Posted: 05/15/2002


Beyond the Terminator Franchise: On the Set of T3: Rise of the Machines

by Paul Fischer

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It has been labelled the most expensive greenlit production in Hollywood history, and already the most anticipated film for release next Summer. While the film may be shot in secret, in Part One of this special story, Film Monthly’s LA Correspondent Paul Fischer visited the set and tried to get some answers from its tight-lipped director.

In a cemetery overlooking Los Angeles, one is all too acutely aware that one is standing amidst big-time Hollywood moviemaking. The set of Terminator 3 is everything one expects from a major Hollywood action epic budgeted at well over $100m. A large crypt is emitting smoke, extras donned in black police costumes hang around in the glaring Los Angeles heat to await their cues. A semi-bearded Jonathan Mostow, the director who has bravely stepped into James Cameron’s shoes, is sitting in front of a monitor, while five cameras are prepared to shoot a noisy gunfire scene, first with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stunt double, and the with the man himself.

Why on earth would the director of U-571 want to direct such a complex film full of an established history? “Obviously, it’s a daunting semi-masochistic effort to step into this director’s chair, but no pain, no gain,” Mostow says laughingly, during a break in shooting. Be that as it may, Mostow insists that this project will be true to his unique visionary style. “Even if I tried to copy somebody else’s style, I couldn’t,” Mostow explains, somewhat tentatively. “It’s impossible on a movie. What you see on the screen is the end result of a million decisions, some which don’t really matter. Should this be red or green? Three or four? This tall or that small? Probably half those decisions really don’t make a rat’s ass difference in the final outcome of the film but a lot of those decisions do. At the end of the day the final movie will for better or worse be sort of a filtration through my subconscious instincts about what all those decisions amount up to. What I bring to it is just my own sensibilities.”

Mostow remains guarded on key plot points or even semblance of character. All that he will reveal during our brief on-set discussion, is that the action will be unique, especially given two Terminators [one of which is a lithe female]. “The great thing in this movie is that you have two robots who each weigh a ton fighting each other, so already, the fight sequences are going to be different than other movies we’ve seen.” And of course, audiences will see Arnold doing what he does best. “You certainly WON’T see Terminator doing ‘chopsocky’; that’s not what people want to see and it’s not right. Terminator’s a character that everybody knows and they have their own bullshit detector about what feels right and what doesn’t feel right, so we’re all guided by that instruction of rights.”

Finally Mostow insists that being a fan of the series and of films in general make his directorial decisions a lot more straightforward. “It actually makes it easier because you know what you want to see. You just go, ‘Well, that’s fun. I like seeing that.’ So, it’s the ultimate audience interactive experience. It’s what movies will probably be in three centuries. We’ll all come and just press buttons in a movie theatre and we’ll see whatever movie we want to see.” Mostow is having a ball shooting T3, adding laughingly, that he’s “like a kid in a candy store.”

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.

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