The Salvation of Terminator Actors

In "Terminator Salvation," actors Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, and Common all play characters that orbit the central roles of Terminator Marcus Wright and John Connor, forming the latter's inner circle. They recently talked to CBR News about their roles in the film, which opens May 21.

Yelchin, in some ways, had the greatest challenge. He portrays a teenaged Kyle Reese, the man who will one day go back into time and father John Connor. "For me, there's a huge iconic character to work with and to interpret. So it was challenge, but it was a really fun challenge and it was something that I really looked forward to doing," Yelchin said. Asked if he contacted Michael Biehn, the actor who portrayed Kyle in the first Terminator, Yelchin replied, "I haven't, actually, no. I wonder if he'd just kick my ass."

Yelchin also appears on movie screens this year re-creating the role of Pavel Checkov in "Star Trek." The actor said that experience gave him some perspective in approaching another classic genre character. "It's a different process from creating a character because you have a set of guidelines that you use and you want to capture the spirit of the original and honor, but you don't want to imitate it. In terms of 'Star Trek,' you don't want to caricature it. Here, there's really no chance for caricature ... here because it's a radically younger character."

Instead, Yelchin sought to "capture the spirit of the original and honor it" but not to imitate it. He looked back at the original "Terminator" film. "It was fun watching T1 -- which I was already a fan of and loved -- and seeing [Kyle Reese] and saying 'I'm going to use this for this and use that for that.'"

Yelchin zeroed in on Kyle's vulnerability, paranoia, and anger. "I noticed he runs a lot. There's a very kind of primal quality to [Kyle.] At first he runs through J.C. Penny. There's a primal quality that I thought was important that he'd even have more when he was younger because he didn't have the military background. It should be very animal like and just always [feel he's] hunted."

"Salvation" also marks the first gun training the young actor received for a role. "I didn't get a phaser or anything on 'Star Trek,'" Yelchin explained. "Here I had a gun and a grenade launcher, so no problem."

The training also included a war game where Yelchin attempted to elude Moon Bloodgood. "I was really intensely focused on trying to stay very primal and sneak around. I looked up and Moon's got me right [in her sights]," he recalled.

Bloodgood, who shares the majority of her scenes with Sam Worthington, said the two actors worked out their characters' relationship while the script was still being rewritten. "We were still trying to figure out the script, so we still had to come on set and a lot of what we first did was the action stuff," she explained. "Then, developing the characters, we sort of rushed into it. And I think Sam and I naturally just have a banter. I have a tom-boyish quality; he's kind of a smart ass."

Jokingly, Yelchin added, "Kind of effeminate, Sam."

While Yelchin has two big movies out within weeks of each other, he said there is no sense of divided loyalties. "These movies are very different; two totally different philosophies, two totally different looks and for me two totally different characters. 'Star Trek' is a universe of optimism and just sort of humor and joy and this is a universe of paranoia and a very sort of dystopian vision of our future and just two totally different ways of looking at the world. If you look at the originals, Shatner is nothing like Michael Biehn."

Bryce Dallas Howard, whose father Ron's film "Angels & Demons" opened the week before "Terminator Salvation," said there was no real feeling of competition. "Both films did their jobs. In that case, you've done the best job that you can and how audiences respond is out of your control." She did joke, "My dad has been asking incessantly about ['Terminator Salvation']. 'So, how is the film?' I think there's a slight agenda there."

Asked what is appealing to audiences about the dystopian future presented in "Terminator," Yelchin replied, "I think a dystopian future poses a lot of questions about the nature of mankind; especially in the face of mankind being overcome by technology." He tapped a nearby phone and continued, "Everybody has cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones, I don't know what Twitter is, but there's Twitter. Everyone talks about it, but I don't know what the hell it is. It poses a question about our dependence on that technology and how that technology actually defines who we are."

Common suggested a positive effect in losing some of our modern conveniences. "I was just talking to one my friends about how kids don't even go to the playground and do the things that they used to or have the patience to do certain things because everything is so immediate," he explained. "I think it would slow down our anxiety a little. If you think about the time before we had cell phones or even beepers ... so many things get lost in text messages."

Bloodgood added, "He does not text."

"I think it's important we find a balance," continued Common. "But I think it does take away from a little bit of just soul to soul connection that we have as human beings."

While "Terminator Salvation" is special effects-heavy, Howard said, "It was fun! They build the world. It wasn't one of those experiences where you step onto a stage and it's just green everywhere."

Indeed, the film is largely composed of practical effects shot live for the camera as opposed to computer effects added later. "I think that creates a tremendous advantage not only for the performances, but for the audiences because they can feel that it's actually something real that was captured on celluloid," Howard said.

"Terminator Salvation" opens May 21.

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