McG—Terminator Salvation—2/28/09

Joseph McGinty Nichol—or as he's known to his family and the world, McG—is telling anyone who will listen that he knows people think he's a joke. But he also says he's stepping up his game with Terminator Salvation, a potential reinvigoration of the Terminator franchise that he hopes will be the first in a trilogy. McG's previous films include We Are Marshall, Charlie's Angels, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. I spoke briefly with McG at San Francisco's Moscone Center on the occasion of WonderCon 2009.

McG: Hi...I'm McG...

Groucho: You mentioned saving Kyle Reese being the purpose of this film, and I wanted you to talk a little bit about the title and what the multiple meanings of that might be. And also since, I know you talked with Christian about a potential two other films—

McG: Indeed.

Groucho: Could you tease us with what the titles of those might be without telling us what the plots would be?

McG: Uh, well, let me start with the first question. "Salvation" is just sort of forgiveness for sins, all right? And we start this picture with Marcus committing a rather substantial infraction. In fact, he’s ultimately put to death, which is how he ends up with some metal rods in his body. And he learns that people—he doesn’t believe that, but he learns from hanging out with these people that everybody deserves a second chance. Look around this table. Where would any of us be without a second chance? You know what I mean? And he’s slow to understand that. But that’s effectively the expression of salvation. And that’s why we elected that to be the title of the picture. And we do indeed have the titles of the second and third picture. And I’m telling ya, what we’re going to do with the second one, should we be able to make it, I just—I can’t stand how excited I am about it. Let’s just say that it involves time travel, and it involves John Connor once again trying to galvanize the forces of those who think he’s crazy. I’m just not going to tell you what period it takes place...

Groucho: Could you quickly comment on—there’ve been a couple of injuries associated with the shooting. Obviously it was a very rough, physical, intense shoot...

McG: Yeah. I mean, our special effects guy named Mike Menardis, who did Tropic Thunder and did our film basically had his leg severed off. And they had to reattach it. He was hit by one of his own special effects—you're gonna see when they escape through the mine field, they kick open this sort of manhole cover, and it goes tumbling, tumbling, tumbling, and it went off inadvertently, and it caught him right in the bottom of the leg. And it just absolutely shattered his leg, and they had to reconstruct it. For a minute there he thought he was going to lose his leg. You know, that, Christian broke his hand, Sam hurt his back—everybody really took their licks. But that comes from the philosophy of a tactile experience. I say with respect, I didn’t want that Star Wars experience of everything’s a blue screen, C-stands, tennis balls, and go for it. I had Stan Winston build all the machines. We built all the sets. The explosive power so you feel that wind and that percussion of that heat blowing your eyebrows off. And with that, you get a couple bumps and bruises on the way, but you get in it an integrity and a realism that hopefully echoes Apocalypse Now. You couldn’t say, “Let’s just shoot Apocalypse Now in Burbank. I think it’s going to feel just as good.” No way. You had to go there and lose your mind and, you know, Sheen had to have a heart attack, and you had to fire Keitel, and you had to have the rebels take your helicopters and tsunamis blowing down your sets. That’s the grit that gave the film the realism that blew us all away.