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

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