“I was not tak­ing care of my­self. I think I dabbed to­bacco to get through the movie.”

Proof that there’s just no stop­ping a shapeshift­ing hit­man, Robert Pa­trick re­flects on mor­ph­ing into Ter­mi­na­tor 2’s T-1000

Empire (Australasia) - - Contents - WORDS EVE BAR­LOW

SAY, THAT’S A nice bike. Robert Pa­trick has just ar­rived at the Hol­ly­wood stu­dio on the back of a Har­ley David­son. He parks it and marches to­wards Em­pire, whip­ping off his avi­a­tor shades as he comes. And while he may not be wear­ing a po­lice uni­form today, we half-ex­pect his arm to trans­form into a sil­ver spike. For even 17 years on, the ac­tor is still syn­ony­mous with the T-1000, the liq­uid-metal as­sas­sin that hunts John Con­nor in Ter­mi­na­tor 2: Judg­ment Day. The role made Pa­trick a screen icon and launched a mil­lion night­mares. Yet it turns out that his feel­ings about the ex­pe­ri­ence are com­plex.

“I was 30,” Pa­trick re­calls, “and for a year-and-a-half [af­ter the film’s re­lease]

I couldn’t get hired. It took me gain­ing weight, grow­ing my hair long and hav­ing a beard [to get an­other role].” But over the years that frus­tra­tion has mor­phed into ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time. “It’s pretty fuck­ing bitchin’,” he re­flects. Then, glo­ri­ously, he lifts a fin­ger and starts wag­ging it, recre­at­ing an iconic beat from the film’s cli­max.

Back in 1990, be­fore be­ing cast, he had seen the orig­i­nal Ter­mi­na­tor, though he wasn’t ex­actly a fan­boy. “I thought it was a cool ac­tion movie,” he says, “but I didn’t un­der­stand the mythol­ogy.”

Still, he was as broke as ac­tors come — un­til win­ning a small part in Die Hard 2, he had even been sleep­ing nights in his car. So when Billy Idol, the mu­si­cian whom di­rec­tor James Cameron had been con­sid­er­ing for the role of the T-1000, got in­jured in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent, Pa­trick turned up to au­di­tion for the metal mauler. “I had been told to cre­ate an in­tense pres­ence,” he says. “So I went to the an­i­mal king­dom for in­spi­ra­tion: cats, in­sects... I was very still, like I could snap at any sec­ond. And I slowed ev­ery­thing down like I was act­ing un­der­wa­ter.”

Cameron was im­pressed enough to take a chance on him. Even so, as the shoot be­gan Pa­trick was anx­ious he’d be fired. It didn’t help that he was a heavy drinker at the time and had de­cided to go cold tur­key on set. “Part of the rea­son I was so thin was be­cause I was not tak­ing care of my­self,” he ad­mits. “I think I dabbed to­bacco to get through the movie.” But, slowly, his con­fi­dence grew, as Cameron be­came more and more ex­cited about his per­for­mance and the vis­ual-ef­fects work be­ing done by ILM. “He said, ‘We’re mak­ing movie history. It’s gonna fuck­ing work!’” It was a se­ries of VFX firsts: Pa­trick’s limbs turn­ing into stab­bing weapons, his body slid­ing be­tween bars, his face mor­ph­ing into that of other peo­ple. Though there was plenty of prac­ti­cal ac­tion, too: for the fi­nal show­down he had to lit­er­ally run through fire. “I was so gung-ho, I singed the back of my ears. They could smell my shirt cook­ing!”

The char­ac­ter was a sen­sa­tion, hailed by Roger Ebert as “a splen­did vil­lain” and get­ting res­ur­rected for jokey cameos in Wayne’s World and Last Ac­tion Hero. But Pa­trick found his sud­den fame hard to cope with. “I didn’t know how to han­dle it. To be a to­tal un­known and all of a sud­den be recog­nis­able, but still no­body knew who the fuck I was.

I was lit­er­ally stand­ing in the unem­ploy­ment line go­ing, ‘Is this some joke?!’”

He’s ended up hav­ing a solid ca­reer; his fil­mog­ra­phy in­cludes The Fac­ulty, Cop Land and Flags Of Our Fathers, while he’s cur­rently star­ring in CBS drama Scor­pion. And all these years on, Pa­trick rel­ishes the en­dur­ing legacy of the T-1000 — though the idea of what he rep­re­sents gives him the chills. “He’s our fu­ture!” he says. “You know those lit­tle drones that are in the movie? Those ex­ist. It scares the hell out of me ’cause the T-1000 has no soul. It’s just do­ing its job, and it’s com­ing…”

Re­cently Pa­trick took a tour of Elon Musk’s Spacex head­quar­ters. “I no­ticed a sign be­hind the glass: ‘Cy­ber­dyne Sys­tems’. That fuck­ing sign! My host said to me, ‘Oh yeah, Elon’s a big fan.’ Maybe when the T-1000 gets here it’ll cut me some slack for giv­ing a half-de­cent por­trayal.”

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