SDCC 2019: Terminator: Dark Fate Panel Recap

Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator Dark Fate
(Photo: Paramount)

On Thursday morning, Paramount Pictures played host to the first major Hall H panel of the weekend at San Diego Comic-Con with a special look at Terminator: Dark Fate being offered up, along with a Q&A with its cast and director.

The panel launched just after 11am PT, with a live message from James Cameron from the set of Avatar 2, 3, and 4. "I'd love to be there with you and be there with our cast and Tim Miller our director ubut unfortunately, I gotta stay here and work because everybody's always winging about Avatar and how long it's taking to get done." It would take five hours to explain the set and technology behind him, so he jumped into Dark Fate. "I was asked to join the production by David Ellsion at Skydance adn Tim Miller who was already aboard. I came into with no particular expectation other than wanting to make the best possible Terminator movie for 2019." He had one caveat: "If I was gonna do it, I wanted Arnold in...What do we do with the T-800? How do we create a new character for him, something no one has ever seen before? I think we came up with something pretty good."

"You've got Tim Miller fresh off of Deadpool," Cameron said. "Me coming back to the franchise almost three decades later...[we're] coming up with crazy new stuff you've never seen before...One thing we kept circling around, 'Do we want to bring Sarah back? And there is no Sarah but Linda, so how to do we talk Linda into being in this movie?" He sent her an e-mail detailing reasons why she should and why she shouldn't do the movie so she could make a decision, noting that they "won the Super Bowl in 88 and 91." Ultimately, the fan love for Sarah Connor was what Cameron relied on to get her back. "We asked Linda to come back and thankfully she agred and we built the story about that. Eddie Furlong is back as John. "

He went on to compliment the new cast and director. Miller was the "best director for the job" and Cameron then went ahead to "turn him loose." He is not around on set. "This is Tim's movie, he's gonna tell you all about it," Cameron said.

A sizzle reel from the film, including Sarah Connor revealing she now occupies her time by hunting Terminators, plays before Grae Drake takes the stage to moderate. Director Tim Miller is the first to take the stage. It is Miller's 25th time at Comic-Con. "I've never gotten into Hall H except when I directed Deadpool," Miller said.

"While Deadpool was in post, David Ellison came to talk to me about something else," he said. Ellison liked the early cut of Deadpool. "He said, 'I didn't it as well the first time around, so I might do it again. Would you be interested?'" He immediately thought about how people, including himself, would react to seeing news of a sixth Terminator movie. He only wanted to do it if they could tell a part of the story that hadn't been told, which is Linda's story.

"The time travel, for me, I loved Endgame I think it's fantastic...however, I feel like time travel with multiple realities loses some stakes. If you can change time and it can be anything...I feel like you lose a little bit of the dramatic stakes. So, in the Terminator universe, there is only one timeline. If you change something in the past, it rolls forward and changes something in the future." He points out that Terminator and Terminator 2, they were trying to maintain the timeline and not change it. "At the end of Terminator 2, she casts all of the dice on the table and destroys Cyberdine, so you don't know what the consequences of that decision was," he notes. "That's the most interesting story, it's the consequences of destroying Cyberdine."

The movie is "officially" R-rated. Miller had a back up plan. "The DNA of Terminator is an R-rated f---in' movie," Miller said. "To not do it R feels disingenuous to the source material."

Drake asks about working with Linda Hamilton on this movie. "Jim called Linda," Miller explained. "We didn't know if she would do it because there's a lot of reasons not to take that risk."

"I think it's the perfect time for her to come back," Miller said, prompting Linda Hamilton to take the stage.

"I really gave it careful consideration because I felt that the first two were very in tact and you kind of want to retire a champion," she said. "It was the passage of time. I was very intrigued. The character is the same but time changes everything but what has happened? Who is she now?...There were so many possibilities 27 years later that I felt there was just a world of richness I could explore and then rock it as a woman of a certain age."

Drake asks if she had to train for the role. "I originally thought, 'I'll just put in the same kinda work and get the same results,' and that doesn't happen," Hamilton said. "Diet and all of that to sort of get trim and get far into the character as I could physically but one day I woke up and I was like, 'I can no longer worry about trying to be what I was because I am so much more than I was.' That was the moment I realized I wanted to really be on board with this .The richness of my life experience is only going to enrich the character that I play. That gave me so much to work on in the backstory stuff that you won't see but I worked from in my performance."

Hamilton thoroughly compliments Miller as a director. "He brought so much," she says. "Teaching me that you don't always have to be strong and heavy, occasionally you could be strong and light, that's what he's really good at." She says he is "dearly beloved" by his cast and crew.

More cast members take the stage: Diego Luna, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Diego Boneta.

Reyes admits she is terrified to be on the Hall H stage in front of so many people who know so much. "Daniela Ramos, a girl from Mexico City," she says of her character. "I am a harder worker, I have my family, my brother Diego, my father, Taco, is that a spoiler? F---." One day she goes to work and a "new Terminator" is trying to kill her. "They are trying to help me, so, we'll see why."

Boneta is asked about his experience. He tells the story about a hot day on set in a pick-up truck on a highway with no air conditioning. He ultimately compliments Tim's ability to balance character and emotion while also packing action into the movie.

Davis also praised Miller. "I was pretty trepidacious going inrto it because I had this old Hollywood idea that there'd be like an old Hollywood director with a mega phone," she said. "It's pretty evident as soon as you start talking to Tim that that's not his style." Miller reciprocates the compliments. She says the movie was "wonderful" to make and it's "really f---ing good."

Gabriel Luna brings a guitar to work with him and he was afraid of having it smashed. Hamilton jokes that he's not very good. Miller would enjoy the guitar sometimes but at others demand it be gone. Luna also had to train with Schwarzenegger and he learned to sleep for only six hours a day and keep up with him.

Luna hands Schwarzenegger $20 because he lost a bet on how many times Miller would use the F-word.

"It's absolutely incorrect to say I don't need to come back," Schwarzenegger said. "Of course I need to come back! I'm addicted to Terminator. Terminator is the movie that really launched my action movie career. I did Conan the Barbarian and then Conan the Destroyer and then Jim Cameron came to me and said I want you to do Terminator. From that moment on, everything changed in my life." He raves about how the franchise shaped his career and the titles which followed. "I feel very indebted to Jim Cameron for having created that character." He's also tremendously excited that Linda Hamilton came back and Tim Miller directed it. "I think that you'll be really surprised at this movie because it's unbelievable and I was blown away when I saw it three weeks ago for the first time."

Footage is introduced by Arnold saying, "Do it now!"

Davis's Terminator, Reye's Daniela, and Boneta's Diego are fleeing from a dump truck driven by Luna's Terminator in their own beaten down pick up. He morphs on top of the truck, duplicating himself through metal, and throws rebar right back a Davis' Terminator who deflects it with her army from hitting Daniela. They fight on the end of a pick up truck as it moves at high speeds until a tire blows. Diego, driving, ends up crashing. The melted metal of Luna's Terminator comes together and he forms in the street. The girls ruin away as anther Terminator ends up cutting them off on a bridge, tossing rebar at them to keep them in place. Luna's Terminator forms a sword for an arm as Davis' tells Daniels to run when they start to kill her. Sarah Connor runs of the Terminator and uses a heavy gun to stop Luna's from reaching Daniela before a rocket launcher finishes the other. She walks by the girls, drops a grenade, and says, "I'll be back." The grenade explodes behind her as she pulls out a shotgun. Daniela asks, "Who the f--- is that?'"

In a. later scene, Sarah explains who she is. She tells the story of saving three billion lives. Now, she hunts Terminators but is tired of explaining herself. Davis' Terminator wonders why she cares but Sarah says it's because she had a similar thing happen. Schwarzenegger emerges from a cabin and Sarah is quick to try to kill him. His name is "Carl." Sarah is never going to call him that. He helps train the girl to be a fighter with guns. Sarah promises to kill Carl when it's all over, to which he responds, "I understand." Action sequences in factories, in a truck falling underwater, Davis' Terminator in the future, and what seems to be a showdown including the phrase, "You metal motherf---er." A helicopter containing the characters takes off, Carl protects Sarah from incoming bullets in the back of a plane, and his machine gun is no match for Diego Luna's Terminator.

Ultimately, Reyes' Daniela offers up vibes of Sarah Connor, serving as important character who is going to be trained to be a warrior with the fate of the world possibly on her shoulders.

The panel concludes with some final words from the cast and compliments to one another.