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‘Terminator’ retools

Fox TV series will breathe life back into Connor family

The “Terminator” franchise is rising again, this time as a Fox TV series.

Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar’s C2 Pictures, which produced the most recent “Terminator” feature, has pacted with Warner Bros. TV and scribe Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) for the tentatively titled “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” Skein will focus on robo-warrior Sarah Connor and her savior son John Connor.

Fox has made a pilot commitment to the project, with a significant penalty attached. Net declined comment on the project, which attracted serious interest from several webs.

Friedman is aboard to pen the pilot and serve as exec producer-showrunner of the series, which will take place in the fictional time frame between the second and third “Terminator” features. Vajna and Kassar will serve as exec producers, with C2 senior veep of development James Middleton also producing.

In addition, Vajna confirmed that C2 is in “the final phases of development” of a fourth “Terminator” pic (Daily Variety, Sept. 24, 2004) and that the series will have a link to what’s being envisioned as a new feature trilogy.

“There will be a connection,” Middleton said. Linda Hamilton is not expected to be involved in “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” And because the series will be focused on the Connor family, it’s not anticipated that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a regular part of the skein either regardless of his political fortunes a year from now.

Vajna and Middleton had no comment on any potential guest role for Schwarzenegger.

Middleton said the series will explore what happened to Sarah Connor after the end of “T2,” when the character went on the run. “She has the weight of the world on her shoulder and she also has to raise a 14-year-old son who may be the salvation of the world,” he said.

Friedman said his “challenge is trying to figure out how to reinterpret (Connor) for television.”

Because the “Terminator” franchise involves time travel and alternate futures, Friedman believe he’ll be able to take a few plot liberties in the series — emphasis on “few.”

“The last thing I want to do is take a title and exploit it,” Friedman said. “The show needs to stand on its own while still being respectful of the franchise.”

Unlike the features, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” will not be non-stop shoot-’em-up or chase scenes, in large part because of the reduced budgets of television.

“There’s going to be a healthy dose of both (action and family drama),” Friedman said, noting that the “Terminator” mythology “has a lot of big ideas in it that don’t cost you a dime to explore.”

“T3: Rise of the Machines,” produced by C2 and Intermedia, grossed $427 million worldwide; the franchise overall has grossed more than $1 billion.

Vajna said C2 has been weighing an entry into TV via the “Terminator” franchise for nearly two years and said the company hopes to develop other projects for the medium.

After deciding to take the plunge, ICM-repped C2 pitched the idea to several studios, with Warner Bros. ultimately making the most sense, Vajna said. Warners handled domestic distribution of “T3.”

Friedman, repped by UTA, wrote the script for Brian De Palma’s upcoming “The Black Dahlia.”

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