Starlog: T2 - The Official Movie Magazine
Date: July, 1991
Arnold Schwarzenegger, walking down a hallway, blasting away with a pump- action shotgun. A motorcycle- truck chase helter-skelter through the Los Angeles drainage canal. Linda Hamilton, armed and dangerous, doing everything possible to protect her son from the dreaded T-1000, the baddest of bad killing machines, sent back in time to change the course of human history.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day unfolds in an endless stream of incredible sights and sounds like these, It's an action-adventure vehicle being driven by director James Cameron. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the follow-up to Cameron's 1984 hit, The Terminator is now a reality. Seven years ago,however, it was the furthest thing from Cameron's mind.
"The ending of the first Terminator wasn't structured with a sequel in mind," he recalls. "Sarah Connor was going toward a known future, and the audience knew what she was heading into, I felt everything about that story was there and that there wasn't much left to say."
But Cameron's attitude began to change six months after The Terminator opened, making an unexpected critical and box-office smash.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger and I got together and discussed the possibility of a sequel. He was much more enthusiastic about doing a sequel than I was, and there were a lot of legal entanglements to work out before a sequel could even be considered," the director explains. "But, as the years went by, I began to take the idea more seriously,"
During the ensuing years, a Terminator sequel was the major topic of conversation whenever Cameron got together with friend and writing partner William Wisher who helped novelize the first Terminator. He recalls the night that Cameron broke the news to him that Terminator 2: Judgment Day was about to become a reality.
"Jim was always coming over, and we would toss around ideas and make tentative plans," Wisher says. "But I never really took any of it seriously, until one night when Jim came over and T2 came up again. This time, Jim pulled out this old, yellow sheet of paper and showed it to me. It was an idea, basically a couple of sentences, that he had jotted down a long time ago. It read, 'Young John Connor and the terminator who comes back to befriend him.'
"The idea of a boy and his terminator seemed funny, and we both had a good laugh at it. After we finished laughing, Jim looked at me and said the T2 project was now coming together and this was the story we ought to do."
Directed by Cameron from a Cameron-Wisher script, T2 takes place about a decade after the first film's conclusion. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), in a mental institution and separated from her now 10-year-old son John (Edward Furlong), finds herself confronted with not only a nightmarish face from her past in the form of Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) but also a second newer-model terminator called the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) dispatched to kill John Connor, and some present-timers with their own agendas, like scientist Miles Dyson (Joe Morton). At stake? Only the present and future of planet Earth.
Cameron and Wisher wrote the T2 screenplay in less than a month, and the director recalls the work boiled down to "a distillation of possible ideas."
"I saw Sarah as being the more interesting character this time around," Cameron says, "In fact, the big problem going in was that Arnold's Terminator wasn't very interesting to me at all. I had to change him in a way that would make him something other than the same character in the first film. I solved that problem by giving him the capacity to adapt to (human) emotions and, in a way, become good."
Wisher chimes in to explain the technical side of their T2 writing stint. "We would take turns sitting at the computer and just talk about what we would like to see in a particular scene. Every time we had an idea for a scene, we would open a computer file and file that idea under the title of the scene," he says. "When we had enough ideas for each scene, we used the ideas to write the treatment. By the time we had the treatment, it was basically a matter of reformatting things and filling in the blanks to come up with the finished screenplay."
With the script in order, Cameron and company began a preproduction race against the clock to line up the movie's massive FX menu which includes makeup work by Terminator veteran Stan Winston and visual and optical FX from Industrial Light 5 Magic. Cameron got the ball rolling by hiring three storyboard artists and having them produce renderings of virtually every major sequence in the film. And, as related by producer B.J. Rack, the detail was particularly fine when it came to the opticals and visuals. "Every special FX shot has been designed to the nth degree. We have the angle, the techniques and the number of seconds for each shot. We`ve even broken the scenes down to what FX elements are being used. We knew going in that we weren't going to have the luxury of a lot of post-production to do the visual stuff, so we've done everything as we've gone along."
Coordinating the production's tidal wave of miniatures, opticals, inserts and all manner of live-action shots was Alison Savitch.
"Basically, I'm a traffic cop," Savitch notes. "I'm dealing with a number of different FX houses who are supplying the insert elements and coordinating things so that when an effect is added to the live action, they match. Having everything storyboarded in advance made this much easier. Once the miniatures unit started rolling and the ILM shots started coming in, the rough part has been getting ahold of Jim long enough for him to look at all this stuff."
Cameron's reputation as a man of detail also made life much easier for stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, whose T2 assignment was to ensure that a dizzying array of car chases, motorcycle jumps, helicopter flybys, high falls and fire burns came off effortlessly and safely.
"Jim writes very intricate action sequences," says Kramer. "In most scripts, action is thinly outlined and basically leff up to the stunt people to choreograph. With this movie, all of the action sequences have been detailed so explicitly that it has been like following a blueprint. And the great thing about this film is that all the action and stunts have been worked into the natural telling of the story."
0nce filming began, Cameron was basically in his element and Terminator 2: Judgment Day moved along like the precision machine that his previous films (The Terminator, ALIENS and The Abyss) did.
"The difficult part of making this movie has been meeting the release date," explains Cameron. "There has been a lot of action, a lot of coverage. Meeting the day-to-day grind has been tough, but then, it's all my own fault. There's a perverse side of my personality that drives me to write things that I don't know how I'm going to get on film.
"This has been an extremely complex film and much bigger than we initially envisioned it being," he adds. "And, because of that, we were already blowing things up, running tests and shooting some second unit stuff before filming actually began."
Integral to the look of the film was the contribution of veteran cinematographer Adam Greenberg. Greenberg, who worked on the original Terminator as well as such atmospheric genre films as Near Dark and Alien Nation, saw T2 as an exercise in moody, harsh hues.
"We're lighting the two terminators in a completely different manner," he reveals. "With Arnold, you have a distinctive-looking head and cheekbones, so we're using a hard look and strong light on him at all times. In Robert's case, we've used various combinations of lights, warm colors and shadows. With Linda, I've tried to use warm colors. Basically, my task has been to make everybody in this film fit the mood, rather than lighting them to make them look pretty."
There haven't been too many opportunities for Greenberg to make people look pretty. The movie is almost non-stop action from the gun battles between the terminators to the nightmarish nighttime chase sequences to Sarah Connor's harrowing sanitarium experiences. It seems T2 has been a nonstop, kinetic action picture that, on the surface, would appear to challenge director Cameron's distinctive filmmaking style. Cameron, however, claims that T2 hasn't forced any changes in how he works.
"Some of the computer graphics being done at Industrial Light & Magic rely on a fairly static frame in order for them to work, so I've tried, within scenes using those shots, to keep the style consistent with the requirements of those FX shots. But, for the most part, I haven't really changed my style of directing and, in fact, it has been pretty much the other way around. My style of directing has forced the FX people to come up with other ways of doing their FX.
"Basically, this whole mixture of directing style and special FX is going to boil down to the content of the image rather than the style of the image," he adds. "That's what is going to make T2 compelling."
Cameron's post-Terminator work is presently taking him in new directions on a number of different projects, but no matter what the future brings, the director always looks back at the Terminator phenomena as something completely unexpected.
"I had no idea that The Terminator would be as popular as it has become. When I wrote the first Terminator script, I felt I had come up with a really good story. When we finished the film, I felt we had made a very good film, given the budget and time limitations," says James Cameron. "But there was never a moment when I thought people would take the terminator to heart the way they have."