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Director McG Talks ‘Terminator Salvation’

Christian Bale, McG and Terry Crews on the set of Terminator Salvation.

Christian Bale, McG and Terry Crews on the set of ‘Terminator Salvation.’

© Warner Bros Pictures

No one can sell a movie like McG. He’s passionate about his movies and willing to talk about topics that would be considered off-limits by other filmmakers. And at the LA press day for Warner Bros Pictures’ fourth film of the Terminator franchise, the Terminator Salvation director answered questions others would have brushed off – including one involving his offer to compare male genitals with another well-known filmmaker. McG was also very forthcoming about changes made to the script and about the ‘leaked’ ending which had John Connor becoming a Terminator.

McG on the PG-13 Rating:
“From day one we were given the okay to shoot the movie we wanted to shoot. We talked to [Jeff] Robinov at Warner Brothers and Alan Horn on down and Amy at Sony and they said, ‘If it’s an R, it’s an R.’ We said, ‘We’re just going to make the movie we want to make.’ And it just became clear that the things that would take it to an R or an NC-17 would be, ‘Oh, there goes the arm and now the blood is squirting on my face.’ And that wasn’t in the service of the character or the story. And, ultimately, we were able to make exactly the film we wanted to make without any compromise whatsoever, and it happened to garner the rating it got.”

“Look at The Dark Knight, that’s a compromise-free picture. And ratings, it’s just never really been a concern to us and it is what it is. And, truthfully, I’m pleased because I know when I was 14/15 years old, I wouldn’t want a guy busting my chops keeping me from seeing the movie that I ultimately wanted to see. The elements that would have taken it to R just ended up feeling gratuitous in the editing room. There’s a topless scene with Moon Bloodgood. I was trying to echo that scene in Witness where Kelly McGillis turns and says, ‘I’m not ashamed,’ to Harrison Ford. But it just felt like, ‘Oh, there’s the genre stunt of the good-looking girl taking her top off.’ It felt counterproductive in the spirit of what we were looking to achieve on a storytelling level. So away you go.”

McG on His Meeting with Jim Cameron:
“I had to go down and talk to Jim Cameron about it and he said, ‘Why do you feel this story’s worth telling?’ I said, ‘That’s an excellent point. I think that the fact that this takes place in a world after Judgment Day is a great point of entry for the passionate to stay involved in the story.’ And he sort of nodded and said, ‘Aww, that’s interesting. Tell me a little bit more about this, that, the other.’ And he ultimately went on to share the story of how he felt following the great Ridley Scott with Alien and people said, ‘Who the f–k does this guy Jim Cameron think he is?’ He did, what, Piranha 2 at the time? And he just thought, ‘Well, I think I can honor what Ridley did and I think I can go further.'”

“I think everybody at this table is glad he made Aliens, and I would never be so bold again as to say, ‘We’ve done it!’ But the idea was the first three pictures are contemporary pictures with Terminators coming back in time and our film takes place during that dark age that was never thoroughly explored between Judgment Day and indeed 2029, which is the first known point of the T800 coming back. And here we see how Skynet, through farming human beings, is building towards that realistic-looking T800, just like we went through a lot of lab rats to get to a polio vaccine.”

To clarify, McG didn’t say Cameron gave him his blessing. “No, I think the nature of that was just I went around saying we went down there looking for his blessing, and then it came out that he gave us his blessing. He never gave me his blessing. He said, ‘I reserve the right to like or not like your movie like any movie fan.’ I said, ‘I reserve the right to like or not like Avatar like any movie fan.’ And we sort of giggled and away we went. It was never egregious but yes, he hadn’t read the script. He didn’t know what was going on and he just said, ‘Hey man, I’d rather you guys made a good movie than a bad movie, but I’m not going to sit there and tub-thump for you guys and tell the world how excited I am about this new idea.’ And that’s only fair and that just made me want to drill down that much more deeply and make sure that we populate the film with the most talented people from Stan Winston to Christian Bale.”

On Script Changes and Christian Bale:
“What can you do then when you go in and say, ‘Hey Christian, I want you to play Marcus,’ and he says, ‘I want to play Connor.’ And you say, ‘Maybe we need to go back and make this a little bit more of a two-hander.’ And you just sort of… Listen, filmmaking is always about being nimble and adapting and doing what’s right, and you never stop working on the script and you never stop working on the film. And my style is a style of doing a great deal of listening.”

Casting Sam Worthington to Play Marcus Wright:
“It was before Avatar. I saw a picture called Somersault. The girls who cast the film, Kim and Justine, said, ‘You should look at this guy Sam Worthington.’ And I knew I just needed a guy who could stand up to Bale in a two-shot, because Bale’s a very physical presence and most actors in their 20s and 30s are these little heroin chic waif guys that Bale would crush. And I think, what I think is the best scene in the picture is when they go face to face. I think the audience can look at that and go, ‘I don’t know who I’d take in that fight.’ And that really says a lot on Sam’s behalf, to stand up to the mighty Christian Bale and make you believe should those chains come off, I don’t know who wins that one. And I think that’s the victory of casting Sam Worthington.”

“He did a great job. But the funny thing is, is I think that’s the ultimate testament to the greatness of Christian. How great is Russell [Crowe] in 3:10 to Yuma? Pretty great. How great is Heath [Ledger] of course, in Dark Knight? And I’ll bet you Johnny Depp’s pretty doggone good too in Public Enemies. And of course look what he did for the unknown Sam Worthington, which I really think speaks volumes to the elegance of Christian and his choices and his willingness to do what’s right for the film on the whole level and not just a me, me, me level. He’s a very considerate actor in that regard.”

May 23, 2009 Posted by | INTERVIEWS | Leave a comment