November 1, 2019
November 1, 2019 7:39 PM EDT
Even though he was hot off directing 2016’s smash hit Deadpool, Tim Miller knew when he was tapped to helm another film in the Terminator series, fans of the beloved sci-fi franchise were probably all thinking the same thing: Is he going to mess it up?
Miller, his lips curling into a smile, looks across from me in a downtown Toronto hotel and says, “There was a little bit of dread, right? You were thinking, ‘Please let it be good.’”
Terminator: Dark Fate, now playing, reunites executive producer James Cameron, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger for a sequel that directly follows 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
After 2015’s Terminator Genisys stalled a new attempt to launch a fresh trilogy, producer David Ellison reached out to Miller, 49, to see if he had an interest in taking another crack at the series.
But to do that Miller — who had a professional relationship with Cameron through Blur Studio, the visual effects company he co-founded — knew he needed to bring Cameron back into the fold.
“That’s the one thing, as a fan, that would give me hope. That would give it a stamp of quality.”
So the new film pretends the three intervening sequels didn’t happen (which one can do when you’re dealing with time travel), to introduce a new heroine, Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos, and the most lethal Terminator yet, Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9.
Mackenzie Davis also joins the action as a new super-soldier sent from the future to protect Dani, with Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and Schwarzenegger’s T-800 along for the ride.
Natalia Reyes, right, and Mackenzie Davis star in Skydance Productions and Paramount Pictures’ TERMINATOR: DARK FATE.
If it’s a success, Dark Fate will now pave the way for new Terminator stories.
“I knew where it was going to go when we stopped talking about what comes next and started making this movie,” he says.
The morning after the Canadian premiere, Miller spoke about convincing Hamilton to return to the role that made her a worldwide star, making a movie for grown-ups, and that time he had to tell Cameron his big action idea had already been done before.
Linda hasn’t been in a Terminator movie in 28 years. What if she had said no?
She had to find it interesting. But I think enough time had passed that she could bring something new and different to Sarah … But I don’t know what I would have done if she said no. Maybe I would have quit … I suppose somehow I would have made it her story even if she couldn’t be in it. Luckily this was the best of all possible worlds.
Linda Hamilton and Director Tim Miller on the set of Terminator: Dark Fate. (Paramount Pictures)
The Terminator Arnold plays is old. He’s not a one-dimensional character anymore. There’s a lot of regret there. How did he react to this take?
I think for him, like Linda, enough time had passed that this version of the T-800 is something he could play really differently. Everyone wants that. They don’t want to just do the same thing again and again. So he was pretty excited about this approach from the get go.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from Terminator: Dark Fate. (Paramount Pictures)
The movie has some spectacular action sequences. How did Jim influence those?
He really likes big and he wants to go big. I remember one discussion we had about the (plane stunt) and Jim said, ‘What if they bail out in the Humvee and the Rev-9 bails out in a tank and the tank is shooting at them in the sky all the way down?’ I said, ‘That was a sequence in The A-Team movie, so we can’t do that’ … So he just said, ‘It has to be the biggest airplane fight ever,’ and I pretty much got it.
Mackenzie Davis in a scene from Terminator: Dark Fate. (Paramount Pictures)
You made headlines earlier this summer when you said it was going to be R-rated. Is it liberating getting to do something for grown-ups?
When the studio realized they didn’t have a lighter, feel-good movie like Terminator 2, they knew the fans would sense it. I sort of felt indirectly responsible because Deadpool gave Fox the confidence to make Logan as an R-rated movie and that made more money than all the PG-13 versions of Wolverine. I think it’s because you sense an inherent wrongness to a Wolverine who has big f—ing claws, stabbing people and there not being any blood. The movie is lesser for it. When you can cut loose, it feels real and it feels right. I think they sensed that with Terminator.
Eagle-eyed fans will be looking for Easter eggs. Are there any?
We had the lollipop guy from Terminator 2 in an earlier version. We also had Enrique’s son in there … but we ended up taking that stuff out.
Dark Fate is supposedly going to set up a trilogy of films, but there’s no post-credit scene. Why not?
That’s a Marvel thing. I tried hard to make it feel like it was a complete story. But I also didn’t want to do anything to force some future filmmaker into a corner because we outlined a bigger story arc. Those scripts haven’t been written.
You’re a self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd. Would you want to come back?
I felt honoured to play in the sandbox with Jim’s toys once. So I’m OK with that …. We’ll see what happens.
Terminator: Dark Fate is in theatres now.