McG Defends Christian Bale's 'Terminator' Rant

'Salvation' director on his star's temper and the latest 'Terminator' film.

May 20, 2009, 11:16 AM

May 21, 2009 -- When Christian Bale's now infamous rant while filming "Terminator Salvation" was leaked on the Internet in February, it made headlines. In the four-minute clip, Bale can be heard berating the movie's director of photography.

Now, the movie's director, McG, is coming to the defense of the "Dark Knight" star. "The truth is I like a fiery set .. We were making a war movie ... I wanted that level of intensity and that was a leak of a very small snippet, which was taken out of context. Any of us can be victimized by that," said McG in an interview for ABC News Now's Popcorn With Peter Travers. "As an actor you don't want any trepidation ... Kate Winslet took off her robe for 'Titanic.' I'm sure there were unflattering moments but she had to trust it wouldn't leak on the streets," he added.

Unlike the first three "Terminator" movies, "Salvation," in theaters today, is set in a future post-apocalyptic world where men are warring with machines. Bale is the adult John Connor, who is leading the human resistance. At his side is the cyborg Marcus Wright, part man and part machine and powerfully played by Sam Worthington. McG cast Worthington because he needed someone who could "stand up to Christian in a two shot ... like a heavyweight fight poster ... you don't know who's going to win." Worthington, formerly a bricklayer from western Australia, is also starring in the highly anticipated sci-fi "Avatar," James Cameron's first major movie since "Titanic." Cameron also directed the first two "Terminator" movies.

"I went to see James Cameron before making 'Terminator Salvation' to kiss the ring and ask for permission," recalled McG. "He said I'm not going to give approval. I reserve the right to like or dislike it and so I replied I reserve the right to like or dislike Avatar."

McG also reached out to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the original "Terminator" star, because he wanted "his blessing ... to be respectful and forthcoming." When McG asked Schwarzenegger for permission to use his image in the movie, the governator stipulated he would have to see the movie first. McG created a synthetic character, which with special effects looked exactly like Schwarzenegger's first "Terminator" 25 years ago. Schwarzenegger, according to McG, was "thrilled" and they are both setting up screening fundraisers in Sacramento for underprivileged children.

McG: Salvation Just as Hard as Past 'Terminators'

Salvation is the first "Terminator" movie not to be R-rated and many said it would not be as intense as its predecessors. McG insists that deleting some scenes where blood was squirting out of an arm, and thus giving the movie its PG13 ranking, did not compromise it in any way. He cites the success of last summer's "The Dark Knight", which is also PG13, adding "now kids don't have to sneak into an R-rated movie to watch it."

McG's first feature film was the adaptation of the 1970's TV show "Charlie's Angels." Drew Barrymore, who played one of the angels, was impressed by McG's music videos and asked him to direct. "I had nothing going on in Hollywood. Drew Barrymore put her arm around me and protected me," he recalled. McG loved Bill Murray, who played Bosley, but got into an argument with him while filming and Murray head-butted him. "I was humbled by it. We giggled about it and moved on. It was a rite of passage," said McG earnestly.

McG did not earn his name from Hollywood nor from his music videos, as some have snidely speculated. He was born Joseph McGinty Nichol and was called McG from day one. While he concedes that criticism of his name is fair game, he proudly asserts, "my name doesn't define my movies, my movies will define my name." His next project is adapting the Tony-award winning musical "Spring Awakening" into a movie, which he hopes will rival "Splendor in the Grass," "Love Story" and "West Side Story."

While making movies, McG likes to keep CGI (computer generated imagery) to a minimum in order to keep it real and maintain the actors' connection to the action. In "Terminator Salvation" they built many robots and menacing machines because he believed it would produce better performances from Bale and Worthington. His favorite scene comes at the end, when a sacrifice is made between his two lead characters. "I wanted to study what it means to be human. It was a moment of reconciliation and hopefully I set up the prospect for a second or third picture."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events