Exclusive Interview with McG – The Director of TERMINATOR SALVATION

     January 14, 2009



Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub



Earlier tonight I attended a special “Terminator Salvation” presentation at the DGA (Director’s Guild) theater. In attendance were a number of journalists from around the world and we were treated to about 12-15 minutes of footage from the upcoming movie and we also were able to ask director McG a number of questions during and after the presentation.



The first thing I’m sure you want to know was about the footage. Since reports of what we were shown are all over the net, let me just say I think this film is going to surprise a lot of you. Not only do the action scenes look incredible, but unlike a lot of movies that have explosions for no particular reason, this film looks like it’s using action to further the story and to help define the characters. And since I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises, let’s just say in every area of this desolate world a Terminator might await. It’s real world horror and I thought it looked great.



Anyway, later tonight or early tomorrow we’ll be posting a much more comprehensive write-up…but let’s get to the reason you’re here.



After the presentation I managed to get some time with director McG and I asked a few questions that weren’t apart of the big Q&A. The highlight for me was asking him directly about his next project “20,00 Leagues Under the Sea”. As you might have already heard, this “Terminator” movie is hopefully going to be a part of a trilogy and many had assumed with McG signing up for “Leagues”, that meant he was done with “Terminator”. But when I asked him about both films and what he would do he said “Terminator is indeed a priority”.



While I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, I think if this “Terminator” movie is the huge hit I think it’ll be, I wouldn’t be surprised if McG gets right back into the director’s chair and makes the second movie instead of “20,00 Leagues”.



The other highlight of our talk was about special effects and this film.



In “T2” James Cameron pushed the boundaries of what had been seen on movie screens and I wanted to know if McG had anything like that up his sleeve…and the answer was he did! Here’s the question and answer:



Collider: I’ve seen a lot of holy shit effects for this film already. For you, what’s been or what is the most challenging sequence that you’re currently trying to finish right now?



McG: To create a photo-realistic character that doesn’t exist in real life. For the fans to not know where practical ends and effect begins. It’s never been done. And we’ll see if we can do it. I’m going to ILM in a couple days to see if they’ve done it.



Needless to say, if ILM has pulled this off it might be a gamechanger. I cannot wait to find out.



Finally, for fans of running time, McG says the film will be around 2 hours and 10 minutes (or so). He also says he wants a “Hearts of Darkness” type of documentary on the eventual DVD release. One that shows “a warts and all, fights and all, no bull-shit, this is what we went through, this is how it got done, and this is the aggravation that creates the pearl. An inside look at what happened”.



For a short interview…I think it came out great. Again, look for a full report soon. Until then, here’s my conversation with McG:




Collider: What’s interesting and you touched on it inside the theater; it went from you being pushed away by fans…



McG: Absolutely, yeah.



How could McG be the one who’s doing Terminator to people concerned that you’re not going to do part 2 of the proposed trilogy. As a filmmaker, how is it for you, to all of a sudden be so embraced?



McG: Well, I just keep my head down and the whole take on this picture has been honesty. We all want a great film. Is that fair to say?



Absolutely.



McG: We all want a great film, how do we get there? Let’s get Christian Bale. People start nodding, saying “okay that’s a good idea.” Lets get Jonah Nolan to write it, let’s get Stan Winston on board, let’s do the best we can to get the, you know, embrace of Cameron to whatever degree lets hire a great actor in Sam Worthington, lets hire two time academy award winner in visual effects, and let’s communicate all the way regarding what the take on the story is, and let’s make sure that we just don’t make, you know, a flogging-the-dead-horse-version of…you know I only say this half in jest, first it’s Arnold, then it’s T-1000, then it’s a T-X, now it’s a transvestite. I didn’t want to do that. We had to have a reason, a platform to tell this story, and the reason is “The War!” And hopefully the fans, you and I go, “Fuckin’ a, that’s what I want to see.”



But I wanna ask you….it was Comic-Con where fans really got a taste of what you were planning on doing. And it was from Comic-Con that fans were all of a sudden like “wow, this guy’s really delivering the goods.” Did you feel the love from fandom after Comic-Con, did something change for you?



McG: I’m just delighted that I’ve been able to let the film do the talking. And I mean it’s like, you look at all my heroes. Clint Eastwood, “Any Which Way But Loose” to, you know, “Changeling,” “Gran Torino,” to, “Unforgiven.” Hi, my name’s Johnny Depp I’m on “21 Jump Street” to the great Johnny Depp that we know of our time. I mean, everyone’s got to begin and do what they got to do, and they have to reserve the right to express growth, and if you show the material that outweighs the bullshit, then hopefully with a little luck people will respond to what you are putting forward. And it all comes from a place of what it really is. I’m tired of being a cheerleader, I’m tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of my gum’s flapping. I only want this film to speak for itself. And I wish everybody could spend time with Christian, because he’s so focused and so honest, he’s so not concerned with fame, he is so not concerned with money, he is so only obsessed with an excellent film that you can’t be around that guy and fuck around. You just can’t do it. So it results in, hopefully, what you’re seeing. I film that has integrity and honors the fan first.



I saw you on set and I saw you directing Christian basically fighting a Terminator. For you as a fan of the series, as a fan of Christian, what was that experience like for you?



McG: It was incredible, I mean, I truly grew up with two seminal moments; the first Terminator scaring me into a place of being the neurotic freak that I am, and the second one illuminating the reality of “I want to be a filmmaker!” I mean, you know, when Robert Patrick’s head came apart I couldn’t believe it. The first two movies I made I hired Robert Patrick because of his role in T2. And what he did as an actor to get his body right and just, who’s ever seen such a profound role with such an economy of dialogue. You know it’s really something, so I have so much respect and I hold the Terminator franchise in such high esteem that I just want to deliver.



So I have to ask you, you’ve been recently attached to “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” and from what I understand, this is the first of the three Terminator trilogy.



McG: Provided the audience wants more.



I’m assuming they do. I’ve seen the footage, I’m speaking for fandom when I say we’re gonna want more. So my question for you is, if they say to you, we want you back for the next Terminator picture, you also have “20,000 Leagues.” How does that work in your life?



McG: I don’t know. I mean, I’ll have to talk about it when it reveals itself. But Terminator is indeed a priority.



Next question for you; have you reached a running time on this film?



McG: No, we’re still cutting it. Conrad…I mean, it’s so funny, we’re standing here and, I mean, we’re cutting at Warner’s, just up and over the Highland Pass right there and Conrad and I are slapping around and…you know it’s probably going to be about 2:15. You know, right around 2 hours, 2:10, right in there. We’re not concerned about it. We’re gonna cut the film that is the best version, that’s it.



And already with DVD and Blu-ray in this day and age, with it being such a part of every film, are you already thinking about…what can fans look forward to on the DVD and the Blu-ray?



McG: Certainly deleted material but also a very honest making-of. To me that would be the most compelling of all the material. A warts and all, fights and all, no bull-shit, this is what we went through, this is how it got done, and this is the aggravation that creates the pearl. An inside look at what happened, I mean, I’m so inspired by “Hearts of Darkness,” I watch it before I begin any project. And you look at the difficulty that Coppola faced in making “Apocalypse Now”, and I find it so inspirational and so illuminating and it adds so much pleasure to viewing “Apocalypse Now” that to me, I hope to have a companion piece that speaks to that. But I also want to take advantage to the technology available to us in the social networking capacities of Blu-ray and everything else that goes into it. So we’ll see.



Las question for you, I’ve seen a lot of holy shit effects for this film already. For you what’s been or what is the most challenging sequence that you’re currently trying to finish right now?



McG: To create a photo-realistic character that doesn’t exist in real life. For the fans to not know where practical ends and effect begins. It’s never been done. And we’ll see if we can do it. I’m going to ILM in a couple days to see if they’ve done it.



So basically, let me ask you this question, is this the effect…in all of the…in Terminator 2 it blew the door open with special effects



McG: Indeed.



And with many different films over the past decade or two decades there has always been that seminal moment the blows the door open with special effects. Is there that moment in this film? Is this going to be the moment?



McG: Well I’m hoping so, I’m hoping it to be the third leg of this tripod. “Terminator” when, you know, liquid metal reanimates itself, Robert Patrick’s head comes apart from a shotgun blast and comes back together and all the other great elements in there. Forest Gump when he’s shaking hands with Nixon and he’s there in the scene were we know from a practical place he wasn’t there. And then our offering in “Terminator Salvation”. I don’t know if we can do it, we’re trying.





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