The Hollywood Executive Behind Terminator Speaks Out on AI-Generated Movies

“There are going to be interesting films.”

Originally Published: 
Orion Pictures
The Inverse Interview

When Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled back through time to 1984 to squash a future rebellion against an evil artificial intelligence, the concept of AI was still deeply rooted in the realm of science fiction. But four decades later, AI seems to be on the cusp of taking over our world in a (hopefully) less apocalyptic way.

Hollywood actors and writers are currently on strike over a long list of grievances against studios like Disney and Netflix, including the lack of safeguards against artificial intelligence. But regardless of how those negotiations play out, it feels inevitable that by 2029 (the year Schwarzenegger’s Terminator traveled back from in that movie), the first AI-generated movies will arrive — for better or worse.

“I'm sure there are going to be interesting films made with AI,” longtime Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy tells Inverse.

Medavoy co-founded Orion Pictures (which distributed Terminator) and played an instrumental role in casting Schwarzenegger in the film. In the early ‘90s, he helped launch Terminator 2: Judgment Day as chairman of Tristar Pictures. (His latest film, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, is in theaters now.)

Mike Medavoy and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2018.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

But for Medavoy, who’s also currently working on a documentary about artificial intelligence, the biggest question isn’t whether AI can make a movie, it’s whether that movie will be any good.

“I go to the same thing that all of us go to,” he says. “What's the story? Who are the characters? In all the films I’ve done which either won the Academy Award or were nominated for an Academy Award, there was always a connection to people. That's what we bend on. And that's the reason I got into the business. It's the ability to be able to tell stories. Is there an emotional component to this? Do I really care about these people? If the answer is no, then I'm not sure anybody's gonna see it or certainly spend money on it.”

Regardless of his own feelings on the subject, Medavoy says one thing is clear: it may be too late to change course. “I've noticed in my conversations with this Chinese company that I was working with, they're now insisting that everything they get has AI in it, and I'm wondering, OK, well, what's the reason? There's always some reason the Chinese are doing something.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2.

Tri-Star Pictures

Brad Fischer, Medavoy’s co-producer on Last Voyage of the Demeter through their company Phoenix Pictures, has his own thoughts on AI-generated movies.

“As a tool, I think it's incredibly alluring, which is sort of the danger,” Fischer says. “Is it a tool or does it get to a point where it actually just replaces the person with the paintbrush? I think most people would say it can't go that far today. But we'll see where it goes.”

“It's Frankenstein's monster,” he adds, ominously. “We're doomed to always want to make things better and improve them, and we're sowing the seeds of our own extinction.”

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is in theaters now.

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