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Arnold returns to 'Terminator.' Is it a good idea?

April 26, 2011 |  7:06 pm

The news Tuesday that Arnold Schwarzenegger will return to the "Terminator" franchise provides a colorful coda to several story lines.

The new film, loosely dubbed "Terminator 5," is being shopped to studios. There is no script or screenwriter, but a person close to what Hollywood terms a film package, who asked not to be identified because of the early nature of the negotiations, confirmed that Creative Artists Agency has begun shopping the rights to make the movie, though with no plotline as yet. Schwarzenegger, the person said, would play a starring role as the title character in the science-fiction film, not a supporting role in which he passed the baton to a new hero. The movie would be directed by "Fast Five" director Justin Lin.

The package represents the latest twist in a tortuous business story. Early last year, Sony and Lionsgate joined forces to bid on the rights held by the Halcyon Co., the bankrupt "Terminator Salvation" producer. But, in a controversial decision, the rights were handed to the Santa Barbara hedge fund  Pacificor, which had backed Halcyon.

In May, Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor announced it had been chosen by Pacificor to sell the rights to studios. But no sale materialized, and CAA replaced WME; CAA, which has long represented Schwarzenegger, held an obvious advantage: the clout to convince the actor to come back.

Tuesday's news raises nearly as many creative questions as it answers. The offshoot "Terminator Salvation," directed by McG, was roughed up by critics but pocketed $371 million worldwide. It was supposed to be the start of a new trilogy starring Sam Worthington. But the return of Arnold, and the fact that McG will not have a place on this film, means that the new Skynet saga could pick up the narrative trail of the third picture, 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," or start in yet another new direction. ("Machines" finished with Nick Stahl's John Connor and Claire Danes' Kate Brewster running from Schwarzenegger's Terminator, with all three still alive at movie's end.)

But perhaps the biggest point the news highlights involves Schwarzenegger's career direction. The 63-year-old former governor told The Times recently he's diving back into acting. "I can step very comfortably into the entertainment world and do an action movie with the same violence that I've always done," he said, predicting he'd be on a set by the end of the year.

At the time, some speculated he could star in the drug-themed action film "The Last Stand" or the prison-escape movie "The Tomb," both new properties and potential franchises. Those remain possibilities, especially with a script not yet written for "Terminator."

But it's clear Schwarzenegger also has the past on his mind. He's already signed on for a cartoon called "The Governator," featuring his voice and likeness. Now it looks as though he's intent not only riffing on past glories but reliving them.

It remains to be seen whether Schwarzenegger could take on the required stunts at his age, and whether a population that didn't think much of him as a governor wants to vote for him with their dollars at the box office. It would also be nearly 30 years since he first incarnated the Terminator role in the James Cameron original; there are few examples of an actor holding a lead film role for that long.

Still, the former governor would have precedent in a return to the screen. Both Jesse Ventura and Fred Thompson went back to acting once they said sayonara to their political careers. As Joe Klein said when we wrote last spring about Arnold's possible return to acting, "When politicians leave office, they almost always try to re-ingratiate themselves with the public they've inevitably disappointed. Acting would be a way for Schwarzenegger to restore himself in the eyes of the public."

-- Steven Zeitchik, with reporting by Ben Fritz




Hollywood wonders whether Arnold will be back

Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking for some action

Terminator rights given to Pacificor

Photo: "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." Credit: Warner Bros.

Comments () | Archives (49)

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Alive at the end? No arnie was crushed after detonating his power source. Maybe watch the movies your writing about.

The TV show Sarah Conner Chronicles was excellent. I wish they could finish that story.

Speaking as a non-Californian, I dont think much at all about Arnold's record as governer. I don't think anyone else outside of California does either.

Since Arnold is old now, I think he should play a terminator that was made thirty years prior and has been hunting John Connor this whole time. That way, the terminator ages just like Arnold. Hollywood, are you listening?

Right On! Nothing would be more excellent than for an older and wiser "mature" Terminator.

Yeah, the author basically mangled the end of "Machines". Not what happened at all. Not only did Arnie's terminator die, but they weren't running from him. He was protecting them. Like the earlier commenter said, try watching a movie if you are going to write a capsule.

How about the person the Terminator is modeled on? A nasty corporate type...and talk to the Tron:Legacy folks to de-age him for the Terminator scenes...

He just needs to retire and go away. We're all done with Arnold. Time to let his wife and her causes take the forefront.

Hell yes! If there's any question as to wether or not Arnie can pull it off you need only look at the third film in the franchise which was made right before he took office. He's just gotta hit the gym and have some photoshop magic applied. In regards to the 3rd film, it also ended with skynet launching nukes and destroying the world. John and Kate were in the presidential fall out bunker alone. I for one would like to see that story line pick up so we could finally bridge the gap to the future we saw in the first two terminator movies. This whole protecting John crap is getting old, let's see some epic battles in the future with a strong narrative to drive the film.

In regards to Terminator Salvation: I avoided it because of the bad press, so when I saw it I wasn't expecting much but I found it quite decent...though the whole movie did seem to be about how John Conner got his scar. It introduced some interesting points too, especially with Worthington's character, that I wouldn't mind seeing expanded upon. If Hollywood treats that segment like a stand alone off-shoot, there's no reason why they couldn't continue that trilogy and still make the Arnold led Terminator 5. Hell, it's been said time and time again that the future we saw in Terminators 1 and 2 was only one possible future. The Worthington / Bale could be another one. This franchise could potentially keep going forever, just keep it fun and entertaining.

I think "The Terminator" was the role that really launched Arnold's movie career; the steely-eyed nearly indestructible conquering robot in a leather jacket. He was made for that role. True, the terminator died but Hollywood can find ways of bringing back dead movie characters (especially if it's good for the box office ;-) Alternate realities, time travel to prevent death or just building another identical terminator with the original's personality & memories that were stored in an organic computer matrix or whatever you prefer. True, Arnold is older now and may have lost some strength but I bet he could probably still bench press 300 lbs and do the role. And the Make Up Dept. could fix up any facial aging like they did in the "Surrogates" movie. Arnold's acting skills seemed to improve over the years too. Yeah, I'd like to see Arnold in another terminator movie. But I respect the fact that some people may disagree with me. Everyone's got a right to their opinion and I'm glad The Los Angeles Times gives us the chance to post them.

Arnold will give the other terminators Pardons in the 11th hour because he he has to repay political favors. The man has no shame.

"Acting would be a way for Schwarzenegger to restore himself in the eyes of the public."

Yes, if "acting" is what Arnie does in the Terminator movies. He's a one-note drone (very similar to his character, actually) but a note which brings in tons of cash. Too bad Sam Worthington and Christian Bale won't be back. That movie was much more interesting, even if the plot was crap.

What's that you say? No script yet? Please allow me to introduce you to The Tornowski Twins! Hollywood's best kept screenwriting secret.

We've written Terminator 5,6,7,8 and 9 already. Each script has two versions, one with Arnold (Our favorite) and one without. These scripts have been in development since Terminator 2. Hollywood knows where to turn when a project is scriptless... The Tornowski Twins!

@Allen, My brother and I are professional writers. You don't need to watch the movies you're writing about unless you're remaking that film. Otherwise, you can just make up whatever you want. It's a new movie. Duh. #prowritingadvice

-Steve Tornowski (Of Tornowski Twin fame)

It's a good idea only if he dies.

I think it'd be swell for Arnie to return. I can imagine the trailers already:

I'm Bahck.

(popcorn munching crowd oohs and ahhs, and the dollar bill signs flash wildly)

In any event, 'twouldn't be much of a transition: from one unbelievable role to another, and back again.

All in a day's work for Herr Gropenfuhrer.

We've seen Arny these days and let me tell you lets hope there is no scene with his shirt off or him running down a dark alley!!

YEs, as "The Terminated."

Sour grapes, most of what Arnie is blamed for was the fault of our esteemed assembly of incompetents. All Arnie tried to do was try to run the state as a business, be a better environmentalist then most liberals, and step on the toes of the unions while the judiciary flung impediments like so many monkees flinging....

I would like to think that Hollywood might be able to make a decent terminator sequel, but as an aging American, I would rather see a continuation of the Conan series, which ended with Conan, after a time of great struggle, becoming a weary and plagued king. Certainly with a good script, as a wiser and far more capable actor than he was in his youth, Arnie could work up an Oscar winning performance in the Conan character that he simply will not ever acheive as a terminator. And he now has that "weary and plagued king" experience for inspiration.

Who would even make a butt-kicking cyborg with the appearance of a 60-something year old man?

There didn't seem to be a screenwriter or script for T3, yet they made it anyway.

Remember he is an actor and always been. He even tried to act like a governor and didn't succeed to well. He should invite Sarah Palin and her gang, they are all excellent actors.

What a challenge for his makeup man

I loved Arnold as the Terminator but he shouldn't come back. I also loved Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, but the last movie was just pathetic. They're both too old for the respective parts now.

Anything that keeps him out of politics is a Good Thing!

Arnie terminates sentence of the bloody knife wielding murdering thug son of his political crony.

Yeah-- that the ticket.

Oh dear. Justin Lin? T5's gonna be garbage. Way to ruin the Terminator franchise. Admittedly, I don't think he'll be able to do it as badly as Lucas and Spielberg raping Indiana Jones & Star Wars, but I reckon it'll be pretty close. I think this one'll have to wait for Bluray for me...

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