Last summer Dark Horizons spent a day on the set of Terminator Salvation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the course of the day we toured the sets with director McG and Production Designer Martin Lang and observed some shooting featuring a T-600 cyborg outside of the fabled Skynet. We also got a chance to speak with cast members Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anton Yelchin.
While Yelchin and Dallas Howard play returning characters Kyle Reese and Kate Connor, respectively, Bloodgood and Worthington portray characters new to the Terminator franchise. We asked them which is tougher, playing a role everyone knows or establishing a new one?
“Its like my homework was done for me,” says Dallas Howard of stepping into the role formerly played by Claire Danes in Terminator 3. “It gets me right in there because I watch the third film and I know where her starting point is.”
The greater pressure is likely on Yelchin, who steps into a key role in the franchise played so iconically by Michael Biehn in the first Terminator film. “He’s such a complex character in the first one,” says Yelchin. “I think its great having that wealthy of material to work with and see where you want to take it and what you want to repeat, maintain and change. Its been fun finding Kyle Reese 20 years younger. Its interpreting a character as opposed to creating your own, but you are also creating your own character.”
Bloodgood and Worthington both portray new characters central to the Salvation story line. “I play a guy who wakes up in this world and is trying to figure out who he is and what this world is about,” says Worthingon. “He’s searching, it’s Alice in Wonderland basically.”
“I play Blair Williams and I’m a pilot in the Resistance,” Bloodgood says of the character who also has a hinted-at romantic through-line with Worthington. During a reel of footage McG screened for press, the lovely Bloodgood shared a tender moment with tough-guy soldier Wright, offering a loving glance and the removal of her top.
Becoming a part of the Terminator franchise is a big deal for any actor, but Dallas Howard and Yelchin in particular admit to being longtime fans of the franchise. “I’m honored by it,” says Yelchin. “I’ve watched Terminator since I was a little kid. I had the action figures and like Arnold in all four stages. I had everything. I had the Terminator factory kit where you poured the chemicals in and made the Terminators, I had the action figures of Arnold in all four stages.”
“it’s been incredible because I am a huge, massive, insane fan of the franchise,” adds Dallas Howard. “I’ve been following everything that’s been going on with this movie for the past few years. Its been wonderful to immerse myself into this crash course of what they’ve envisioned the future to be like.”
Bloodgood and Dallas Howard now join a long tradition of strong female parts in the franchise that include Linda Hamilton, Claire Danes and Lena Heady. Dallas Howard comments of the women of the Terminator franchise: “What’s so exciting for me is there’s been this incredible history started by Linda Hamilton of kick-ass women. To play a woman that can honor the legacy she created means a lot.”
Keeping up with the men on a Terminator set also continues when the cameras are turned off. Yelchin learned this the hard way while prepping for the role. “We were doing gun training and Moon and I were running around with the guns and playing tag,” says Yelchin. “I was being so hard core. And then I look up for a second and Moon’s right there.”
“You had the shotgun and I had the Desert Eagle and I whooped his ass twice,” Bloodgood says to Yelchin with a laugh.
Worthington’s Marcus Wright character is central to the story line of Salvation. His story runs parallel to the rise of John Connor until their stories ultimately intersect. Wright’s character is an ex-con who awakens in unfamiliar surroundings and is searching for the answers to his past. To prep, Wright and director McG went to prisons and took a look at the hardened men inside. “We went to death row and observed some guys there,” says Worthington. “it’s a bit like monkeys in a zoo, so it kind of puts you a bit off. The whole movie’s about getting a second chance. I look at it like Wizard of Oz. it’s Dorothy getting onto the yellow brick road. No matter what that life was, this is a different life.”
Wright’s character also has a secret, but the cat is pretty much out of the bag already for anyone who’s caught a glimpse of the trailer. Stepping into the role each day meant hours of time spent in the makeup chair readying for the day’s shoot. “We pretty much reveal all his insides, all the back and arm,” says Wright. “Stan Winston’s guys spent four hours with me in prosthetics. They’ve created a suit that has it on, so then they paint over that to make it even more real. I kind of just drift off. I heard Schwarzenegger would just sleep the whole time.”
During the course of the interview, the cast had to choose their words carefully so as not to reveal the tightly-kept secrets of the plot. At roughly the midway point in shooting during our visit, the cast was enthusiastic and proud of their work. “Speaking as a fan, I can’t imagine anyone being let down by what they’ve come up with,” says Dallas Howard.
“If we make a movie that’s hopefully going to be great, then in the future some kid like me is going to have these action figures, which is kind of amazing,” says a beaming Yelchin. “There’s a dimension of acting, but then there’s like, this is Terminator!”