Director Tim Miller is set to storm Hall H with “Terminator: Dark Fate,” his new vision for the beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger action franchise, which Paramount and Skydance will release in November. The Comic-Con vet has not only mounted blockbusters like “Deadpool” in San Diego but has also been attending for 25 years. Here’s his fanboy battle strategy.
How will you win over Hall H with this new take on “Terminator”?
If I was a nerd, and I am, I always imagine reading about plot or story and how I would feel as a fan. I can be objective that way, like I did with “Deadpool.” When I read online when we announced the film, “‘Terminator 6’? For f–k’s sake, why don’t they let it die?” I understand where those people are coming from. If it’s not great, then we’ve had enough.
After “Deadpool” there were a lot of projects I could’ve chosen, but I really wanted to see Linda Hamilton come back to personally continue her story as Sarah Connor. Like James Cameron, I always find stories about women are much more interesting than men picking up guns. Jim’s movies are grounded in reality and character and just happen to have time travel and robots. I’m wired the same way. I want to give the audience a story about Sarah and these new characters and make everything else as realistic as possible. I want to sit in the audience and believe that this s–t could happen to me. That’s how I’m approaching it.
Mackenzie Davis and her character Grace feel like something very new for a franchise like this. What brought her here?
Before we brought in screenwriters, we did a room with novelists at my request because they’re world builders and we’re reinventing the franchise. One was Joe Abercrombie [the “First Law” series], who pointed out that the “Terminator” films tend to have a trinity of main characters. One of those is the protector, the Kyle Reese character [portrayed by Michael Biehn in the original, Jai Courtney and Anton Yelchin in sequels].
Joe came out with this idea that a new protector from the future is a machine fighter. It’s a painful life, and they’re scarred and take a lot of drugs to combat the pain of what’s been done to them. They don’t live a long time. It’s a very sacrificial role; they risk death to save others. And from the very first suggestion it was always a woman. We had to look for someone who has the physicality, but I’m very sensitive to actors. I didn’t just want a woman who could physically fit the role but emotionally as well. Mackenzie really wanted to do it; she came after the role. She worked harder than anybody.
An early “Dark Fate” poster received backlash, calling Davis and her co-stars “feminazis” and other chauvinist hate speech. How do you think she’ll be received in the room at Comic-Con?
If you’re at all enlightened, she’ll play like gangbusters. If you’re a closet misogynist, she’ll scare the f–k out of you, because she’s tough and strong but very feminine. We did not trade certain gender traits for others; she’s just very strong, and that frightens some dudes. You can see online the responses to some of the early s–t that’s out there, trolls on the internet. I don’t give a f–k.
Do you get feedback from James Cameron?
Jim has moved to New Zealand to focus on “Avatar.” I saw him a couple times when I got back from shooting, and I showed him a director’s cut. Jim will come in and provide clarity in key moments about the goals of the franchise. He’s great about looking at things and saying, “This needs to be reinforced.” He’s like a diver into a pool. He dives to the bottom, jumps out and the pool settles. Dives in again. He occasionally cannonballs. But it’s incredible.
You’re an executive producer on “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which was also due out in November but pushed to redesign the main character after fans protested. How was that experience?
When “Sonic” arrived, the director, Jeff Fowler, was the best guy to do it. The redesign? Look, I was with fans and so was Jeff. This is a franchise, and it has to be great. When the s–t hit the fan, I went over there and said, “The most important thing to do, man, is say, ‘I f–ked up.’” He’d already sent a tweet out an hour before I got there. He’s a good man. It was exactly the right way to handle that. The fans have a voice in this too. There’s a right way to listen.
Have you seen any of the character redesign?
In fact I have. And I think the fans will be pleased.