More T, vicar? Empire on the set of T3
Date: December, 2002
By: Simon Braund
Arnie is in a snit. He's just stalked off the set of Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines muttering ominously to himself and throwing the entire crew into a panic. "What just happened?" croaks an AD. What just happened is this: having done ten or twelve takes of the same scene - walking down a corridor and delivering a single line, "I was made here" - the big guy has discovered he can't go straight into the next set-up because the cameraman is AWOL. Consequently, he's thrown a wobbler.
To be fair, it's not much of a hissy fit, as superstar tantrums go. Moments later he's back with a wry smirk and raring to get on with it, much to the relief of all concerned. After all, we're talking about the eagerly-awaited sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a benchmark in action cinema, and the film that might just rescue Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger from the career doldrums.
Empire has come to a mysterious studio in downtown LA, where T3 is currently shotting on a couple of cast sound stages. The aforementioned corridor is part of the SkyNet complex, design HQ for the Terminators - hence Arnie's one-liner. The set is suitably hi-tech - grey concrete walls, banks of blinking computer monitors and metal columns, with wires and cables snaking up them like vines. Viewed up close and without the benefit of movie magic, it looks like an old episode of Doctor Who. But you can bet it won't when it hits the screens in July next year - afterall, T3's reported $170 million budget is the biggest greenlight wedge in history. Even with the aid of German financiers Intermedia, and Arnie on board, Warner Bros must be sweating.
The film has, not surprisingly, been the subject of intense speculation ever since it was mooted several years ago that Schwarzenegger and James Cameron might reteam for a third instalment. A Terminator flick without Arnold would be like Christmas without turkey - and, no doubt, a turkey - but sadly, Cameron passed, leaving the gig open for Breakdown and U-571 helmer Jonathan Mostow. The rest of the cast is fleshed out by Claire Danes, Nick Stahl (taking over the John Connor role from Edward Furlong) and 22 year-old ex-model Kristanna Loken, as the fearsome female Terminator, the T-X.
As far as plot goes, we're ten years down the line from T2, with Connor and his metal mate embroiled in the conflict between the human race and the SkyNet cyborgs. Chronologically, it's nearing the point when the original T-800 Terminator is sent back in time to kill John Connor, the event that kicked off the original film's action.
"It's good to be back," says Schwarzenegger, easing his immense frame into a director's chair.
At risk of blowing Empire's reputation for cool detachment, it must be said that being in close proximity to Schwarzenegger in full Terminator gear - leather strides, steel-toe bike boots and severe buzz-cut - is a disquieting, surreal experience. It's like sitting down for a chat with Chaplin's Tramp, or Brando's Don Corleone, or Sean William Scott's Stifler.
Thankfully he has climbed off the huffy bike and, not surprisingly, he is confident that T3 will live up to the high standards set by the film's predecessor. "That's what it's all about," he says. "You try to outdo the last thing. It's like in sports - records are there to be broken."
But if you're expecting any details on how it will up the ante, forget it - this is a resolutely tight-lipped set. And although FX legend Stan Winston lets it slip that we will see a third Terminator - the T-100, a heavy duty battle machine that precedes Arnie's T-800 - Schwarzenegger himself isn't giving anything away. "I think T2 was extraordinary," is all he'll say, "and I think this one has a chance to be extraordinary too."
One point he will be drawn on, though, is the absence of Cameron. "It is strange, yes," he sighs. "Because the Terminator is Jim's creation, it's his baby. But I can't wait for him. He does the projects he wants to do, and if it takes him five years to make a movie, that's waht it's going to take. He has that right; he's Jim Cameron." Even so, Arnie is full of praise for Mostow: "He measures up very well, he's a terrific director."
"What?" says Mostow with mock surprise, when asked about the pressure of stepping into Cameron's shoes. "There's another Terminator movie???"
He laughs. "Of course there's pressure, but all I can do is tune it out and try to make the best movie I can. And working with Arnold is a joy. I feel like I'm making the Bible and I've got Moses playing Moses. There's nothing I can tell him about playing the role - he invented it and he's been living with it for almost 20 years. Frankly, in a movie like this, it's nice to have something that runs on autopilot. I get to have my own personal Terminator. I mean, how many people would pay eight bucks to sit in my chair and just watch him blow stuff up?"
Then, as if on cue, Mostow and Arnie record a take where Arnie does just that. Arnie stumps up to a window, peers out and pokes his gun through. "Shell be back," he growls. Well, it si the franchise hook, after all.