On June 16, 2008, I had the opportunity to visit the set of Terminator Salvation
in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the 100-degree heat of the summer, we headed to the nearby Albuquerque Studios which was within sight of the airport. As we entered the brand new studio, I began seeing signs of Judgment Day here and there – a dirty Huey helicopter hull, a dismantled Jeep, and other things. We passed a cattle trailer that was high up on a steel frame. The significance of this would become quite apparent later. We then neared the office for the production.
Signs everywhere read "Project Angel" – the cover name for the project as well as the name for the program that spawns the Terminator cyborgs and Skynet in the film. The visit had a lot of highlights that we'll be able to reveal soon. Here are a few just to tease you:
- Production designer Martin Laing showed us all the robot designs from the film including the Hydrobots, T-700, Aerial HK's, the Moto-Terminators, the Harvester, the T-600 (the one Kyle Reese mentions is 'easy to spot' in the first film), and more.
- Amazingly, Laing walked us through about 90 – 95% of the film's plot while showing us production paintings. I've never been shown this much of a movie on a set visit before.
- We visited several of the studio sets as well as a couple of the locations in Albuquerque that doubled for post-Judgment Day L.A. The personal highlight of the trip for me was watching a large vehicle bust through a wall and roll over human skulls as a T-600 patrolled nearby. Against this backdrop were some of the biggest explosions I've ever seen on a set while doing a visit.
- Director McG was very energetic, very open, and a lot of fun to talk to. He was so eager to chat with us that the crew started getting annoyed that we were distracting him from shooting. McG knows he has a lot to prove and he's doing his best to make a good "Terminator" film. Based on what I saw, he's on the right track.
- Bryce Dallas Howard had only been shooting for a day when we arrived. She was having so much fun on the set and you could tell she was a sci-fi geek. (She geeked out over the fact that Anton Yelchin was playing Chekov in Star Trek
.) She also knew her "Terminator" history.
- Howard eagerly joined us in McG's trailer to view about 10-15 minutes of footage. I sat next to her as we watched an impressive series of action shots, all without special effects yet. They were reminiscent of the desert scenes in "T2" and it all looked really good. And while the film may end up PG-13, there was definite R-rated material in the footage we saw including topless shots of Moon Bloodgood. Whether or not that footage makes it in the film remains to be seen.
- We spoke with Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor), and Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright).
- McG also denied that the rumored fate of John Connor was going to happen. He said their ending was completely different. And since they were still at least a month away from shooting the end of the film, I think they had time for a rewrite. I'm inclined to believe him at this point.
We'll have a lot more detailed set visit report for you as we get closer to the movie, but I have to say that based on what I saw while I was there, McG and crew are on the right track. I'm a huge "Terminator" fan and I liked what I saw. Stay tuned!
If you missed the new domestic and international trailers, you can watch them via this link