Think those relentless, shape-shifting Terminator cyborgs are scary? Try writing a soundtrack for the fifth and latest installment of the sci-fi franchise, Terminator Genisys, that captures the intensity of the action-packed summer movie. “The biggest challenge was writing the first note of the score….finding your footing and seeing which sounds are going to carry you through the whole film,” says the man tasked with job, Grammy-winner Lorne Balfe, 39. “As a composer, every project begins with either a blank sequence or a blank manuscript and for the first couple of days you cover and experience every emotion under the sun. Fear being the main one.”
In this fifth installment of the Terminator saga, which Paramount Pictures will release on July 1, the major characters that kicked off the franchise in James Cameron’s groundbreaking first film are back — Sarah Connor, her son John, Kyle Reese and the Terminator made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger — but with the exception of the former governor of California, they are played by different actors. Sarah is played by Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) plays John and Jai Courtney (Divergent) is Reese. The plot also hearkens back to the first film as Reese volunteers to travel back in time from 2029 to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor from a Terminator that has been sent to kill her. Due to an alteration in the time-space continuum, however, Reese arrives to find that Connor is already adept at Terminator extermination (The original actress who played Connor, Linda Hamilton, didn’t become a well-muscled killing machine until the first sequel, Terminator: Judgment Day). She also has a domesticated Terminator, in the form of Schwarzenegger, to help her out.
The Scottish Balfe — who won a Grammy for his work as score producer on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and has more recently composed for the animated Home, which starred Rihanna, and the video game Assassin’s Creed III — doesn’t drop any spoilers as to how this plot twist came to be — or the trailer’s revelation that John Connor becomes a Terminator-like creature as well — but he does say that “hope and fate” represent the key concept of the movie, which, musically meant “a big, big, big, big challenge.”
Since Terminator Genisys is closely bound to the plots of the franchise’s first two movies, Balfe, who counts Dave Grusin‘s soundtrack to The Goonies, and Jerry Goldsmith and former drummer for The Police Stewart Copeland’s scores for, respectively, The ‘Burbs and Wall Street, as his top-three favorites, says he also sought to provide musical continuity. “Brad Fiede?l’s theme from the original Terminator films is iconic,” he explains. “There are also scenes in Terminator Genisys that are reminiscent of T2, so we wanted to connect them musically as well as visually.”
Watch an exclusive sneak peek of Balfe talking about scoring Terminator Genisys.