Hurd Talks Zombies, Cameron and How Arnold Became the Terminator

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Arnold really has a great sense of who has talent as well as who is bull—-ting and who isn’t, and he doesn’t suffer fools at all.

Veteran producer Gale Anne Hurd turns her hand to the small screen this Halloween with “The Walking Dead.” Based on the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, the new show on AMC is set in the dark days following a zombie apocalypse.

Hurd talked to TheWrap about her new show, her early days with Roger Corman and working with ex-husband Jim Cameron on “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”

Was there much debate about the level of gore you could show in “The Walking Dead”? In the first few frames he shoots a little girl zombie in the face.
From the very meeting that Frank, Robert Kirkman and I had with AMC, we posed that very question. They embraced from the very beginning that this has elements of the genre in which the fans’ expectations must be met.
They provided us sequences from films that had appeared in their Fear Fest block and what could be aired uncut.

The zombie thing has its roots in B-movies and you got your start in B-movies working with Roger Corman.  What did you learn from him?
To approach every project with an open mind and not be intimidated by lack of budget or any obstacles. You just persevere, and you learn to be creative.

When you’re doing a television series you have to move very quickly. You have a limited number of days. You can’t go over schedule. You can’t go over budget. You have to maximize the resources that you’re given.

And are you very active on the set?
I think the important thing is to make sure everyone shares the same vision.  I never look at a director as an adversary. He or she is always a collaborator and we are a team that works hand in glove to make the best possible film or television series.

One crucial collaborator in your career was James Cameron on “The Terminator.” It’s clear that even then he had a real firm grip on the medium.
Jim had actually directed a short film called “Xenogenesis” and he had submitted that to Roger Corman and that’s what got him into the, as we call it, the Roger Corman school of filmmaking. It was very clear from seeing “Xenogenesis” that he was a talent to be reckoned with.

How hard is it to tell a guy like Jim Cameron, “No, we just don’t have it in the budget!”?
Going back to working for Roger Corman, when there really wasn’t more money, and on an independent film like “The Terminator” where there’s a bond and a contingency that you cannot exceed or the movie gets taken over, that’s non-negotiable.

Jim, like any director, doesn’t want to be told just "no." He wanted to be told, “OK, if we don’t do this, how about these other options?” Or, “If you really, really want this, maybe we can reduce these other sequences over here.” 

Just emerging as a star, Schwarzenegger was coming off of “Conan the Barbarian.” How was the rapport between Jim and Arnold?
Well, Arnold really has a great sense of who has talent as well as who is, excuse my language, bull—-ting and who isn’t. And he doesn’t suffer fools at all. From the very beginning, our very first meeting with Arnold, it was clear that he and Jim were on the very same page.

In our very first meeting, the financiers had wanted Arnold to consider the role that Michael Biehn played, of Kyle Reese. Arnold was very clear that he wanted to play the title role of the Terminator. I think the meeting would have gone very differently if he’d felt that Kyle Reese was the role for him.

With “T-2,” everyone knew it would be a hit but we didn’t know how big. Were you taken aback by its success and impact?
Absolutely. When you consider the first film, I think, grossed $40 million. It had, obviously, a very large budget but you don’t expect it to be such a global hit and everyone was pleasantly surprised because it was a big roll of the dice. 

It had been a number of years since the first film was released.  ‘Terminator’ was a small indie film and “Terminator 2” was big studio film.