EXCLUSIVE: He’s baaack! Arnold Schwarzenegger is attached to star in a rights package that CAA is shopping today that will revive The Terminator, one of Hollywood’s most iconic scifi franchises. The agency is dropping the package on studios this afternoon. I’m told that already, Universal, Sony and Lionsgate, and CBS Films are looking hard at the package. There is no screenwriter attached at this point, and Robert Cort is producing. This is the first real activity on The Terminator project since February 2010, when the property emerged from a bankruptcy auction and into the possession of Pacificor. The Santa Barbara-based hedge fund posted a bid of $29.5 million, with the promise that additional multimillion-dollar payments for each film would go to Halcyon, the company that made the 2009 McG-directed Terminator Salvation. That film starred Sam Worthington as the cyborg and Christian Bale as John Connor, and the storyline launched the battle between Skynet and the human survivors of the apocalypse, the war foreshadowed in James Cameron’s visionary 1984 original film. Halcyon wanted to make several films but ran out of money. At the time of the auction, Pacificor beat out a combined bid by Lionsgate and Sony planning to make back-to-back sequels to bring the franchise to a natural creative conclusion.
While many felt at the time that Pacificor overpaid and that Lionsgate and Sony would have been better matches for the material, CAA has chosen an optimum time to seek a new deal. I wrote back in February that Universal quietly was trying to arrange for Lin to be helmer of the project. At the time, some turned up their noses. Given the strong international grosses being racked up by Fast Five and the expectations for a strong domestic opening this Friday, Lin has a lot of heat. And Schwarzenegger is looking to recapture past marquee glory ending his run as California State Governor. Schwarzenegger has circled several projects including Last Stand for Lionsgate, but here, he’s the star, returning to the signature role that once established him as the world’s biggest movie star.
Much like the Superman property, The Terminator has a ticking clock on the rights. There is a stipulation in copyright law that if you assign your rights, you get them back in 35 years. In this case, Cameron assigned his rights to Hemdale, and the North American rights will revert back to him in 2018. Now, Cameron has more or less washed his hands of the Terminator franchise, but I’m told a new deal would have to be made with him if the plan was to keep making Terminator installments beyond that period. There is plenty of time to make at least two Terminator films before that happens, and that might be sufficient to end the saga that so far has spanned four films. Any financier that makes those films owns them free and clear. Rumor is the project price tag is at least $25 million upfront, against a purchase price near $36 million, not including paydays for Schwarzenegger or Lin. It would stand to reason because of the amount Pacificor paid in 2010 and the interest it has carried since. I’m told there is no set price, but this will likely be a whopping sale by the time the dust has settled and the bidding is complete.
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