'Terminator: Genisys': Meet the Main Characters/Cast in EW Exclusive Portraits
Terminator: Genisys cast
In 2013, David Ellison (executive producer on Star Trek into Darkness) acquired the rights to the Terminator franchise for $15 million with the hopes of restarting a franchise that meant so much to him as a child. He, along with his producing partner, Dana Goldberg, quickly assembled a team including director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) to concoct a film—the first in a hoped-for trilogy—that takes the basic elements of James Cameron's original 1984 movie and reworks them in striking new ways. The result is next year's Terminator: Genisys. The first order of business was to recruit that infamous Teutonic monotone himself Arnold Schwarzenegger. But relying on the 67-year old wasn't enough. They also assembled a cast with enough geek bona fides to appease the Comic-Con crowd, including Games of Thrones' Emilia Clarke, Doctor Who's Matt Smith (far left), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Jason Clarke, and Divergent's Jai Courtney (far right).
The Heroine: Emilia Clarke
Role: Sarah Connor, the mother of resistance leader John Connor who grew up with a robot as a father.
Origin story: Clarke, raised in Berkshire, England by her father, a sound engineer, and her mother, a businesswoman, has been acting in plays since she was a child.
Where you've seen her: She's best known as the platinum blonde dragon mother Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.
Gun control: Clarke preferred the lighter guns (e.g M4) and became a pro cleaning and assembling them. The heavier ones? Not so much. ''The grenade launcher was ridiculous—50 pounds and insane,'' she says. ''And the sniper rifle was at least a foot and a half taller than me.''
Next: She'll star opposite Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) in the adaptation of the British romance Me Before You.
The Protector: Jai Courtney
Role: Kyle Reese, a foot soldier from John Connor's resistance army sent back in time to save Sarah Connor from a Terminator.
Origin story: Raised in a suburb of Sydney, Courtney went to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts for high school and was working as a bartender in his hometown when he was cast in the TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
Where you've seen him: In addition to Jack Reacher and Divergent, Courtney also played Bruce Willis's son in the most recent Die Hard movie. ''I get teased by a mate of mine who pointed out that I've been in the fifth installments of two '80s franchises. He thinks that's all I'm going to ever do.''
The Fighter: Jason Clarke
Role: John Connor, the leader of the army that brings down the nefarious SkyNet. In this film we see Connor in action, leading his troops. Clarke researched inspirational speeches—everyone from Shakespeare to Steve Jobs to a high school teacher on YouTube—to prepare for an epic one his character delivers in the film. ''It was a chance to let you see what type of man John really is,'' says Clarke.
Origin story: Clarke grew up in rural Queensland, Australia, the oldest of four children. Their father was a professional sheep-shearer. A role in Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence brought him to L.A. where he lived on the director's couch.
Where you've seen him: He played a ruthless CIA operative in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and was the human star of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Next: He'll star opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Everest and opposite Tom Hardy in Child 44.
The Secret: Matt Smith
Role: An ally of John Connor.
Origin story: Born in Northamptonshire, England, Smith originally planned for a soccer career before a back injury forced him to give up the sport.
Where you've seen him: He's the youngest actor to play the Doctor on BBC cult favorite Doctor Who.
Brief tenure: He only spent one week on the set of Terminator: Genisys in a mostly secret role that he promises will expand considerably in the second and third chapters in the series.
Next: He'll star in the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
The Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Role: Schwarzenegger's Terminator in Terminator: Genisys is an older model of the T-800 programmed to guard, rather than kill, Sarah Connor after she is orphaned as a young child.
He said he'd be back: ''I knew eventually that another Terminator was going to get made,'' Schwarzenegger says. ''People always have to go through that painful experience of doing a sequel, or something like that, without me.''
The Unlikely Couple: Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke)
Reese is sent back to 1984 to protect Sarah from a Terminator, just like in the original movie. But what he finds is nothing like he's expecting. The duo's budding relationship in the film is crucial to the storyline, and to the survival of the human race. ''I never had to fall in love on screen before,'' says Courtney. ''It was interesting to do that, especially when you've got a backdrop of the future and the past and all this other s--- [like] endoskeletons, robots.''
The Photo Shoot
A Terminator endoskeleton is uncrated in San Carlos, Calif., on July 30, 2014.