Friday, October 17, 2014

Ask Me a Question: The Terminator 30th Anniversary

I think I've seen The Terminator 7 times on the big screen.  3 in the past year alone, I believe.  I've seen it with guests like the f/x crew from Stan Winston's shop, cinematographer Adam Greenberg and mastermind James Cameron but tonight was even more special as it's nearing the 30th Anniversary and The Real J.C. would be joined by not only co-producer Gale Ann Hurd but also the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  American Cinematheque members got first crack and the remaining tickets sold out in minutes the following day.  Humans From Earth rebounds from a quiet couple of months with a huge event for one of the most influential films of all time.  Unfortunately, Arnold had to bow out due to illness but hey, The Real J.C. is more than enough to keep an audience entertained, educated and inspired.

There were 30th Anniversary posters everywhere along with a T-800 endo-skeleton replica, courtesy of Legacy Effects, in the lobby.  Our seats were in the middle of a sea of reserved rows for Fox Home Entertainment, Legacy and other more special guests.  I spotted Tom Woodruff, Jr., the result of watching A LOT of Aliens documentaries, coming in the front door and quickly introduced myself.  Mr. Woodruff, Jr. was on the Terminator Special Effects team then worked on classics like Predator, Aliens, Monster Squad, Tremors, Starship Troopers and many more while forming Amalgamated Dynamics with friend and fellow effects legend Alec Gillis.  ADI just completed production on a Kickstarter funded, physical effects creature feature, Harbinger Down, starring genre favorite Lance Henriksen.  Behind Woodruff, Jr. was a dude dressed in total Terminator garb, complete with half his face missing and exposed red eye. 

To start the evening, Humans From Earth producers Geoff Boucher and Grant Moniger welcomed us before showing a quick video from Arnold in bed.  The Oak apologized and explained he just got back from Europe, where he caught the flu.  He's happy we're still talking about Terminator 30 years later with a new installment coming next July.  He has the highest respect for James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd and of course, told us he'd be back.  A handful of 35mm trailers played including Conan (surprisingly bad trailer for a great film), Red Heat (80's glory and Arnold looking his Clint Eastwood-iest), Predator (very effective, great reaction from the crowd, we got a quick shout out for next week's screening with Carl Weathers) and Commando (another great time capsule of action, puns and one-liners).  An Arnold imitation contest followed with one of the participants being a little kid, which I loathe, because they just slide by on being a cute kid, not actually having any talent or knowledge and are most likely pushed up their by attention starved parents.  One guy talked about being Governor, another quoted Kindergarten Cop then the guy in Terminator attire just started making a lot of Arnold groans and sounds.

It was a beautiful Digital copy, most likely the same one we saw at Hero Complex a few months ago.  I can't say I noticed anything new this time around besides really realizing that despite the career and impact Arnold has had, this movie isn't about his character.  It's about the love story between Mother of the Resistance Sarah Connor and Father of the Future Kyle Reese, played by Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.  The Tech-Noir shoot out sequence and ensuing car chase(s) remain one of my favorite movie moments all time favorites and of course, it was great to have a full house watching soon to be Cameron regular Michael Biehn on the big screen.  Sadly, Hamilton and Biehn don't get enough love for this film. 

The Q&A was a bit all over the place with not that much time devoted to The Terminator.  Same thing happened at Hero Complex, James Cameron sits down and it becomes about his career and ideas rather than the movie we're supposed to be celebrating, which is kind of annoying.  Producer Hurd actually steered the conversation back to The Terminator when things were headed in different directions.

- Cameron has the two biggest movies of all time, Hurd has TV's biggest show, The Walking Dead.
- Hurd got away from film because not everyone is James Cameron and was tired of hearing "less character, more boom".
- AMC told them to slow Walking Dead down and let it breathe, which was a shock.
- Nobody believed in The Terminator, but it just takes that 100th person to say yes after 99 no's.
- Aliens might not have happened if not for Dino De Laurentis pre-emptying Arnold for Conan the Destroyer, leading Cameron to take on writing assignments Rambo, First Blood: Part II and Aliens.
- English crew did not respect Gale Ann Hurd, literally asked her how a little woman could produce a big film, and meant it.
- Terminator actual cost was $5 million and change.
- Studio pitched O.J. Simpson as Terminator and Arnold as Reese, thinking it was an amazing idea.
- Cameron met Arnold for lunch, not wanting to like him.  Arnold was great, enthusiastic about the script and talking about The Terminator instead of Reese.  Cameron AND attending producer forgot their wallets.  Arnold paid and Cameron joked that's why he got the role.
- Still friends with Arnold, talked to him earlier and jokingly thought he was faking being sick.
- Were two young, hungry go getters who thought they could do it better and cheaper than the old farts running studio.
- Roger Corman fired James Cameron because he was painting a set.  Devised a system where crew would stop working when Corman visited the set so it looked like everything was done.
- The Abyss Blu-Ray is coming soon, the Fox Home Entertainment exec was sitting in front of us, I thought he yelled out January something but I could be way off.
- Shout out to everyone in the audience who worked on the film, to Stan Winston and his crew.

There were no questions about Sarah or Kyle and the only mentions of the actors playing them came from Hurd talking about Hamilton needing to run on a sprained ankle and Cameron mentioning Michael Biehn in a scene with a flaming car.  This just seemed like such a missed opportunity as both Hurd and Cameron have worked with both again (personal relationships not withstanding considering Cameron was married to Hurd, then Hamilton), their love story is probably what makes the film so timeless and if you watch that film with fresh eyes you realize that this is their movie. 

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