'Terminator' Surprise: Edward Furlong to Return as John Connor in 'Dark Fate'

The actor will be back as the character for the first time in 27 years.

They're back. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton got a hero's welcome in Hall H for the first major panel of this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

Series creator and Terminator: Dark Fate producer James Cameron kicked off the event via live video chat from the New Zealand set of his upcoming Avatar sequels. He came with the news that actor Edward Furlong, who played John Connor in 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, would be back as the character for the first time in 27 years. The actor had largely fallen out of Hollywood after dealing with addiction issues, and so far he has not appeared in marketing materials, including the footage screened for the packed Hall H presentation. 

Dark Fate, which director Tim Miller confirmed will be rated-R, also sees Linda Hamilton return for the first time since 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and is billed as a direct followup to that film, ignoring the three Terminator movies that have hit since. Cameron noted that he wrote Hamilton a long email, "rambling" detailing both pros and cons for why she should join the project.

"I think the key point in the pro column was people love you in this character," said Cameron. "It was so iconic and I think the fans just want to know what's she like now? What's her life been like in the meantime?"

Cameron produces with Deadpool filmmaker Tim Miller directing a cast that also includes Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta.

The panel showed off an extended scene with a Terminator (Luna) hunting down a young woman named Dani (Reyes) under the protection of an enhanced human from the future named Grace (Davis). Sarah Connor saves the day at the last minute, coming in with guns blazing. 

They don't know who she is, and later in a safe house she explains her backstory in a bit of dialogue that reveals this is not the first Terminator Connor has fought since her T2 days.

"My name is Sarah Connor. Aug. 29, 1997 was supposed to be judgment day. My son and I stopped that. We changed the future. Saved 3 billion lives. You're welcome," she says. "Since then, I hunt Terminators. Enough of a resume for you?"

Other revelations from the footage, which has not been made available online, include that Schwarzenegger's T-800 goes by the name Carl. He appears to be fitting into human society, living in a cabin and even owning a dog. Sarah Connor is ever suspicious of him, saying, "I'm never going to fucking call you Carl," and later telling him, "When this is all over, I'm going to kill you." 

Though Terminator: Salvation (2009) and Terminator: Genisys (2015) were rated PG-13, Miller said the Dark Fate will be R-rated, because the fans demanded it. But there were discussions about it being PG-13. 

"I had a whole other plan in case it didn’t go R. The thing is the DNA of Terminator is an R-rated fucking movie," said Miller, who added part of that plan just included shooting lots of takes of Hamilton saying the F-word.

Miller teased that the crux of the film deals with the consequences of Sarah Connor's T2 choice to try to destroy CyberDyne and thus prevent judgment day.

"In the Terminator universe, there is only one timeline. If you change something in the past, the time wave moves forward and changes the future," Miller noted.

Hamilton spoke about training hard for to get back into the action franchise shape.

"I worked really hard for a good year, diet and all of that to sort of get trim and get as far into the character as I could physically," said Hamilton. "But one day I woke up and I go you know what, I can no longer worry about trying to be what I was, because I am so much more than I was."

1984's The Terminator launched the career of Cameron, who would go on to become one of the biggest filmmakers in the world with films such as Titanic and Avatar. In addition to Judgment Day, films that followed included non-Cameron movies such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator: Salvation (2009) and Terminator: Genisys (2015). A TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, ran from 2008-09.

A running joke at the panel — which featured plenty of F-bombs, was that Miller would say the word at least five times. Schwarzenegger collected $20 from co-star Luna, who lost his bet that Miller would keep it to under five. 

"Tim loves talking about it. I love doing it," Schwarzenegger said, who added a joke about keeping that $20 considering how well the economy is doing under President Donald Trump.

Terminator: Dark Fate opens Nov. 1 from Paramount and Skydance.