Exclusive: The Look of Terminator Salvation with Martin Laing

The Production Designer takes us through his visuals for the film.

by | May 15, 2009 | Comments

Terminator Salvation

Production Designer Martin Laing has worked with James Cameron on True Lies, Titanic and Ghosts of the Abyss and has served on films like The Haunting, City of Ember and the upcoming Clash of the Titans. Terminator Salvation, with its bleak view of the future, is easily his most ambitious project to date. On the eve of the film’s worldwide rollout, he sits down exclusively with RT to take us through concept art for the film and explain his approach…

Terminator Salvation

“Our Terminator world is quite different from the films you’ve seen before. In the same way that Warner Bros. took the Batman movies and turned them on their head, in design terms as well as the story, and turned that world into something very dark and really really cool, we’re going to be doing the same thing with Terminator. But we’re obviously taking a lot of the history that’s already been laid down in the first three movies and growing with that. So our Terminators are black in colour, they’re very sort of machine orientated. We loved the T-800 which was the silver Arnold figure which you see in the first movie, but we’re before all that. We’re in a post-apocalyptic world, after the bombs have gone off. Obviously the T-800 is where we end up at the end of the movie, but prior to that we get to see the T-600 and the T-700.”

Terminator Salvation

“We’ve tried to get the reality of these early machines. If you look at a wonderful old steam engine it’s black, it’s oily, it’s greasy. That’s the kind of world we’re trying to go with here. We’ve taken quite a few elements from the T-800 which we’ve already seen. The same shoulder joints, knees that pivot and all that stuff. But we’ve made him a little bit more brutal. I was with James Cameron for many many years doing Titanic and True Lies and Avatar, and I used to have to stick together the T-800 he had in his office because it was always breaking. So I know all the parts very very well!”

Terminator Salvation

“The Hydrobot is a Terminator that actually goes through the water. Although it actually has the fluid movements of an eel or a fish and it has this ability to swim quite quickly we’ve tried to keep it real again. It’s all mechanical, with a rhyme and a reason behind each element of the design. We did the final design, blew it up to full size and then gave it to the guys at Stan Winston Studios who made it as a 3D model. It’s about eight and a half feet long. They puppeteered it on set a few days ago and it really looks very exciting. They move it around like a Jim Henson puppet with green sticks which we’ll remove digitally. That reality of actual mechanical parts, that really would work, is what we’ve been chasing with all the design. There’s no kind of science-fiction silliness that’s going on. We started with Mother Nature, really, looking at various aquatic life, eels and so on. Then we worked on several different designs, honing it down each time. We’re trying to establish a reality here. McG has been very clear about the fact that this is a real, grimy, dirty and dangerous world.”

Terminator Salvation

“You’ve seen the Hunter-Killer before in the first three movies. So in the same way that we’re coming back as it were from the T-800 to the T-600, we’re doing the same thing with the Hunter-Killer. It’s a little bit more brutal in its shape. It still has the vertical take off and landing design that was established in the previous films. But the shape and the colouring is very different. We were really lucky to have so many great designs to start with in the original Terminator movies and then we’re working backwards to give it more of a brutal, basic feel. In the very early conversations I had with McG he was pushing an idea of a kind of cool silver look, then we came up with the idea of doing everything in black, and it all really started gelling.”

Terminator Salvation

“Again this was very influenced by the original design of the Terminator. The spine of it is really taken from the spine of a Terminator and the struts are taken from a Terminator leg. We started with a Ducati, because Ducati gave us some bikes, and then we just built on top of them. So what we really wanted to communicate here is the idea that everything is made at the same factory — the same machines are building the Moto-Terminator as are building all the other Terminators. We have a very cool chase scene where two of these Moto-Terminators are shot out of a Harvester and have this spectacular cat and mouse chase.”

Terminator Salvation

“What’s happening in this movie is that Terminators are going out and they’re either wiping out humans or they’re capturing them and bringing them back for their skin and their hair. If you listen to the dialogue in the first movie you can hear Kyle Reese say to Sarah Connor, while they’re in the car, that they’re harvesting humans. So we really are trying to stick to the mythology that’s been established before. The ultimate goal of Skynet is to create one of the T-800s that you see in the original movies. So we have a Transporter which is based very much on the way that cattle are transported on the freeways of the world. Those sort of very scary trucks where you can only see the eyes of the cattle as they go by. We’ve done the same kind of thing for humans, and ours fly. They’re designed to take humans to Skynet for processing.”

Terminator Salvation

“This is a Harvester, and we also have the Aerostats which are a kind of medium-size Terminator. Again, we’ve gone for as much of a sense of realism in this really dark world as we can. Cameron said to me with Battle Angel that the important thing is that the designs always are able to do the jobs they’re designed for and it’s the same with this movie. The Aerostat’s job is to go out and they search for humans, they fly over the landscape, and when they spot humans they send out for one of the Harvesters who come in, very much like a big storm-trooping soldier, and load the living humans into the Transporters.”

Terminator Salvation

“Marcus (played by Sam Worthington), is our hybrid. He is half-human and half-Terminator. He has the endoskeleton of all the other Terminators. But he also has the brain and heart of a human. The heart is simply left there to pump oxygen through his brain to keep it alive. The other guys have batteries at their centre he has a human heart. He bleeds and has nerve endings and so on. So he’s a true hybrid. Obviously we have several different designs because as he goes through the film he gets more and more battered and you see more of what’s underneath. He starts out pretty untouched in his black knickers, but then he gets roughed up quite a bit!”

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

Tag Cloud

DGA Lifetime Christmas movies Marathons Nominations teaser romantic comedy First Reviews SXSW facebook Awards Tour HBO screenings Netflix Christmas movies First Look unscripted tv talk Amazon Prime Video justice league GoT ratings Logo series Walt Disney Pictures cults archives game of thrones Disney streaming service Premiere Dates Comics on TV canceled TV shows remakes Fantasy Horror docudrama franchise video emmy awards Ellie Kemper Pirates Spectrum Originals TV One MCU 72 Emmy Awards worst social media BET Awards GLAAD BBC America nature Certified Fresh breaking bad Best and Worst TCA 2021 travel strong female leads Election CBS Music mutant FOX romance Comic Book animated Peacock dceu Rock kids 20th Century Fox Binge Guide Biopics San Diego Comic-Con Christmas Musicals Awards Trivia dogs Holidays Television Critics Association Holiday war Alien YouTube Oscars Video Games Character Guide President Western SundanceTV historical drama sag awards TV renewals italian Polls and Games Discovery Channel sitcom halloween tv Amazon Film Festival AMC Pixar joker black Trailer VH1 Crackle ghosts spanish game show ABC Musical ITV psychological thriller indiana jones canceled Women's History Month disaster golden globes universal monsters OWN best Marvel Studios Mystery french foreign rt archives Film ESPN Mindy Kaling Mary Poppins Returns VOD APB Amazon Studios Tubi TIFF Sundance TV DC streaming service ID crime drama cooking Drama elevated horror documentary Year in Review Rocketman rotten movies we love WarnerMedia docuseries kong Mary Tyler Moore Bravo rom-coms Spring TV zero dark thirty Sneak Peek hollywood Apple TV+ See It Skip It Sony Pictures crossover dramedy documentaries 2015 CMT Baby Yoda Academy Awards comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Cannes RT History movie LGBT Apple DirecTV batman Heroines Cartoon Network renewed TV shows Podcast Photos The Walt Disney Company VICE doctor who Lionsgate Crunchyroll ABC Signature Dark Horse Comics Disney+ Disney Plus cartoon golden globe awards Animation Winners singing competition Superheroes sequels dragons Winter TV Fox News Calendar critics dark independent cancelled toy story Freeform Brie Larson binge blockbuster criterion TLC El Rey zombies football The Walking Dead BBC 21st Century Fox Paramount spider-man 007 USA TBS jamie lee curtis New York Comic Con toronto TCA 2017 directors Super Bowl scary movies adaptation Pop TV reviews Starz casting Exclusive Video satire name the review Sundance discovery The Witch richard e. Grant MTV E3 south america based on movie transformers TruTV Set visit composers X-Men Syfy hispanic Pop Quiz Comedy Central National Geographic Grammys diversity A24 Turner trailers politics Schedule IFC Films stand-up comedy DC Universe comedies comic deadpool BBC One films Marvel Television christmas movies NYCC Masterpiece anthology Tumblr Classic Film 2017 adventure popular free movies Teen video on demand Disney Plus political drama 2020 Elton John Universal science fiction CNN PBS Action History cinemax LGBTQ Hallmark Christmas movies TCA Awards chucky Pet Sematary Apple TV Plus Reality spain Valentine's Day finale fresh worst movies Turner Classic Movies Toys crime monster movies Spike australia what to watch Funimation Emmy Nominations obituary American Society of Cinematographers USA Network Martial Arts Britbox nfl aliens reboot Hallmark Chernobyl PaleyFest true crime cops Amazon Prime japanese 99% ABC Family Box Office Pride Month Countdown SDCC stoner Star Trek halloween Tarantino WGN CBS All Access Kids & Family CW Seed Reality Competition razzies TV green book miniseries crime thriller A&E werewolf YouTube Red mission: impossible Emmys hidden camera ViacomCBS Mudbound Country blaxploitation indie stop motion telelvision vampires Tomatazos a nightmare on elm street Ovation Summer Fall TV superhero Creative Arts Emmys book The Academy jurassic park Disney 2018 cancelled TV series spy thriller sports Hear Us Out Vudu slashers Paramount Plus streaming fast and furious cars 4/20 Paramount Network TV Land HBO Max theme song The Purge HBO Go TCA Winter 2020 comiccon festival Ghostbusters cancelled television space cancelled TV shows BET harry potter IFC The CW Red Carpet latino technology blockbusters Sundance Now women Captain marvel Columbia Pictures YA talk show Marvel Nat Geo YouTube Premium parents award winner police drama Black History Month Opinion Lucasfilm venice 45 robots Television Academy Comedy children's TV FX on Hulu superman Cosplay news biography die hard Anna Paquin television mockumentary asian-american MSNBC Adult Swim PlayStation Mary poppins 24 frames BAFTA dc natural history serial killer Family concert Hulu Acorn TV james bond period drama NBC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2016 godzilla Extras Food Network FX DC Comics RT21 Nickelodeon medical drama OneApp Travel Channel supernatural Superheroe all-time hist Sci-Fi Broadway screen actors guild Lifetime sequel Trophy Talk movies nbcuniversal Shondaland Thanksgiving Song of Ice and Fire Infographic Arrowverse Star Wars 71st Emmy Awards FXX Stephen King Avengers versus witnail Rocky anime boxoffice TCM Rom-Com kaiju Chilling Adventures of Sabrina classics festivals child's play Epix prank comic books Endgame thriller revenge E! Netflix Writers Guild of America cats spanish language Fox Searchlight Interview psycho scorecard Showtime Esquire quibi pirates of the caribbean Legendary king kong TNT Watching Series rotten 2019 GIFs The Arrangement Black Mirror laika Disney Channel spinoff Warner Bros. boxing Shudder twilight zombie