Exclusive: McG Talks Terminator Salvation

RT sits down with the much-maligned director planning to make good.

by | March 26, 2009 | Comments

Exclusive: McG Talks Terminator Salvation

The news that one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time was to get a full-fat reboot predictably sent cyborg fanboys into paroxysms of joy. For about 10 minutes. That Arnie, otherwise engaged running the world’s fourth largest economy, wouldn’t be back was partly compensated for by the casting of Christian Bale. But the revelation that McG was to be at the helm put an abrupt stop to the celebrations. Recently, though, the tide’s been turning with trailers and longer assemblages revealing a gritty war movie with more in common with Mad Max and Children of Men than Charlie’s Angels. RT talked exclusively to the much-maligned McG about the rise of his machines…

Terminator Salvation


Pitch Terminator Salvation to us.

McG: The whole idea for doing this movie is to honour the first three movies but begin again. The big difference is we’re post-Judgement Day, whereas the other pictures were all contemporary, with Terminators coming back in time. It’s deep post-Judgement Day, it’s a new beginning, and because the future is malleable, there are a great many places to go.

One of the joys of this picture is it explores the space between Judgement Day and the becoming of the T800. So we get to see all the research and development that went into the proficiency of the T800. It’s like an Apple computer; the first ones you got 15 years ago had 2 megs of memory, and they weren’t so fast. And now today it’s the Macbook air and it does back flips. You know, it’s the same thing with the Machine world. And it suggests a world that’s less based in science fiction than it was when Jim Cameron was making the movies.

How do you mean?

McG: Well we live in a time where if you have an arthritic shoulder, they’ll give you a new one. We can make a 70-year-old woman pregnant, and deconstruct the human genome. And certainly the days of talking to a psychiatrist about your mommy and daddy issues are over — they just want to manipulate your serotonin levels. And therefore it’s real — it’s here. It’s now. That wasn’t the case when Ridley Scott made Blade Runner, or the first Terminator pictures, or even when the first Matrix came out. So in response our film was designed to have that tactile reality of Children of Men, or even the Bourne franchise.

Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale and Sam Worthington in Terminator Salvation.
Click here for more Terminator Salvation images.

Are there obvious elements in the previous movies that have to come back into play in yours?

McG: Certainly. We pay off a great many things that are established — particularly with Kyle Reese. We talk about the mythology of his shotgun strap, his proficiency for stealing cars, and we see where he learned a lot of these skills. And it wasn’t from Connor, it was from the Marcus character, which is one of the joys of the picture. We cite “Pain can be controlled, you just disconnect it,” you know, and we realise where he got that, and there’s a great many tidbits for the hard-core fans out there. But it’s designed as well for people who don’t know that much about the ins and outs of the first films.

Any “Hasta la vista, baby” moments?

McG: We’re working on a few. But I would never be so bold as to say we’ll have that good fortune of, you know, stuff sticking around to that degree. [Laughs]

You’ve got a really talented team of writers on board.

McG: Yeah, we wanted it to be written with the deftest pens possible. There’s a writing team called Ferris and Brancato that wrote the original draft. Then when I got involved, I brought in Paul Haggis, we worked for about 2 months on the script, with Christian as well. He taught us a great deal about character. Then we brought in Jonathan Nolan — who wrote the Batman pictures, Prestige, and largely Memento. So it’s a very cerebral bunch that’s here to make a film of the highest quality.

Continue onto the next page as McG talks about the challenges of shooting the film, his approach to CGI and whether he could take Linda Hamilton in a fight.

Exclusive: McG Talks Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation


What were the most complicated scenes to shoot?

McG: Well a lot of the scenes take place in one shot, and figuring out places to hide the cuts… Again, I go to Children of Men — the car sequence, where the motorbikes come, and Julianne Moore is shot, and the whole thing plays in one shot. Figuring that out is very difficult, and you’ve got to figure out exactly where you’re going to have your blend points; you need to measure everything off, and consult with the visual effects people.

There’s a big gas station sequence that had that, and that was very, very tedious, and very, very technical filmmaking. And that’s why I love this film — one day we’re shooting a very intimate, character-driven scene, and there’s nothing going on but Connor and his wife in a room, and she’s the only one he can talk to about what’s on his mind. And then the next day we’re, you know, blowing up half of New Mexico, and going to a place of extraordinary action. So those are decidedly different hats to wear, day in, day out.

Do you deliberately do as much physically as you can? George Lucas would shoot the whole thing on a green screen, with guys wearing ping-pong balls…

McG: I say with respect to George Lucas, who I adore, I don’t like that at all. This is why Stan Winston‘s team is here. We do as much practically and in camera as possible. I want the machines to be real and we built all the machines. We built all the prosthetics. And then they’re accentuated and added to, certainly.

Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale in Terminator Salvation.
Click here for more Terminator Salvation images.

McG: I believe in visual effects completely. But I just don’t believe in saying, “throw up the green screen, and let’s make it happen.” I think the audience has become so skilled in recognising that – they sniff it out and it loses its potency. We’re going to have 800 CGI shots in this — I mean it’s a CG festival, that’s why I brought in the best minds in the business to come in and get it done – but we don’t just say, “put a blue sleeve on the Marcus character,” I mean — the guy spent six hours in make-up.

How do you inject humour and warmth into this universe?

McG: I don’t. There’s not a great deal of humour and warmth in this universe. It’s very largely influenced by the Cormac McCarthy novel The Road. It’s designed to feel that way — detached and existential, it’s got a great deal of Camus’ The Stranger in it. But there’s a gallows humour. We could all be in a bunker somewhere, and every now and again, you elbow the guy next to you and you make a wisecrack — what else are you going to do? It’s one of the defining characteristics of being human, even in the face of death. But the movie is designed to be very serious and very credible.

Could you take Linda Hamilton in a fight?

McG: Most certainly not. After those pull-ups in the psychiatric ward, I don’t think I could make that happen.

Terminator Salvation is released in the US on 21st May, in the UK on 3rd June and in Australia on 4th June.

Tag Cloud

medical drama Vudu Polls and Games DirecTV IFC Apple TV Plus CBS psycho ratings Super Bowl PlayStation TCA dragons werewolf Writers Guild of America television batman travel DC Comics Apple Crackle unscripted Drama Awards Tour comic slashers Masterpiece 21st Century Fox docudrama films cartoon Rom-Com RT History Marvel Television 2019 Food Network stand-up comedy E3 The Walking Dead Superheroe comiccon spain LGBTQ Spike concert Apple TV+ ESPN Sneak Peek children's TV dceu NBC Logo Amazon Grammys 4/20 FOX blaxploitation 2020 GLAAD Baby Yoda TNT El Rey streaming Animation scary movies FX video on demand USA Network Lifetime cancelled TV series Nominations Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Song of Ice and Fire PaleyFest BET Awards aliens TruTV Pet Sematary CNN RT21 spinoff crime drama Travel Channel TCA Winter 2020 Cosplay space Shudder Extras DGA latino richard e. Grant versus Trivia boxoffice biography cooking Television Academy jamie lee curtis Captain marvel Schedule Western Paramount Holiday Best and Worst miniseries Spring TV Funimation TV renewals YouTube Red Watching Series SundanceTV Dark Horse Comics serial killer parents Shondaland halloween based on movie documentaries Anna Paquin thriller Film Festival Rocketman sag awards CW Seed robots Heroines MSNBC game of thrones Disney Plus Thanksgiving DC Universe political drama strong female leads SDCC harry potter Elton John A24 criterion Lionsgate Biopics Amazon Studios documentary TCA 2017 revenge Peacock finale Walt Disney Pictures Pop Amazon Prime Video See It Skip It crime thriller AMC Year in Review kids police drama The Arrangement singing competition LGBT transformers zombies MCU Syfy christmas movies movies hispanic series Nat Geo mutant festivals Bravo foreign mockumentary reviews Summer diversity Brie Larson discovery theme song First Look cinemax a nightmare on elm street Mary Tyler Moore Winners President twilight Musicals Star Wars asian-american Marvel The Purge news Amazon Prime award winner Sundance TV ABC 2015 binge Nickelodeon National Geographic true crime 2017 joker video cults 45 war Box Office nature BBC America Musical hist Hallmark Spectrum Originals Star Trek sports cancelled television VH1 Sony Pictures APB Toys 007 Opinion comedies The CW YA canceled TV shows Endgame YouTube Binge Guide The Witch Black Mirror Kids & Family Starz Britbox period drama historical drama stoner Premiere Dates Hulu Classic Film 71st Emmy Awards rotten movies we love WarnerMedia Awards Horror Tumblr YouTube Premium screenings spy thriller BAFTA Pixar 2016 composers reboot tv talk vampires BBC Avengers dark Netflix Christmas movies 2018 TCA Awards ghosts south america Sundance Now Cannes anthology universal monsters Discovery Channel Emmy Nominations green book Women's History Month Universal casting golden globes Esquire TCM Academy Awards American Society of Cinematographers what to watch Tarantino Black History Month satire Sci-Fi Rocky MTV Oscars Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt HBO Epix Music crossover Warner Bros. dogs Turner Classic Movies NYCC die hard teaser Valentine's Day ABC Family mission: impossible Red Carpet elevated horror VICE Disney Channel Ghostbusters best Television Critics Association Country child's play cars WGN disaster TV Land GIFs Martial Arts Video Games Chernobyl book Fox News San Diego Comic-Con New York Comic Con Comedy Ovation facebook Mary Poppins Returns Disney streaming service Turner FXX TBS dc Countdown Pop TV Teen Arrowverse History IFC Films franchise cancelled TV shows Acorn TV BET name the review Reality Lucasfilm supernatural Trailer Election Christmas Emmys screen actors guild all-time Pride Month chucky canceled A&E Hallmark Christmas movies indiana jones 24 frames BBC One doctor who DC streaming service psychological thriller sequel spider-man First Reviews anime Sundance spanish language E! Disney witnail zero dark thirty Stephen King Adult Swim cats emmy awards Columbia Pictures Fall TV breaking bad technology HBO Go justice league Marathons Reality Competition Photos USA free movies Interview FX on Hulu GoT toy story HBO Max animated Action Set visit movie adventure Cartoon Network cops OneApp TLC VOD X-Men indie Podcast Lifetime Christmas movies zombie Mindy Kaling talk show critics TIFF OWN Showtime independent Paramount Network Quiz Rock adaptation Certified Fresh Calendar CBS All Access Netflix Tubi natural history Mary poppins TV directors PBS 20th Century Fox Disney+ Disney Plus Mudbound Comics on TV Superheroes Crunchyroll romantic comedy politics Fantasy sitcom blockbuster Mystery SXSW renewed TV shows Ellie Kemper Pirates science fiction Hear Us Out cancelled Winter TV Marvel Studios Comic Book Character Guide Holidays Film Trophy Talk romance dramedy comics Comedy Central Freeform quibi Family crime game show Infographic CMT Creative Arts Emmys social media Tomatazos ITV