Any normal person might be angry if they were making a movie that straight-up ignored several previously-connected projects they’d worked on. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a normal person.
“It makes no difference to me. Absolutely none,” the iconic actor told Gizmodo in Los Angeles this week. “I understand that each director goes in a different direction [and] it’s a systemic thing. The way those franchises are being bought, the way they’re available, then they go to go into bankruptcy and then someone else buys. Now, it goes back to Jim Cameron and to Gale Anne Hurd. So that’s what creates sometimes the inconsistencies. If it would always stay with one studio and one ownership, then that wouldn’t happen.”
Schwarzenegger is one of the stars of Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest film in the Terminator franchise – directed by Tim Miller – and the first one since 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day to bring back franchise creator James Cameron and star Linda Hamilton in a major capacity.
As for Schwarzenegger, in the original Terminator he said he’d be back and he has been. Many, many times. He was in 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, 2015's Terminator: Genisys, and his image even appeared in 2009's Terminator: Salvation (for which Hamilton provided a voice, the only other time she’s actively participated). However, Dark Fate ignores everything that happened in each of those movies and only follows the events of the first two. A lot of hard work down the drain, but Schwarzenegger looks on the bright side.
“To me, what was always important that I was working with good directors, the story for my character was good and that’s all I care about,” Schwarzenegger continues. “So I don’t care if Linda Hamilton says, well, ‘I ignored number three, number four, number five’ now, which I totally understand because she wasn’t in it. So, of course, she should ignore it. And Jim Cameron was not working on it, so he should ignore it too. So that’s perfectly fine. I totally get it. And I’m very happy that now they are involved.”
Sitting down with Schwarzenegger is a real treat. It’s obvious that you’re talking with one of the all-time biggest stars in movie history, but he doesn’t flaunt it. He’s very laid back, direct, honest, and funny. Only when he drops a quick True Lies anecdote or calls mega-filmmaker James Cameron “Jim” multiple times do you get the sense of everything he’s accomplished. He truly feels like a guy you’d be friends with...if he hadn’t been in dozens of movies that have grossed well over $2 billion globally, that is.
One person who is friends with him though is that “Jim” Cameron fellow, and he’s the one who first told Schwarzenegger about what would become Dark Fate. And the conversation took place in perhaps the most Arnold Schwarzenegger way possible.
“Jim Cameron was telling me the story after a motorcycle ride. So I was probably the first one to hear his idea,” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s when I realised also that Linda Hamilton has to be back the way he told the story. I liked it very much. And he asked me, was I interested and I said ‘Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a great idea. Let’s do it.’”
[Editor’s Note: A few small spoilers are below; we made a note in bold where they end. -Jill P.]
The four stars of Dark Fate: Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, and the Carl’s Draperies van.
During development and production, Schwarzenegger said Cameron – who is credited as a producer as well as one of five people who came up with the story – would ask for his input into what this new iteration of the Terminator would be. That’s where the fact that the character owns his own drapery business came from.
“Jim Cameron knows me well and we talk a lot of times about decorating and stuff like that,” Schwarzenegger said, in what I soon realised might be the greatest thing I’d ever hear a human say. “When he gets a new office I help him with the decoration or he comes over to my house and has some ideas and when he sends birthday gifts, that has something to do with the decoration of the house. So I think that he knows that I’m into that. And so he found it very organic that I would be able to talk about it totally convincingly about the whole thing, which is exactly what happened.”
It sounds absurd coming from Schwarzenegger. But when Carl – the name the T-800 has taken for itself in Dark Fate – starts talking about drapes among all the action, it somehow works as an evolution of a character that has proved over the decades to be incredibly malleable.
“I thought it was really great that he’d found another way of evolution in the character, not just to change him from a villain to a protector like in the second one, but to actually have him be able to kind of undo his own programming,” Schwarzenegger said. “He was programmed to kill. He realizes being around human beings that wait a minute, that was not the right thing to do...and wants to make good. And wants to be a positive influence.”
There’s nothing quite like seeing these two back together.
Cameron’s return to the franchise has another big positive influence on Dark Fate, and that’s bringing the franchise back to the feminine roots it started with.
“[Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor] is just like the badass number one of all time,” Schwarzenegger said. “She set the bar really high. I mean so high that I was kind of worried when she came back. ‘Now what is she going to do? How do you top that? ‘And, you know, not only was she able to top it, because now she’s 60 and was a badass but also made it totally believable [and] became an inspiration for the other two girls that come in. They looked at her and said, ‘Fuck, we better get going because she’s set the bar so high.’ And so it was really great.”
What would also really be great is if, for the first time since Terminator 2, a Terminator sequel actually inspired its own sequels continuing the same story. If that happens, though, Schwarzenegger is tight-lipped about what that may or may not hold for his character. Which he also blames Cameron for.
“I don’t know at all because he has never shared that,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced that he has an idea, but he has not shared that with me at all.”
That’s probably not true but, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. No matter what he says, you thank him for his time, shake his hand, and leave the room feeling like a Terminator yourself.