists about things like how long the atmosphere would take to clear itself out after a nuclear war so you can go outside again. Certain timeline events are written in stone, and that can help guide you too. The T-800 shows up in 2029. We're building towards that place, and therefore certain kinds of hardware should show up in 2018. If more sophisticated machines start showing up, that's a problem for John Connor.
Q: How about the events of The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series?
McG: I'm a friend of the guy who runs the show, and we had a meeting early on. We want to honor the connection, but episodic television has its own rules , , , and we can't chase their story threads. We honor it, we're all using the same language, but this is this and that is that. And I say that as a big fan of the TV series.
Q: What do you remember about the experience of seeing the original Terminator for the first time?
McG: I've always regarded the first picture as a horror picture. It's Halloween. What's the difference between Schwarzenegger in the first picture and Michael Myers in the first Halloween? I intend that as a compliment; I think it works marvelously well. Then the second picture brought a level of complexity that you can't normally hope to achieve. Sequels are tough: I made an inadequate sequel (and personally, I blame the make-up girl for that) [Laughter] so I know how tough it is. It's a short list of sequels that are better than the original.
The easy thing for us is that our picture happens after the bombs. Every other Terminator picture is set in the present day. This is after it happened, so it gives us a whole new palate to play with: this sense that the machines are rising to a place of complete dominance. And it's not such a far-fetched notion. We're heading towards that place very rapidly. I'm looking out at you guys and I'm seeing open laptops and digital cameras. All these things are just getting faster and more intelligent and more intuitive all the time. It's a pretty scary thing. I mean, who here would suggest that humanity is in great shape? We're melting the oceans. We have a huge population problem. And at the same time, if I type the "a" and the "n" in my Blackberry, it types the "d" for me. That's artificial intelligence. And it's no longer George Orwell material. It's here.




Showing items 1 - 10 of 30
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almostunbiased 8/1/2008 6:04:15 AM
Go back to music videos. So if McDonalds and Kenny G had a child this is what would happen?
hanso 8/1/2008 6:23:10 AM
I didn't know Nolan's bro was involved with these films. Nolan's bro Batman = Good things to come. The blue shark is the second fastest shark, the Mako shark is the first.
raulendymion 8/1/2008 6:38:05 AM
Personally I liked the interview and am willing to give the movies a chance. He knows he's on the hot-seat and has to deliver the goods. With one of the Nolan brothers and Bale on board he'll never have a better opportunity.
irascible 8/1/2008 6:44:03 AM
Liked it too - seems to be on the ball. With a Nolan writing it's a good sign. Yes, Charlies Angels were a fiasco in my eyes, but We Are Marshall was a decent flick....I went from thumbs down to thumbs sideways... can't lean towards up yet....
noahbody 8/1/2008 6:55:31 AM
He works on Supernatural, he has had some good movies, just have to wait and see. I can say I had my doubts with Raimi and Spiderman, so this is no different. Somebody needs to throw out the spam its gone bad.
Hobbs 8/1/2008 7:13:13 AM
Lots of spin in that interview. He makes the Presidential candidates looks good. I like how he is backpeddling on the PG-13 rating. I'm not convinced he is serious about it being okay as an R. I think all the negative talk back on an PG rating has forced him to spin it a little bit. They were pretty serious about the toy line for the kiddies with this film so I don't see why they would try and take that profit away. Oh well, I give him credit this way when it is PG-13 he can blame the studios for it who won't care as long as they make their millions. <BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />I was disappointed with the questions...I really could care less about Bales tabloid problem but that's just me.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />I agree hanso, I like Nolan writing this thing and they did write a hard core TDK PG-13 movie...I still say the only thing that stopped it from an "R" is no blood...which I'm sorry, but you have to have that in a Terminator film. You can get away with it in a comic movie not a movie like this.
almostunbiased 8/1/2008 7:40:59 AM
We Are Marshall- never saw it (I don't like depressing movies) Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle - sucked Charlie's Angels - sucked Chuck Pilot episode - Never saw it, but i love teh show. That was the only episode I missed and he does produce. So other than Music Videos that's all he has done. I base my opinion on the Charlie's movies, so I guess I might be unfair to the guy, but man were they bad. I know you could blame the writers, but man, they really sucked. I saw the second one first and was lied to and told that the first was better, so I sat through it after.
joeybaloney 8/1/2008 8:04:03 AM
I dug the first Charlie’s Angels. Agree the second was crap though. Chuck’s a great show. I’m wicked psyched for the Nicole Ritchie episode. Personally I have no problem with McG helming this. The involvement of a Nolan, which I was unaware of, is MFin’ fantastic! I truly hope the marketing to kids aspect takes a very back seat to getting us a serious gritty & grim & GOOD Terminator movie. To date I’m cool with everything I’ve seen on this.
gauleyboy420 8/1/2008 11:00:34 AM
both Charlies Andels Movies were good, not great but good.<br /> I mean for christ sake it was fucking Charlies Angels, remember the show people?<br /> The movies were fun action packed films with hot chicks.<br /> We are Marshall, great film, and it showed his range as a director.<br /> <br /> (BTW it's HUGELY biased to judge someone based on half of their work)<br /> <br /> So my favorite thing on this site is that if someone does one less than stellar thing they need to quit....hmmmm, glad my job isn't as superficial as the posters on this site. C'mon guys, SURE the guy has an annoying name (VERY ANNOYING) BUT he's made some good flicks, and shouldn't be judged by one bad movie.<br /> He's obviously a hard worker , and judging by we are marshall he's learning.<br /> Blue shark hmmmmm, thanks for the fact Hanso<br /> SHARK WEEK OWNS SON!!!!
JeribaDrac 8/1/2008 11:00:35 AM
Personally, I am amazed that a 40-year-old man can get away with being called McG. Then again, there's Bono. And Sting. And Prince. Never mind. Anyway, I haven't been unbelievably impressed with McG to date, and I'd be particularly upset if this turned into a pop-culture extravaganza, as he's prone to do. (The O.C. anyone? Anyone.) But, I'd have to say that I was actually impressed with his answers. The PG-13 comment was a little PR-motivated, it seems, but other than that, there seems to be sincerity there. And with regard to making a film, particularly one following in a legendary franchise, I think that's important. I also think his last comment is the most intriguing. After all, that's what we're talking about here. I'm a big futurist nut and like to wander around the possibilities about where humanity will be 10 years from now, 20, 30 and so on. And the fact that he's viewing the present day--hell, his immediate circumstances (the interview)--in such terms in reassuring. Anyone who can tweak their perception from acceptance to awe and questioning (e.g. text prediction) could conceivably confront some of the potential pitfalls (read: potential crappiness) of this fourth installment with sort of an abstract approach. It's that that might save the day for him. Also, he makes a good point--lots of people pay their dues, even though Happy Days was the shit. Also, the Nolan bit should be interesting. News to me. And I've thought for awhile that Christian Bale was on board, then this thing had potential. Also, I think the Christian Bale/unwelcome press question is absolutely relevant, and a good call on Rob Vaux's part. If anyone read the news of TDK's record-breaking circus, you'd have seen studio execs, film critics and industry experts talking about the movie's publicity took on a life of its own. Certainly, it was a big deal, but there was a perfect storm of events that the studio didn't even have to market--they were there. One of which being clean-cut, everyone's-favorite Bale accused of assault. It sparked a second week surge that no one, NO ONE, was predicting--not the studio, not experts, not critics. So, we you have that same star linked to another huge--and hugely anticipated--franchise, then I think it's fair to ask, since that directly affects who people perceive your film. He's playing JOHNN CONNOR for crying out loud. Not Ed Furlong or Nick Stahl's disturbed versions, but THE John Connor, the legend we heard about in 1984. And if John Connor is punching his mom and man-hammering his sister, then Rob Vaux needs to ask it. (Sorry for the rant, I lost it there a little bit.) In the end, I think if McG changed his name, this picture might have a warmer reception. Hanso, the whale shark has 12-foot penis but no testicles. Discuss.
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