Yes... I'm back!
Arnie signs for T3, The inside story
Date: September, 2000
By: David Hughes
It's been over 15 years since The Terminator, yet Arnold Schwarzenegger has just agreed to a second sequel - without James Cameron. David Hughes wonders what's going on.
There's a very rich, though bleak, futurography out there, that you could delve back into at any point, Arnold played the Terminator. And then he played the other Terminator. So he could easily come back as yet another. "There's a factory somewhere in the future, crancking these suckers out, so we could always go back to it if we wanted to."
So said Cameron back in 1995, before Titanic's billion-dollar box office performance and subsequent Oscar sweep made him the self-styled 'king of the world'. Back then, with the $200 million True Lies putting Cameron and muscle-bound muse Arnold Schwarzenegger together for the third time and scoring a $364 million box office hit, a third Terminator looked to be right around the corner. Since then the pair have teamed up again for T2:3D, the Universal theme park attraction, and have met several times to discuss Terminator 3, which Schwarzenegger has often said he would do only if Cameron was back on board. But now Arnie's done a volte-face and signed up for Terminator 3 - without Cameron.
T3 will be set in the present day as the war between the humans and machines begins, and will feature resistance-leader John Connor (as a boy, played by Edward Furlong in T2) as its central character.
Arnold's adversary in the movie will be a next-generation female cyborg - although whether she'll be the goodie and Arnold the baddie again remains to be seen. There's no word on who the fembot will be but Demi Moore's people are already denying it's her. We also don't know yet if Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong or Michael Biehn will join Arnold in front of the camera when it starts rolling in spring 2001, ready for a summer 2002 release.
Since Cameron's not on board, the director has to be chosen and according to contract, that's up to Arnie; The Hollywood Reporter claims Schwarzenegger has narrowed the choice down to Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator), David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), Roland Emmerich (Stargate, Godzilla) and Christian Duguay (notable only for TV mini-series Joan of Arc).
So what's brought Arnie back? Andrew Vajna, one of the men behind production company C-2 which is making T3 and formerly of Coralco which made T2, says it's him and his partner Mario Kassar. "We've been working long and hard to bring Terminator back to the screen and to have Arnold aboard. This project brings together a team that has had fantastic successes and we look forward to working together again on this much-anticipated project."
But if you believe the scriptwriter, Ted Serafian (the man behind the screenplay for Tank Girl), it's the quality of the script - unlikely though that might seem. In an interview in Variety, Serafian said he was aware that Schwarzenegger had said that he would never do T3 without Cameron when he was writing the script. With that in mind, "I wrote it half for him, while leaving open the the possibility that it would not be him." Serafian then claims that Schwarzenegger agreed to T3 on their first meeting. "It was pretty shocking, because it was my first draft. He read it, we sat down, he said how much he liked it and gave me some notes, and then he said yes. He asked where the one-liners were and I said they would only work if he said them - they'd be back in the next draft."
What's more likely is that since Arnie's recent career hasn't exactly been littered with money-winners like T2 and True Lies - instead consiting of Eraser, Jingle All the Way, Batman and Robin, End of Days et al - he's decided his career could use a Terminator-type boost. For instance, Sarefian's claim conflicts with Arnie's own attempts to suggest that Cameron could still come on board. "It's a film Jim definitely will produce," he told US movie show Access Hollywood. "If he will direct it or not, I don't know yet because he never makes up his mind until the script is all done and perfect."
Most industry insiders have dismissed his comments as spin - and excuse to make T3 without his old friend. Rae Sanchini, president of Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment, recently told Premiere magazine that Cameron "is not now, has never been, and has no plans to be involved with (rights holder) Andy Vajna on Terminator 3." Vajna and Cameron apparently haven't spoken in over a year, an enmity that goes back even further to 1997, when Vajna scuppered Cameron's pland for his own sequel. When 50% of the rights to the Terminator series were up for grabs at Carolco's bankruptcy auction, Vajna outbid him, then bought the other half from Cameron's former wife, Gale Ann Hurd.
The situation can hardly have been helped by Vajna and Kassar saying they would make T3 - with or without Schwarzenegger and Cameron. Such is their need to make T3 profitable, given their already substantial investment, they've raised financing by selling T3 distribution rights - and a quarter of world-wide profits - to Germany's VCL and Japan's Toho-Towa. And T4 is a virtual necessity. David Campbell Wilson (Supernova) has already written an 80-page treatment for T3's sequal, set after the nuclear holocaust.
Would Cameron seriously consider directing someone else's script? Well, that's certainly what Schwarzenegger's hoping - after all, even T3 isn't guaranteed to make money but Cameron's presence would almost certainly ensure a good film. Despite the odds, Schwarzenegger has apparently passed the screenplay on to Cameron, hoping to bring his old friend on board. But at the moment, Lightstorm is insisting that Cameron is far more interested in developing True Lies 2 (despite reports that Cameron doesn't like the current screenplay and Sanchini's insistence that Cameron would neither produce nor direct) and won't take a part in the making of T3.
With no US distribution deal for T3 currently in place, there is one way in which Cameron may be tempted back: if Fox, the only studio Cameron will work with, takes distribution rights, effectively buying Vajna and Kassar out of the project. Unless that happens, Terminator 3 will remain without Cameron, and may prove to be the first flop in the series.
Future History, 1983 - 2029 AD
Up-and-coming writer-director James Cameron writes the script for The Terminator.
Cameron's The Terminator, a Gale Ann Hurd production starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, opens at US cinemas, securing Schwarzenegger's place as a bona fide movie star, and catapulting Cameron to the A-list.
Cameron has his next hit, Aliens.
The Abyss gives Cameron his first bona fide flop.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (aka T2) becomes the most succesfull sequal of all time, racking up $517 million in world-wide box office receipts.
True Lies, the most expensive movie ever made, gives Cameron/Schwarzenegger partnership a three-for-three hit rate.
The independent studio behind T2, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna's Carolco Pictures, goes bankrupt, leaving behind millions of dollars in debts but hanging on to a 50% share in Terminator sequel, prequel and TV rights. Fox Chairman Bill Mechanic begins putting a T3 deal together.
At the Carolco bankruptcy auction, Vajna outbids Miramax for Carolco's 50% share of the Terminator rights, paying $8 million. He and Kassar's new company, C-2, then buys Gale Ann Hurd's share for another $8 million. Meanwhile, Titanic takes over the world with ruthless, T-1000 style efficiency.
Theme park attraction T2:#d extravaganza proves a huge success at Universal Studios. Schwarzenegger reiterates he won't do T3 without Cameron.
The year the intelligent machines in the original two Terminator films went to war, and the year in which Cameron's version of T3 would have taken place, he had his own plans for the third installment not been terminated in favour of Serafian's script. Talk about Bad Judgement Day...