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Arnold Schwarzenegger Shares Ten Pieces of Wisdom About the TERMINATOR Saga

This week sees the release of the fifth Terminator film and the first since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to star the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. As we learned at the recent Los Angeles press junket for Terminator Genisys, though Schwarzenegger is a bit grayer around the temples than he was when he starred in James Cameron’s original 1984 low-budget science-fiction masterpiece. He’s also accrued a fair amount of insight in the decades since (helped no doubt by his years as Governator). Here are ten nuggets Arnie shared with us when we joined a group of our fellow journalists in speaking with him in advance of the premiere.

On doing sequels…

I think that it really depends so much on the writing. I think that some people are capable of making a sequel more special than the original, and we have seen that [with] the original Terminator. Jim Cameron outdid himself with the sequel, and so it became the highest grossing movie of the year when it came out in 1991. Since then we have been trying to outdo that, not always successfully but that’s what was always the attempt. This time I think Alan Taylor and the writers and the producers have done an extraordinary job to really live up to that standard of Terminator 2 again.

On how his approach to playing the Terminator has changed over the years…

Well, in Terminator 1, it was very clear that they are just a machine that destroys human beings, and anything that was in the way, I will wipe out in the most brutal way — without any feelings or any kind of remorse. Because my mission was to protect the machines, and to find Sarah Connor and to basically be successful with my mission. In this movie, it becomes a little bit more colorful, because now I am again back to destroy Sarah Connor. I’m still this vicious cold machine that is programmed to destroy Sarah Connor and nothing will get in my way. Except in this story something does get in my way, which is another Terminator, one that has been around for a longer period of time. It’s also the 
T-800 model but he was programmed to protect Sarah Connor and the human race, so there’s obviously a major conflict between the two when they meet.

That’s what creates this huge epic battle. Then of course the Terminators, depending on how long they have been around, some of them are just straight Terminators, as the one from 1984. But then the one that has been around longer, he has already adopted certain human behaviors, subtle. So from an acting point of view, you have to really be very wise the way you use that, and how you get that across, that he has human behaviors and he does have certain feelings and stuff like that. But [that] also creates great comic relief when the Terminator tries very hard to be like a human and he fails miserably. You see also that in the movie.

On what, if he really could go back in time to 1984, he would like to relive…

Well, I don’t know if I would be that interested in 1984. Why not just go back all the way in history to the times of the pyramids or to the Roman days? I think there are so many great historic times. I would like to get a little peek of those periods, rather than just 1984. Why limit yourself? If I have the chance to time travel, might as well go all out.

On what he would like to change before it happens…

I’m perfectly fine with my life. I’m very happy. [Laugh.] I want to keep it that way.


On performing scenes naked…

[Laughs.] I think they’re fun, because they’re embarrassing. They’re fun, and it leads to funny conversations and funny dialogue and great humor and everything like that, so, you know, it’s inevitable. You have to do it because that’s what the movie shows, and there’s certain times you can cover things up and there’s certain times you don’t and you can’t, and so what? You know, I don’t think there’s anyone here that [has] anything to hide.

On watching him fight himself onscreen in Terminator Genisys

The body builder that they picked for me to fight with was really an extraordinary kind of a champion body builder. He had terrific muscles; and so that was a great idea to use that approach. But even after three, four days of doing this fight scene and being thrown around and doing all the crazy stunts and this epic battle, I was always wondering, “How are they going to do this face replacement, how are going to do this technologically, the head replacement, and how do you make the body exactly like my body?” Because his body was extraordinary, but it was not exactly like my body was, right? Everybody’s different. So, you know, always in my mind was that. I mean, how’s this going to work out? And so I really never knew the entire movie. There were various different fight scenes, with John Connor, with others, that were just huge battle scenes. But it was kind of not clear how this is going to work with the visual effects.

Then we saw it just three weeks ago, the finished movie for the first time — because I made it very clear, I don’t want to see it just going through stages. I want to see it when it’s finished so we can really see how it works. So I looked very carefully at the technical aspect when I watched it the first time. Then after that, I watched it a few more times, just, you know, from another point of view, of how the story [works]. But I looked at the technical stuff and I just thought it was seamless. The technology has advanced so much, that it was really extraordinary to get this kind of entertainment and storytelling that you can do that today. Because in the old days you had to do split screens and all kinds of things, and you could tell that it was not the same. It was not like two Arnolds fighting, two Terminators fighting; they’re different ages and stuff like that. But in this movie, it totally worked. I was really impressed. And I thought it was smart that from a scheduling point of view, they did that scene pretty much on the beginning of the movie, because I did not realize that it would take one year… It barely got finished on time.

On Emilia Clarke as the new Sarah Connor..


Terminator Genisys 4

On playing an older T-800…

I thought that, again, the writers came up with an organic way to show the aging of Terminator, because Terminator cannot go into the time travel at a certain point because his hand is exposed, the flesh is gone. The metal is exposed and therefore you cannot time travel, whereas the others can. So all the other characters time travel and within seconds they’re there in the future, and I have to go the old fashioned way, I have to go the slow way. So I age, of course, you know, decades, as time goes on, from 1984 to 2017. My hair turns gray and I age and stuff like that. So this was a wonderful way of explaining how the Terminator ages, how the flesh ages, the human flesh. But the skeleton underneath is still the same, functions the same, is the same size and everything like this. As a matter of fact, [director] Alan [Taylor] asked me to gain ten pounds in order to have the same size as the skeleton always had in 1984.

So I gained that weight, trained twice as hard, trained heavier to get more muscle size and so on. To keep that same frame and wear the same kind of size clothing and all this stuff. But other than that, I aged. So I thought that that concept and the way it was written was really terrific because this way we don’t pretend that I am the forty-year-old guy, but I am what I am, which is I have aged. So that worked really well. I myself don’t feel any older. I think because I’ve stayed in shape and I exercise every day. So when I started the movie I did the prepping two months before. I worked with the stunt coordinators, I worked with the director, and with the special effects people and with everybody, and we exercised and trained for it. So that we could do the movie and do all the stunts that were necessary. Then whenever there were stunts that were dangerous, the stunt people took over, and then did the stunts for me. So that’s the way it worked, and I was delighted to be able to do the movie without getting exhausted or feeling old or tired or anything like this. I felt I was in great shape and I felt really young.

On his own relationship with technology…

I embrace technology. In 1984, when James Cameron wrote about the technology, everyone thought it was totally way out there and it was science fiction. But we have now become… We got to the time where it is almost reality, what he talked about. I mean, it’s like the machines have taken over, except they have not become self-aware, like in The Terminator. So this is really one thing that we have to watch out for. But I think technology’s good. It can be abused as everything else, but I think it is good and I hope that we will continue getting smarter and getting more interesting intelligence; and that we are going in the direction of artificial intelligence or hybrid intelligence. Where a part of our brain would get from the Cloud the information, and the other half is from you. So all of this stuff will happen in the future.


On when he was first cast in James Cameron’s original Terminator

I was approached to play Kyle Reese by [Orion co-founder] Mike Medavoy. He said, “We have this great project and it’s kind of an action flick, it’s kind of low budget. James Cameron, you probably have not heard of him, but he has done one movie before, some little movie, so this is his second movie. And as far as we are concerned O.J. Simpson is going to play Terminator.” So this was kind of the dialogue. And I said, “Wow, that’s great.” I said, “Let me get the script.” And I got the script, I read it, and it was a really great script. Then I met James Cameron, and during the lunch period with him and with [executive producer] John Daly, I started talking more and more about Terminator and how he has to train, and how he has to prepare for this part, and how he has to act like a machine and how he has to disassemble and put together guns blindfolded and how he has to practice shooting, and “You shouldn’t blink,” and on and on and on.

The whole lunch went like that. Then in the end James Cameron said, “So why are you wanting to play Reese? You should be the Terminator.” I said, “No, no, no.” I said, “Look, the Terminator only has twenty-seven lines. [Laughs.] I don’t want to go backwards with my career here. I like Kyle Reese, and he really says a lot and he’s the hero. And I just started out being the leading man and being the hero in the Conan movie, so I want to continue on like that.” He says, “No, but the most memorable character really will be the Terminator. The way I shoot it is this way and this way.” He was explaining it, explaining the whole thing, and he says, “You should be the Terminator, and I will make sure that you don’t have to think about the villainous aspect. Because it’s a machine, so everyone is going to think that he’s a hero anyway because he’s going to do cool things.” So he talked me into it basically I said, “All right, forget about Kyle Reese. I’m going to be the Terminator.” That’s how that happened.

It was, yeah, a small project, with Gale Anne Hurd being the producer, and we went out and shot it in six weeks, seven weeks, and really the cheap way. Stan Winston was helping us with the special effects and visual effects and all this, and what was supposed to be kind of a little B movie ended up one of the ten top movies for Time magazine. I was called the ultimate villain, and then at the same time the ultimate hero. So all this great stuff started happening, which not one of us knew would happen. This was all kind of exploding. Then there was a demand for a second one, and then we did the second one and that became the highest grossing movie of the year, in 1991. That was really the launch of this franchise and it became bigger, bigger, and bigger.

Have you seen Terminator Genisys yet? Let us know what you think of the film below!

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