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Discussing the Timeline of TERMINATOR GENISYS and Sarah Connor

The most recent installment of the iconic Terminator franchise is certainly ambitious. The film is tasked with revisiting three of the most beloved characters of the franchise while not undoing the events of James Cameron’s genre classics The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. These are concerns that certainly not lost on Genisys co-screenwriter and franchise fan Laeta Kalogridis or producer Dana Goldberg. We sat down with them and discussed the Terminator franchise as a whole and the woman at the center of it all, Sarah Connor.

One of the questions that many fans of the franchise had was how the filmmakers could alter the timeline that would seemingly have an effect on the mythology of the first two films. But screenwriter Kalogridis, who adapted Shutter Island for the screen for Martin Scorsese, sees the original two James Cameron films as their own story and Terminator Genisys as an alternate timeline. She explained, “It’s definitely an interesting — again, just through the lens of ‘what’s the core of the character, of Sarah? What are the things that would be shaped by the world changing around her, the parallel universe that we created’ — because in no way are the first two movies really affected by this storyline; this is a totally separate timeline. So the first two films happen the way they happen and they continue on the way they continue on. And in my head, in all honesty — I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the cut scene from the end of the second film, the scene that was taken out where Sarah’s grown old and Judgment Day didn’t happen –”

When I told her that I hadn’t, she continued, “If you ever look at the longer director’s cut version [it’s there] — but in my mind those two films are complete because even though they didn’t use that, they didn’t show it theatrically, Sarah grows old, Judgment Day doesn’t happen, she has grandchildren, John goes and works in the Senate. That story is finished. And so in this story, for her, trusting Reese isn’t nearly as hard as trusting anyone. In the first movie she thinks he’s crazy because he appears to be crazy. In this movie she knows he’s not; she knows he’s the real deal right out of the gate. But she can’t…hasn’t been able to, for her entire life since she’s nine, she has not been able to rely on anyone. So she’s in some ways oddly more damaged, I would argue, than the girl we see in Pescadero [State Hospital], who actually managed to have a normal life up until nineteen and had a mother and had a more identifiably regular childhood.”

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In Terminator Genisys, the film franchise makes a return to what was arguably the central focus of the original two Cameron films: the character of Sarah Connor. Filling Linda Hamilton’s iconic shoes was no easy task, but Emilia Clarke, best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen on the HBO phenomenon Game of Thrones, was given the job. And while Clarke clearly has experience playing a leader and a powerful woman in a dangerous world, producer Dana Goldberg explained that for her, and Clarke, that’s where the similarities ended. “Emilia likes to say — she actually said it the other day — that Khaleesi is brilliant at delegating. That Khaleesi really does sort of stand above the fray and have other people get in the dirt, and that Sarah Conner is the exact opposite. Sarah Conner gets dirty. Sarah Conner picks up the gun, runs in…”

Kalogridis added, “She would have picked up Jorah’s weapon [in the climactic events of this past season on Thrones]. She would not have stood there during the fight. She would have picked something up and been one of the people who was fighting at the end. They are utterly different characters.”

When casting somebody for this version of Sarah, were there qualities that maybe the team was looking for to bring this new version of this iconic character to life?

Goldberg revealed, “Definitely. I mean, it was a combination of things. Clearly Sarah Conner has to have strength, both physical and also an inner strength. But she also — particularly for our version of Sarah Conner — had to have vulnerability. Because again [in Terminator Genisys], all of this happened to her when she was nine years old. So she was affected from a very early age compared to those prior incarnations of Sarah Conner. So that was the thing that Emilia had, that, when we watched her read for this, there was just a vulnerability that came through, that you believed, yes, she would needless to say be able to defend herself and jump into the fray, but you also believed that she was someone you wanted to protect, in the way that the Guardian wants to protect her, in the way that Kyle Reese wants to protect her. That doesn’t mean she needs it. But there’s a vulnerability to her that shines through that keeps her from being more of a one-dimensional character. And Emilia had that in spades.”

Terminator Genisys, starring Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is in theaters now.

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