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Mania Exclusive: McG talks Terminator Salvation
What that's about Robert Patrick?
By Robert T. Trate
April 02, 2009
McG director of Terminator Salvation (2009) and a set of very familiar eyes.
© Mania.com/Robert Trate
On May 21st the world will decide whether or not it will want more Terminator movies. Warner Brothers has resurrected the franchise and the man they tapped to do so is McG. Yes, the same McG that brought us two Charlie’s Angels pictures. Yes, the same McG that wouldn’t go to Australia to make Superman Returns because of his fear of flying. To walk in the shoes of the great James Cameron McG loaded his guns by casting Christian Bale as the savior of the future John Connor. The highly energetic McG spoke about Terminator Salvation, his relationship with Bale, Will Smith as Captain Nemo and asked the question why does the T-1000 look the way it does?
Mania: What do you think about the fan reaction to McG directing the next Terminator film?
McG: Everybody has to earn their stripes and I am willing to earn mine. It is certainly the privilege of the fan to judge anybody by their body of work. I would understand if I were a dedicated fan of Terminator. First of all, fourth movie ah why? Then also why McG of all the people out there? To that end we have try to put everything in order that would suggest credibility then most importantly just try and show the film so that it goes beyond me flapping my gums, if that makes any sense. Frankly, I think we have done a pretty good job turning it around. At first it was, we don’t need another movie and why get a guy who calls himself McG who did Charlie’s Angels to do this [Terminator]. I’m never going to be able to convert everybody. It’s something that you can’t worry about too much.
Mania: Originally you were attached to direct Superman Returns. You decided not to because you learned that you would have to fly to Australia to direct the film. In hindsight are you glad that you didn’t?
McG: For me that was a painful period in my life. It was terribly immasculating, embarrassing and continues to be. It is something I deal with all the time. I don’t know if there is a positive to come out of it for anybody. If you have a major problem and it has been on your back I think it is always good to come to terms with it and do what you can to manage it.
Mania: Do you fly now?
McG: Yeah, now it is sort of my passion. I am very respectful of it. It’s not that I am afraid of flying it is more of a control issue. I am doing a lot better and I fly all the time now.
Mania: Are you willing to take another shot at Superman since there is talk of Warner Brothers rebooting it again?
McG: I don’t know. I talked to the DC guys and its food for thought. I think it is a great character. I would want to make the character infinitely more dark and complicated and get away from the boy scout a little bit and get into the alien on Earth and how that could be lonely and interesting. It’s not that I would make it depressing I would just make it a little tougher. I suspect that people would respond to it. Honestly, I haven’t thought about it. The next picture I am likely to make is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is challenging because it has its classic literature roots and is the film Walt Disney bet the farm on in the fifties when he was only known for animation. So we’ll see.
Mania: Can you tell us anything about 20, 000 Leagues development?
McG: I am working on the script right now. I wouldn’t go to an actor I really respect until I have a script I can fall on a sword for. I definitely like the idea of Will Smith. I have made that very clear. I like the idea of breaking down any racial barriers and taking the idea of what people perceive as a period film and turning it on its ear. I have a few interesting ideas of dealing with that as well.
Mania: Why Will Smith for the role of Captain Nemo?
McG: I think he can handle it. It’s basically a guy at war with war itself. I don’t want it to be so dark that it feels like a history lesson. So it has to have a journey component to it. It has to make you want to get out of your cubicle, out of your small world and live a life you are not accustomed to. You need that someone to take you with them.
Mania: Did you have trepidation in tackling Terminator, a story that the audience knows how it all ends?
McG: Not really, because I think there is this giant dark period which never really has been explored. You know that Judgment Day to 2029 period. People want to know what happened and how did you get there. I like the idea of showing the research and development of Skynet. Before you have ABS breaks and airbags and all these types of things you have to have big clunky fifties Buicks. Like with your computer they start bigger, slower and clunker. Ultimately they become quicker, sleeker, leaner, meaner and faster. The same thing goes with the language of Skynet. So I thought it would be fun to show how they got to the Schwarzenegger model. That is why there is sort of a Soviet Tank look to everything you see in the picture; from the T-600’s to the T-1’s, which were established by Jim Cameron but also we added machines that live in the water, control the roads. We also do our version of the Hunter Killers transports. It is just a larger machine vocabulary. In our movie humanity is the lab rats. How did we get to the polo vaccine? You gotta go through a shit load of lab rats to figure it all out. In this one how does Skynet get to a photo realistic T-800 that can infiltrate with no problems? Well they got to rip a lot of stem cells out of people like us and sort of harvest them and that’s a nasty business. This movie looks at that.
Mania: What is the emotional journey of this film?
McG: I wish I could show the whole movie right now. It is really about meeting Sam Worthington’s character and how he has completely given up on himself. He has completely given up on humanity. He finds himself in this world of duress, in this world of difficulty. He finds the value of himself and the value of his fellow man which is interesting because we all come from this convenience store culture at every corner and we still get down on ourselves and down on mankind. Then in this world that is infinitely more difficult that’s where he realizes that we make great choices, do great things and that maybe there is a little value to this life after all. On top of that there is the Connor becoming story. I think people are expecting Connor to go “I am John Connor, you move to the left you move to the right” and they just scuttle around and do what they are told. This movie is about him going from one of to the one.
Mania: There are a lot of stories about Bale not liking the original script. Obviously, you got him to the do film. What has Christian Bale been like to work with?
McG: He has been a partner every step of the way. That has been the nature of our relationship. He has been my partner in the making of this movie to this day. He and I will talk about the movie tonight. We speak about it every single day. That is not to say he isn’t passionate about Public Enemies, of course he is. He gives everything to what he is currently involved in. He totally immerses himself.
Mania: What didn’t he like about the script?
McG: It was too goofy. It read like Terminator 4. We were like; we’re not going to make Terminator 4! We have to make a film that is a story first and takes advantage of what has been put into motion by Jim [Cameron]. Jim is very passionate about the Terminator and what it means and where the world is headed. He is focused on it and we honor that mythology in the same respect and that was our genesis.
Mania: Will we see Schwarzenegger in the film or perhaps a CGI Schwarzenegger?
McG: I intend to honor those for the reasons why we are here. I like, what the hell, is Tom Hanks shaking Kennedy’s hand? You go, that’s pretty neat in Forrest Gump the way they pushed it further and made me believe that happened. Then Robert Patrick’s head coming apart in liquid metal and everything that happens there. Did it not collectively blow our minds? Now you see Benjamin Button and that is [David] Fincher once again flexing his muscle and doing what he does. I think it is the responsibility of a Terminatormovie to push that ball forward. Were writing code with a guy named Ben Snow at ILM and we are trying to figure out how to blur the line between a human character and a synthetic character where you can’t tell where one ends and one begins. It has never been done before and that basically speaks to the physical expression of the T-800.
Mania: Will there be any other original cast members in the new film?
McG: Michael Biehn is important to us and I was talking to Robert Patrick the other night. It’s all of these things, why does the T-1000 look the way it looks? Why doesn’t it look like you? Honestly why him? A mannequin at the store has to look like someone.
McG and his Terminator franchise will hit theaters on May 21, 2009.