After springing from the fertile imagination of young filmmaker
James Cameron, The Terminator (1984) created a phenomenon
that launched not only Cameron's career, but also that of his robotic
star, Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Seven years later,
the Terminator returned in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and
now the Terminator has returned once again in Terminator 3: Rise
of the Machines.
Shot by Don Burgess, ASC and directed by Jonathan Mostow, T3 picks
up 10 years after the cyborg's last visit to pre-apocalypse Los Angeles.
John Connor (John Stahl), the future leader of the free world, is
in his twenties and waiting for his destiny to unfold. The first
two Terminator films established that Connor will eventually lead
a revolution to save mankind - after the machines rebel against their
human masters - but as T3 opens, none of that has taken place.
Although Burgess and Mostow screened the previous films before embarking
on T3, the cinematographer says they weren't interested in
trying to match the cold, blue look established by cinematographer
Adam Greenberg, ASC and Cameron in those films. Instead, they wanted
to give the new chapter its own style. "T3 has its steely-cold
moments, but more and more I found myself reaching for warmer colors
- more sodium-vapor or fire sources - that led us away from that
look," says Burgess. "When we introduce the Terminator,
there's a large explosion and lots of fire, in addition to sodium-vapor
lights all around, and Arnold comes into a very warm, orange-yellow
light. We kept that look for a lot of the picture. It was a nice
thread, because some of that sequence was shot on location and some
was done on stage, and I was able to keep the thread of color alive
to make the two feel like the same place."
To develop the look of T3, Burgess "sat down with Jonathan
to get his feelings and ideas about the type of movie he envisioned.
I then met with the production designer and started looking at the
locations that had been picked and the designs that had been developed.
We boiled all of that information down and came to grips with an
overall approach. Especially on a film like this one, where we have
reality-based elements and science-fiction elements, we had to establish
the rules for the world in which were going to tell this story. In
part, the story depends on our ability to believe that this could
all happen today in Los Angeles, so [we knew] the cinematography
had to be based in reality. It's the right choice for this film because
it allows the audience to willingly suspend disbelief."
Setting a new look for the Terminator himself, Burgess used cross-back
key lights to help chisel out Schwarzenegger's hard features, along
with a high, soft fill. The latter was usually a 20K with a large
Chimera softbank raised on a super-crank stand and tipped down at
about a 45-degree angle on the actor's face, about 2 1/2 to 3 stops
under key. "I reached for 20Ks quite a bit on this show," confesses
Burgess. "We used them instead of 18Ks for backlight all the
time, and they were gelled with either 1/8 CTB or our sodium-vapor
color pack [Rosco Calcolor 30 Yellow and Lee 147 Apricot]. I also
used Maxi-Brutes with Firestarters, especially in scenes with smoke
or fire, because as soon as you introduce smoke, you need a harder
source to penetrate and punch through from the background."
One of the most daunting tasks in mounting the production was its
extensive prep, which lasted eight weeks. "The biggest challenge
on these movies is the preproduction phase - breaking the script
down into storyboards, breaking those storyboards down into each
element of each frame, and then figuring out how each element should
be created," says Burgess, who went through an equally painstaking
prep on Spider-Man. "What can be a location? What has
to be a set? What can be computer-generated? You have to go through
almost every shot, and it's very tedious and time-consuming. But
those decisions have to be made correctly up front, or you get in
a lot of trouble later on.
"Jonathan hadn't directed a project of this nature before," he
adds, "so it was my job to do what I could to guide him into
the best decisions during prep. Over the years, especially while
shooting a lot of second-unit work, I've learned many tricks about
how to create illusions with camera speed or specific focal-length
lenses, [how to use] mechanical rigs to physically integrate actors
into the action while still keeping them safe - whatever it takes
to make the best shot we can in the safest and most efficient manner
In one of the film's chase sequences, the villain Terminatrix, the
T-X (Kristanna Loken), commandeers a large construction crane in
pursuit of Connor. The sequence called for more than 1,000 shots,
and the production built a three-block stretch of suburban streets
and buildings outside a production facility in Downey, California.
The scene was set at night, but the filmmakers quickly realized they
wouldn't have time to light and shoot so many night shots, so they
decided to change it to a day sequence. During one point in the action,
the hero Terminator (Schwarzenegger) grabs the large hook at the
end of the construction-crane arm as he attempts to rescue Connor
from the evil T-X. Burgess suggested actually hanging Schwarzenegger
from the hook. "We try to connect the actors to the action as
much as we can," he says. "That means we have to create
mechanical effects to make it appear as if they're deep in harm's
way without actually putting them in jeopardy. After the scene was
storyboarded and we saw what was going to happen, I said, 'Hey, I
know how we can put Arnold in the middle of this and make him look
like he's really hanging on.'"