Terminator: Dark Fate reunites Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron with original franchise stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time in 28 years. Cameron describes Terminator: Dark Fate as a direct sequel to Terminator 2, one that recaptures the riveting tone of the original Terminator and its follow-up.
“It has the same intensity, the same take-no-prisoners feeling and sense of abject terror,” he says. “The first film was supposed to scare the crap out of you about a possible dark future and the survival of a girl that we come to care about. This film, like the others, deals with the threat of a human collision with artificial super-intelligence, which is a whole lot less science-fiction today than it was in 1984 or 1991.”
More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.
It all began in 1984, when filmmakers James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd had no idea they were unleashing a global phenomenon with The Terminator, a modestly budgeted, original sci-fi action film about a cyborg from an apocalyptic future that travels to the present to ensure the extermination of the human race.
Dark, gritty, intelligently written and highly entertaining, the film moved at a blistering pace and featured an action heroine, which was highly unusual at the time.
Cameron and Hurd, who cut their teeth at Roger Corman’s low-budget film mecca, New World Pictures, kept costs down with inventive special effects, Stan Winston, the pioneering special-effects makeup designer, created Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg look using Cameron’s own paintings as inspiration.
The film’s success prompted a 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (or T-2), setting a new standard for action films. T-2 introduced a more advanced – and more lethal – Terminator, the T-1000, played by Robert Patrick, and added Edward Furlong as Sarah’s son, John Connor, the future leader of the resistance. The film cost an unprecedented $94 million to produce — approximately 15 times the $6.4 million budget of The Terminator — and made extensive use of cutting-edge CGI to bring the two Terminators to vivid, terrifying life. It garnered several accolades, including Academy Awards® for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects, and became the highest-grossing film of the year, bringing in over $518 million worldwide.
While three more Terminator-themed films and a television series were produced, T-2 marked the end of Cameron and Hamilton’s involvement — until Terminator: Dark Fate, whichcontinues the story from Judgment Day in the present.
“Above anything else, we wanted to create a return to form with Dark Fate. Terminator 1 and 2 hold a very special place in cinematic history, and we wanted Dark Fate to be a continuation of Jim’s vision for the franchise,” explains producer David Ellison. “There was only one way we were going to do it – and that was if James Cameron was going to come back to the franchise.”
Cameron handpicked Tim Miller, whose credits include the global blockbuster Deadpool, one of the highest grossing R-Rated films of all time, to direct Terminator: Dark Fate.
Ellison was fully on board with the selection of Miller as he was also a fan after seeing an early cut of Deadpool. “I thought the action and world he created with that film was brilliant. Tim was able to craft a movie that reinvented not just the superhero genre, but the R-rated action genre as well, which is exactly the kind of director we needed for Terminator: Dark Fate,” he says.
A self-described “sci-fi nerd,” Miller , along with Cameron and Ellison, began by putting together a writers’ room of some of the top science-fiction and fantasy creators working today, including David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight), Neal Stephenson (Seveneves, Cryptonomicon), Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself, Best Served Cold), Greg Bear (Darwin’s Radio, Anvil of Stars), Neal Asher (Prador Moon, Gridlinked), Josh Friedman (Avatar 2, War of the Worlds) and Warren Ellis (Iron Man 3, Gun Machine), to brainstorm possible plot twists.
“We all got together in a room with Jim and producer David Ellison to talk about a whole bunch of what-ifs,” explains Miller. “We considered things like whether it should take place in the present, the past or the future. Should it focus on Sarah; should it be John? We all felt strongly that the film should be in some way a handoff to new characters, but we wanted to continue the structure of the “trinity” consisting of Hunters, protectors, and prey.”
Miller’s guiding principle throughout development and production was to stay true to the fundamentals of the Terminator “brand,” while bringing his own unique sensibility to the film. “I never thought, ‘I’m going to make the movie just like Jim Cameron would,’” he says. “But I knew from his films that the secret to making a great Terminator film is character, character, character. Jim is particularly good at the details that make you feel you’re watching real people going through extraordinary events.”
Another major aspect of Cameron’s approach that Miller incorporated into Terminator: Dark Fateis pacing. “Jim constructs slower periods up front where you really get to know the characters, and then once the action starts, it does not stop,” observes the director. “He does that much better than anybody else.”
Having Cameron involved from the beginning was essential to the process, says Miller, because of his abiding interest in the technology and the characters he created so many years ago. “He knows the material like nobody else and he’s been thinking about it for years. Even though he had never planned to make this movie, his thoughts about AI have continued to evolve, and he never lost his connection to the story.”
So after nearly three decades, what brought Cameron back to the table for another chapter of the beloved sci-fi epic? “Over the years I have continued to consult with people working at the forefront of the artificial intelligence world,” says the filmmaker. “They all believe there will be an A.I. equal to or greater than a human mind. They also say it’s not going to turn into Skynet, but how do we know that?”
Cameron says the debate reminds him of the enthusiasm nuclear scientists had in the 1930s and ’40s about the idea of powering the world by splitting the atom. “There was zero concern over the idea that it would be weaponized,” he says. “But the first manifestation of nuclear power on our planet was the destruction of two cities and hundreds of thousands of people. So the idea that it can’t happen now is not the case.”
Miller takes a more optimistic view, paraphrasing a maxim of Arthur C. Clarke’s: “The future’s not only stranger than you imagine, it’s stranger than you can imagine,” adding, “I don’t think AI’s agenda will be to kill us. We don’t know what it will become – but it will be able to evolve more in a day than we have in millions of years. At the moment, I choose to believe they’ll be better than us.”
The role of Sarah Connor is so closely associated with the actress that there was never a doubt the filmmakers would ask her to return for Terminator: Dark Fate. “I don’t think any of us imagined anyone else in the role,” says Cameron. “We would just not have brought Sarah back without Linda. When Sarah appears onscreen, you just feel, okay, here we go.”
A revolutionary figure in an era when action heroes were almost by definition male, Sarah’s transformation from naïve waitress to guerrilla fighter in order to save her son from the original Terminator made her a movie icon. Hamilton again breaks the mold as the older, perhaps wiser — and definitely angrier — Connor.
While recent action films such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel have featured female protagonists, observes Cameron, Sarah Connor is in a league of her own. “How many of those characters are over 40?” he asks. “It’s a very short list. How many of them are over 60? Big fat zero. The guys are still packing guns into their 80s. But in our society we discount the older woman. In classic mythology, she is the keeper of wisdom, sometimes the sorceress or the seer, but always a powerful figure. We put that together with a kick-ass action hero and that’s something you haven’t seen before.”
Hamilton says the idea of revisiting the role after more than two decades intrigued her. “After T-2, I felt I had worked a very complete character arc from a nobody to a warrior woman,” she explains. “At that point I didn’t want to just keep doing it without the ability to add something new. But the last 28 years have changed Sarah dramatically and I was ready to explore that.”
Schwarzenegger credits The Terminator with launching his career as an actor. “I had done Conan the Barbarian, but that was about showing the body and the muscles,” he recalls. “I wanted to get out of that and The Terminator was really the first movie that was all about the face, the eyes and acting. It was a small movie but brilliantly written, designed and directed. It was a major breakthrough for filmmaking and for me.”
Schwarzenegger says he is particularly proud of the fact that the Terminator is the only character to be named by the American Film Institute as one of the top 50 heroes (No. 48) and one of the top 50 villains (No. 22) in cinema history. “The idea always was to be the villain but make everyone walk out and say, ‘That’s really cool! Can you imagine if you had that kind of a power?’ People find him inspirational in some ways as well as entertaining.”
Part of the fun of playing the character comes from a certain identification with his cyborg alter ego, says Schwarzenegger. “There is a machine-like behavior you get from bodybuilding,” he explains. “It’s all about reps, keeping your emotions out and focusing on your goal. But in this movie we see him becoming more human. He is aware that he’s a machine, but after being around human beings for so long, he has become more human. It made it very interesting and, from an acting point of view, much more challenging. I had to rely a lot on Tim Miller to tell me when to dial it up and down. He did a great job.”
Seeing Schwarzenegger and Hamilton together on set was a huge thrill for everyone involved in the movie, but none more so than Miller. “For some odd reason, it all hit me very late in the process… one night during shooting when I was looking at the monitors,” recalls the director. “We had two cameras up, one on Linda, and the other on Arnold. For the first time, I truly realized I was making a Terminator movie. It was a great scene; Arnold had a great comedic moment and Linda was giving him shit, firing right back! She is the sweetest person when the cameras stop rolling, but she is a total badass when she is in character.”
Ellison was just as captivated when seeing the two legends on-screen together. “It really is one of those moments that I’ll never forget,’” he says. “I saw T-2 in the theater when I was eight years old, and I absolutely fell in love with the story and the characters. That film was one of the inspirations for me wanting to be involved in the film industry, so to be on set with Arnold and Linda and getting the opportunity to revive these characters was truly a full circle moment.”
As much as he enjoyed working on the film, Cameron is quick to point out that his role was producer, not director, and he trusted the film in the hands of Tim Miller and the rest of the filmmaking team. “I worked with Tim and the other writers in advance, trying to give him the best bat to hit a home run off of, and that was the shooting script. I believe utterly in the sanctity of the director’s creative process with the actors, the cinematographer, the production designer and so on. My job was to tee this up, set it in motion and let them do their thing.”
The initial goal, to create a direct sequel to T-1 and T-2, has been realized in tone as much as the narrative, says Cameron. “It’s R-rated, it’s gritty, it’s fast, it’s intense, it’s linear. The whole story takes place in 36 hours and is a white-knuckle ride through a kind of techno-hell that arrives in our present day.”
Miller hopes he has delivered another great Terminator tale for an eager audience. “It’s Linda Hamilton’s return, Arnold’s back, Jim’s here and we have a really great infusion of new ideas and new blood as well,” he adds. “I hope it will be a worthy successor to those two truly great films. You care about every one of these characters. Each of them have moments that I hope will make the audience cry and cheer. There are amazing action set pieces that will get the blood pumping and a plot that will have the audience constantly wondering what happens next. Hopefully, it all adds up to a great time in the theater, which the audience will ultimately decide.”
“With Dark Fate, I tried to honor what we all love about the original films,” he concludes. “My hope is that Terminator fans will feel the same way and that the film can introduce a new generation to the world and characters Jim created.”
The Creative Team
Tim Miller (Director/Executive Producer) made his feature debut with the Marvel/Fox hit Deadpool and created the Netflix animated anthology “Love, Death + Robots,” with executive producer David Fincher. Season two of the series is currently in production at Miller’s Los Angeles animation company Blur Studio.
James Cameron (Story By/Producer) is an acclaimed filmmaker, explorer and environmental advocate. As director, writer and producer he is responsible for some of the most memorable films of the past three decades: The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar.
For 10 years Avatar was the highest grossing film in history with over $2.7 billion in global box office, beating the previous record holder, Cameron’s own film Titanic, which held that record for 12 years. Cameron’s films have also earned numerous nominations and awards, most notably Titanic’s 14 Academy Award nominations (tied for the record) and 11 Oscars (also a record), including Cameron’s own 3 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Editing. Cameron also won the DGA Award for directing Titanic, in 1998. Both Titanic and Avatar won the Golden Globe for Best Director and Best Picture. Avatar was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and won 3.
Over the last 20 years Cameron developed cutting edge 3D camera systems for movies and documentaries, as well as for broadcast sports and special events. He was at the vanguard of the 3D renaissance that has transformed the movie industry in recent years.
Avatar was shot with cameras developed by Cameron’s company, CPG, in collaboration with Sony. Avatar won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, and in 3 out of 4 years (from 2009 to 2012), the cinematography Oscar was won by films using Cameron’s 3D systems (Avatar, Hugo, Life of Pi.)
In 2018, working with Sony again, Cameron developed a 3D version of the Venice CineAlta camera for the filming of the Avatar sequels. The system packs two Venice 6K HDR cameras, two 10:1 zoom lenses and an 11-axis motion-control system into a 38 pound hand-held 3D rig, which Cameron operates personally during filming.
He has also developed unprecedented deep ocean exploration vehicles, lighting and 3D camera equipment. Cameron has led eight deep ocean expeditions from 1995 to 2012, including three to the Titanic wreck. He has dived that wreck 33 times, and spent over a hundred hours piloting small remotely operated vehicles of his own design inside the wreck, to create an archeological survey the interior. His research has led to a definitive understanding of the forensics of the Titanic’s sinking.
Other expeditions included exploration of the German battleship Bismarck in 2002, and hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic, Pacific and Sea of Cortez in 2002 and 2003. He has spent over 3000 hours underwater, and made 75 deep submersible dives. He is a member of the Deep Submersible Pilots Association.
In 2012, Cameron led his eighth deep ocean expedition to some of the deepest trenches in the world. On March 26, 2012, he set the world’s solo deep diving record of 35,787’ in the Challenger Deep in a vehicle of his own design.
Cameron is a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, and recipient of their most prestigious award, the Hubbard Medal, as well as the Explorer’s Club medal for Explorer of the Year.
Cameron is also passionately involved in sustainability, having founded the Avatar Alliance Foundation to take action on climate change, deforestation, indigenous rights, ocean conservation and sustainable agriculture. His production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, installed a 1-megawatt solar array on the roofs of their soundstages at Manhattan Beach Studios, to generate all the power for the Avatar sequels. The production is the first entirely vegan-catered motion picture set, for environmental reasons, and is dedicated to being as green and sustainable as possible.
James and Suzy Amis Cameron, both environmental vegans, founded the Plant Power Taskforce to promote awareness of the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and climate. The Camerons are the founders and majority owners of Verdient, one of the largest pea protein extraction facilities in North America, located in Saskatchewan. They are rapidly expanding their business activities in the field of plant-based proteins, organic agriculture, and sustainable food products. They operate organic farms in both Canada and New Zealand, to research sustainable agronomy practices.
Cameron has completed two years of principal capture on Avatar 2, 3 and 4, and is currently shooting live action for those films in New Zealand.
David Goyer (Story By/Screenplay By) has earned a reputation for telling character-driven stories adapted from the otherworldly realms of superheroes, fantasy and the supernatural. His breakout came in 1998 when he wrote the action hit Blade, starring Wesley Snipes. He then wrote 2002’s Blade II, on which he also served as an executive producer. In 2004, he directed, wrote and produced the last of the trilogy, Blade: Trinity. Previously, Goyer scripted and collaborated with Christopher Nolan on the story for Zack Snyder’s hit action adventure Man of Steel. Goyer also worked with Nolan on the mega-hit Dark Knight trilogy, starting with the screenplay for Batman Begins. Goyer went on to team with Nolan for the billion-dollar blockbuster The Dark Knight, followed by the story’s conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises. In 2002, Goyer made his feature film directorial debut with the drama ZigZag, for which he also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Landon Napoleon. His other directing credits include The Invisible, and the hit supernatural thriller The Unborn.
In addition to screenwriting, Goyer made his debut in video games with the story for the smash hit “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” and penned the story for its blockbuster follow up, “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.” In television, Goyer’s work includes the series “Da Vinci’s Demons,” in which he served as creator, writer, director, and executive producer; “Constantine,” based on the popular DC Comics series Hellblazer; the sci-fi drama “Flashforward”; and the Syfy TV series “Krypton.” In addition, Goyer executive produced the Sundance hit, “The Birth of a Nation,” which won both the Audience award and the Grand Jury Prize at the festival. Most recently, David produced Assassination Nation with Refinery29 and NEON, penned the script for the upcoming film, Terminator: Dark Fate, and acts as a producer on Antlers with Guillermo del Toro (currently in post-production). Upcoming, he will continue working with Lucasfilm’s xLAB on “Vader Immortal,” a Star Wars VR project, and show-run the upcoming Isaac Asimov “Foundation” series for Skydance Television and Apple, which he co-created with Josh Friedman.
Justin Rhodes (Story By/Screenplay By) is currently writing Epoch Index for Fox with ASAP Entertainment and 6th & Idaho attached to produce. This is an adaptation of Christian Cantrell’s novella of the same name with Brad Peyton attached to direct. Justin is also currently writing the reboot for Robocop 4 for MGM with Neill Blomkamp attached to direct.
Additionally, he wrote Masters of the Universe for Columbia Pictures and Escape Artists with Goyer and recently wrote the new iteration of Fantastic Voyage with Goyer that is set up 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment. Justin also previously wrote Dark Matter for Columbia and Matt Tolmach with Roland Emmerich attached to direct, Green Lantern Corps for Warners Bros. and DC Entertainment, and Mass Effect for EA and Legendary with Arad Productions attached to produce.
Before that, Justin wrote The Breach for Lionsgate with Lorenzo di Bonaventura and David S. Goyer attached to produce and In Enemy Waters for Lionsgate with Temple Hill producing and Sean Ellis attached to direct. Previously, he sold his sci-fi adventure spec Second Sun preemptively to Warner Bros. with Scott Aversano attached to produce, and his original feature, The Join, to Legendary.
Billy Ray (Screenplay By) was nominated for an Oscar and won a WGA Award for his Captain Phillips screenplay. He also co-wrote The Hunger Games and State of Play. He is the writer/director of Shattered Glass, Breach, and Secret In Their Eyes, – and created and Executive Produced (with Christopher Keyser) the Amazon series “The Last Tycoon.” He served four terms on the WGA’s Board of Directors, and is currently serving on the Academy’s Board of Governors.
He recently received a sole writing credit on Richard Jewell which Clint Eastwood directed for Warner Brothers. His current projects include Gemini Man (Will Smith, directed by Ang Lee) out October 11, and the Terminator: Dark Fate (directed by Tim Miller).