It may have been a no-win situation when McG signed on for “Terminator: Salvation.” Fans were generally displeased with “Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines,” but at least that film featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and an R-rating. McG, perhaps best known for the “Charlie’s Angels” films, was working with a PG-13 rating, vowing to tell the untold story of the fabled war against Skynet. It was a no-brainer for the director who told us in a recent interview, “I’m a huge fan of the franchise, and I’m fascinated with Jim Cameron. I leapt at the chance to work with Christian Bale.” And who wouldn’t? But during press rounds for his latest, “This Means War,” he commented that he “pussed out” on the film. We talked to McG and hoped he would clarify, and he revealed to us that his hopes were for the heavily-rumored original ending.
As it turns out, the ending leaked online in advance, with fans angered upon hearing of John Connor dying, his flesh fitted over a Terminator body to continue the rebellion as a cyborg. “We had originally discussed a much much darker ending, where Skynet wins,” confirms McG, saying the ending with Connor dying was exactly what he was referring to. “And I think it would have been puzzling and sucked the air out of the theaters, and it was very scary to the studios. But ultimately, creatively, it would have been rewarding.” And here is where he ultimately changed direction.
“I loved that idea, but we sorta went with the more heartfelt version,” McG said, referring to the current ending, with a living John Connor. “I thought they got away with it at the end of the second ‘Terminator’ picture, with Schwarzenegger descending into the molten steel, giving the thumbs up to Furlong. And that didn’t compromise the integrity of that picture at all. I just think the [original] ending would have been a more bold and interesting in retrospect.” The rights to the next “Terminator” have been sold, and no one has contacted McG regarding a follow-up, though he’d love to pick up where he left off. Citing “Terminator: Salvation,” a disappointed McG says, “It made a lot of money. It was a success in that regard. But I wanted it to be universally loved. And I think the audience would be really excited if there was a [new] ‘Terminator’ movie with Christian Bale coming out this summer.”
It’s not the first franchise picture McG has been attached to that almost changed the entire mythology of a beloved property. In the early aughts, McG was attached to “Flyby,” a rebooting of the “Superman” series that, thanks to a boldly different take from screenwriter J.J. Abrams, would have made wholesale changes to the origins of Superman, his home planet Krypton, and his main nemesis Lex Luthor. McG ended up exiting the project when the studio was adamant about shooting in Australia. He blames his fear of flying for being “thrown off” that project, calling it his “rock-bottom” moment, which would eventually lead him to taking on his next film, the plane-crash drama “We Are Marshall,” as a catharsis.
McG says no final casting decisions had been made on the film, though he did mention one name that, we admit, we hadn’t heard before. “We had Robert Downey Jr. locked up to be Lex Luthor, which I think would have been extraordinary,” McG enthused. But his pick for the Big Blue Boyscout is actually much less of a surprise. “Ironically, we liked Henry Cavill a lot, but we hadn’t cast him yet,” he says of the actor currently wearing the tights in the upcoming “Man Of Steel.” “J.J. wrote the script, and we got that to a really good place in the end,” he says of the film, the first in a proposed trilogy. “But I’m to blame for [the film not happening].” While we’ve heard no shortage of superhero movie casting over the years, the idea of a then-low-key Downey Jr. as Lex Luthor is enough to make us wonder a whole score of what-if fantasies, particularly considering his own subsequent ascension to the top of the A-List following “Iron Man.”
“This Means War” is in theaters now.