He said he would be back: Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing the Terminator for the sixth time in Terminator: Dark Fate, but this time around, the experience was unlike the recent ones that came before it.
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Even though Schwarzenegger has appeared in all of the Terminator series movies, Dark Fate was conceived as a direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, ignoring the previous three movies that came before it. The biggest differences between those movies and this one was the return of franchise creator James Cameron, as well as the inclusion of Linda Hamilton, who played the iconic role of Sarah Connor in the first two films.
The additions of Cameron—who came up with the story of Dark Fate and picked Deadpool director Tim Miller to shoot it—and Hamilton, who hadn’t been part of the franchise in over two decades, gave the series a much-needed jolt of energy, according to Schwarzenegger. On top of that, it gave Schwarzenegger a chance to play his Terminator character in a brand new way: His T-800 “Model 101” is living under the name Carl and selling drapes—yes, you read that right—when Hamilton’s character comes knocking on his door.
“I was really delighted when James Cameron and I were finishing a motorcycle ride one day and he said to me that he had another idea for Terminator, and that he wanted to bring Linda back,” Schwarzenegger tells Men’s Journal. “Then when he told me the story, and I could see that this Terminator is acting more like a human being, I was very excited because it’s the first time that I’ve played a Terminator in that way.”
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Schwarzenegger spoke with Men’s Journal about the legacy of the Terminator franchise, why Dark Fate is a worthy sequel to Judgement Day, and what it was like teaming up with Linda Hamilton again.
What was it like to step back into this iconic role?
In each of the movies, the role was a little different, even if I’m sort of the same Terminator character. They made the character evolve over time and that’s exciting as an actor. In the first one, I’m just a killing machine; in the second one they decided I would be the protector; and now, he has grown a conscience and can undo his programming. That’s an interesting conflict within this Terminator character. I think the whole idea of him having spent that much time with human beings those years created his human behaviors, and allowed him to act like a human being. And now he’s selling drapes and it’s totally believable.
What was it like working with Linda Hamilton again over two decades after Terminator 2: Judgement Day?
We had a wonderful time working together in the first two movies. In the first one we didn’t work as much together, because I was always chasing her. She would do her own scenes, and then every so often there’d be a scene where I’m about to kill her [laughs]. So we worked less together even though we hung out a lot in a personal way. In the second movie, we were together all the time. On this movie, we spent three months together working in Budapest and it was fantastic. Linda is a funny character herself; she lived in New Orleans until recently. She doesn’t live here in Hollywood. She’s such an amazing person. She doesn’t work on movies so much, she likes to hang out by herself a lot and she read like 40 books while we were working on Terminator. She brings such a great intensity and focus to the character, and it was exciting to get to go through this adventure with her on Dark Fate. And she was so badass in this movie.
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Terminator: Dark Fate / Paramount Pictures
Gabriel Luna plays the new Terminator villain, and he told Men’s Journal earlier this summer you two built a relationship where you’d hang out and train together. What was it like being a mentor to him and working on this movie?
His role was very important, obviously, as the new Terminator. He is what they call a “Rev-9″—he has the ultimate power, more than any Terminator we’ve had before. He has the ability and strength to destroy almost anything, and being able to split into two with his Terminator skeleton and his body. The speed he has and being able to form into any texture and shape, it was a very sophisticated model of Terminator and one that was a real threat to me as an older-model Terminator. In order for him to play it well, it was in my interest to help him as much as I could. He’s such a great guy and we hung out a lot together: We worked out and went to the gym together, lifting weights together, and rehearsed fight scenes together. We built a great relationship. I really wanted him to do as well as possible.
What did it mean to have James Cameron back—your original director for Terminator and T2?
Having Jim back made the whole project click into place. I thought that it was a brilliant idea to bring Linda back, and once he said that and told me the story he wanted to tell, I was really energized about it. It was wonderful having us all together again. I was excited that he was involved in so many ways, from creating the story and hiring the writers, to being involved in getting Tim Miller to direct, and bringing in Linda and the rest of the cast. He had his hand in so many things and he even watched us while we were shooting in Budapest. He wasn’t actually there since he was shooting Avatar, but he watched on video, which was kind of wild.
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How does Dark Fate fit into the legacy of the Terminator franchise for you?
I have always enjoyed doing the Terminator movies. This one is a sequel to Judgement Day, but it was a great experience for me on the other Terminator movies as well. To me, it was always great to be the Terminator and get to play the role in different ways throughout the series. I’ve enjoyed seeing the evolution of the character, and I think it’s a very iconic character that people around the world enjoy watching. The story itself, in general, is a universal story. The ideas of technology, human connection, protection, and how things change in the future as time goes on, there’s that universal appeal. It’s been an honor to get to play this character and this new movie was a great experience.
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