Why did Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines stars Nick Stahl and Claire Danes not return in the franchise’s next outing, Terminator: Salvation?
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines introduced Claire Danes and Nick Stahl as the two new leads of the franchise, so why did neither return for 2009’s Terminator: Salvation? Ever since the series began with James Cameron’s dark sci-fi thriller The Terminator in 1984, the franchise has had a rocky relationship with returning characters. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor came back for the first sequel but not the second, third, or fourth, only to then return for the sixth movie, 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate.
Her screen son John Connor, meanwhile, the human resistance leader who the Terminator franchise’s knotty plot ostensibly centers on, has been played by different actors every time he has appeared on-screen. Terminator 2: Judgment Day featured Edward Furlong’s quintessentially ‘90s bratty teen Connor, while Salvation starred Christian Bale as a grown-up version of the character, and Terminator: Genisys recast this adult John as Jason Clarke (before promptly killing him off).
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However, few of the many actors to play John Connor could reasonably have continued from one movie to the next, thanks to the slippery continuity of the series. That said, Nick Stahl of Carnivale fame played John Connor in 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and, as there was only a short time jump between this outing and 2009’s Terminator Salvation, could realistically have played the character again in the next installment. However, Stahl was not offered the role as he was told by producers the sequel would jump further into the future and feature a 50-year-old Connor, which he was too young to play at the time (clearly, the creators later changed their mind when Christian Bale became interested). As for his Rise of the Machines co-star Claire Danes, she gave up her part thanks to the stresses of filming the third movie.
Speaking to MTV, Stahl explained he was informed the sequel’s John would be far older (which was true of Terminator Salvation’s superior original script). As such, the then-30-year-old actor wouldn’t fit the part anymore. Per Stahl: “That’s what they told me very early on [in development of the ‘Salvation’ script]. That it was gonna take place further in the future, and I probably wouldn’t be on”. Bale is “a bit older” than Stahl by the actor’s own admission (5 years older, to be exact), and his star power at the time of filming made the decision understandable for the actor.
That said, even Bale’s post-Batman fame could not save McG’s Terminator: Salvation from becoming a critical failure upon release. As for co-star Danes, her decision to avoid further installments was less down to age and more due to a disinterest in more high-octane action. The actor didn’t care for the idea of further Terminator movies, answering “I don’t think so” when MTV asked her about the prospect of another movie back in 2007. Danes said she was glad she made Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but as a late-in-the-day replacement for original star Sophia Bush, she felt “kidnapped” by the production and as such was not interested in reprising the role.
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