James Cameron Watched the Last 3 Terminator Movies to Figure Out What Not to Do With Dark Fate

Linda Hamilton is back for Terminator: Dark Fate.
Photo: Paramount Pictures

For Terminator: Dark Fate, the return of Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is exciting enough. But it’s the return of franchise creator James Cameron that’s arguably the bigger deal. Cameron is back as a producer and helped craft the story of the film, which only recognizes his first two Terminator movies as canon.

But what about Terminator: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys? Cameron did use them for one thing—to figure out what went wrong with Terminator at large.

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“One of the things that seemed obvious from looking at the films that came along later was that we would need to get everything back to the basics,” Cameron told Deadline in an extended interview. “That we would need to avoid the mistakes of making things overly complex, and that we needed to avoid stories that jump around in time, and one that goes backward and forward in time. Let’s keep it simple in the relative unity of time. With the story, let’s have the whole thing play out in 36 hours or 48 hours. In the first two movies, everything plays out in less than two days in each one, so there’s energy and momentum.”

Cameron also said that while developing the story, he and his collaborators, which include director Tim Miller, came up with a three-film arc.

“We rolled up our sleeves and started to break out the story and when we got a handle on something we looked at it as a three-film arc, so there is a greater there to be told,” Cameron said. “If we get fortunate enough to make some money with Dark Fate we know exactly where we can go with the subsequent films.”

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However, Cameron admits that with this film, he wasn’t exactly happy with the script as filming began. So, though he was off making his Avatar movies and Miller was left on his own to direct, Cameron was still helping from afar.

“I focused on getting the script punched up,” Cameron said. “I didn’t feel like we went into the shoot with the script exactly where it should have been. There was a lot of momentum on the project, there was a start date, there was a lot of energy, and a lot of “go fever,” but the script wasn’t where it needed to be, so I quietly worked on it in the background and shipped out pages. Sometimes I was shipping out pages the day before they shot a scene. I’m not sure that was 100% always helpful, but overall I kept the characters on track and sounding right and being where they needed to be.”

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There’s much more from Cameron at the Deadline piece, so head over there and check it out. Terminator: Dark Fate opens November 1.

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About the author

Germain Lussier

Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo