This past fall, the Terminator series came back — once more — with Terminator: Dark Fate, the fourth (and possibly final) attempt to make a proper threequel to James Cameron's Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Alas, while the sci-fi action blockbuster didn't take the box office by storm, it became a critical favorite, earning praise for its high-energy action scenes and its sharp-shooting performances from returning favorites (Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger) and newcomers (Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes). Certainly, it's not easy to make a movie of this size and scale, and the commentary track revealed lots of interesting tidbits about its extensive production. Here are some fun behind-the-scenes facts about the making of Terminator: Dark Fate.
James Cameron Refused To Make Dark Fate Unless They Brought Arnold Schwarzenegger Back
Arnold Schwarzenegger is deeply synonymous with the Terminator franchise. Nearly every installment in this time-hopping franchise features the bodybuilder-turned-actor(-turned-politician-turned-actor-again) in some prominent fashion. Even Terminator: Salvation included an awkward CG-heavy cameo.
Sure enough, when it came time to put Terminator: Dark Fate together, producer James Cameron wouldn't sign onto the sequel unless he was once again "working with [his] good friend of 35 years." Even though Cameron knew this newest attempt at Terminator 3 was passing the baton to a new generation of actors and moviegoers, he wouldn't feel right doing it without his frequent collaborator. Therefore, it wasn't a question of if Schwarzenegger would be involved, but rather how he'd play a part in this newest sequel. From there, Cameron also needed to figure out how they could bring Linda Hamilton back into the fold.
Linda Hamilton Pushed Back On The Script At Times
Filmmaking is a collaborative process. While some folks might think that actors simply show up on set to hit their marks and say their lines, their input is key to crafting the characters and (hopefully) producing a fleshed-out personality on the silver screen. Terminator: Dark Fate is the first time Linda Hamilton has appeared in a Terminator movie since Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which is a very big deal.
Everyone involved with this blockbuster, including James Cameron and director Tim Miller, wanted to make sure she felt comfortable returning to the franchise she helped create. In order for that to happen, the actress felt liberated to "speak up and advocate" for what she wanted to see in Sarah Conner's character. When she had an issue with the screenplay — including dumb dialogue — Hamilton made a point to say something.
Linda Hamilton's First Day Of Shooting Was Interrupted By 'A Loud Drunk Guy'
Picture this: for the first time in nearly 30 years, Linda Hamilton returns to the set of a Terminator movie. The suspense is electric. Everyone is on pins and needles, giddy with excitement about seeing Hamilton in her element. The day comes. She's back in action! Now, cameras are rolling. But as Hamilton is in the midst of reprising her most iconic role, a loud drunk stars shouting, botching take after take. There's no doubt that tensions are high. Yet, thankfully, Hamilton keeps it cool, confidently reviving the role that turned her into a silver screen legend. That's what happened when Hamilton shot her first scene in Terminator: Dark Fate. According to Tim Miller on the commentary track, the set's buzzy enthusiasm was interrupted by a loud, inebriated disrupter. But Hamilton remained professional, as always. Miller said:
Director Tim Miller Included A Bunch Of Four-Letter Words To Make Sure Terminator: Dark Fate Stayed R-Rated
Terminator: Dark Fate has the distinction of being the first Terminator film armed with an R-rating since 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine. It was the right call, as the movie's R-rated sensibilities made it a closer fit to the original two Terminator movies compared to the last two PG-13 installments, Terminator: Salvation and Terminator: Genisys, respectively. While the sequel is certainly proud of its more adult-orientated rating, it wasn't given lightly. As Tim Miller notes in the commentary track, the Deadpool director littered his sophomore film with four-letter curse words to make sure that the sequel retained its R-rating through its final cut. Sure enough, Terminator: Dark Fate was rated R for "violence throughout, language, and brief nudity."
Linda Hamilton Was Given A Fake Butt
As it turns out, Linda Hamilton's derriere in Terminator: Dark Fate isn't actually her own. During the promotional rounds for this new sequel, the actress admits that she spent a considerable amount of time getting in shape for this action-friendly blockbuster. About a year or so, in fact, according to Hamilton. Apparently, she got "so lean" that the crew "had to build [her] a butt," which came as a surprise. As Hamilton admitted, having a butt built for you is "something you don't ever see coming in your life." Alas, that's what happened. No ifs, ands, or butts about it.
James Cameron Wrote Carl's Introduction
James Cameron is the author of the Terminator franchise, and fans were relieved to hear that he had a hand in writing this latest Terminator sequel. In addition to his producer credit, he also shaped up the story, and his contributions are scattered throughout the film.
In the commentary track, Tim Miller pointed out a few moments in particular which came from Cameron's pen. Specifically, the midpoint introduction of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Carl, the Terminator who killed John Conner, was written by the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Now living a domesticated life, this Terminator is blunt, settled down, and dryly funny, and Cameron insisted that he write this introductory scene himself. Sure enough, this sequence is easily among the movie's best, particularly thanks to Cameron's awareness of Schwarzenegger's well-proven strengths as a sharply funny comedic actor— even when he's playing an emotionless literal killing machine.
The Chase Sequence Could Have Been Quite A Bit Longer
While Terminator: Dark Fate is pretty consistently action-packed, the movie's most stand-out action sequence comes early into the picture when our main characters embark on a prolonged chase sequence fighting off the vicious and relentless Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). It's a stunning action set piece, and it's made all-the-more impressive when you know that it's actually a condensed version of what the filmmakers envisioned for this intense scene. According to Tim Miller, the sequence is only "half as long" as what they had in mind. He also wanted to include a motorcycle chase and another pick-up truck into the action, but he concluded that it was "going a little too far." Nevertheless, the version we got in the final film was certainly a highpoint.
The Border Cross Scene Was 'The Most Problematic Sequence', According to Tim Miller
While there were a number of challenging action scenes shot for Terminator: Dark Fate, the one that proved to be the toughest was the scene where our characters cross the border. While the sequence itself doesn't appear to be exceptionally challenging in its current presentation, that's because the filmmakers needed to cut it down significantly. As a result, the scene was produced in pieces, with different ideas shot and scrapped in the process. It took a lot of creative retooling, but the filmmakers made it come together in a way that didn't interrupt the film's flow or pacing. There was also another major death they filmed but ultimately removed for practicality reasons. Here's what Tim Miller said in the commentary track:
One Of Grace's Funniest Lines Was Cut After Test Audiences Found It Too Harsh
Throughout the commentary track, Tim Miller notes that he also played a hand in writing and reshaping the dialogue to make it sound more natural or more appealing to him as a director. Whether it was making a line sound more realistic, in his view, or punching up the comedy, Miller made several tweaks. But apparently, there was one line that didn't sit well with audiences and got scrapped, even though it was one of Miller's favorites.
During the train sequence, when Sarah Conner says, "Fine, let someone else be Mother Mary for a while," Mackenzie Davis' Grace retorts, "If you're Mother Mary, why do I so want to beat the shit out of you?" As it turns out, if Miller had his way, that insult would've been a lot sharper... and a lot harsher.
Tim Miller And James Cameron Disagreed About Carl's Admission
By now, it's no secret that Tim Miller and James Cameron butted heads while making Terminator: Dark Fate. While it was Miller's movie, the Avatar filmmaker wrote and directed the first two installments. His involvement in this sequel was huge, but that influence also created conflict. It's the sort of troubled working dynamic that caused Miller to swear that he'll never work with Cameron again. Whether or not that remains true, there were many points of contention found throughout the moviemaking. One such conflict revolved around Carl's family life. Specifically, Miller believed Carl should've been upfront with Alicia and Mateo and revealed his hidden robotic existence, whereas Cameron felt that information needed to stay with Carl. Alas, the secretive nature of Carl's killing machine existence is fairly autobiographical to Schwarzenegger's personal life, as Screen Crush noted.
The Final Battle Was Initially Grosser
While the final fight in Terminator: Dark Fate isn't a clean affair, it was originally set to be a good bit grosser than it was in the final film. When it came to crafting this action-packed sequence, Tim Miller claims he needed to find the line between "gross and horrific." While he only provides one example, a scene where Rev-9 rips the flesh off Carl's arm and said flesh hangs off Carl's arm like "a big piece of jerky" proved to be too much. It's where they "drew the line." Trying to find this balance is certainly tricky, but Miller saddled it as well as he could with his newest film, resulting in a busy finale with punchy, violent moments but nothing that drastically crossed over into outright poor taste. Or, at least, that's the balance Miller strived for.
What did you think of Terminator: Dark Fate? Let us know below!
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.