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03 October 2013

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Terminator Vault

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In an alternative timeline, The Terminator stars Rosanna Arquette as a waitress being hunted by O. J. Simpson. The hero? Bruce Springsteen, who in 2029 has a robot dog. It is doubtful that this version of the film resides in the ‘Classics’ bracket on Netflix.

Fortunately, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves. And James Cameron, who has a tendency to make fate his bitch, avoided all of those casting close-calls. This machine-tooled volume by Empire’s Ian Nathan, following up his equally essential Alien Vault, charts the making of the first two Terminators with Hunter-Killer precision, boasting extensive new interviews with Cameron and other key players that kick up all manner of fantastic detail. It turns out that the director made his T-original fuelled by Big Macs, obtained with coupons he’d been mailed by his mum. If he wasn’t battling malnutrition, he was grabbing shots under the noses of suspicious cops, firing his own agent or telling executives (including, most likely, the one who suggested the robot dog) to go fuck themselves. As Terminator Vault demonstrates again and again, this is a guy that can’t be bargained with or reasoned with. He absolutely will not stop, ever, until his film comes to life.

Unsentimental as a T-800, Cameron now describes The Terminator as “a great idea, poorly executed”. But this book will make you want to pay another visit to Tech Noir. Few ‘making of’ yarns are so colourful — the film was born in an influenza-induced fever haze and only got tougher from there. It may be a well-told tale, but Nathan peppers his chapters with juicy specifics. The “bee smoke” used in the future-war sequence gave everyone on set red-eye. The non-Arnie Terminator who’s glimpsed for a few seconds is a bodybuilder named Franco Columbu, who served as groomsman at the Austrian Oak’s wedding. And there are fascinating insights into the stormclouds of tension that hung over the whole endeavour. “They treated me like a piece of dogshit,” fumes Cameron, still bitter about the studio’s reluctance to promote the film in the fall of ’84.

Terminator Vault induces a rush of nostalgia. In his foreword, Schwarzenegger deadpans, “I look great in shades,” but everything in these films looks great. We’re reminded of this by a plethora of stills, concept art, storyboards and never-seen-before minutiae, sealed inside Cyberdyne-branded pouches. The coolest thing might be a crew pass for T2, which will give you access to the set, if you have a time machine. Just don’t trip on any cables, okay?

Reviewed by Nick De Semlyen

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