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It’s not often that an actor gets an opportunity to take part in the reimagination of one classic movie franchise, let alone two: so you could about imagine how pumped acclaimed actor Jason Clarke was to follow up his role in last year’s blockbuster hit “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” to star in “Terminator Genisys” — a
nd opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, who brought the Terminator to life in the first place.
Clarke, 45, said seeing Schwarzenegger in the first “Terminator” as a teenager growing up in Australia in 1984 was more than about seeing a spectacle on the big screen: it was a transformative experience.
“I remember seeing it early, before all the hype, which is such of a wonderful way to see the movie,” Clarke told me in a recent call from Los Angeles. “I remember coming out of the theater saying, ‘Wow, that was just amazing.’ It created a world and ultimate universe that we kept talking about over and over. The film was like a version of ‘Star Wars’ for me, because I hadn’t seen ‘Star Wars’ when it was originally released. Then along came ‘T2,’ which brought things to a whole new level.”
Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens Wednesday, “Terminator Genisys” is different from the other films in the franchise in that while it maintains key plot points from the first two films from writer-director James Cameron, it also creatively expands the core narrative. So, yes, while “Terminator Genisys” involves John Connor (Clarke) sending Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to thwart the assassination of his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), the time frame and circumstances are broadened significantly.
Perhaps the biggest twist in “Genisys” comes when John returns to the past as his adult self, not as an ally but a deadly threat — something Sarah and her protector, The Guardian (Schwarzenegger) aren’t exactly prepared for.
Jason Clarke said that huge plot twist is what got him excited when reading the script to “Terminator Genisys,” because the creative minds behind the film — director Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones,” “Thor: The Dark World”), and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier — were clearly intent on taking the franchise in a bold new direction.
“The twist is the reason I did it. It’s bringing something new to the film, which I think makes it worthwhile,” Clarke said. “The film is a lot more layered than I think people realize … there’s new thought, detail, depth and complexity to it, and it matches the level of filmmaking, action and sci-fi that James and Arnold brought to the original two.”
While Cameron had no direct involvement in the making of “Terminator Genisys,” the filmmakers opted to screen the film for the Oscar-winning director-producer to get his take on the film — which was overwhelmingly positive. And while there were two “Terminator” films between his “T2: Judgment Day” and the latest outing, Cameron has publicly stated that he feels “Genisys” is the true third chapter of the franchise.
“James is a man with a lot of integrity, so it’s nice to hear that feedback on a personal level,” Clarke said. “Plus, he has a very busy schedule (the filmmaker is prepping three ‘Avatar’ sequels), so we’re very happy that he took the time to watch the film, but like it on top of it. It was a lovely gesture. He’s a fascinating man, like Arnold, whose life and legacy is just not about making movies. He’s done some incredible things.”
While the film finally had its U.S. premiere earlier this week in Los Angeles, Clarke, Schwarzenegger and their fellow cast and crew members have in the past couple of weeks been hopping around the globe to debut the film in places like Germany and Clarke’s home country of Australia. Clarke said it’s been a thrill to see of all the fun Schwarzenegger has been having at the premieres, in what is clearly the biggest “Terminator” resurgence since the release of “T2” in 1991.
“There’s a lot of love out there for Arnold,” Clarke enthused. “It’s nice to see it come back to him because he works his a– off. He’s a phenomenal man and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and spending some time with him. Arnold’s always in a good mood, and if he’s not, he deals with things with humor and grace.”
Plus, Clarke said, he loves the way Schwarzenegger surprises people.
“Arnold’s got a wonderful way of living his life and is always up to extraordinary things,” Clarke said. “On the weekend he’ll go visit Prime Minister Modi in India or (Chancellor) Angela Merkel in Germany. Arnold is always doing things unexpectedly. The man even wears alligator skin boots.”
Although Bill Paxton has known Tom Cruise in passing over the years, their paths have never crossed on a movie set until he traveled to London last year to work on director Doug Liman’s new sci-fi action thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.” And while Paxton has had his share of physical roles since he career kicked off in the early 1980s, it didn’t take long for the acclaimed actor to realize when you sign up to do a film with Cruise, you hit the ground running — even when it’s in a metal exo-suit.
“When I arrived in London, Doug took me to a sound stage where Tom was trying on one of the exo-suits that the special effects guys built. When he saw me walking across the stage he yelled to me, ‘Hey, Paxton. It’s about time you got here! Are you ready to work out? These thing
s are going to be punishing.’ I was kind of like, ‘Oh, f—,'” Paxton told me, laughing, in a recent interview. “I had already been working out, but these suits were about 70 pounds.”
Paxton said the special effects artists “made the suits as light as they could, but because of what they had to do, there were a lot of metal parts.”
“That was the most challenging part of the role – the physicality of it,” Paxton said. “But Tom loves a challenge and he’s a very physical cat, so he’d just egg all of us on to do what he was doing. You can’t complain when No. 1 isn’t bitching about the suits.”
Opening in 2D and 3D theaters nationwide Friday, “Edge of the Tomorrow” stars Cruise as Maj. William Cage, a military officer who recruits soldiers for an international coalition to fight off brutal alien invaders, even though he has never seen a day of combat himself. Cage’s luck runs out, though, when he is suddenly thrust into a suicide mission against his brutal enemies and is killed within minutes — only to instantly wake up at an earlier point in time in his life to discover that he’s been thrown into a mysterious time loop.
Through the help of Special Forces Warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), Cage learns how he can effectively “re-set” his day by dying. His multiple deaths ultimately give Cage the opportunities to relive the same battle over and over again, but each time learning his enemies’ moves as he develops his own skills and precision — leading him one step closer each time to the key to winning the war.
Paxton stars as Master Sgt. Farrell, a tough-as-nails combat leader who initially holds sway over Cage, only to eventually outsmarted by the soldier since his time-loop secret has only been shared with select people.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is packed with lots of action and stunning visual effects, naturally, but woven within the film is a smart, mind-bending plot laced with lots of wicked humor. It’s the sort of thing Paxton said he craves as an actor.
“The role played to all of my strengths. I love playing these real ramrod characters. I also love that was this real perversity built into it — it had this nice vein of dark humor that runs through all of it from the script. Plus, Doug Liman has great sensibilities as a director as well as an entertainer.”
Working virtually nonstop in both film and TV for the past 30-plus years, Paxton has done it all, from action, comedy and drama, to crime thrillers, horror and science fiction. The 59-year-old actor told me that he’s not necessarily drawn to one particular genre, although he’s glad that directors like James Cameron and Liman have called on for science fiction fare like “Aliens” and “Edge of Tomorrow.”
“It’s a luck of the draw, really. I like science fiction and using my imagination, and love the scale of sci-fi,” Paxton said. “I also love the production design of sci-fi films. You have to remember I started out in the art department on films. That’s how I met Jim Cameron, as a set dresser years ago on the movie ‘Galaxy of Terror.’ The big visions the films have are challenging, physically, but I love to see spectacle. You pay the price, though, because they are painstaking to make. You can spend many endless days just to shoot a three-minute sequence, like on the battlefield of ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ for example.”
Paxton said he feels blessed to continue getting opportunities to work with directors the ilk of the Cameron and Liman because as effects-heavy as their movies are, the visual tools they use never outweigh the importance of the narrative.
“Jim and Doug are top directors, and as a film actor, you look to see who’s directing the picture before you sign on,” Paxton said. “I’ve been lucky lately to work with some really good directors. Sometimes you take a chance on a new director, but you go in to talk with them and you feel their passion, but it’s a no-brainer when Jim Cameron or Doug Liman calls you up because you know you’re going to be in good hands because they’re really good storytellers — I get just as excited about the director on a film than I do any other aspect of it because it all starts and ends with them.”
That’s not to say Paxton doesn’t appreciate his fellow actors — especially one as enthusiastic as Cruise.
“Tom was super-personable on the film and really encouraged me,” Paxton said. “Early on he said to me, ‘Paxton, you’re killing this part,’ and I said, ‘Tom, we haven’t even shot anything yet!’ Then he, ‘Yeah, but you’re killing it!’ You want to be with good actors like that because they’re going to bring your game up. It’s like a tennis match. The better players you play with, the better your game gets. Tom has a great sense of professionalism and brings a real passion and conviction to whatever’s he’s doing.”
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers