Tim Miller and James Cameron

Leading up to the release of Terminator: Dark Fate, there was plenty of hype trying to get audiences into theaters for the latest installment of the long-running sci-fi franchise. But along with the typical publicity fluff trying to sell the movie, producer James Cameron got rather honest about the creative struggles in the editing room thanks to having a different perspective than director Tim Miller. But now it’s the director’s turn to talk about what went wrong with the movie (and with his relationship with Cameron) now that the movie has bombed.

Tim Miller was recently a guest on KCRW’s The Business podcast (via IndieWire), and he was a little more blunt about the creative clashing that took place between himself and James Cameron behind the scenes. First of all, Miller isn’t entirely sure why the movie ended up being a box office failure:

“I’m sure we could write a book on why it didn’t work. I’m still not sure and I’m processing, but I’m very proud of the movie.”

Considering the critical reaction to the sequel was fairly positive, it really is a shame that the box office returns likely mean we won’t get to see the rest of what would have been a new trilogy. It’s likely due to the bad taste left in the mouth of Terminator fans by both Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys.

No matter what the reason is, Miller sounds like he might be more frustrated by how difficult it was to work with James Cameron. Miller first explained their disagreement on fundamental plot points in the movie. For example, Skynet ends up being replaced with Legion, another dangerous artificial intelligence gone wrong. When it comes to Legion, Miller and Cameron disagreed on how things in the new future time should play out with Legion:

“[I suggested] Legion is so powerful, the only way to beat it is going back in time and strangle it in the crib. Jim says, ‘What’s dramatic about the humans losing?’ And I say, ‘Well, What’s dramatic about the humans winning and they just need to keep on winning?’ I like a last stand. It’s not his thing.”

Miller says there were also several small details, such as lines that he felt were “poetic and beautiful,” which ended up on the cutting room floor. That explains James Cameron’s description of the movie being “forged in fire.” But Cameron may not have been the only one to disagree with Miller’s choice in that regard. On the press tour, Dark Fate star Linda Hamilton remembered Miller wanting to give Sarah Connor lines to make her more relatable as a character, thereby softening her up. So maybe she and Cameron were right to push back in those instances.

In Miller’s mind, he felt an obligation to fight for his vision because “that is what the director is supposed to do.” Unfortunately, both James Cameron and Skydance boss David Ellison had final cut power on this movie, so no matter how hard he fought back, he could always be overruled.

This experience isn’t anything new for Miller. The filmmaker also left the Deadpool franchise where due to creative differences with producer Ryan Reynolds. Miller reiterated on the podcast:

“It became clear that Ryan [Reynolds] wanted to be in control of the franchise. You can work that way as a director, quite successfully, but I can’t. I don’t mind having a debate, but if I can’t win, I don’t want to play. And I don’t think you can negotiate every creative decision, there’s too many to make.”

After these two franchise experiences, Miller says, “I just don’t want to be in a situation again where I don’t have the control to do what I think is right.” But filmmaking is a collaborative process, so is there a chance that Miller is maybe being too stubborn in these creative debates? It’s always hard to tell with situations like this when everyone has their own perspective. But with Miller clashing with two different producers now, it seems like the problem may not be one-sided at all. Maybe we’ll have a better idea after Tim Miller tackles his next movie.

Terminator: Dark Fate is still in some theaters now.

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