First Terminator eyes the new kid

Times Staff Writer

“The Terminator” will be back next summer, but the original killer robot, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a bit puzzled by this new model, at least so far.

“I still don’t know how it will play out with this one,” said the star-turned-governor, who said he was given a private screening of early footage from “Terminator Salvation” by producers of the franchise reboot. “They showed me some footage, but I don’t have a feel for the movie. I didn’t see enough. I wasn’t sure who the Terminator was. I don’t know if there is one or if he’s the star or the hero. These are the things that determine the success and how the strong the movie will be.”

This will be the fourth of the “Terminator” films but the first without the Austrian-born muscleman who became an international film legend in the role of an assassination machine with cool sunglasses and a deadpan delivery. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” in 2003 was Schwarzenegger’s last starring role before he gave up Hollywood for Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger loves to talk Hollywood, and Friday afternoon he chatted about his favorite recent movies -- he absolutely loved “Wanted,” for instance, and he says Will Ferrell movies are so funny that he’s getting “a six-pack” of abs from all the laughing -- and he addressed the topic of a new “Terminator” for the first time in any depth.


Schwarzenegger has been playing a different sort of “Terminator” these days -- last week he ordered the layoffs of 10,000 state employees. He has said that move, along with sweeping salary reductions for state workers, will take pressure off the California coffers during the continuing budget impasse in Sacramento.

“Terminator Salvation” is being filmed now in New Mexico and stars Christian Bale, who wears the mask of Batman in this summer’s history-making hit, “The Dark Knight.” Bale won’t be a Terminator robot -- just the opposite, he plays a grown-up John Connor, the leader of the ragged human resistance against machine-men oppressors of the future.

“Salvation,” directed by the filmmaker McG, will be a prequel to “The Terminator,” the landmark 1984 film directed by James Cameron. In 1991, Cameron and Schwarzenegger teamed again for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” which grossed more than $200 million in U.S. theaters.

“Salvation” is trying to pay homage to that history even as it charts its own course. McG (“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”) sought out Cameron’s blessing for “Salvation,” which is far more bleak, unsettling and savage than the third film in the series, directed by Jonathan Mostow. “Salvation” producers also arranged for the governor to see an early “sizzle reel,” a montage of scenes of the sort shown at Comic-Con International last month, where “Salvation” was popular with fans.


Schwarzenegger was polite but cautious when he was asked what he thought of the reel. “I’ve seen very little footage, so I don’t really have a feel for it. I hope they do well, and I hope it is a huge hit. I do hope it creates a spectacle on the screen. That is what James Cameron created.”

The politician, who turned 61 last week, remains an ardent booster of Hollywood. Despite the crises around him in the state capital, he gushed about what a wonderful season it has been for popcorn entertainment. “It shows how important Hollywood is to our state economy and how much people love movies,” he said.

But will Schwarzenegger be able to watch any new “Terminator” film and not feel a pang of loss?

“No, the same thing happened with bodybuilding,” he said. “Seven times I won the Mr. Olympia title, a record, no one had done that. Then someone else [South Carolina native Lee Haney] won it eight times. Do I sit and say, ‘Darn it, my record is gone’ or ‘Darn, I’m not up there on stage’? No, because I’ve moved into other phases of my life. I moved on from bodybuilding into entertainment. Then I moved on from entertainment into a political life. Now this is the most exciting experience of my life. When this movie comes out, I won’t be sitting there saying, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ I hope it makes a lot of money and is very successful.”



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