Friday, 28 June 2013

Jim Cameron's Terminator fever dream

leading from

Key image from Terminator inspired by dream
  1. James Cameron: I was sick and dead broke in Rome, Italy, with a fever of 102, doing the final cut of Piranha II. Thats when I thought of Terminator. I guess it was a fever dream. (From: James Cameron - How to direct a 'Terminator',Starlog #89, Date: December, 1984)
  2. Omni magazine: Piranha II: The Spawning marked Cameron's full-dress directorial debut. When the Italian producer fired him off the picture after principal photography was completed, Cameron flew to Rome, broke into the editing room after hours and re-cut the movie the way he wanted it. It was in his Rome hotel that Cameron awoke from a fever dream of a robot killer from the future, unable to walk, dragging itself by a knife along the floor as it chased its wounded female prey.  (Omni magazine 1998) 
  3. NEW YORKER: In 1981, Cameron had the idea that became his first autonomous movie. It came to him, as he tells it, in the post-Freudian form of divine intercession: a dream. He was in Rome, trying to see a cut of “Piranha 2,” a bikinis-and-blood exploitation flick that he had been hired to direct. (He had been fired by the Italian executive producer, and wanted to get his name taken off the film.) He was sick and broke, and staying in a tiny pensione. One night, he said, he dreamed of “a chrome skeleton emerging out of a fire.” Then he sketched the figure cut in half and crawling after a woman. He said, “I thought, That was cool. I’ve never seen that in a movie before.”  (New Yorker, 26th October 2009)
  4.  George Noory: And tell us a little bit about the dream that led to Terminator, what happened?

    James Cameron: Yuh, that wasn't a precognitive dream, that was just a, and I don't get them that I'm aware of, but that was just a nightmare, seriously I was sick, I had the flu and a high fever, and so in that feverish dream state I had a dream about a, you know, a chrome skeleton and fire, emerging from the fire, you know and there was an image in of itself, and have a very strong feeling of dread associated with it in a dream almost unexplained by the image, and you know, we've all felt that, something freighted with a strong sense of dread so, I woke up from that and I felt it was a compelling image, and er I started to draw, started to write the story, to draw variations on that theme and it turned into this chrome skeletal figure, kind of death figure, er, pursuing a girl and I thought, okay, let's build a story around that and then it became a science fiction story and then this chrome death figure came from the future and was trying to kill her for some reason, what's the reason, well, her life will have some meaning that, that er is very significant in years hence and then the story kind of spun from that (Coast To Coast AM, Monday August 23, 2010)
  5. Ian Nathan: The future came to him in a fever dream. He awoke with a jolt like a jump cut, the image still framed in his mind's eye "Something really horrific" he would repeat to his friends. It was March 1982, and the night before, as he collapsed into bed, he had been running a temperature of 102, slack and swampy with flu, "sick as a dog". The sweat that prickled his body brought to mind forks of electricity dancing and jabbing him around; he was momentarily disorientated shivering like a man pulled from icy water. This, he later conceived, is what it would be like for a human being to travel through time. He was so short of cash that he had taken to roaming the corridors of his seedy pensione somewhere in Rome's less salubrious backstreets, pilfering bread rolls from the breakfast trays in order to feed himself. He was virtually a skeleton, exhausted, unkempt - off the grid. The perfect recipient for a nuclear-powere epiphany. When he awoke the following morning, the afterimage of his dream was still stretched in his mind. He had been unfairly fired from his directing job, his big break, and had come to Rome to confront the Italian production company. He didn't have a friend for over 6000 miles and nine time zones. His airfare had been one way. "I was pissed off an alienated, my per diem," he recalls " and I wasn't feeling very much part of the flow of humanity." From the table he grabbed paper and pencils. and began to sketch that terrifying snapshot of the creature from his dream. He wanted to have a good look at it. "It was a chrome skeleton emerging phoenix like out of the fire,"  he says. As the drawing revealed, the machine figure wasn't striding - it had been torn in half somehow and was crawling from the flames. "He had a kitchen knife and pulled himself along the floor with it, dragging his broken arm. I also sketched the girl trying to get away from it." As he sat back to examine his newborn, the young director smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever, "I thought 'That was cool. I had never seen that in a movie before.' "
    James Cameron genuinely feared he might be dying that night. When he came to write the initial treatment, at first simply known as The Terminator, he described the implacable, silver coloured dream demon as "death rendered in steel." Whether it was prophecy, damnation , or half crazed product of a delirious mind was hard to tell as Rome awake  to its indifferent bustle. But this fiery template , this endoskeleton idea, would eventually transform Cameron into the biggest director of all time and change cinema in ways that he could never have envisaged in 1982. As dreams go, it was significant.
  6. Hale Anne Hurd:He called from Rome, telling me about his dream, about a robot that previous to that had been a cyborg with human flesh, emerging from the flames "(Empire, October 2013, p98)

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