Director McG and actor Sam Worthington take a chance on reinventing a much loved action franchise with Terminator Salvation.
"I don't really want to fill the shoes of Jim Cameron," says director McG on the set of Terminator Salvation. "I told him what my take on the movie was, and he gave me a kick in the butt and said to go for it."
The director of the two Charlie's Angels films takes up the reins on this reboot of the popular sci-fi action franchise created by James Cameron, who directed the low budget 1984 flick that started it all, as well as the 1991 follow up Terminator 2: Judgment Day, before Jonathan Mostow took over with 2003's Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. "I explained to Jim that it wasn't a continuation of the idea," McG continues. "It's a look at the future that the fans have been clamouring for. It's also the coming of John Connor, and how he became the leader of the resistance. It's not a clean, shiny future. It's not Logan's Run or Farrah Fawcett hairdos and shiny jumpsuits. It's a dirty, difficult future. It's not just a loud action movie. It's a movie with characters and arcs, and it's about why it's worth getting up in the morning and fighting on behalf of humanity. It has more of a Children Of Men/The Bourne Identity feeling, with more credible characters. But it still has the velocity of a big summer movie."
Terminator Salvation continues on from Terminator 3, with John Connor and wife Kate Brewster (with Claire Danes now replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard, and Christian Bale taking over from Nick Stahl, who in turn took over from Edward Furlong) creating a resistance organisation with Earth's remaining survivors against Skynet's army of cyborgs. Their plans are threatened with the arrival of a mysterious survivor called Marcus (Australia's Sam Worthington).
Ask McG why he replaced Nick Stahl with Christian Bale, and the director is surprisingly forthright. "I wish Nick every success, but I just felt that the most compelling John Connor on the planet would be Christian Bale," he says. "Christian doesn't make choices for any reason other than integrity. He has enough money, and he'd only do Terminator Salvation if he believed in what it could be creatively. There's no actor alive who I'd prefer to have in those shoes."
Sam Worthington echoes his sentiments. "Christian is an intense motherfucker, but I love him. He's great. He makes you better, and he's extremely generous as an actor."
If original star Arnold Schwarzenegger has any part to play in McG's re-tooled Terminator, the director merely grins. "We can't talk about Arnold, but perhaps in not talking about Arnold, I've said it all as far as what our plans are."
Worthington puts it more succinctly. "It ain't no friggin' Arnie-walking-out-with-his-funny-sunglasses-on movie," he says. "We're going back to reboot it and re-energise it and make it dirty and gritty. McG is making this as if the post-apocalypse really happened. You wouldn't hire Christian Bale and Helena Bonham-Carter if you weren't trying to make this real. I view my own character, Marcus, almost as Alice in Alice In Wonderland or Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. The guy wakes up and he doesn't know who he is. He's the scum of society in real life but in this world, his destiny is far greater," says the Perth-born actor, who insists that injuries are part of the job description. "They're blowing me up every day! I get shot at and napalmed! But it's a Terminator movie, so you know that you're going to get hurt. It's not Pride & Prejudice."
Gearing up for major Hollywood stardom with lead roles in both Terminator Salvation and James Cameron's Avatar next year, Worthington has already been taking tips from his new pal Russell Crowe. "He's my hero, so I asked him for advice," says Worthington. "If I've got problems, I call him and say, ‘They're going to fire my arse; what do I do?' And he just says, ‘Act better. Keep working'."
Terminator Salvation is released on June 4, 2009.