EXCLUSIVE: He’ll be back! James Cameron, who regains certain rights to his prized creation The Terminator in 2019, is godfathering a new iteration of the film that might finally get it right in drawing a close in the battle between humans and Skynet. Sources said that Cameron, whose copyright reversion happens 35 years after the release of the 1984 classic, is in early talks with Deadpool director and VFX wiz Tim Miller to direct a reboot and conclusion of one of cinema’s great science fiction tales.
David Ellison, whose Skydance co-financed Terminator Genisys, is bankrolling an exploratory effort that includes engaging some top-flight science fiction authors to find the movie creatively. Ellison still holds many Terminator rights, after his 2013 acquisition from sister and Annapurna principal Megan Ellison. She bought them in 2011 at Cannes for $20 million.
This is the latest development in an ongoing saga. Indeed, The Terminator might have endured the craziest road of any billion-dollar movie franchise, going back to when Cameron — who only had Piranha 2 under his belt as director — sold rights to his scripted project for $1 to producer Gale Anne Hurd, with the stipulation he could not be fired as director. The result was a 1984 sci-fi classic that launched his star and that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cameron came back and topped himself to write and direct he blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but he washed his hands of the property after that. He mentioned to producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna his plans to buy the rights back from Carolco bankruptcy. They beat him to the punch, figuring he would still participate, but Cameron responded by walking away. He didn’t participate in the three films that followed, or the TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The rights ended up with Pacificor, which paid $29.5 million, and Megan Ellison bought them after that company floundered.
Cameron has had zero involvement since then, and has largely been silent. The exception was on the last picture, Terminator Genisys. Perhaps because his old buddy and True Lies star Schwarzenegger had returned as the title character, Cameron was generous in his assessment, reportedly saying that the Alan Taylor-directed film had reinvigorated and created a renaissance for the franchise.
Audiences disagreed and the franchise seemed out of gas when the $155 million film grossed $440 million worldwide, but didn’t do nearly well enough in the U.S. Perhaps Cameron was foreshadowing his own future return to the franchise. Much the way that Sony used to rush Spider-Man movies to stay ahead of a rights-reversion ticking clock, it was always known that Cameron would regain clout eventually. It didn’t seem that Skydance or Paramount had much interest continuing the creative track of the last film, but real creative involvement by Cameron, even if he doesn’t direct, changes the whole ballgame. One only has to look at Aliens, True Lies, Titanic or Avatar to see what he is capable of creatively when he puts his mind to something.
I don’t know anything more than I’ve disclosed here, including whether they reboot the whole thing or pick up from where Cameron left off after the second film. I’ve heard the hope is for Miller to direct whatever they come up with. Cameron is booked for four Avatar sequels, to shoot two at a time. No comment from any of the involved parties.