NEW ORLEANS – Arnold Schwarzenegger is The Terminator. The character is iconic and at least two of the movies stand pretty high in the pantheon of science fiction films. Notably, when the AFI put together its list of the top 50 heroes and top 50 villains of all time, Schwarzenegger's character appeared on both.
Here is the thing – even today, fully 30 years after Arnold Schwarzenegger materialized, he is still the Terminator and getting the opportunity to watch him play the part on set in a new film is something special. The faces around him have changed, we saw him walking next to Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor and Jai Courtney's Kyle Reese, but there's something about him, especially in the appropriate garb, that says, “Terminator.”
So, here we are on a hot July day in New Orleans, watching this iconic actor reprise his most iconic role. And, whatever the movie may turn out to be when it is released next year, spending a few minutes with Schwarzenegger is special. Other actors on set think the exact same thing.
Talking of him, Jai Courtney tells us, ” It's pretty surreal. At the table reading when he was sitting next to us and he said certain lines, which may or may not be in the script. That was pretty funny. I mean it's just like holy shit totally; we're making 'Terminator.'”
Jason Clarke echoed the sentiment describing Schwarzenegger as, “A great man to have in the makeup trailer at the beginning of the day, and a real leader on set. A calm sensibility on set. A guy that delivers, that knows his part, that loves his part.”
It is late in our day when our chance finally comes to talk to the former Goernor and the questions we pose range from how this new film came together, to what it was like to take on the part again, to course correction after recent franchise entries. Check out what he had to say below.
Question: How long does it take to put on those prosthetics?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think it was two and a half hours. But it's not every day. It depends what stage we are in in the story. This is now getting towards the end and so it gets more and more severe.
Question: What's it like getting back into this character? You've got the face going on and everything, how does it feel to like be back looking like that and back in the costume and everything?
AS: You know, it's like you've been doing in your whole life, because I'm very passionate about the character. I think it's a great and interesting character. I think it's a great story. I think the whole concept that Cameron had way back in the early '80s of creating a world where machines take over, I think it's becoming a reality more and more, which of course no one could even think of in those days. And it's really been great because the whole team is really into going all out and then it is fun to be in a movie like that. The studio is very enthusiastic about the “Terminator movie,” the producers, the director is very talented and a great visionary. And you can tell the stage is… everything is always really big and exciting so it's been a great experience.
Question: You've played in the villain Terminator, the father Terminator, what sort of Terminator are we going to see from you in this film?
AS: It's a character that has been programmed to protect Sarah Connor, but I'm basically the same Terminator. I will destroy anything that's in front of me in order to save her.
Question: Well, the make up and the jacket we saw you wearing, it looks like something tried to destroy you back. What is kind of, I don't think we've heard all day, what is the kind of threat that you're facing as a Terminator?
AS: The world is coming to an end. I mean the machines are taking over so that's the overall threat. We're trying to change that.
Question: What was it about this take on the “Terminator” franchise that made you decide hey this is the one I need to come back and do this?
AS: Well, I always said that I will do another Terminator if the story is great and I really enjoyed this story when I read it. And I think that the people that were involved made me feel like I think this is going to be a good movie and they're going to go out with the project. This is not just kind of let's exploit this franchise and live off some of the great ones that we done in the past. They really took it seriously. They really figured out a way of continuing on the story and kind of ignoring the last one basically.
Question: Do you think the series had changed a lot over the past like 30 years?
AS: What has?
Question: The franchise as a whole? Just kind of the idea of…?
AS: I think that the people are really enthusiastic about it. I mean it's still today one of the top franchises that people are looking forward to seeing. The key thing is that it gives the people more then they can even anticipate. So it gives them more then you promised rather then less. And so this is why it's very important that this movie, and that I think everyone recognizes that, that this movie has to deliver.
Question: Is like in terms of scale and action or like ideas?
AS: In everything. The story, the creativity, the twists, in all that stuff. In every level it has to deliver. And so the right team has been assembled I think to do that. And so that's what makes me feel good and proud to be part of this project.
Question: A core part of every Terminator movie is you in amazing action scenes. Are you going to have a very long action scene in this and will it top “T2″'s action scene? That's my favorite.
AS: Well, I think that I know that we have to outdo “T2,” the director knows that, the producers know it, the studio knows it, so I think that everyone is in sync with that, that we have to visual effects-wise, outdo the second one because it was so far ahead of its time. So that's the idea is to come out with a movie with a big bang and to really entertain audiences all around the world.
Question: Another part of these movies is also the humor and the quotable one-liners that come out usually from your character. Will we get some of that in that one?
AS: Yes. Absolutely. They paid close attention to that. Yes. There's actually very funny scenes in this movie, not trying to be funny but just the circumstances make it very funny.
Question: At what point in this whole process of being a part of the franchise did you realize how long it was going to go for; how many movies you'd get to do it?
AS: I think that after the second one we realized that this is really a big franchise. Because as you remember the second one was the biggest movie of the year and it made over $500 million. So if it's in today's dollars I don't even know what that would be, probably $1 billion, who knows what. But it was a huge movie and Cameron really did an extraordinary job with the writing, I think he wrote it with Bill Wisher if I'm not mistaken. So the trick really is – okay how do you continue on with that kind of big bang?
Question: I think people really loved your “Terminator” movies. And some fans felt a little burnt by the last one so how did we win them back with this one? How do we convince them to come see…?
AS: I think that the action speaks louder than words. I mean you can do all the hyping you want it doesn't mean anything. I think that when the movie's trailer comes out, right away it will set the record straight. You know what I'm saying? I remember when we came out with the trailer of “True Lies” and people knew right away what it is and how big it is. And so I think it's you see it. The key thing is that they cut a great trailer, they promote it the right way and then when you see the first screenings out there, the buzz will then take care of the rest. So I don't think that it is difficult to win the people over because the people are really excited about another “Terminator.” They're ready to see another one; it just has to deliver.
Question: Do you feel protective over this franchise and when they first sent you the script how did you feel? Where there certain things you were like I'd like to change this or not?
AS: Oh no, we had very open discussions. After we got the first script I had a lot of questions. Some of the things didn't make sense that they were tweaked that didn't make sense to other people either. And so it was find tuned. It was a process over, I think, a period of a few months. And there where very talented people that were involved. And the great thing is that everyone was in sync. It wasn't like I was going off one direction and David Ellison was thinking differently and then Alan was thinking differently, it was none of that. So I think that we – I think this is a very unique project because I think everyone is very protective. And protective not just because of the art's sake, but I think also because of the business' sake. You know what I'm saying? The studio sees this if we do well here we can go with another few and we all can entertain people; we can make money. And we have done a great job with bringing back the franchise so that everyone is in sync on that. That's why I think everyone is really working around-the-clock here to make this a great movie
More than anything, on the set of “Genisys,” Arnold Schwarzenegger gives off the sense of a man in control. He seems well aware of what the franchise is, what it means, and where it should head. We will see if new movie takes it there.