Paramount's Terminator: Dark Fate was one of 2019's most pleasant surprises, bringing back both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton and thrusting them into an all-new thrill ride of an adventure that picked up the action thirty-something years after the legendary events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Ahead of this week's 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray launch of the Tim Miller-directed film, we were granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with star Gabriel Luna (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and talk about his experience bringing the ultra deadly Rev-9 to life, building a strong relationship with the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger, performing two roles as both versions of the split endoskeleton, his canceled Ghost Rider series and a whole lot more.
ROHAN: We actually crossed paths at CinemaCon last year, and it was pretty evident then that you had built a pretty strong rapport with the cast and especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Could you maybe speak on building that relationship with him and training together?
GABRIEL LUNA: Yeah, absolutely. Our first month together, where he showed up - he was in the hair and makeup trailer and I kind of walk in to say hello, he’s speaking with Susana, one of our makeup artists, and he’s signing a photo of him and her father, who was the makeup artist on Conan and we were filming in the south of Spain, which is where that shot that film back in the ‘80s.
I just found it so incredible that because of his great career, he had worked with an entire generation of Spanish makeup artists. *laughs* It was just kind of a cool moment to see her share her love for Arnold and his work and the fact that he had worked with her father there in Spain many, many years ago.
Then, after he was done, he turns to me and I walk up and he goes, “look at this guy… we’re going to be ripped, we’re going to do biceps.,” and it just struck me as just this guy, bigger than life, and his first words to me were ones of encouragement and ones that were acknowledging the effort I had put in up to that point, trying to get my body where it needed to be, and then it just grew from there.
At first, I’m trying to give the performance I need to give and at the same time, trying to keep my cool around one of my great heroes, one of the greatest movie icons in the world. So, I’m just doing my work, just trying to prove my merit and live up to his example and I think he started to notice that and he would say, “you need to use your body more” and gave me so much guidance and words of encouragement throughout the shoot. It just really made me happy. Once we got into the gym, it just solidified the bond. We learned more about each other, our backgrounds as athletes and kind of the same kind of work ethic and the amount of time we put into the gym. I think that really solidified our friendship and it really meant a lot to me, having been just an admirer of his for so long.
While we’re shooting the movie, we fought each other, you know the Rev-9 versus the OG T-800, and of course, we’re messing around a lot, flying around on wires and doing all kinds of stuff. Then, the movie ends and you get to know - a lot of times you do these films and really get close with some people and then it ends and maybe you cross paths again in the future or maybe you don’t. - There’s only a few friendships you really keep from film to film and the fact that Arnold wanted to keep in touch and has kept in touch is really extraordinary to me.
So, yeah, we’ve done a lot together from getting ready for the role to following his fitness rules to attending parties together, attending his parties… meeting all of his children and a lot of his friends. I’m just very thankful for the invitation being extended my way. It’s always a learning process being with him because he’s one of the greatest movie stars ever and just being around him and learning from his experiences, is just really, really great. He has a lot of great information to share, just on how to be successful in this business and in life in general.
ROHAN: Yeah, Arnold’s a legend, it was really great seeing you guys on-screen together.
You started shooting for this maybe a year or two after you wrapped your arc on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How much muscle did you end up putting on, because you looked considerably more jacked as the Rev-9 than you did as Robbie.
BEN: Oh yeah, in the end, I think it was about seventeen pounds. I went from 172 to 189. That was only in about three-and-a-half months time. I wish I had a little more time to get even bigger. I started training right when I auditioned, right after the first audition, so I had some time, but I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to get my body right so fast, to make the gains I needed in the amount of time I had. So, once I got the proper nutrition and the trainer, and of course, Arnold shows up in June, then my growth just accelerated, started growing like a weed.
That was something I didn’t realize early, just how much I had to consume to get that big while I was training alone, because without the nutritionist and the trainers, I was still busting my ass in the gym, but nothing that significant was really happening. So, once I got the science of it all down and started working with all these really great fitness professionals, my body started making some big gains.
It was great man, I was jacked.
ROHAN:Yeah, man, definitely. Did you end up keeping most of that on?
GABRIEL: I kept about half of it, half of it to stay fit. It’s just too hard to eat that much all the time though.
ROHAN: When filming, were you performing as both split versions of the Rev-9 - the human-looking half and the endoskeleton half?
GABRIEL: I was, yeah, I’m actually going to post a picture of it today (01/27) to celebrate the release of the Blu-ray tomorrow. It’s a really great picture of me and Chris McGuire, our a-cam operator - he’s the guy who did that awesome steadicam shot in True Detective a few years back following Matthew McConaughey - I love Chris, love his work, and that’s one of great things about working on these big studio films, you get to work with the best men and women in the business. I got to work with a lot of them. That includes Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and they came to me and Tim came to me, and were like “we want you to give us information for how to build this character, how you want to play him,” and I was like, of course, because that’s why I’m here, I want to do everything, absolutely everything that the studio will let me do. Of course, you have to pace yourself. You can’t take all the knocks because as the bad guy, I was taking a lot more incoming blows than I was used to.
So, yeah, the endoskeleton is me. There were a few moment where I had to actually be the exo, so my stunt double - Jason Chu or Morgan Benoit or Micah Karns - one of the those guys would assume the suit, but there were a lot of times where I played the one part one day and then later played the other part and they put them together on screen.
Anytime you see the Rev-9 on screen alone, that’s my body, those were my movements and choices I made with the character. I was really happy to do it, those were some of the best days of the shoot. It was really interesting to me to be really expressive with your body, to be able to convey all that without really being able to say much.
The movie has already come out, so we can talk about the end of the film, but at the end of the film, when all that’s left is the endoskeleton and it’s starting to break and it’s malfunctioning, there’s a lot of physical work to be done and I almost felt like I was putting on a stage play for the crew, my own sort of weird Kabuki theatre play, dragging myself across the room, eternally in pursuit of the target. That’s something I really enjoyed about doing the film.
ROHAN: Yeah, you gave a really great performance and that was an awesome finale. The whole ending actually felt very T2, with sort of a similar setting.
GABRIEL: Yeah, it was always going to end with all of us in a smoking factory, on an assembly line or something, just on fire. You gotta keep the bonds true to the original. But, yeah, I really enjoyed that too. It felt accurate, a nice parallel to the others.
ROHAN: When you first landed the role of the Rev-9, how much background information about the character and about Legion were you given? Did you get to come up with your distinct character traits mostly on your own or did Jim Cameron and Tim Miller have some sort of guidelines they handed you on Day 1?
GABRIEL: Tim had a little bible with some backstory and the history of Carl and the T-800s that had been sent back previously. For the most part, I didn’t delve too heavy into all that, I had my - I’ve been asked a couple times about a potential continuation of the series and how does the Rev-9 fit in that scenario and if he were to be in a potential sequel, it would be the telling of the story that I sorta had in my head when coming up with the character, which would be that the Rev-9 was sourced from the energy or likeness of potentially a great leader, a great human warrior that had been fighting against the machines in the future and was ultimately absorbed and his identity assumed, utilized and weaponized by the machines to use against the humans.
For me, that’s what he was, one that’s capable and a good combatant, a good weapons technician. All these things were part of his make-up and then exploited by the machines and made him a very effective killing machine. So, in my mind, that’s who he was and in those brief moments of humanity the Rev-9 displays, you get to kind of see what the human version might’ve been like to some degree. I just tried to be as real as possible in those vulnerable moments.
ROHAN: I just want to ask you one last question - are you allowed to speak on what happened with your Ghost Rider series, which I think a lot of people were very excited for when it was announced, but then it was very abruptly canceled in September with very little explanation.
I just wanted to get your thoughts and feelings about what went down now that it’s been a few months since that announcement.
GABRIEL: Yeah, yeah, I wish I had more information because I was deep into preparation and I had been preparing myself - my mind, my body - for that part for a few years after I’d done it on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I had basically entered into a holding contract where I was waiting for us to do the show and then a lot happened that wasn’t in our control unfortunately, namely there was the merging of the television and film divisions over at Marvel. A lot of stuff was happening with that, stuff that I couldn’t control and I think in the restructuring of all of that, something with our production just fell by the wayside.
But, that’s the business, man. That’s just the nature of it and I shared that in my response when it first happened, I think on the day that it happened. Even with all the work I put in and we had all put in, it could still go away, the next day’s not guaranteed. You just gotta roll with the punches and be proud of what you made, which I am. I’m very proud of what we did with that character, to introduce a Mexican-American superhero, but not just a superhero, one that was a big icon, a tentpole for Marvel. So, there was a lot that we accomplished. There was so much more that we could’ve accomplished, but those dominoes didn't fall in our favor.
It’s all set up now for the future though, so I think they’re probably trying to do something with him, trying to really establish where they want him to go, maybe into the films or something. I don’t know. It’s all up in the air right now with that whole side of it.
But, yeah, thank you for saying that. I love Ghost Rider and I wish I could’ve gotten to play him again, but it is what it is. I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does really well on streaming, so people still get to see the work we put in, which makes me happy. That’s just good stuff.
Linda Hamilton (“Sarah Connor”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“T-800”) return in their iconic roles in Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron and David Ellison. Following the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator: Dark Fate also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta. Director
Terminator: Dark Fate features:
Director: Tim Miller
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800/Carl
Mackenzie Davis as Grace
Natalia Reyes as Dani Ramos
Gabriel Luna as Rev-9
Diego Boneta as Miguel Ramos
Edward Furlong as John Connor
Steven Cree as Rigby
Enrique Arce as Mr. Ramos
Terminator: Dark Fate is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD!