By Kellvin Chavez Granted he directed the Charlie's Angels movies but after watching the footage of Terminator: Salvation over at this years Comic Con I am willing to forget that McG (real name: Joseph McGinty Nichol) did those movies. McG presented an action-packed clip during the panel and offered some details including a hint that Arnold Schwarzenegger might be back. “The T-800 model indeed is part of the mythology of Terminator”
After the panel we were fortunate enough to sit in a small press conference room and speak to McG about the film, which is set in post-apocalyptic 2018. He talks about how the new "Terminator" may be R-rated, despite rumors of a PG-13 and more.
McG: I'm so glad to hear you liked the footage because like I said we're halfway through photography. You know Sam has got a six AM call on Saturday. He's got to get the hell out of here and go back to it and there's no visual effects. There's nothing there yet, but to have that sort of excitement come out of just a practical, halfway through principle photography experience felt pretty good. I'm really glad you guys liked it. Thank you for that. What do you want to talk about?
McG, can I ask about style? The first film you were able to completely do whatever you wanted. Obviously "Terminator" is an existing film franchise so we're are you able to add elements to make it your own?
McG: Well, truthfully I think any filmmaker tries to go on a film by film basis and do what's right for what's in front of them. You know I'm very pleased with the "Charlie's Angels" pictures and what I was trying to do with those movies is just break down the glass ceiling, you know say you can make a successful female action picture. But that was a long time ago. And I'm a different filmmaker now. And I made a movie after that about a plane crash. I've been afraid of flying for a long time. I needed to sort of face that catharsis that Joseph Campbell moment of facing what you're most afraid of and that was the impetus for making "We Are Marshall" and now I wanted to make a movie that was about posing ethical questions to the audience and suggesting that the film won't be easy. It's going to be a little elliptical in a way you ride along the picture. So as far as the look and what we want to do with this, I wanted to create a new film language. We talked to Kodak about creating a new stock that had never been photographed before. I told you about how we're adding three times as much silver to a color stock that had ever been added and that gives it an ethereal sort of quality that suggests something's off. Something is wrong with the world that we're living in. And I just wanted to create a very, very gritty language. I'm tremendously influenced by "Children of Men," hats off to that picture. I think it's fantastic and I hope more people get a chance to see it. But by the same token, this isn't designed to be an art picture. This is designed to be a picture shared the world over, so you got to find that balance between that artistic take and that artistic look and what's right for a film designed to be seen by a great many people around the world. And I must say we're very, very pleased with the way the film looks and feels and you guys be the judge. You just saw it. I'm hoping it has that grit that I speak of.
McG, I was wondering if you could talk about the involvement of Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight) in the script and also could you tell us if the film ends on a cliffhanger?
McG: The film does indeed end on a cliffhanger. Jonah Nolan is an extraordinarily cerebral guy. So when you got Jonah Nolan on your left and Christian Bale on your right and Sam Worthington kicking you in the head right in front of you, it'll definitely keep you on your toes. But Jonah was involved with the -- Jonah is, I would have to characterize Jonah as the lead writer of the film. I don't know how the WGA rules work. I'm looking at Sam from Sony. You probably know better. But honest to goodness, we did the heaviest lifting with Jonah and that's where we all got together and talked about what we were up to. And he's just a very, very cerebral guy, you know. And he and Chris behind "Memento" and "The Prestige" and certainly the Batman pictures. They are deep, deep thinkers.
McG, could you talk about your meetings with James Cameron?
McG: Well I was a double dip. I was going to town to see Sam down at the Marina Del Ray space there by LAX and you know it was a complete motion cap environment and Sam's in his data suit and everybody's running around with little balls hanging off their leotards and I got to play with the cameras and talk to Jim at length. And we've had several phone calls and he knows that I respect him a great deal. And like I said, I did not want to move forward on this picture if Jim Cameron were like fuck you. You know what are you doing? You know you have no business moving forward on this. Very simply I would have acquiesced and said you're right. You're the creator of what it is and I respect that. And he was very encouraging and we talked at length about the story. We talked about Sam and most particularly we talked about his experience on "Aliens" and the idea of you can't live in fear. You've got to move forward. I mean you know I remember when I was on "Superman" and people were kicking the shit out of me and saying what kind of guy calls himself McG? And it's the privilege of the public to just do that, not know that McG is short for McGinty and I've been called that since the day I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There's nothing Hollywood about it. There's nothing any, it's the function of being poor and having three Joes in one household so they didn't call me Joe, they called me McG, short for McGinty, my mother's maiden name. But of course as I say we live in a shorthand society, people do what they got to do, but you know I've talked extensively to Bryce about you got to be on "Happy Days" before you can become the great Ron Howard. Maybe you got to be Spicoli before you can be Sean Penn. Maybe you got to do some time on "21 Jump Street" before you can grow into the boots of Johnny Depp. And there's nothing wrong with paying your dues and I'm certainly willing to pay mine.
McG, can you talk about working with Christian Bale in the last few weeks? Any reports you want to clarify or dismiss?
McG: I'm delighted to speak about Christian because I think everybody up here can talk about it. He's the most professional, passionate actor you're ever going to find. I mean it's just that simple. You're looking at some professional actors sitting here now and Bale is just all about the work. He loves his wife, he loves his child, he loves being an actor. He's not interested in materialist things. He wants to come to work prepared. And he, you, I can't go, okay, Christian, you go out camera left. Christian's going to talk to me for, back me up, you know what went into the decision to go off camera left, which is wonderful. It's the elegant opposition want. You don't want people just going yeah, whatever. You know tell me what to do, I'll do it. Everybody up here challenges all the time. She got shot in the leg. She wanted to know the degree to which her limp should take place. She plays a doctor in the films. We've got doctors all over the place trying to tell us you know how to perform properly so it's credible to the medical community. Look at Common, the gun training these guys had to go through so you know these guys that work for, what is it, Blackwater and all these secret spots come in and tell us how to you know take down a house and carry a gun properly and when you swing through your own people, you break the access of the rifle. Just such focused acting to honor the story we're telling and make it look credible. And Christian sets an excellent example in that way. And just for the record he's a big hearted good guy and I've worked with a lot of people and that's just simply who he is.
Can you talk about the rating? I know you've been shooting stuff that isn't necessarily PG-13.
McG: Yeah, I mean like I said Robinoff is here today. Jeff Robinoff runs Warner Brothers, he just walked out of the room. A guy named Jeff Blake's here today, he just went over to Judd Apatow's panel. He and Amy Pascal actually run Sony. Both of them were perfectly comfortable with a rated R picture. We don't aim, I mean Sam and Anton, Moon, Bryce, Common, we shoot the picture. We never work, I mean Sam's still got blood on his hands and makeup from you know what we went through yesterday, all the physical needs of that scene. And we just shoot, shoot, shoot. And that's not to say, and therefore it's going to be NC-17. You know what I mean? You and I discussed this that just I have no problem with a PG-13 picture. I just saw the "Dark Knight" and I thought it was a work of art, I thought it was immaculate and I thought it was made comprise free. I don't think Chris had to go, damn it, if I could just do what I want to do and get that R that I want the picture would be better. So I am saying I'm not afraid of a PG-13 rating at all. We're not rooting for anything. And I'm not going to let the fan base down trying to target a rating and the only people that would give us a hard time about that would indeed be the studios, which you have to respect because they put a lot of money behind the making of the film. And like I said, Jeff Blake, I'll literally grab him and Robinoff who was sitting in the front row, they don't care. So if they say deliver a rated R picture, I mean that's really freeing. It allows us to do what we want to do with the film. So the film will rule the day. We'll all be looking at rough cuts together and we'll make those decisions. And if it just comes down to oops, there's too much blood on the head of the Marcus character and that's what pops you into an R, I don't think that makes the film infinitely more valuable so I could back to a PG-13. If they want to get rid of, oh, you can't have T-600s carrying mini-guns, well then no, it's an R because there are certain things that are part of the iconographic nature of the film and you know we talked about all this when we were on the set together. And you know like I said we just, we're really making the film in a vacuum so we're just doing what we think is right creatively day in and day out.
McG, the continuity in the "Terminator" films is always a little flexible and no one really minds because they're such wonderful stories, but if you think about "T-2" is ten years later and John looks like he's 13. What's your take on the timeline when this starts?
McG: Well, there's no doubt that you know the beginning of "T-3" for example begins with a bit of a punt as to what happened at the end of "T-2" and there's some re-juggling of the time lines. You know we're largely treating it as though the bombs have gone off, I'm not going to share with you what the date is when the bombs go off. We come into the picture in 2018 and we've done the best we can to honor the timelines that have been put into place. And I think it ultimately feels very satisfying and if we've done our job properly then this will be regarded as the statement of the time and the place and the where, and the when, and the why and the how. And it comes from a place of doing a lot of research with you know futurists, with scientists who talk about how long it would take the atmosphere to clear itself out so you could actually go back outside and do your thing. And you know we're trying to just sort of amalgamate the three pictures and amalgamate the intention and then answer that to the best of our ability. Again there are certain things that are in stone. The T-800 comes in 2029, you know. We're building towards that place, therefore if hardware should show up in 2018 it was supposed to be routed 2029, that's a problem for John Connor.
What did you think when you saw the first "Terminator"?
McG: I've always regarded the first picture as a horror picture, as a chase picture. It's "Halloween." What's the difference between Schwarzenegger in the first picture and Michael Myers in "Halloween"? Which is wonderful. I'm complimenting the picture. And then the second picture I thought brought a level of complexity that you can't hope to achieve on a sequel. Sequels are tough. I made an inadequate sequel. I made it with this woman back here, Kim Green. We made a good first picture, the second picture was a lesser picture. And for the [LAUGHS] and for Cameron -- I blame you. You did the makeup. [LAUGHS] You know to make a sequel that elevates to the degree, how many sequels are better than -- oops, I just broke someone's iPhone. How many sequels are better than the original? Arguably the second "Godfather," arguably. Arguably Jim's "Aliens."
McG: "Dark Knight." Arguably. "Empire." But it's a short list, we all agree. You know what I mean far more often than not you go to the sequel, you go what? You know? And we all feel very -- which one?
McG: "Meatballs Two" is shit. [LAUGHS]
What is this like for you in continuing on?
McG: Well the easy thing for us is we happened after the bombs, just put most simply. Every other picture has been present day. This is after it happened so therefore it's a totally new beginning. It's a totally new beginning. Are the lights on?
McG: Let me see this thing. And just you know that's so graphic and so wonderful. It's just this is where it all happens. And then inside this, the CPU that will represent the rise of the machines to a place of complete dominance. And we're heading towards that place very rapidly day in and day out. I'm looking at all the open laptops. I'm looking at the digital cameras. All these things are brand new and just getting faster and more intelligent and more intuitive all the time. So.
Could you talk about how the TV series runs through this if at all?
McG: I'm a buddy with Josh Friedman who runs the show. We had a meeting early on and we want to honor that at all times, but we can't, I know about episodic television with the "O.C." and "Chuck" and "Supernatural" and what it takes to generate stories hour in, hour out every week. And we just put most fairly in Josh was the first to jump on and say so, we can't chase their story threads, you know. We honor it, we're all using the same language, but this is this and that is that. And you know I say that as a huge fan of the series. Where's Jean? I mean Jean and I talk about it all the time. She watches every minute of it and comes back and we you know report on it and do the whole thing. But at some point you've got to create some freedom and tell the story that you regard as most compelling.
You mentioned how technology is advancing so fast. Is that a scary thing to you or do you embrace it?
McG: I think it's a scary thing and it needs to be -- who here would suggest that humanity is in great shape? [LAUGHS] Well I mean you know it's just think about it, we're melting the oceans, we have a true population problem, I always talk about it if I type A and N in my BlackBerry it types the D. That's artificial intelligence. It's no longer George Orwell. It's here. You know I meant what I said about you know don't work on getting happy, just manipulate the chemicals of your brain. You know how far can we go with that and where does humanity begin and the machine world end? We can deconstruct the human genome so if your dad had high blood pressure, your kid doesn't have to. It's kind of scary and amazing. And therefore that whole idea of Pandora's Box and you know this is just an illustration of here we go and it's likely to happen. Think about how much more quickly a computer can make a decision than our human mind can. And should that computer become aware, who knows.
Can you talk about that as a filmmaker? I know you've gone very practical on this as far as CGI.
McG: Well here's the thing, all the machines you see in this film are physics based. It'd be no different than if you and I went out to Skunk Works and said what do you guys got on the Cad systems? You know that's you know wings articulating and engines doing what they do and G-suits that create you know blood flow back to the head so you don't pass out and creating impossible turns. I mean what you're going to see is not built that I'm aware of, but based in physical reality. It's not just like hovercraft and simple dopey things. I mean all day long we're out there with ospreys out in New Mexico. Ospreys are those aircraft that takeoff vertically like helicopters, then mid-flight rotate and move to fly like a fixed wing aircraft. And you just watch that, that's influencing us all day every day. And it just here we go. What are the limits? Who knows? Imagine how you felt the first time you saw a stealth fighter. Honest to goodness, I remember seeing that son of a bitch and I could not believe that was real. I could not believe that was real. And here's the funny thing, those came -- how long ago did we roll out those stealth bombers and the stealth fighters? 10 years ago? 10? 15 years ago, even? '89? Yeah, okay. Well, a long time. So think about when that was on the books. '75? Imagine what some whiz kid at MIT or in the black ops operation of Langley or what, I mean think about what they're up to. You know and that's the stuff that just sort of says enough is enough and it's a question Rutger Hauer posed it, you know, "I, Robot" got into it. It's everything Asimov, it's everything Philip K. Dick and you know does the android dream of electric sheep?