How Gravel Led to Warren Ellis Being Part of Terminator: Dark Fate (Or Not)

The director of Terminator: Dark Fate Tim Miller talked to Screen Crush about the writing process on the new movie, and the writers involved. The reported mentioned he knew that Miller broight in sci-fi writers to brainstorm ideas in the development process. Earlier, Adi mentioned Joe Abercrombie‘s involvement leading to the character of Grace. And he brought up Warren Ellis’ involvement and asked if any of Ellis’ ideas made it through.

Miller said,

Not really, unfortunately. I’m friends with Warren because I was briefly attached to Gravel [based on Ellis’ comic series of the same name] and we developed that together. And Warren was gonna write a story for us in Heavy Metal when we were doing that film, because I was a big Transmetropolitan fan. More than anything, I was an Authority fan. Him and Mark Millar? F—, I love that comic book.

But I love Gravel, too. We actually had a really good script.

Published by Bleeding Cool’s owner, Avatar Press, of course, Should probably get that in there. Spinning out of Strange Kiss, originally turned down by DC Vertigo…

But Warren did not come to L,A,. All the other writers came to L.A., but he wouldn’t come. So I was a little disappointed because he was kind of the least present in the writers room for those two days because he was a voice on a conference call.

Everybody contributed. I loved all those guys. It was Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Neal Asher who’s just a f—ing idea factory. And Joe Abercrombie, whose First Law books are my favorite books of all time. Joe came up with the thing which is the most easily identifiable one that made it all the way through, which is Grace, Mackenzie Davis’ character.

In his weekend newsletter, as well as talking about his television series, Warren also commented on this snippet;

I wasn’t expecting that to get out!

So, yeah, I was on the initial creative committee for that film. Sort of.

Getting us all into LA was the usual herding-cats – lots of different schedules and moving parts. Eventually, a two day block was settled on — and everyone could make it but me. So I said, fine, don’t let me f-ck this up for you, I’ll dial in from home.

CUT TO: James Cameron trying to feed me oatmeal through an iPad camera on the first day.

CUT TO: me having root canal surgery on the morning of the second day and being in insane amounts of pain for the rest of the day and having to tap out around 10pm UK/2pm LA.

So, yeah, I wasn’t that present, and Tim, as you can tell, is still kinda pissed off about it, but not as pissed off as I was about an emergency root canal operation with complications, so I figure it all evens out.

(Handy note: see, my mouth is wired weirdly, and defers pain a lot. So the surgery was on the lower right side, but immediately afterwards my upper left back tooth lit up like the Blitz and wouldn’t stop.

I had a gram of painkillers in me and they weren’t touching it. In desperation, around 11pm, figuring I had a visit to A&E in my immediate future, I soaked an old toothbrush in clove oil and pressed it to the tooth for a minute. A minute later, the pain halved. I did it again thirty minutes later and the pain vanished. Always keep a bottle of clove oil in the house.)

It was fun, though, and I’m eternally grateful to Tim for the opportunity. And I learned things from James Cameron about story structure and stuff like the process and industry of 3D upconversion.

I remember making some weird suggestion and there was laughter and Cameron saying, “Warren, you’re dark, but you’re good.” Which is code for “what the f-ck is wrong with you, get the f-ck away from me” but I’ll take it.

And, yeah, technically I was also in the same room as Neal Stephenson, who wrote the f-cking Baroque Cycle, and that still makes me smile too.

I haven’t seen the film, but, as Tim notes, it’s unlikely there’s anything of mine in there. I think we were all mostly just surrounding the potential idea space for Tim and James, though I love that some of Joe’s stuff was worked in – that guy is clever. I think almost all of us wanted Linda Hamilton back in some way.

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is out this weekend in most places. I didn’t do anything on it, but my friend Tim directed it, so I hope you’ll give it a look.

Will do, Warren, will do.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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