Wednesday 24 January 2018

He's back! But this time he's in 3D

Self-effacing actor Robert Patrick is ready to scare a brand new legion of 'Terminator' fans as the iconic T-1000

Robert Patrick is the natural born killer in 'T2 Judgment Day'
Robert Patrick is the natural born killer in 'T2 Judgment Day'

Anne Marie Scanlon

I'm old enough to have seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the cinema when it first came out. Old enough, in fact, to have been on a date at the time. I can't for the life of me remember who the chap was but the film has been one of my favourites ever since and a large part of that is down to Robert Patrick - better known as the T-1000.

The T-1000 is a Terminator in the guise of an LA cop and he is almost impossible to kill - shoot him and the wounds heal instantly, incinerate him and he reverts to liquid and reforms, freeze him and... you get the idea. It is this, along with his relentlessness, that makes the T-1000 one of the scariest screen villains in history.

In person, Robert Patrick is, thankfully, nothing like his on-screen persona, being warm, friendly and extremely generous towards other actors. We're meeting to chat about the upcoming re-release of the iconic film remastered in 3D. The actor is keen to stress he was only one of several people playing the T-1000 (which can morph into any shape it wants). "I'm a very small part of the performance of the T-1000, the T-1000 had a lot of different elements, I just happen to be the face they go back to," Patrick says modestly. "There's a lot of people helping me play that part," he continues, stressing that the other actors also deserve credit. As far as fans are concerned, however, Patrick is the T-1000.

Although it's 27 years since he starred in the film that changed his life (he was living in his car at the start of the shoot and married his girlfriend half way through - they now have a son and a daughter), Patrick still looks very like his younger self. If he wasn't so nice, it would be very unnerving.

On hearing my accent, he's quick to tell me about his Irish connections. "My family fled Scotland to get away from the Campbells, we went to Ireland and we changed our name to Patrick and we ended up in Jamestown, America. My family has been living there since the 1600s - that's all I know."

That's all! I'm pretty impressed that he can go so far back.

On his finger, Patrick wears a skull ring. He tells me his wife bought it for him because she thought it looked a bit like the Terminator. Before he was cast in the second film, Patrick was already a fan of Schwarzenegger's Terminator. "You're going to think I'm making this up but it's the God's honest truth," he says, smiling. "I was in Ohio working in a weightlifting gym and the guy I was rooming with was the manager of the place. I told him I was going to Hollywood to get into acting and I said, "you should come with me man, you could be the next Terminator", because he was a bodybuilder... Brad Squires was his name."

Patrick admits when he got the part, he was rather intimidated: "it was a daunting overwhelming feeling, I'm going to be the Terminator, Jesus Christ, how did this happen?"

The actor goes on to say that he was initially star-struck by Arnold Schwarzenegger. "He'd already been a huge impact on my life, I'd read a book about bodybuilding that he had written... it's intriguing to think back on that now, even to this day, I've done scenes with Clint Eastwood and guys like that who are iconic, who have had a big impact on my life and you have to (say) 'keep it together man, you're just an actor and he's just an actor', and you can't let that overwhelm the situation. But, yes, working with Mr Schwarzenegger was a very, very unique experience, very rewarding and he was a very generous actor, congratulatory and was able to give you a compliment and approval when you did good."

He could be talking about himself as he has nothing but nice things to say about actors he worked with, including Joaquin Phoenix (he played his father in Walk the Line) and Christopher Meloni, with whom he co-starred in an episode of Law & Order SVU. "I certainly enjoyed working with Chris, there's nobody more dedicated to acting than Chris… he's just a magnificent actor." (Incidentally, Law & Order fans should keep an eye out for S Epatha Merkerson, aka Lt Van Buren, in T2).

Although I've seen T2 many times since it was initially released, I'd forgotten just how much it belongs on the big screen. The 3D effects are pretty good but to be honest - it's gilding the lily; the film stands up on its own. Fans will relish seeing it on the big screen and a whole new audience has a massive treat in store. Patrick agrees with me. "It stands up and it stands the test of time and I think it's almost the perfect movie - it's a really amazing execution from all the tools Jim (Cameron, the director) had at the time to pull it off."

He's right, apart from a few anachronisms (the old-school computer games in the arcade, people smoking - even in hospital), the film hasn't dated. Linda Hamilton is very modern with her 'Madonna Arms' (and this was before Madonna had 'Madonna Arms') and attitude, she's a fighter who doesn't wait around to be rescued. Those new to the film will recognise many of the catchphrases that have become an ingrained part of modern culture - "come with me if you want to live", "Hasta la vista, baby" and, of course, "I'll be back". There are moments of terrific comedy and director Cameron (who later won an Oscar for Titanic) neatly inverts the 'good guy' 'bad guy' tropes. Patrick, as clean cut cop, riding around LA in a police car with 'To protect and serve' written on the side, is the face people trust. It's a testament to the story and the execution that even after all this time Terminator 2 still has the power to shock and in many ways, is more relevant to the world today than it was when it was first released. Ancient as I am, I was also shocked when, after seeing the film, I overheard two twentysomething American girls trying to figure out what the "room with all the molten lava" was and "like, duh, you wouldn't have a room like that". It's called a foundry. Duh.

Although Patrick has never stopped working since he made T2: Judgment Day, he still has a great fondness for the film. "It's neat to think you are part of film history," he says, "I mean, I'm a very small part," he adds modestly. I beg to differ. I ask him if little kids run away from him in the mall. "No. Little kids don't really know me," he replies equably. I have a feeling that might be about to change.

Get tickets for August 29's Judgment Day T2 3D event at www.terminator2-3d.co.uk. In cinemas nationwide from September 1.

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