How New 'Terminator' Will Handle an Older Arnold Schwarzenegger

James Cameron and director Tim Miller also confirm the film will take place on the same timeline as the first two movies and offer insight into their philosophy on the film's antagonist.

By the time he's back for the 2019 installment of the franchise, 35 years will have passed since 1984's The Terminator.

The next Terminator movie is reuniting Arnold Schwarzenegger, 70, with Linda Hamilton for the first time since 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and director Tim Miller and series creator James Cameron say they are ready to embrace the age of the T-800 and Sarah Connor.

Miller and Cameron, whose movie will act as though only the first two films exist, won't specify how an older T-800 fits into the plot, but they note it makes sense that the flesh outside of the Terminator's endo-skeleton would age. 

"So, obviously he’s one that’s been in action and operation for a long time. And that’s all I want to say about the actual story part of it. But it’s actually quite intrinsic to the story, that he’s subject to the frailties of the flesh," said Cameron during a conversation that was used for this week's Hollywood Reporter cover story. "In fact, in the first film, the flesh is burned away completely but that endo-skeleton … has a power cell that will last 100 years. So, he’s still got 30, 29 years."
The idea of the human skin aging was also used in 2015's ill-fated Terminator: Genisys, in which Schwarzenegger's version of the T-800 had been around since Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor was a child, explaining why the Terminator looked older in the film's 1984.

Miller noted that just as the Terminator's body will have changed, so too will his mind.

"Emotionally and intellectually he will have evolved. They’re learning machines. But I think that’s a way to make it different than it was," said Miller, who assembled a writers room to plot out a potential trilogy. "I think we should embrace his age. And that’s what’s going to make it interesting and fresh for the fans. And I can’t tell you, but man, some of the scenes that the writers wrote to embrace that idea are fucking fantastic."

Cameron and Miller's film will act as though only The Terminator and Terminator 2 exist, ignoring 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, 2009's Terminator: Salvation and Genisys.

Terminator 2 ends with the T-800 both learning a lesson ("I know now why you cry") and sacrificing himself so that the future might live without the threat of Skynet. The pair did not say whether somehow the T-800 from T2 survived or Schwarzenegger is playing yet another Terminator, smart money seems to be on the latter. Miller also specified that this indeed takes place in the same timeline of the first two movies, not some sort of alternate reality.

"I don’t believe in alternate realities. I think that takes the stakes away from some things. It’s not like every time something new happens, it spins out a new reality," said Miller. In order to make the stakes real for our characters, you have to look at our time as the only time. Maybe it stretches backward and forward. Maybe we don’t understand completely how it works. But this is not an alternate timeline."

A hallmark of the Terminator franchise has been the abilities of the antagonist. In particular, the shape-shifting metallic effects for Judgment Day's T-1000 (Robert Patrick) were groundbreaking at the time, though Cameron is mum on whether a similar innovation will be made for the next villain ("We could tell you about the new Terminator, but that would spoil the fun," said Cameron.)

Miller said he feels special effects can at times be "a trap for filmmakers," noting you have to set rules for yourself to keep it grounded.

"Believe me, there was no lack of things up on the whiteboard. He could do this and he could make a marching band out of endoplasmic metal, but who the fuck cares? I don’t want to see that. So we’re trying to keep it grounded like Jim did for Terminator," said Miller.

For Cameron, a key to the success of T2 were the rules surrounding the T-1000, who the film established could only form blades or stabbing weapons, but he couldn't form guns.

"It's when you break the rules and just make stuff up and pull it out of your ass in Act Three and people feel like they’re on shifting ground. But if you just set out the rules, and you play by those rules. Then, I think it just works better. People are more engaged," said Cameron.

Paramount is releasing the untitled Terminator movie on July 26, 2019.

Watch the full conversation with Miller and Cameron here.