Terminator: Genisys is in theaters this Wednesday.
Director Alan Taylor has quite a bit of fantastical movie experience under his belt, between work on Game of Thrones, Thor:The Dark World, and now this latest installment in the venerable Terminator franchise. This time around, John Connor (Jason Clarke) yet again send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to the past to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a killing machine sent back in time by Skynet. This time, however, Sarah’s got herself a guardian T-800 to protect her from all threats, and she, Reese, and “Pops” set out to put an end to Skynet once and for all. I got the opportunity to talk with Taylor about his experiences working with the cast, influences from his other work, and how much we both love Robocop‘s ED-209. Check it out after the jump.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is the series’ trademark character, so having him back in the picture is a nice touch. What was it like working with him and what was it like filming the Arnold-on-Arnold scene early in the film?
AT: I think that’s the pivotal scene in many ways…It was one of the hardest things we pulled off technically; it was one of the first things we shot; it was one of the final things we finished, and it’s one of the defining moments of our movie because it says that up till this point, you know the story, and now all of a sudden, we’re going into new territory. When the contemporary Arnold confronts and dispatches the old 80s Arnold, we go off into the new franchise, so to say. It was a challenge technically, but it was fun and pivotal all the same.
With Arnold himself, I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t imagine a movie in this mythology without him, but I had never met the guy and I had no idea what to anticipate. He’s a larger-than-life alpha male who’s lived many lives, so I thought to myself “who knows?” (laughs) The reality that he’s a joy to be around and a joy to work with; there’s a reason why he’s as big as he is. He’s the kind of guy who you know is on set because you hear people laughing because he’s making them feel good as he walks in. He nailed the performance, he had lunch with the crew every day, so I couldn’t be more happily surprised by what I found.
When it comes to his character [The T-800], he nails the very essence of his character, but he was also very open to the directorial relationship, and it was a totally a great collaboration, and then watching the first test screenings we had, watching how his character played for the audience, was a real treat.
Yea, I could definitely tell that there was a chemistry between Arnold and everyone, from Emilia [Clarke] and beyond.
AT: You could really feel it between him and Emilia and between him and Jai [Courtney]. Him and Jason [Clarke] were hilarious on set together, and there’s a tone that Arnold brings to it as the tough guy machine, and the humor that he can do, with the smiles and stuff like that, that brings it all together. But what I was surprised by was the subtlety going on with this character. There’s a final shot in the movie where there’s a close-up of him looking at Kyle [Reese], and there’s something in his expression that you’ve never seen in any Terminator movie before, this self-awareness, this humanity in his eyes, and he does it with such subtlety that I don’t think many people will catch it the first time around. There’s a grace to that last moment, which didn’t get talked about at all, and I saw him do it in one take and I said “Oh my gosh. He really thought this one through.” (laughs)
Would you consider Genisys to be the official third movie following Judgement Day?
AT: It’s funny, because I’m a director and I do this for a living and I would never deliberately or consciously bad-mouth anyone else’s work. I can certainly never say “This is the third,” but I obviously loved hearing [James] Cameron put it that way (laughs). That was a tremendous relief to hear him say that. There are people who love T3 and T4, but for me The Bibles for us was T1 and T2: Judgement Day, because for me the most exciting Terminator movies are the ones that take place in the contemporary world with all the core characters that Cameron created, so returning to that model was a big part of it for me, and having him endorse that was huge.
Are there any lessons, techniques, or themes you brought to Genisys from some of your other projects like Deadwood or Palookaville?
AT: In general, the focus on characters and relationships on the small scale and letting that guide you through everything else is something that’s important to me, especially after having done so much character-based television where the world keeps changing, whether that’s the mob world in New Jersey; or the Western in Deadwood; or the epic fantasy in Game of Thrones; it was always fixating on the intimate moments with the characters and working it out from there. I think that dynamic guided me a bit in this one.
Just in terms of shooting style, I’m not really aware that I have any particular style, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a style that would start to emerge and show itself after Thor: The Dark World, Game of Thrones, and [Genisys]; using epic wide shots, which were composed to tell a story of epic power and tell us why it’s gonna happen. It’s something that I love doing, and when I went back and watched T2, I realized that Cameron did that a lot there, so I figured that I might as well get those in there where I could.
Aside from any Terminator models, what is/are your favorite movie robot(s)?
AT: (laughs) Umm…It’s probably changed recently. I might’ve said [Maria] from Metropolis up until recently, just because the design is so perfect and timeless. But I saw EX_MACHINA recently, and the elegance of [Ava’s] design was really compelling and endlessly watchable. That and I also love the ED-209 from the original Robocop.
Of course! One of the funniest movie robots ever made (laughs).
AT: He’s so great. When he shuts down after blowing the board room guy to smithereens, that was just genius.
My favorite had to be it falling down the stairs near the end.
AT: (laughs) With his little toes trying to reach out for ground? That’s the best.
The film hits theaters on July 1.