With James Cameron at the helm, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton did not hesitate to sign on for Terminator: Dark Fate, writes David Skipwith.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator is back, as promised, but it's the return of James Cameron and Sarah Connor that makes Tim Miller's new sequel kick ass like its 1991.
Terminator: Dark Fate reunites Arnold Schwarzenegger with Linda Hamilton, his co-star from the first two groundbreaking films; creator and producer James Cameron also returning for the first time since he redefined blockbusters with Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
In keeping with the time-travelling premise on which the franchise is built, Dark Fate rewrites Terminator history, thankfully erasing the last three poorly executed sequels from the canon and picking up the story from the end of the revered second film.
Miller (Deadpool) knows trying to make a better Terminator movie than Cameron is an exercise in futility and, although some fans were quick to scoff at the thought of another sequel, he believes Dark Fate successfully captures the spirit of the original films.
"I didn't set my sights on beating Jim Cameron, because that is a fool's errand," Miller explains to TimeOut.
"But I did very much want to make a worthy successor to the second film, both to honour the first films because I love them so much, but also as a fan I want to make other fans very happy. And that's the goal as it is with any film-maker, to please an audience, so I hope it does.
"I know a lot of Terminator fans were [sceptical] ... there was a lot of hate on the movie as well during production and I hope this pisses them all off, because it's good."
Hamilton makes it clear Cameron's involvement was integral to her agreeing to reprise her iconic role 28 years after saying goodbye to Sarah Connor.
In a measure of the esteem the New Zealand-based director of Avatar and Titanic is held, the 63-year-old actress – who was briefly married to Cameron - and 72-year-old Schwarzenegger both commited to Dark Fate before Miller had a finished script.
"The fact that Jim [Cameron] was at the helm, even though remotely [as producer]," clinched the deal, Hamilton explained.
"I really acknowledge that Jim was the major creative force in the first two movies and that his leadership, the overall concept of the franchise, is very important. But more than that, it was that so much time had passed and that although in some ways the character is the same, the situation has changed. There was new stuff to play."
For Schwarzenegger, who also appeared in both the lacklustre Rise of the Machines (2003) and Genisys (2015) sequels while sitting out Salvation (2009), getting the old band back together ensures Dark Fate succeeds where the other sequels failed.
"It has Jim Cameron's fingerprints all over it. Also, Linda Hamilton's," he says. "So, it's kind of like going back to the old days of Terminator."
The return of Sarah Connor coincides with the introduction of two new female characters – Mackenzie Davis' Grace, an augmented super-soldier from the future, sent back in time to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), a young Mexican woman hunted by a new and improved Terminator (Gabriel Luna).
Terminator films have traditionally been steered by three protagonists, only this time they are all women, with Schwarzenegger effectively a fourth wheel.
"It is about Sarah Connor. She's always been the focal point of the story," says Schwarzenegger.
"And it's Jim's writing. Jim is very good at making the guys look very heroic in a movie but he feels that women don't end up looking heroic in movies because people don't write them that way. And it's very important to him. Jim makes more effort than probably anyone else in the Hollywood community to write women as heroes. That's his writing craft.
"And in the first and second and now this movie, Sarah is such a great hero. And that's because Linda can sell it. She is so strong in this movie. And so is Natalia and Mackenzie – all of them are very heroic characters and all of them sell that so well. But Linda is so strong."
Starring in an action film was new territory for Davis (The Martian, Blade Runner 2049), who completed a gruelling training schedule alongside Hamilton in preparation for her biggest role yet.
"They put me through a lot. I did three months of weight training because I needed my body to sustain a lot while we were on set but also I had to look like I was a soldier and I use my body to defend myself and others," she explained.
"I did some weapons training in Texas with this former Green Beret, Jack Nevils, who was our military adviser on set, which was a week with Linda and me in West Texas, just sniping on the top of mountains and doing target shooting.
"The stunt training was the hardest part for me because all of these guys who were teaching me have been martial artists since they were 5 years old. Their bodies are so agile and so efficient and they don't have weird hips and they can do whatever they want to do with their legs. And I don't have that.
"So It was it was really challenging to learn how to move efficiently and not to superfluously. But it was an intense training process."