James Cameron Reveals What Went Wrong With Terminator: Dark Fate, And Where His Friendship With Tim Miller Stands

Linda Hamilton in Terminator: Dark Fate with a rocket launcher
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Filmmaker James Cameron has a resume that speaks for itself, including various projects that have remained beloved aspects of pop culture. While this includes Titanic and Avatar, there’s also his truly iconic work with the Terminator franchise. Cameron recently explained what went wrong with the latest sequel Dark Fate, and where his friendship with director Tim Miller stands. Let’s break it all down.

Terminator: Dark Fate was released in November of 2019, and a ton of hype surround in the project thanks to the long-awaited return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Despite some strong reviews, the movie was ultimately a box office bomb that squashed plans for a sequel. There were reports of Tim Miller and James Cameron clashing over the movie’s story, and the latter director recently spoke to Deadline regarding his feelings about both his colleague and the movie itself. He shared,

I think, I’m actually reasonably happy with the film. Tim and I had our battles and we’ve both spoken about that, but the crazy thing is we’re still pals. Which is weird. I liked him before the movie, didn’t like him very much during the movie, and I like him now, and I think he feels the same way. We’re both these crazy sci-fi geeks and we like a lot of the same things, and I love his show, Love, Death + Robots. But yeah, we butted heads.

There you have it. It looks like James Cameron has a good perspective on the Terminator: Dark Fate shake-ups with Tim Miller. And despite how it ultimately performed at the box office, he maintains that he’s happy with both the movie’s contents, and where his friendship is with Tim Miller. Although the Avatar visionary does have some ideas as to what went wrong with the most recent dip into the Terminator franchise.

James Cameron’s comments about Terminator: Dark Fate come as he’s promoting the impending release of Avatar: The Way of Water. Clearly he’s got experience woking on long-awaited sequels, and his return to Pandora is expected to make an insane amount of money. This wasn’t the case for Tim Miller’s Terminator movie, with Cameron opened up about what went wrong. To him part of it came down to casting, as he put it,

I think the problem, and I’m going to wear this one, is that I refused to do it without Arnold. Tim didn’t want Arnold, but I said, ‘Look, I don’t want that. Arnold and I have been friends for 40 years, and I could hear it, and it would go like this: ’Jim, I can’t believe you’re making a Terminator movie without me.’ It just didn’t mean that much to me to do it, but I said, ‘If you guys could see your way clear to bringing Arnold back and then, you know, I’d be happy to be involved.’

I’m going to have to side with James Cameron on this one. Terminator movies just aren’t the same without Arnold Schwarzenegger, which we saw in Salvation. Although it looks like his inclusion in Dark Fate was a point of contention during the movie’s development. And that wasn’t the only possibly issue that came with bringing in the OG’s for this new installment.

Later in that same interview, James Cameron revealed how he thinks the inclusion of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor changed the course of Terminator: Dark Fate. Despite excitement from the hardcore fandom, Cameron seems to think that seeing the two OG’s once again on the big screen actually worked against its box office appeal. As he put it,

And then Tim wanted Linda. I think what happened is I think the movie could have survived having Linda in it, I think it could have survived having Arnold in it, but when you put Linda and Arnold in it and then, you know, she’s 60-something, he’s 70-something, all of a sudden it wasn’t your Terminator movie, it wasn’t even your dad’s Terminator movie, it was your granddad’s Terminator movie. And we didn’t see that. We loved it, we thought it was cool, you know, that we were making this sort of direct sequel to a movie that came out in 1991. And young moviegoing audiences weren’t born. They wouldn’t even have been born for another 10 years.

In the end Terminator: Dark Fate made $261 million on a budget of around $196 million, going down as one of the worst box office bombs of all time. It stands in juxtaposition to James Cameron’s penchant for breaking box office records with projects like Titanic and Avatar. And he’s expected to strike gold again with The Way of Water.

James Cameron does seem to stand by the actual end results of Terminator: Dark Fate as a movie. There were some truly thrilling action sequence, as well as an unbelievable cold open featuring the death of John Connor. And unsurprisingly Linda Hamilton absolutely hit out of the park with her beloved signature character.

Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16th. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your trips to the theater in the New Year. We’ll just have to wait and see if James Cameron’s latest blockbuster beats its predecessor and becoms the new highest grossing movie of all time. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.