Arnold Schwarzenegger Vetoed ‘Terminator’ Composer on the ‘Dark Fate’ Moment

Junkie XL, the composer for ‘Terminator: Dark Fate,’ remembers how the actor’s nostalgic interpretation ring false and weighs in on paying homage to the past while injecting it with something fresh.

Tom Holkenborg, a composer, was a touch jittery earlier this week. The premiere of his latest film, Terminator: Dark Fate, had just been canceled due to wildfires raging in the Los Angeles area, and as he sat down for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in his Tarzana, California, studio, he noted that the interview might have to be cut short if he received a text alerting him that the fires were approaching. That text, thankfully, did not arrive.

Holkenborg, popularly known as Junkie XL, has established himself as one of the most prolific cinema composers of our time. He’s composed music for films including Mad Max: Fury Road, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool, Mortal Engines, and Alita: Battle Angel during the last four years.

Holkenborg was reunited with Deadpool director Tim Miller for Dark Fate, giving the composer a front-row seat to the film’s development. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger shared scenes for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and nostalgia were thick in the air on set. The creative team struggled to balance fan service and create new territory. Holkenborg worked on the film’s soundtrack for around a year, and he continued returning to it for Sarah Connor’s cinematic comeback.

Schwarzenegger personally refused a scene in the screenplay that would have seen his T-800 adopt the iconic sunglasses.

“In the screenplay, Arnold comes over to the mirror, takes up the sunglasses, and puts them on,” Holkenborg tells THR. “Arnold was certain that the T-800 wouldn’t be able to achieve it.”

Schwarzenegger leaves his sunglasses behind in the theatrical cut, as per the actor’s remark.

Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) lives with her father and brother in Mexico City in the first installment of Terminator Dark Fate. The video portrays Dani’s existence at home and at the auto factory where she works prior to being pursued by the Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna).

“To underscore Dani’s origins, I really injected the primary terminator theme with Spanish guitars,” Holkenborg explains. “I added Mariachi trumpets to the tune, which play a countermelody.”

Dani is forced to flee with a formidable group led by Sarah Connor (Hamilton), a series veteran, and Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a future-augmented human soldier. Working on Hamilton’s comeback brought Holkenborg special pleasure. “She has so much vitality in her face,” the composer adds, “and her entrance in the picture is spectacular.” “It was a difficult scenario since the music, in this instance, was laying down the red carpet for her.”
Holkenborg worked on the film’s soundtrack for around a year, and he continued returning to it for Sarah Connor’s cinematic comeback.

“We experimented with a variety of approaches. “We attempted the primary Terminator tune, but it didn’t work out,” Holkenborg explains. “On the bass guitar, we ultimately agreed on a rough, almost bluesy riff that I played with a lot of distortion.”

Holkenborg completed the cue barely eight weeks before the film’s premiere. The Rev-9’s musical language was also difficult for the composer to create.

“The Rev-9 is a synthesizer bottom line with brass and bending strings,” adds Holkenborg. “I combined it with ominous sound design, and the Rev-9’s fingerprint was born.”

An immigrant detention facility is the site of one of the film’s big action scene pieces. Holkenborg was pulled to the screaming jail alarm while watching the convicts escape. “When I inquired why they used the alarm, they answered, ‘Why?'” With a chuckle, Holkenborg remembers. “I told them it should be part of the music, and when I supplied that cue with the alarm embedded in it, that’s what they chose for the movie sequence.”

Holkenborg spent a lot of time researching the first two Terminator films since Dark Fate is described as a direct sequel to T2: Judgment Day.

“It’s important to note that the Terminator theme appears in the main titles, but only seldom appears throughout the flicks. “Percussion and sound design were more prominent in the soundtrack,” Holkenborg explains. “I wanted Dark Fate’s soundtrack to be a tribute to composer Brad Fiedel’s original work, as well as the story’s natural growth over the previous 25 years.”

“With Tim, he prefers things to be basic at best,” Holkenborg explains, “so the orchestra takes a backseat to the sound design and percussion.” “The key then is to discover methods to make the music emotive and communicate to the listener,” says the composer.

When it came time to score the key moment in the climactic encounter, Holkenborg expressed his dissatisfaction with the team’s usage of temp music.

“They had temp action music all the way till the finish,” Holkenborg adds, referring to his work from Mad Max: Fury Road. “I suggested that we approach this sequence in an entirely emotional manner, and they eventually replied, ‘Show us.'”

In the emotional passages building up to the finale, Holkenborg employed the orchestra quietly and lowered the speed.

“Using Arnold’s theme in adagio was the icing on the cake,” Holkenborg explains.

Holkenborg considers himself a full-contact composer, which means he not only composes the music but also plays a significant amount of the instruments.

Holkenborg explains, “On this video, I was able to record cello, bass, electric guitar, bass guitar, Spanish guitars, and percussion.” “That’s when the tension fades, and you’re simply having a good time listening to music.”

Holkenborg, like the majority of Terminator 2: Judgment Day fans, favors the extended edit above the theatrical release. When asked whether Dark Fate fans may anticipate an extended edit, he blames the film’s box office performance. “To make a lot of the reduced sequences cinema-worthy, huge visual effects expenses would be required,” Holkenborg explains. “Specifically, the climax cuts.”

Dark Fate’s initial edit was three and a half hours long, according to him.

“I’m sure a lot more could be added back,” Holkenborg adds. “However, the theatrical version is essentially the same picture; we’ve simply deleted a few moments… particularly when we first meet Arnold’s Terminator, as well as a number of action sequences….” The finale was originally twice as lengthy,” says the author. There were also a few gags that were deleted from the final version. The plot of the film touches on illegal immigration, a contentious political topic in the United States. Davis’ Grace made a “wall” remark that was a blatant allusion to President Donald Trump at one point in the movie. The scene was eventually cut from the movie. However, after an August 3 incident in El Paso, Texas, Schwarzenegger still had a Texas weapons one-liner, but it was unclear if it would be retained.

“There was a protracted discussion about removing the Texas gun reference,” Holkenborg says. “I was questioned about it, and I didn’t see any connection between our picture and [the El Paso shooting], and I knew the line would be a hit.”

Check out the video below to see how he scores.

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