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“ I'm actually signed on for two more. But I can't even think a week into the future... ”

Stahl on a possible two more Terminator movies

Stahl in LA Times

Tue 8 Jul 2003 | 13h07 GMT+1

Nick Stahl is best known to audiences for his moody and intense performances in festival and art-house films such as "Bully," "The Sleepy Time Gal" and "In the Bedroom." Which makes it rather surprising to find him taking over the role of predestined rebel leader John Connor (previously played by Edward Furlong) in the new "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," opposite Claire Danes and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Acting since he was 14 (his feature debut was in Mel Gibson's "The Man Without a Face"), Stahl, 23, doesn't seem to be waiting around for bigger roles and paychecks from the ephemeral "heat" of his connection to the "Terminator" institution. It's almost as though he sees his turn as an action hero as more a résumé item than a shot at mega-stardom. Stahl will also be seen in two coming independent films, "Bookies" and "Twist," the latter shot after he finished principal work on "Terminator 3" about a year ago. And this fall, he stars in the new HBO series "Carnivale," about a Depression-era traveling carnival. He describes it as " 'Grapes of Wrath' meets 'Twin Peaks.' "

Was there something on the first day of shooting "T3" that let you know this wasn't like the kind of films you had done before?

I knew from the get-go. I knew what it was before I got there - a well-known franchise, elaborate sets, larger-than-life effects. Leading up to it, there was so much pressure because I had built it up so much in my mind. That first day, to see Arnold with the glasses and the wardrobe, I had to walk off set originally to collect myself and try to get centered. During filming, one of the bigger changes from anything else I'd done - besides the fact people would actually see this movie - was that it seemed so set in stone. There was no veering from any lines and, in a sense, this very volatile, free character was confined by the shooting. I had to really stick to the script exactly. I'm used to being able to throw in words here and there, to be more free with the material.

Was that the biggest adjustment for you in moving from character-driven independent films to a big-budget action movie?

Even more so the pace of the movie. The goal of any commercial movie is to appeal to as many people as possible, so I think there's a real obsession now with speed. You might have an emotional beat, but it has to keep moving. [Director] Jonathan Mostow certainly understood the value of the characters and the emotional +through lines, but you still have to move it along. That's something I wasn't used to. I definitely felt the pressure of, "OK, let's get on to blowing up that cop car."

If "T3" is a success, would you be up for another one?

I'm actually signed on for two more. But I can't even think a week into the future, much less like that.

The ending of the new film certainly feels like it's setting up another movie. Do you have any hints on what happens next?

I wouldn't find out until a couple months before they filmed it. I barely knew where the movie I was in was going, to a degree, until the last second. It was such a secretive thing. I read a script, but it was under lock and key. Once I was going to screen-test for the role, I came in and I was kind of sealed into a room with this guy standing there, the script keeper guy, who waited until I finished the script. It was intense.

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