I was named Franchise Fred because I truly believe there should always be more sequels to every movie. I’ve always felt that way, but this is the actual movie that earned me the name. When Terminator 5 was announced in 2012 and some people wondered how Arnold Schwarzenegger could still play the same robot from 1984, I said why wouldn’t you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger keep playing The Terminator? However they figure it out, that’s a movie I want to see. I was so adamant that Outlaw Vern dubbed me Franchise Fred. Now Terminator: Genisys is here so I’ve got to put my money where my moniker is. Continue reading
As Franchise Fred interviews go, this is actually my third with Jai Courtney. I first met him on A Good Day to Die Hard for CraveOnline, but got to interview him for Nuke the Fridge for Felony. That’s where I introduced him to Franchise Fred, and also my friend Courtney’s plan to become Mrs. Courtney Courtney for comedic purposes.
Courtney plays Kyle Reese in Terminator: Genisys, the classic role of Sarah Connor’s protector from the future and father of John Connor. Only this time, when Reese arrives in 1984, Sarah has already been living with a Guardian Terminator she calls Pops, and has been waiting for Reese to arrive in the new timeline. Terminator: Genisys is now playing.
Franchise Fred: I’m sure you remember Franchise Fred.
Jai Courtney: Indeed I do.
Franchise Fred: Do you also remember when I proposed to you for my friend Courtney, who wanted to be Mrs. Courtney Courtney?
Jai Courtney: Oh yeah, that’s right.
Franchise Fred: She was the one sitting next to me who asked you about doing stunts naked, so now you’ve met.
Jai Courtney: Oh, okay. Now we’ve met.
Franchise Fred: So how did it feel to do those classic scenes with the homeless man and in the department store as Kyle Reese?
Jai Courtney: It was awesome and it’s really fun trying to recreate certain sequences shot for shot. It was great when I watched the film back to see them come together. It’s kind of strange how easily I was transported. It was almost like you were watching the original movie again which was kind of cool It was fun. I think it was nice to have a few of those in without having the whole film laden with references.
Franchise Fred: And to see them from a different perspective lets you relive it all over again.
Jai Courtney: Exactly.
Franchise Fred: Were you studying those particular scenes from the original film?
Jai Courtney: Not too closely. I’m familiar with the early movies but just generally. I went back and watched those more for tonal reference and that sort of thing. Pretty quickly you find yourself in a place where it’s more constructive to focus on the script that we were dealing with and handle it by putting your own spin on it.
Franchise Fred: In the time travel scene, you’re actually hanging in mid air. Was that some difficult harness work?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, it was a balance of I suppose a bit of smoke and mirrors. We did some harness stuff. There was an interesting rig when Emilia and I had to do one together and we were kind of levitating. That was quite funny. We were both sitting in a joint little swing saddle thing. It was quite amusing.
Franchise Fred: So you shared a harness?
Jai Courtney: We both had a harness but it was kind of rigged so we were joined together. Couple that with the fact that you’re wearing next to nothing. It was not a flattering moment.
Franchise Fred: How about the scene with Arnold where you’re racing to load ammo into the guns?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, that was fun. It was cool. I remember the day we approached the idea and I thought, “Oh, f***, I wish I’d practiced at home so we can get some real legit speed up.” I’m sure there’s guys that’ll watch this movie and think we’re not going that fast at all, but I think that’s a nice little beat. It’s an interesting turning point for the character there and his accepting of the role that Pops has. It’s a nice moment because it sort of marries the antagonism that they have for one another but then there seems to be a bit of mutual respect as well.
Franchise Fred: Did they play The Ramones for you on set?
Jai Courtney: They did not. [Laughs]
Franchise Fred: This is the first entry in the series where Kyle Reese has had to relate to a Terminator as an ally. Was that interesting new territory for you?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, I think it is. It was a continual exploration of his attitude towards that. He was orphaned at the hands of one of the machines so he has such lack of understanding for Sarah’s dependence on Pops. You always want characters to be able to travel somewhere emotionally. I don’t know that he’ll ever really see one of them as human or as family, but it’s cool to explore that.
Franchise Fred: Is also playing a love story with Sarah, where she’s resisting that destiny, an unprecedented dynamic for a love story? Was it interesting for you and Emilia to figure out?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, it was great. It’s cool to come at it from a strange angle where, whether she likes it or not, it’s going to happen. I think it’s that journey of accepting that and then perhaps somewhat becoming or starting to feel organic at the end anyway.
Franchise Fred: There is a point where Kyle very appropriately freaks out. How did you figure out the appropriate reaction to all this news would be?
Jai Courtney: I don’t know. Trying to, I guess, just relate to it in a way that you can understand and identify with. It’s easy with these kinds of films where they’re kind of heightened realism or actually stretch everything out to that level, but I think the key is to anchor it in a space that’s not that far from reality. Whilst it’s weird as hell for us to imagine that someone traveling back is his son and all this, there’s got to be real emotional stuff behind that. I think the key is trying to put yourself in that position, or as close to it as you can and imagining what receiving that news might be like.
Franchise Fred: Is it sort of speaking for the audience too?
Jai Courtney: I guess so in a way.
Franchise Fred: Is Kyle more the audience surrogate in Genisys, where Sarah was in the first movie?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, I definitely think that’s the case. Especially him trying to catch up, being brought up to speed across the whole thing. It’s like he’s the fish out of water. He’s the one that doesn’t really know what’s going on so he kind of asks the questions for us.
Franchise Fred: What were the scenes they had you audition with?
Jai Courtney: That is a good question. That was a long time ago. Uh, there was the scene where they’re arguing about the time travel that Guardian has built and debating which time to go back to. Kyle’s kind of having this realization of what he saw while he was traveling and piece that together, figure out what that meant. Then he has that motif that comes back to him, the stroking of the hand and remembering that somehow, that different timeline. That was one of them. The scene really moves and we see a bit of that relationship where they’re butting heads and then pared back to a point of vulnerability where he’s saying, “I can’t explain it. I don’t know what it is but you have to trust the fact that I know that it’s real and I know that it happens. We need to listen to that.”
Franchise Fred: Did the audition get close with other actors?
Jai Courtney: Yeah, I’m sure. There was a bunch of us that were all testing at the same level. Um, I certainly wasn’t a front runner. I’m not sure who or how many but Emilia tested with a bunch of us guys.
Franchise Fred: Basic question, but when did you first see The Terminator and Terminator 2.
Jai Courtney: One wouldn’t have been until I was a teenager. I think I caught up with that later on, but Terminator 2 was really the one that I remember really well. My sister and I drilled that a lot as a kid. I can still remember how that film made me feel. I was identifying or trying to identify, idolize really the young John Connor. This rebel kid and then I just remember Robert Patrick’s T-1000 being so beautifully scary. There’s sequences from that movie I can see running through my head.
Franchise Fred: This obviously isn’t relevant to this story or this timeline, but as a superfan I know that on the TV show, Kyle had a brother, Derek Reese. Were you aware of that?
Jai Courtney: No, I didn’t even know that.
Franchise Fred: If you ever need that research for the next movie, that’s there.
Jai Courtney: Sure, maybe we’ll touch on that.
Franchise Fred: Since Kyle may have a new fate in this movie, are you on board to continue this new timeline?
Jai Courtney: Certainly, yeah. If there’s interest in creating that, then I’ll be there for sure.
Franchise Fred: You’ve joined a number of franchises that I already liked, but is it different doing Suicide Squad as part one of a franchise?
Jai Courtney: I guess my experience, there’s been two examples where I’ve jumped in late but it’s fun to be part of something that is unprecedented. I guess that frees you up and gives you the ability to not have to think about anything before it. If you just create something new and there aren’t any rules to stick to or break.
Franchise Fred: Is Captain Boomerang also your first character who has a definitive uniform?
Jai Courtney: Sort of. Look, the different incarnations over the years meant that we had freedom with the design. Some characters are a little more stringent but his stuff’s changed so we were able to create something that fits with the world and it’s really cool, man.
Franchise Fred: Is Suicide Squad just a David Ayer movie as much as it is a superhero movie?
Jai Courtney: Definitely and that’s what really attracted me to the project was the fact that he was at the helm. I’m sure he’s going to kill it.
Franchise Fred: I got to see Be Here Now at the Los Angeles Film Festival. There’s a scene where you both audition for a film together. Neither of you got that part, did you?
Jai Courtney: No, no, we didn’t. That’s right. We didn’t.
Franchise Fred: What were your recollections of them shooting that?
Jai Courtney: Look, man, he’s a very, very special friend of mine and I’m just happy to see that that film finally got to see the light of day and people can experience it now. I’m thrilled that it picked up the audience award at the LA Film Festival. It’s wonderful.
At the press conference for Terminator: Genisys, I introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger to Franchise Fred, telling him I truly believe there should always be a sequel to everything. I asked if he agreed and he ultimately said it depended on the script and the sequel, but first he totally turned on the charm.
“First of all, when I looked at you, I said to myself, ‘This question has to be for me.’” Schwarzenegger began. “Because the first question comes right away from the most pumped up guy. And I bet you any money that he put on a little bit of baby oil just to make the forms pop a little bit. Good to see you.”
The Terminator: Genisys filmmakers remembered Franchise Fred too when I met them later. The producers at Skydance have a number of franchises for me, and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis said she loved seeing Arnold interact with me, although she thinks he was putting me on about the baby oil. Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier wrote the script to Terminator: Genisys so Franchise Fred had a lot of questions for them too.
Franchise Fred: This is actually the movie that earned me the name Franchise Fred because when it was announced, skeptical people were saying, “How could Arnold Schwarzenegger at his age still be the Terminator from 1984?” I said, “However they explain it, I want to see that movie!” Why wouldn’t you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger keep being The Terminator?
Laeta Kalogridis: You didn’t want to see him recast as so many websites kept saying? “Who are they going to cast as the T-800? Who will it be?” Well, it might still be Arnold.
Patrick Lussier: Our second choice was Wallace Shawn.
Laeta Kalogridis: Yes, inconceivable.
Franchise Fred: But this is sincere, that I always want to see more story. Do you understand the appeal of that, that even if a story ends you can always start another one?
Patrick Lussier: Yes, the characters don’t stop.
Franchise Fred: Right, it’s not like nothing interesting ever happens to them again!
Laeta Kalogridis: That’s very, very true.
Patrick Lussier: I think The Dark Tower has a great line at the end. “I know I can’t say they lived happily ever after, but I can say they lived.” So that’s what happens. People live. They keep going. The characters keep going in our minds. How do they continue what their journeys are? We always imagine so having a franchise allows you to go, “Well, here’s what they could have done.”
Franchise Fred: Did you have to recap time travel from a new perspective, the guys in the future?
Patrick Lussier: Time travel is a…
Laeta Kalogridis: Time travel’s a bitch.
Patrick Lussier: Is a nefarious, evil bitch indeed.
Laeta Kalogridis: Actually, I would say the thing about time travel and movies generally, with or without time travel is that plot holes will exist in any film. WIth time travel it’s just exacerbated. It’s just a question of what you can and can’t accept. What can you live with? What will viewers enjoy? What can they look past as all great movies have these moments where if you really look closely at it, you think, “Wait a minute, T-1000 is made completely out of liquid metal. How did he travel back? He’s dead. He’s not organic.” And yet you see him in the time sphere, very clearly stated in canon, nothing dead will go. Wait, what? But you don’t care. You don’t care because at the time you first see him, he looks human and by the time you realize he’s metal, that part’s so far back you don’t care anymore.
Franchise Fred: When you came up with “nexus point in the time flow,” was that the key to figuring out this story?
Laeta Kalogridis: I like the idea of nexus points myself.
Patrick Lussier: So do I.
Laeta Kalogridis: I think mostly what I like is the idea that some events and some individuals, because I think that this is actually true in life, are disproportionately influential in terms of what happens in the world. And I think Sarah and John and Kyle are all examples of how a single individual can matter so massively to the core. So it’s a very Foundation idea. It’s a very Isaac Asimov idea that all it takes to alter the course of history is one or two extreme outliers. But that’s what nexus points are about. They’re not just events but the people, the very unusual people who cause those events. That’s why John Connor is a nexus point himself. What happens to him, because of what he’s able to do, what he is. Because he’s an outlier.
Franchise Fred: The smile is a famous deleted scene from Terminator 2. Did you definitely want to get it in the final cut of Terminator: Genisys?
Laeta Kalogridis: That’s why it’s there. It’s a love letter to people who missed the scenes as much as we did. And I know why they weren’t in the theatrical release but they were so good. They were so good.
Franchise Fred: But if it didn’t work in that film, you got to craft a way where it would now.
Laeta Kalogridis: And is it shorthand for the people who recognize it to know okay, well, his learning chip has been switched on. This machine is adjusting, adapting and changing.
Patrick Lussier: You get the feeling that with Sarah and Terminator/Guardian’s life together, that as much as she’s been learning how to take care of herself and how to become a soldier from him, he’s been learning how to be human from her. Right even to his nickname being called Pops. There’s a whole thing of their sharing of information.
Franchise Fred: Did you specify The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” in the script? Could it have been Guns n’ Roses?
Laeta Kalogridis: Oh, back and forth actually on lots of different choices musically, so we didn’t specify The Ramones. No, we didn’t although that conversation just kept coming up about what it was going to be. I wouldn’t have gone for Guns n’ Roses, maybe I would’ve. I’m not sure. Guns n’ Roses is so associated with the franchise.
Franchise Fred: It is John’s song though, and The Ramones are Sarah’s.
Patrick Lussier: We had more conversations about George Thoroughgood.
Laeta Kalogridis: That’s is actually one that kept coming up, “Bad to the Bone.”
Patrick Lussier: We discussed that. It didn’t ultimately make it in but that was one that was much more discussed as the sort of iconic song of the franchise.
Franchise Fred: When you’re writing dialogue for the T-800 to say, are you conscious of what could become a one liner?
Laeta Kalogridis: I think you are and you aren’t. Sometimes trying to create one-liners is…
Patrick Lussier: It’s more of a cadence. It’s more about trying to find the cadence that both Jim and Arnold had created in the first two movies that then continued of trying to be true to the cadence. I think especially in the first movie and the second movie, so many of the one-liners may not have been intended that but literally came out of the cadence of the character.
Laeta Kalogridis: The first movie, “I’ll be back,” the line was “I will be back” and they had to shorten it. The story I’ve always heard is they shortened it because it was a little more difficult to pronounce. They did it on set and at the time, there wasn’t an intention for it to become what it became whereas “Hasta la vista, baby” was totally, utterly intentional. So I don’t know, I think it’s a balance. On the one hand, you try and write stuff that fits him and you see what pops. On the other hand, depending on who you are, I think “Hasta la vista, baby” worked so well because it was tied into what John had taught him. John had taught him those words and they were very much a reflection of their relationship and that’s really the reason it worked in the movie.
Franchise Fred: How trippy is it that you write action and dialogue for The Terminator and then Arnold does it?
Laeta Kalogridis: Ridiculously trippy.
Patrick Lussier: I’ll tell you, the day on set when he was in the helicopter and he says, “I’ll be back,” it’s like you’re in the best reunion tour of The Eagles, The Who, Led Zeppelin or whatever and it’s it’s like, “Oh my God, he’s playing the greatest hits.” People applaud afterwards. Everybody in the crew had grown up with that and to hear him do it in that context as that character in that moment was an amazing thing to be part of.
Laeta Kalogridis: I felt very lucky to be there.
Franchise Fred: You don’t control the trailers or poster, but would you have liked to keep the twist a secret?
Laeta Kalogridis: It’s almost an impossible question to answer in this day and age, because we came up making movies in a time, we’re the transitional generation in some ways because we remember both how it was before and experience how it is now. When there was a time when you actually could release a movie and not have it be spoiled.
Patrick Lussier: Think of The Crying Game, how so much of the marketing of that film was “Don’t tell once you know.” The posters didn’t say, “She’s a dude.” That wasn’t how that movie was presented. Certainly even movies like Scream, the mystery of who the killer was was kept hidden for a really long time. But remember when T2 came out. Remember two or three days before the movie opened, they announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger was playing the hero of the movie.
Franchise Fred: It was longer than that. It was in the trailers.
Patrick Lussier: And you were just like, “Whaaaa?” Whereas if you watch the film, if you had watched that film not knowing that, what a different experience that would’ve been because there would’ve been a complete “what the f****?”
Laeta Kalogridis: It’s an impossible question to answer though in the sense of what I do isn’t marketing. So I can’t tell you in terms of the calculus of will more people come because they know the twist or will more people come if they don’t know the twist. I don’t know the answer to that.
Franchise Fred: By Terminator 3 Skynet went from a physical place to online. We didn’t call it the cloud yet, but that’s what it was. Now it’s an app, so does that speak to how real technology has evolved outside of the movies?
Laeta Kalogridis: The interesting thing about the fact that Danny refers to it as an app is that of course it’s not. Of course it’s way more than that, but we fool ourselves, and that I think is part of the modern day technology idea. We fool ourselves into thinking that the things that we create are much more limited and benign than they are.
Franchise Fred: Listen, our apps are collecting our data.
Patrick Lussier: Collecting your data, collecting your location and what they’re capable of, how they’re capable of being used, but I can play Angry Birds on it. How can that be a problem?
Laeta Kalogridis: Programs that are independent agents that make real time decisions in the financial world for example. Those programs are acting autonomously because of the necessity for speed in trades, the microsecond necessity for speed. But you’ve heard of the idea of the Skynet effect, because of course Jim has, like everything else, transformed the way that technology is viewed because he’s a visionary. The Skynet Effect is the idea that independent programs with different aspects of intelligence could actually aggregate independently online and form an intelligence themselves. It’s very Ghost in the Shell because the idea of Ghost in the Shell was that the first machine intelligence is accidentally created, not intentionally created. That’s what the Skynet Effect is. Keep making all these autonomous programs and what if they all get together, have a barbecue and turn into Skynet?
Patrick Lussier: Because everything’s connected and everything’s linked. The more they do for us, the less we police them.
Franchise Fred: How did it feel to get James Cameron’s endorsement?
Laeta Kalogridis: It was an extremely generous and unbelievably kind thing to do.
Patrick Lussier: Amazing to get that endorsement. To even think that we came close to living up to [his movies].
Laeta Kalogridis: All you want to do is create something that feels like it can live in the same universe and be worthy of the IP. But the IP all came from his brain. It’s all something that he created out of whole cloth which is stunning when you stop and live with it for a second. You realize that all of that world came out of that mind. It’s pretty amazing.