'Terminator 3''s Nick Stahl Cautiously Talks About Sci-Fi Sequel

'In the Bedroom' actor taking on role of grown-up robot target John Connor.

As promised, the Terminator will be back, and in "Terminator 3: Rise of the

Machines" he's bringing Nick Stahl with him.

"It's gonna be great," said Stahl, who has appeared in such films as

"Disturbing Behavior" and "In the Bedroom." "I feel really good about it."

Currently shooting in California, "T3" sees the return of Arnold

Schwarzenegger as the T-800 model Terminator, a role he made famous nearly

20 years ago. Helmed by "Titanic" director James Cameron, 1984's original

"Terminator" depicted Arnie as a murderous cyborg sent from a future ruled

by machines to eliminate the mother (Linda Hamilton) of human resistance

leader John Connor. Played by Edward Furlong, Connor was a teenager in the

1991 sequel, with a friendly, reprogrammed Arnie protecting him from a

deadly new liquid-metal killer.

Hamilton will appear only in flashbacks in "T3," while Cameron and Furlong

are nowhere to be found. "U-571" director Jonathan Mostow has stepped in for

Cameron, while Stahl is taking over as a grown-up Connor.

"[I'm not trying] to imitate anything about the character that's been done,"

Stahl said of his approach to the role. "I just don't think that that's

really realistic or that's even possible. You have to kind of use your own

arsenal. So I've really just tried to kind of make it my own."

Stahl got his start as a young boy, playing alongside Mel Gibson in "The Man

Without a Face," and later appeared in "The Thin Red Line," but he's best

known for art-house hits like "Bully" and "In the Bedroom." He said he's aware of the high expectations for "T3," since he's a big fan of the series himself.

"I saw the first one when I was really young. The second one was probably

one of my favorite movies growing up. So I've seen that many times. It was a

really interestingly conceived sort of story. And it's a great kind of

commercial mix of dark, dark action and comedy."

So will "Rise of the Machines" measure up?

"The script is really solid," Stahl promised. "I think the main aim was to

basically up the stakes from the last one and to make the newest one even

more groundbreaking. Because the second one, really nothing like that had

been done before. And so I think in order to match that kind of enthusiasm,

they have to really try that much harder as far as the story and the actual

filming goes.

"And the effects, you know, there's a lot of effects that are done these

days that weren't available 10 years ago," he continued. "In that way,

visually, it's gonna be more realistic. It's hard to know how it's going to

turn out, ... but if the script says anything I would say that it's

definitely as good, if not better, than the last one."

Like everyone involved with the production, Stahl has been sworn to secrecy

about the finer points of the "T3" plot. What is known is that

resistance forces send yet another T-800 to protect Connor from a female

Terminator, played by newcomer Kristanna Loken ("Gangland").

"She's just doing a great job," Stahl said. "She's doing months of weight

training and then fighting training and weapons training. She's just really

been very dedicated to it. And also, sort of like a mime movement class for

the sort of robotic sense to the character. Once you see her in action, it's

quite a transformation."

The "transformation" fans really want to know about is whether or not

Loken's "Terminatrix" is made of liquid metal.

"Yeah, she is," Stahl offered cautiously. "And she's got ... It's new and

improved. But I don't think I could ... They won't let me say any more. It's

very top secret stuff."

"T3" has about three months of shooting left. After that, Stahl's off to

make "Carnivale," a new HBO series about a traveling circus during the

Depression. Stahl called it "a fantasy story about good and evil."

After that, what's next? Would Stahl be down for "Terminator 4"?

"Yeah, yeah, definitely," he said. "From reading the third one, it leaves

some questions as to where you go from here. But I guess they thought the

same thing after the second as well. You know, if it was around, I

definitely would love to do it."

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," also starring Claire Danes, is

scheduled to hit theaters July 2, 2003.