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INT: Jonathan Mostow

07.02.2003

Interview 1: Kristanna Loken
Interview 2: Stan Winston
Interview 3: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Interview 4: Nick Stahl/Claire Danes
Interview 5: Jonathan Mostow

Talk about big shoes to fill. This summer, TERMINATOR 3: THE RISE OF THE MACHINES director Jonathan Mostow steps in at the helm of one of the best-loved franchises in the history of the action/sci-fi genre. After James Cameron declined to work on the project, T-3 producers scrambled to find a replacement for the legendary director and originator of the blockbuster franchise. They finally settled on Mostow, maker of the hit submarine flick, U-571, and charged him with the task of crafting a worthy follow-up to the classic T-2. Not an easy task, by any means.

I sat down with Jonathan to discuss his experience making the $170 million film. Here’s what he had to say:

JONATHAN MOSTOW

At what stage you became involved with this project?

I guess I was one of the last ones in. I got a call about two years and a few months ago, saying, “You’ve been offered Terminator 3.” I had no idea anyone was even making Terminator 3. My first reaction was: this is crazy; why make Terminator 3? T-2 was so good. What idiot director would ever take that assignment? You’d have to be insane.

They had a script, which had some nice things in it, and I just started thinking about how I would do it. I got really interested in the character of John Connor because, unlike so many other sequels, twelve years had passed. So, here’s a guy who’s in a very different place, psychologically, than he was in the last movie. As I got more and more intrigued by that, I said, “Yeah, I would do this, but I’d do it differently.”  So, I brought in this writing team that I’ve collaborated with on-and-off for about twenty years, Michael Ferris and John Brancato, and we basically locked ourselves in a room and worked out a story. And then we were off and running.

The bar is set high, because the Terminator movies aren’t just about great action and special effects, they also have really good, interesting stories. You’ll obviously be the judge, having seen the movie, but I thought we came up with, compared to what you usually see in a summer movie, a smart story. 

At any point, did some studio guy say, “Gee, does the ending have to be this dark?”

I was a little surprised, because I thought we would. I’ve tested this movie – I’m a big believer in making sure you test a movie in front of an audience a couple times before you put it out there – and what’s been great is that there’s been a 100% unanimous embracing of the ending, from the studio people to the people we pulled off the street for test screening. The ending is dark, but it’s necessary.

I keep waiting for the movie police to come arrest me. I think it’s because my movies have actually all been, from a legal point of view, independent productions. This is an independent production; we could, technically enter this movie in Sundance Film Festival. Because of that, we’ve had unbelievable autonomy in my movies. Never, in any of my movies, have I ever had anybody tell me what I have to do. I’ve just been unbelievably lucky that way. And I’ve now gotten quite spoiled, and I’m hopeful this movie’s a success so I can continue working in that manner.

The way that this movie actually was set up was, there was no studio when I was involved. Intermedia was financing it and Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna were producing. But they didn’t have distribution deals for the movie. So we basically created our script, and then we had this auction, this insane thing where the head of every studio was made to drive to a hotel room and read the script. They could not take the script out, and they had to sign non-disclosure agreements. Then they had to read the script in a hotel room and then bid on it. And we had every major studio except Fox – they didn’t get involved in it for other reasons – in a bidding war for the movie. So, they knew what they were buying when they got into it. It wasn’t like they could buy it and say, “Well, now we bought it and now we want some changes.” It was a completely unique and unusual way to set up a movie, but it also helped facilitate the creative freedom that we had.

It must have been a difficult day when you had to replace the actress originally cast in Claire Danes’ role. 

It was heartbreaking, because she’s fabulous. She’s a fabulous actress. She had only one thing working against her: she was too young. And it was my mistake – I’ve never done that before. I’ve never made that kind of mistake in casting. A week into photography it was clear that she’s 19.  Everybody else in the movie is about 22. And at that age, 19 and 22 is a big difference when you’re looking up at the big screen.

Ironically, Claire is the one we originally wanted, but it didn’t work out for Hollywood deal-making reasons. So it was one of those happy coincidences, where Claire was flying from Australia to New York, with a stopover for a few hours in LA. So, unbeknownst to her, we were making her deal while she was on the plane. She landed and got a phone message saying “You’re in Terminator 3. And you start work at six in the morning.”

For a couple days she was like a deer in the headlights. But she’s so phenomenal. I’d truly put her on a Meryl Streep level.

What kind of training did it take for Arnold to get in shape? He looks pretty much as good as he did in the first one.

He has the same body dimensions – if you measure chest, thigh, all that stuff – it’s the same exact measurements as T-2. People have said to me, “What kind of special effect made him look so good?” And I say, “It’s called ‘working out’.” He would come to work sometimes at four in the morning, because some of his scenes required like six hours of makeup. Then we’d shoot, and while we broke for lunch, he would go into his gym and work out for the hour of lunch. Then we’d keep shooting and then wrap for the day. While everyone else went home and collapsed into bed, he’d go back to his house and go back to the gym in his house and work out for another few hours. I don’t know how the guy slept. It was unbelievable. What’s even more incredible is, five months before we started shooting, he had a motorcycle accident and broke six ribs.

Wasn’t his shoulder injury a problem?

Here’s the interesting thing: he really screwed up his shoulder in the movie, and I had no idea. Six weeks after the movie finished shooting, I saw a piece in the newspaper about Arnold getting shoulder surgery and I called him up. He said, “Oh, I messed up my shoulder.” I said, “Arnold, you never said a word to me about it.” He said, “Well, I didn’t want to complain.” And that’s the way he was. I mean, we abused the hell out of him when we made this movie, and he never once complained.

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Phew, Arnold Schwarzenegger...one great man! And that concludes our week-long interview sessions with the cast/crew from TERMINATOR 3. We hope you enjoyed it. If you missed any of them, click on the links below and have a blast.

Interview 1: Kristanna Loken
Interview 2: Stan Winston
Interview 3: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Interview 4: Nick Stahl/Claire Danes
Interview 5: Jonathan Mostow
Source: JoBlo.com

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