‘American Hustle’ producer backs out of ‘Terminator’ reboot

Pretty much any time the name “Megan Ellison” comes up around film nerds right now, you’ll see the same giddy reaction. She has only been involved in the world of film financing for a few years now, but she’s had an amazing string of credits so far, and she’s helped make films that would otherwise not exist.

We need more people like Ellison in the world of film finance. One of the reasons I am a big fan of Thomas Tull and Legendary Pictures is because he makes decisions that no one else would. “Pacific Rim” exists only because Tull shared the same lunatic dream as Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro, and thank god for that. Ellison has proven that she will take chances on artists she believes in, even if something doesn’t make “business” sense on paper. “Zero Dark Thirty,” “American Hustle,” “Killing Them Softly,” “The Master”… that’s an intriguing list that speaks to her interests as a filmmaker.

My favorite film of 2013, Spike Jonze’s lovely heartbroken “Her,” is one of those movies, and when I went to a special reception in Toronto to discuss the film with Jonze, I saw Ellison there. I wanted to talk to her, but I was also keenly aware that she is a very private person who doesn’t do a lot of press. One of the things I would have discussed with her is how odd her decision was to buy and reboot the “Terminator” franchise. She and her brother spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million to lock the rights down, but now she’s stepping back and removing herself from the process completely, ending the financial involvement of Annapurna Pictures.

This doesn’t mean the franchise is going dormant again, though. Her brother David Ellison will remain attached, and he’s still providing something like 66% of the film’s sure-to-be-massive budget through Skydance Productions, his company that has been a major partner for Paramount Pictures over the last few years. They’ve been involved in “Mission: Impossible,” “World War Z,” “Jack Reacher,” and the “Star Trek” films, and Skydance seems to be focused purely on big commercial properties.

“Terminator: Genesis,” as the new film is being called so far, is supposed to kick off a new trilogy of movies, and they’re already deep into the casting process. Paramount and Skydance will push forward with Alan Taylor directing from a script by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. I’m still not sure why Arnold Schwarzenegger would be returning to play the Terminator again, unless someone at Skynet decided that a heart patient in his mid-60s is the perfect disguise for a killer cyborg. Jason Clarke is set to play John Connor, and Emilia Clarke is going to play Sarah Connor. Both of them are really talented, and it makes perfect sense that they’re both at that point where they could pop as movie stars. Besides, they already have the same last name, so that’s pretty much all you need to know, right?

I have said repeatedly that I don’t want or need a new “Terminator” film, but with this many talented people involved, I’m going to end up seeing it, of course. I think Megan Ellison pulling out of the film is a strong move overall, and it keeps Annapurna’s identity distinct from Skydance. Here’s hoping she is just gearing up on more of the types of films that have distinguished her career so far.

Her next film, “Foxcatcher,” arrives in theaters sometime in 2014.
“Terminator: Genesis” is set for release on July 1, 2015.