Moviegoers of a certain age will remember the first time they saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which flipped Arnold Schwarzenegger’s villain from the first film into a hero and pitted him against an even more sinister foe, the liquid metal T-1000 played by Robert Patrick. Thanks to James Cameron’s deft hand, some groundbreaking special effects, and, of course, the T-1000’s piercing, ice-cold stare, T2 became a runaway success, and Patrick, who was relatively unknown at the time, earned a spot as one of cinema’s most memorable villains.
Since then, Patrick has enjoyed success in a variety of roles, including the final two seasons of The X-Files as agent John Doggett, and even as Terminator 2 returns to theaters this week with a brand new 4K transfer and 3D effects overseen by James Cameron himself, Patrick has even more lined up for the coming weeks. The fourth season of his CBS drama Scorpion arrives in September, as well as a true crime thriller called Last Rampage, and he’ll also feature in a new paranormal anthology series for Amazon called Lore. Patrick took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with RT about his Five Favorite Films and the impact Terminator 2 has had on his career.
My first film would be Braveheart. I love that film. I have Scots-Irish ancestry, and I was very intrigued with it. I’m actually a part of the Wallace clan on my grandmother’s side, so I was very intrigued with the portrayal of William Wallace, even though I’m not a direct descendant. The subject matter interested me, and I thought that Mel Gibson did an exceptional job. It’s my favorite film. It’s one of those films I can watch over and over and over again. It has comedy, there’s romance, love, passion, love of your country, the pursuit of freedom, and I just think he did an incredible job directing that film and also starring in it.
I think my second favorite film is Apocalypse Now, partly because I’m 58 years old, and I grew up with Vietnam on the television. That movie is just such an amazing journey, and it was really terrifying to watch. There were just so many elements of that film that just left a big impression on me when I saw it. I think I saw it — when did it come out? In ’78, ’79? It was just an amazing film. For me, not having served, it kind of articulated and revealed the fear I think I would’ve had, had I had to go. There were just so many elements about that film that were terrifying. It was fascinating filmmaking, and I love that film.
In my career, I finally got to work with Bobby Duvall, he played my father in the movie I did with Billy Bob Thornton [Jayne Mansfield’s Car], but to talk to Bobby about those sequences and what that was like, and how it was like to shoot… It’s a pretty profound movie.
And Coppola himself, my third favorite film is The Godfather. He’s just such a huge filmmaker of the ’70s, and I admire his work tremendously.
What would be my number four? I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten that far in my categorizing of films. Maybe 2001 by Stanley Kubrick. It’s a film I saw early on with my father that had a really profound effect on me. That movie, I think, is pretty amazing filmmaking. And to see it at a young age — I remember going with my dad to watch it. It was a very, very profound film to watch.
RT: I love that film, but I’m not sure how I would have processed it if I had seen it as a child. How old were you when you and your father went to see it?
God, I don’t know. I wasn’t that old. I wasn’t that old at all. Yeah, it was such a mind-blowing experience. I have to say that I was under 12, and I’m not really quite sure when that one came out, but even to this day when I rewatch it, it was just amazing. I think maybe the power of the cinema really hit me.
I think my fifth choice will blow you away. At a time in my life when I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue, and I had a feeling I wanted to pursue acting as a career, one of the films that really hit me hard emotionally that made me feel pushed that way was An Officer and a Gentleman, with Richard Gere. There was just something about that film that had such a profound effect on me. The line,”I have no place else to go,” that he yells up at Lou Gossett, Jr. resonated. I love that film for the emotional impact it had on me. It’s an amazing film.
RT: So it was the performances that really stood out to you.
Yeah, it was more of the performances. I’m not sure if that’ll ever be on anybody’s top five list, but again, just thinking about it, it’s the power of the cinema and the impact that it has on me as a filmgoer. Certainly there are films that are technically superior and just amazing achievements in film, but also I like that aspect of what kind of an impact can the film deliver. That one definitely falls in that category. It’s a lot like Braveheart in that sense, that emotionally I was connected to it. It hit me profoundly.
Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: You mentioned part of the reason you love Braveheart is your Scots-Irish heritage. Have you ever visited your ancestral lands?
Robert Patrick: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. Three or four years ago, I took my family to Scotland on a trip, and Matt Kennedy was our escort. He’s a part of Best Scottish Tours, and he took us around and showed us. We actually found the home of my family clan, the Lamont clan, that later my descendants became Patrick when they came over to America in the initial immigration to America by the Europeans. We’ve been over here since the early 1600s. It was quite interesting, because everybody was in pursuit of freedom. That’s how I got to be here, and my family had a really, really great time going around Scotland. Yeah, I have never really felt at home anywhere other than America, but when I was in Scotland, I really could feel the presence of my ancestors.
RT: You’ve obviously done a lot of different projects over the years, but the 3D release of Terminator 2 is coming out this week. This was your big breakout role. I’m wondering if you still get a lot of people coming up to you quoting lines from the movie.
Patrick: Oh, absolutely. It’s a huge breakout role for me, the biggest impact on my career. Up until that time, I’d only done Roger Corman films that were somewhat obscure and not really widely seen. No one had any idea who I was, which is one of the reasons why I think the character had such a big impact with the audience. Because I was an unknown guy, they had no preconceived notions, which made them willing to, whether they knew it or not, accept me as the T-1000. To this day, it is the thing that I am the most recognized for. Not a day goes by that I don’t acknowledge someone when they say, “T-1000!” and I say, “That’s me.”
RT: Does it ever get to a point where you think, “God, I’ve done so much other great stuff over the years. Where’s the love for that?”
Patrick: Well, I appreciate you saying that, and secretly I do hope that people are aware of the other work that I’ve done. I’ve been doing it for 34 years, and I would hope that someone has also seen some of the other stuff. But that character’s just so iconic, and I’m so proud of it. I’m really proud of the impact it’s had on our culture, and be a small part in that. There’s a quarter me, quarter Jim Cameron, quarter Stan Winston effects, and a quarter Industrial Light & Magic effects, and they all combined to make that character, so I’m really proud of it. But I’m incredibly proud of some other movies I’ve done, like Cop Land and Walk the Line, you know.
RT: You reprised the T-1000 character in a couple of cameos for Wayne’s World and The Last Action Hero. When they approached you about that at the time, did you feel any reluctance to play up that character again.
Patrick: Yeah, well, there was a give and take with it. There was some give and take, and it was something kind of like… I wanted to prove myself, that there was more to me than just that, and yet I still felt like, “Well, if anybody wants to make fun of it, I should be the guy to do it.” And I did, and I had fun with that, but I tried not to perpetuate it in the sense that I didn’t want to do a role that was similar to it, or I didn’t want to use the celebrity from it to sell beer. I didn’t want to do it in that fashion, but doing it in the fashion I did, in Wayne’s World and Last Action Hero, well, that seemed to be okay with me, because then I was in on the joke. I wanted to explore finding other opportunities for me to do my craft in a different way and remove myself as far as I could from it.
I’m very proud of my career. I feel that I’ve tried to be a chameleon. I’ve really tried to lose my identity in different roles and confuse people, and not let there be the personality of Robert Patrick be what you’re watching. I want you to watch the character and believe the character. I’m real confident that I’ve achieved that goal.
So that was the kind of give and take with it. I don’t want to just be known for this, but I’ll have fun being known for this, and I got to compartmentalize everything and continue as an artist.
RT: There’s a tricky balance to strike there, I’m sure.
Patrick: Yeah, I’m really grateful that my own personality, the personality of Robert Patrick, isn’t the dominant thing when people see me. Usually they acknowledge the work, and I’m much more happy with that.
RT: You have a lot of projects coming up in the pipeline, including this film called Last Rampage.
Patrick: That’s a film I’m very, very proud of, that I co-produced with my director, Dwight Little. My brother does the score — my brother, a multi-platinum recording artist, formerly of Nine Inch Nails, it’s his composition. I think it is undoubtedly the darkest character I’ve ever played in my life. It’s a true life story, a true crime story, and my guy is the devil, just a real monster. I’m really, really excited for people to see this. It’s an independent film, and I’m really, really proud of it.