Monday, May 25, 2009

Did Christian Bale wreck Terminator Salvation? CHUD article explains, in detail, what went wrong with T4.

Here is a lengthy, fascinating article detailing the various script changes that occurred during the shoot of Terminator Salvation. I'm not going to rehash what's in there, but the biggest shocker is that the main culprit behind the narrative failure of the film may have been Christian Bale himself. I'm not alone in thinking he was miscast as John Conner and that the role of Conner was awfully thin, but it appears that McG originally wanted to cast him as Marcus and only have Conner appearing in a token cameo. Bale's insistence on playing John Conner allegedly forced massive rewrites to beef up the non-existent John Conner character. Frankly, if this is true, this puts Christian Bale in a far worse light than any onset temper tantrum. It's one thing to throw an emotional hissy fit in a fleeting moment. It's another to force an entire production to completely overhaul the screenplay to give the token character that you wanted to play an upgrade to starring role, completely unpending the intended narrative of the picture.

I'd still love to know about the 40-minutes of missing footage, and I'll let you know if I dig anything up, but this is an interesting and unexpected scenario. I know full well that many big stars have their own staff of script doctors to tailor a screenplay to their liking, but I've never heard of a big star demanding to play a role intended as a cameo and then forcing said role to take center stage in the present plot line. It might very well be the case that the villain in this story is not the studio, but the star.

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...

Having read the article and seeing the film, I gotta say, maybe Christian tried to save the picture just based on what the original script looked like.

I mean, based on that article, I wouldn't really call it a Terminator film, not to mention that the twist ending in the original script has no weight to it at all if John Connor is on the sidelines for of three minutes.

Not saying Salvation is a great film, but it works much better than what was originally planned.

Again, I think the problem is that Bale pushed for more, got more, then it all got cut out...which makes his part in the film feel non existent, when clearly, based on three trailers, there was more of him and his wife.

R.L. Shaffer said...

I stumbled upon that Chud article earlier -- it's a terribly written, juvenile mess that seems to think the story originally presented was good. It wasn't.

Frankly, the film should have been about Connor right from the get-go, instead of Marcus. Who the hell cares about Marcus? Audiences know nothing about him. But they do know Connor and Reese. Explore that dynamic instead.

I don't think it's really Bale's fault this film got tampered with. It was a bad script right off that just got more and more muddled and messed up as other writers took shots at it. That's a producers fault, not a star -- even if said star wants rewrites.

I think you had the right idea with your last blog -- this film was ruined because Warner got gun shy about an R-rated summer vehicle following the dismal performance of Watchmen (which shouldn't have been a shock to them), so they sliced and diced the heart and emotion out of the picture and gave fans a stripped-down PG-13 action picture. If times weren't as tough right now, Warner probably wouldn't have made that call.

I really hope we see a Director's Cut in the future.

Anonymous said...


But, in Bale defense, it seems to me that he didn't understand why Connor would be only a cameo since the previous three films have been building up to point and time of the Connor legend.

I mean, that's pretty much what the ending of Terminator 3 heavily implied. The time of John Connor was at hand. And it seems Bale, who liked the previous films, understand that.

Maybe he shouldn't have done it the way he did but I think he was completely right, considering the original script.

Mr. Cereal said...

I don't know... I haven't watched the actual film, but the original script didn't sound so bad. Certainly sounded more like a Terminator film.

Scott Mendelson said...

Agreed, the original script wouldn't have made a good movie, but it would have made a fascinatingly whacked-out bad movie, as opposed to the somewhat paint-by-numbers film we ended up with. And regardless of whose vision was best, I was a little put off by a star wriggling himself into a token supporting role and then demanding the entire film be redone to satisfy said-star's ego. It would be like Drew Barrymore turning down the role of Sydney in Scream (which she did), instead demanding to be cast as Casey (which she was), but then bringing on script doctors to rework the entire screenplay to make Casey the lead character instead of Sydney. For me, it's more the principle of what occurred versus whose vision was superior.


Layne said...

I think Bale had the right idea. Make this film about John Conner, a character that fans of the series know and are interested in seeing more of, rather than Marcus. I'm with some of the others who've posted here, in that I think the film turned out much better than what was originally planned.

And regarding the changes made after Bale signed on, I don't find anything really bad about what he did. Obviously, the filmmakers were willing to make those changes to have an actor of Bale's caliber. Otherwise, they could have refused to do it and Bale could have withdrawn.

Anonymous said...

Greed is the problem. They wanted to stretch out a new trilogy, so they didn't want to jump right into Connor as hero mode.

Anonymous said...

Quite honestly, the idea of a Terminator becoming J.C. would have led to COUNTLESS possiiblity.

From betrayal to moral conflict, distrust, new decisions and so on.

This movie is just a "popcorn movie" to me.

Wich BTW is perfectly fine, but Terminator as a whole has always been a franchise that pointed to something deeper than that.

When the first movie came out it was fresh in its own ways and it opened the way for multiple paths.

Now the franchise is pretty stale, it's all been there done that and again it would be perfectly fine if it was named "war of the humans against machines" or something else...but this is Terminator.

I think Friedman is the only one who is trying to do something good with the franchise, so i hope for a Sarah Connor season 3.

On the Bale issue...i think an actor should ACT, that's all...and to be honest there are countless BETTER actors in your industry.

Bale is GOOD, but he's no Deniro or Pacino....and never will.



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