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Q & A with the Director, Writers and Cast of Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys Press Conference arnold jai and EmiliaB
(L to R) Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jai Courtney at the Terminator Genisys Press Conference. Photo by Michael Sandoval/M.U.S.E.

Terminator Genisys John Connor has sent  Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future. In an unexpected turn of events Sgt. Kyle finds himself in an altered past where he must team up with unlikely allies, a new T-800 terminator known as the Guardian, new enemies and a new mission to reset the past. M.U.S.E. recently attended a panel featuring the cast and crew of the latest installment in the Terminator series where they shared their experience in filming this film.

Director Alan Taylor and Writer Laeta Kalodridis

QUESTION:What kind of challenges and advantages does that present for you as screenwriters? And then for you, Alan, as a director, when you are putting the visual tone to what’s on the page?

LAETA KALOGRIDIS:  I think to us, which is that if you are looking at it as a temporal nexus, which is branching out into alternative timelines, nothing that’s in canon is changed, those other timelines are preserved and they remain. We’re on an alternate universe timeline so we are not negating anything that came before us. We are hopefully just adding to it and creating another storyline with the same core characters and probably the biggest single advantage of that is that you’re not asking the audience to put aside anything they’ve seen before, you’re asking them to incorporate it, and imagine, okay, well, here are characters that you know and love, what if you saw them in a different situation, what about them is at their core that wouldn’t change, what about them would, if their environment was different, if you put a machine, and in some ways we’re sort of expanding on the idea of the learning chip, which ironically everybody knows about, even though the scene itself was cut out of the second movie, but everyone knows about it, even though we didn’t talk about it in this film. You take a T-800 model with his learning chip turned on and you put him there, and he’s in the middle of humans for decades, and he’s going to change, and that’s very much an exploration of something that I think always wanted to see done, from the first two movies, ‘cause it’s very much teased in the second film, and you never got to go there. A lot of this is about that. What do you love about the franchise? What can you take forward and do more with – that we just never got a chance to see.

ALAN TAYLOR: Yeah, obviously it’s a wonderful storytelling device because you can open up a new universe, a new world, and besides offering twists and new territory, it’s also thematically grounded, like you just said. And the central question of these movies is, you know, what does it mean to be human? Are we the authors of our own fate or is our fate thrust upon us? So if you take the same personality, like you said, and change the terms, you see a different parallel life they could have led, since we’re sort of highlighting that they are writing their own fate, literally. It’s also really challenging though, because once you do this, you get a tremendous amount of complexity comes roaring in. I think we have seven timeframes that we touch upon in this movie, if you count flashbacks. So getting across to the audience why you’re doing it, why you’re allowed to do it, and doing it, and what are the limitations of what the rules are is a tricky thing. I’m very glad you used the word “nexus” so effortlessly. It’s not an easy word to throw around. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Arnold uses the word and Kyle’s reaction to is about what about the audience’s reaction to it is – huh? But so trying to get that across so it doesn’t bog the story down but just unleashes the story is one of the challenges.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

QUESTION: Do you agree that there’s always more story to tell in a sequel?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:  I think that it really depends so much on the writing. I think that some people that are capable of making a sequel more special than the original and we have seen that when the original terminator came out, then Jim Cameron outdid himself with the sequel, and so then, you know, it became the highest grossing movie of the year when it came out in 1991 or whatever it was. And since then we have been trying to outdo that, not always successfully but that’s what was always the attempt. And so this time I think Alan Taylor and the writers and the producers have done an extraordinary job, to really live up to that standard of Terminator 2 again.

QUESTION: One of the great things about this movie is how we get to see different versions of your character. How has your approach to the character changed over all these years, especially since in the first one it started off kind of like a sci-fi horror movie?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, in Terminator 1, it was very clear that they are just a machine that destroys human beings, and anything that was in the way, you know, I will wipe out, in the most brutal way without, you know, any feelings or any kind of remorse, because my mission was to protect the machines, and to find Sarah Connor and to basically be successful with my mission. In this movie, it becomes a little bit more colorful, because now I am again back to destroy Sarah Connor, I’m still this vicious cold machine that is programmed to destroy Sarah Connor and nothing will get in my way, except in this story something does get in my way, which is another Terminator, one that has been around for a longer period of time. It’s also the T-800 model but he was programmed to protect Sarah Connor and the human race, so there’s obviously a major conflict between the two when they meet, and that’s what creates then this huge epic battle. And then of course the Terminators, depending on how long they have been around, some of them are just straight Terminator, as the one from 1984, but then the one that has been around longer, he has already adopted certain human behaviors, subtle. And so from a acting point of view, you have to be really be, you know, very wise the way you use that, and how you, you know, get that across, that he has human behaviors and he does have certain feelings and stuff like that, but also creates great comic relief when the Terminator tries very hard to be like a human and he fails miserably. You know, so you see also that in the movie.

QUESTION: What was it like when you saw yourself fighting yourself, your younger self, on screen?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, first of all, I think that the body builder that they picked for me to fight with was really an extraordinary kind of a champion body builder. He had terrific muscles and so that was a great idea to use that approach. But even after three, four days of doing this fight scene and being thrown around and doing all the crazy stunts and this epic battle, I was always wondering while I was doing, you know, how are they going to do this face replacement, how are going to do this technologically, kind of you know, head replacement, and how do you make the body exactly like my body? You see, because his body was extraordinary but it was not exactly like my body was, right? Everybody’s different. So, you know, always in my mind was that. I mean, how’s this going to work out? And so I really never knew the entire movie. There was various different fight scenes, with John Connor, with others, that were just huge battle scenes, but I mean, it was kind of not clear how this is going to work with the visual effects. And then when we saw it just through weeks ago, the finished movie for the first time, because I made it very clear, I don’t want to see it when just going through stages. I want to see it when it’s finished so we can really see how it works. And so I looked very carefully at the technical aspect, when I watched it the first time. And then after that, I watched it a few more times, just, you know, from another point of view, of how does the story work. But I looked at the technical stuff and I just thought it was seamless, and the technology has advanced so much, that it was really extraordinary to get this kind of entertainment and storytelling, that you can do that today, because in the old days you had to do kind of, you know, split screens and all kinds of things, and you could tell that it was not the same, you know, it was not like two Arnolds fighting, two Terminators fighting, they’re different ages and stuff like that. But in this movie, it totally worked. And so I was really impressed.

EMILIA CLARKE

QUESTION: Were you intimidated to step into Linda Hamilton’s shoes? How aware were you of her performance going into this? And did your work on Game of Thrones help you in any way with this role?

EMILIA CLARKE: Yes to all of your questions. Yes, I’d grown up watching the Terminators and being continually inspired, especially by Linda’s incredible performance. So I jumped at the chance to be able to take on this role. And then it was kind of after that fact, the daunting realization of the enormity of the part, kind of sunk in. But yes, it’s just been an absolute joy as an actress to be able to take this on. And yeah, there are many elements of my work in Game of Thrones that were incredibly helpful to try and kind of harness the like inner badass. But the difference between the two is that in Game of Thrones I do a lot of delegating, and then here in this movie I really had to get down and dirty and like do a lot of the stunts and the gun work and everything, so yeah, its similarities, but Sarah Connor is a whole other kind of badass.

QUESTION: The legacy of Sarah Connor is so huge. What was really important to you though in bringing that character to life and your take, and also did Lena offer you any advice?

EMILIA CLARKE: Well, I think some of the most important things to me in reprising this role is that it was such a daunting thing to be taking on. My kind of, yeah, ego probably jumped at the chance to play it, and then the realization kind of crept in. But then getting to read our gorgeous script, the Sarah that we see in this movie is so different. The spirit is definitely still intact and I really hope that that scene, that you can see the essence of what Linda Hamilton created with Sarah Connor is there, but having such a different upbringing, having such a different childhood, really, the result is a girl who is ahead of the game from when we saw Sarah Connor at this age last. She’s there to save this guy, as opposed to the other way around, so there’s a lot of kind of really wonderful differences, and so that’s what was important to me, to kind of show the history of what Sarah’s been though, whilst maintaining the spirit of what we kind of created. No, sadly, I didn’t – I didn’t speak to her, but I can only hope that she was happy with what I managed to make of this.

The film is now playing in movie theaters .

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