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“ He wasn't just acting the Terminator. Some days, you'd actually think he was the Terminator. ”

Mostow on Schwarzenegger

Mostow realizes stunt dream

Sat 1 May 2004 | 11h35 GMT+1

Insider information as available through the World Stunt Awards website. Since there aint no sence in hopping around from one place to another to read it... we included it here.

Tha interview/insider scoop

Ten years ago, director Jonathan Mostow had a dream: He envisioned shooting an action-packed sequence in which an enormous vehicle would careen out of control, crashing from one side of the street to the other, surrounded by driverless cars.

It would be another decade before Mostow got to make his dream a reality in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" - with a little help from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and working very closely with the entire stunt team.

"The genesis of the ('T3') crane sequence was a movie that I developed ten years ago and never made," Mostow explains. "It had in it the concept of a driverless chase. When 'Terminator' came along, I realized, 'Hey, I can use this idea here.'"

Initially, the filmmaker thought of filming a hook-and-ladder fire truck, but 2nd unit director Simon Crane suggested - appropriately - a giant crane. Soon, Mostow was meeting with Crane and special effects wizards from ILM to figure out how to craft a whole sequence around the $1.5 million, 160-ton contraption. "Simon is absolutely brilliant," says Mostow. "He understands that stunts must be spectacular, but also serve the story. Added to that, he brings an incredible team with him, including guys like Steve Griffin, his assistant stunt coordinator."

From the beginning, Mostow knew that operating the crane would require a stunt specialist. The production brought in Gary Powell, whom Mostow describes as "the greatest driver of large vehicles in the world." Powell spent several months practicing on a damaged crane that the production crew had obtained, until he could make it spin 360 degrees and even tip on two wheels.

The next step was to determine which stunts Schwarzenegger would perform himself, which would be handled by his longtime stunt double, Billy Lucas, and which created digitally. Even seemingly simple scenes could prove surprisingly complicated.

A case in point: "We had a little scene where Arnold opens the back of a mini-van and Claire Danes jumps out and attacks him. We needed Arnold to stand like a statue. Now Arnold had a longstanding shoulder injury that he got surgery on after the movie. Everyone was sensitive to the issue. Fortunately, Billy Lucas had so much experience with Arnold from past movies that he knew exactly how to best work around the shoulder problem. Billy and Steve Griffin worked out a rigging where they welded up this kind of metal thing, like you see offensive linemen crashing into, that went up his pants and under his leather jacket, and Arnold never moved."

Even that was straightforward, compared to the crane scene.

"In a sequence like this," Mostow continues, "it's what I would call CG-enhanced stunt work. We begin with trying to do as much as possible for real, because it gives a texture of reality, and because in this 'Terminator' movie I felt it was important to obey the laws of physics as much as possible, to make the story more exciting. Then, in post, we spend months tweaking the individual shots to juice them even further."

He adds, "The first thing to do was to choreograph the sequence, figure out what are the stunts we've never seen before. In the course of that six- to seven-minute sequence, there literally are hundreds of events happening. Now you look at each event and assess what's the best way to accomplish that. Do it as a practical stunt? As CG? As a combination? The next issue is deciding what are the stunts that can be done by Arnold, what needs to be done by his stunt double, and what's so dangerous that no human can attempt them and they need to be done by a digital double."

It was decided that a stunt man would perform one of the trickiest shots: When the Terminator is dangling from the crane as it hurtles down the road, mostly shot on a set specially built in Downey, Calif. "One of the hardest stunts was hanging off the crane," Mostow recalls. "There is a shot where the crane goes up on two wheels and its arm dips down and the Terminator crashes into some garbage cans. Just to be near the crane while it is doing that is scary, let alone to be hanging off it! The crane was going around a corner at 25 mph."

He adds, "When you are doing challenging shots like that, you want to maximize safety, and the best way to do so is to do one take with multiple cameras. We had 12 cameras for some scenes. And that way nobody was hurt."

Later in the shoot, though, someone did get hurt, though in a very minor way: Schwarzenegger.

"There's a scene where Arnold is carrying a coffin under one arm, and in the other he's holding a 50-caliber machine-gun that's usually mounted on a jeep," Mostow remembers. "That's a 120-pound gun firing 50-caliber bullets! Most people, if they tried to fire even one shot from it, the recoil would knock them down, and he's got the coffin, too! Even with a wire holding up the coffin, this is a giant unwieldy device and it requires an incredible amount of strength to control it. Then, in the other hand, he has this machine-gun and he has squibs all over his body going off."

At some point, "In one take, somebody made a mistake and put a squib where his hand is holding the coffin - and in the middle of the take this thing goes off in his palm! It punctured his hand like a little explosion. But Arnold just completed the take, and afterwards, he very calmly said, 'Somebody made a mistake.' Most actors would have been screaming, but he just stopped for five minutes to have it bandaged, then turns to me and goes, 'Want to do it again?'"

Adds Mostow, "He wasn't just acting the Terminator. Some days, you'd actually think he was the Terminator."

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