It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where The Hollywood Reporter’s recent cover story, profiling the effort to reboot the Terminator franchise, went off the rails. James Cameron is returning to the franchise for the first time since Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He’s serving as a producer (in between filming all those Avatar sequels), so Tim Miller is taking the reins as the director for what will be his first post-Deadpool film. THR interviews both men together for the story. But it’s pretty clear they only care about one of them. Like, REALLY clear.
The interview starts off well enough, if you’re into hearing people very seriously discuss how A.I. is going to kill us.
The conflict between technology and humanity is a theme in a lot of Jim’s movies. Does technology scare you?
CAMERON Technology has always scared me, and it’s always seduced me. People ask me: “Will the machines ever win against humanity?” I say: “Look around in any airport or restaurant and see how many people are on their phones. The machines have already won.” It’s just [that] they’ve won in a different way. We are co-evolving with our technology. We’re merging. The technology is becoming a mirror to us as we start to build humanoid robots and as we start to seriously build AGI — general intelligence — that’s our equal. Some of the top scientists in artificial intelligence say that’s 10 to 30 years from now. We need to get the damn movies done before that actually happens! And when you talk to these guys, they remind me a lot of that excited optimism that nuclear scientists had in the ’30s and ’40s when they were thinking about how they could power the world. And taking zero responsibility for the idea that it would instantly be weaponized. The first manifestation of nuclear power on our planet was the destruction of two cities and hundreds of thousands of people. So the idea that it can’t happen now is not the case. It can happen, and it may even happen.
And of course, when the pair get around to discussing the original Terminator stars, everybody’s interested:
Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and Linda Hamilton are coming back. What was your conversation like with them?
CAMERON Well, Arnold just expected to come back. So that was easy. I approached Linda to see if she’d even be interested. And …
MILLER Jim was fucking terrified.
CAMERON I was. It took me a week just to get up the nerve. No, that’s not true. Linda and I have a great relationship. We’ve stayed friends through the thick and thin of it all. And she is the mother of my eldest daughter. [They were married from 1997 to 1999.] So I called her up, and I said: “Look, we could rest on our laurels. It’s ours to lose, in a sense. We created this thing several decades ago. But, here’s what can be really cool. You can come back and show everybody how it’s done.” Because in my mind, it hasn’t been done a whole lot since the way she did it back in ‘91.
(I agree that it would be great to have more examples of mature female action stars, though I’d like to point out the career of Sigourney Weaver, who was still kicking butt in The Defenders, as well as Helen Mirren in the RED films. We do occasionally get to have nice things, guys — don’t sweep it under the rug)
But what’s fascinating is that, though THR consistently flatters Cameron by saying things like, “Jim, why do you want to do this? You can do anything,” they repeatedly hit Miller with awkward exchanges about his lack of experience. First they question his choice of projects (which naturally leads to the elephant in the room: the fact that he’s not making Deadpool 2):
Tim, you had a lot of heat coming off of Deadpool, and instead of doing something that is not based on pre-existing material, you decided to do this. Why this?
MILLER To some degree, all the stories that I love are based on pre-existing materials as either a book I love or a movie I love. And I don’t make a whole lot of distinction between those two things. Story is story. I mean, I wanted to make Deadpool 2. I was going to do that, until I wasn’t. So, there was that, which took up about seven months of my time. But even then, David [Ellison, the financier] and I were talking, like after Deadpool 2, it was going to be this [Terminator].
So, we can thank Ryan Reynolds for you doing this?
CAMERON Thank you, Ryan.
MILLER Yeah, if you want. I felt like there was more stories to tell there, but I’m happy that somebody else is telling them. And I’ve got to tell you, there was a sense of relief in that I get to do something new versus Deadpool 2. I think it would’ve been a great movie, but it was also going to be a continuation of what we had done. This really is gave me a chance to do something new.
And then there is this downright insulting exchange:
Tim, you’ve made one movie. Do you feel intimidated working with Jim?
MILLER Every minute of the day. But I also feel honored. If Jim didn’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t be there. And that gives me confidence. He could fire me later and decide: “Why did I believe in this guy? He’s a tool.”
They do that these days. If it was a Star Wars movie, it could happen.
CAMERON Yeah, no kidding.
MILLER Touche, touche.
CAMERON Don’t let that revolving door hit you on the back of the head.
Or there’s this final question, which isn’t even a question — it’s basically the entire profile’s statement of intent. So I’ll just present without an answer because REALLY?
Jim, you’re handing over the keys to your baby to someone who doesn’t have much experience.
OUCH. There are plenty of interesting tidbits in the story, don’t get me wrong — like the stuff about letting Arnold play his age (cyborgs age apparently!) — but it’s also pretty clear that THR just took a cover story-sized dump on Mr. Miller. This is the journalistic version of negging. And I’d be upset on his behalf, if the interview didn’t also lead to these mind-blowing words being uttered by James Fucking Cameron:
A lot of the good writing is now in television, and I think that feature films could benefit from better writing and better character work in general and a little less spectacle.
A little less spectacle, you say? Like… LESS 3D IMAX ALIEN HAIR SEX?