EXCLUSIVE: Things are starting to move on The Terminator franchise, but a plan by rights owner Megan Ellison and Arnold Schwarzenegger to put the first of two pictures in production for the fourth quarter of 2012 has forced director Justin Lin to drop out. But borrowing the film’s signature phrase “I’ll be back,” Lin has left the door open to a return if Ellison and Schwarzenegger will wait until he completes the sixth installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise.
The Terminator franchise has been under the radar since Ellison’s Annapurna Films spent over $20 million to buy film rights during the Cannes Film Festival, with Lin and Schwarzenegger attached. Lin wants to make the film but simply won’t be available, the same situation that prompted him to withdraw from Summit’s Highlander. Lin has been working closely with Schwarzenegger and Ellison to figure a way to end the James Cameron-hatched battle between humans and the cyborgs of Skynet. It would require some effort for Ellison to get the film underway by late next year. She hasn’t got a script and I don’t think she’s even hired a screenwriter yet. She also hasn’t set a studio partner, even though several are interested.
There is some reason to move quickly. One of the caveats involved in the rights deal with Pacificor (which spent $29.5 million to win the rights in bankruptcy court) is that certain rights revert back to Cameron due to a stipulation in copyright law that if you assign your rights, you get them back in 35 years. Cameron assigned his rights to Hemdale, and the North American rights will revert back to him in 2018. Even that part of the story has gotten intriguing: While Cameron washed his hands of the Terminator franchise years ago, his close friend Schwarzenegger has dragged him into a brainstorming meeting or two, even though he is not officially involved. It’s also hard to imagine that Ellison can’t make two films and satisfactorily end the series by the time that rights situation develops.