He Said He’d Be Back — Schwarzenegger Talks ‘Terminator 3′

'Rise of the Machines' due in theaters in July.

He’s the one who said “I’ll be back,” so maybe it makes sense that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only major part of the “Terminator” team returning for part three.

“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” recently wrapped with Arnie in the title role, but Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton and series creator James Cameron were nowhere to be found. In their place, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, “Terminatrix” Kristanna Loken and “U-571″ director Jonathan Mostow hope to breathe fresh life into the aging futuristic franchise. (Click to see photos from the film. )

” ‘Terminator’ was created by Jim Cameron, so then to do a movie now without him, in the beginning it felt kind of like, ‘Where’s Jim?,’ ” a makeup-covered Schwarzenegger admitted on the set between cigar puffs.

“I made that decision [not to be involved] a long time ago,” Cameron said recently. “Really it was when I was in post-production on ‘Titanic,’ I said, ‘Guys, I don’t want to do this.’ But Arnold kept kind of hanging on, wanting me, trying to reel me in. Because we are friends and he really wanted that continuity. And finally I just said, ‘You know, dude, just go make this. You were born to go play this guy, and I just don’t feel it. I’ve told the story that I wanted to tell. If they can come up with a good script and they pay you a lot of money, don’t think twice.’ So we’re still on great terms.”

Schwarzenegger reportedly received a paycheck of close to $30 million for his trouble.

“It’s funny, you know, there’s a part of me that kind of hopes it sucks,” Cameron admitted. “But Arnold is one of my best friends, and so for him I really want it to be good. And also, you just want it to be good because you want it to continue the line.”

Schwarzenegger had nothing but praise for the “total control” and leadership Mostow displayed on the “T3″ set. He’s similarly enthusiastic about “In the Bedroom” actor Stahl, who stepped in for Furlong as fledgling human resistance leader John Connor (see ” ‘Terminator 3”s Nick Stahl Cautiously Talks About Sci-Fi Sequel” ), and Loken, who plays yet another model of Terminator sent back in time to kill Connor.

“I don’t work that much with her, other than just trying to destroy her and her trying to destroy me,” Schwarzenegger said of the actress. “So the only time we ever get together on the set is when we throw each other through the air and through bathrooms and walls. Or we throw each other off the buildings, or try to crush each other with helicopters and with airplanes. Or she’s trying to destroy me with some huge machinery or with a huge crane or something like that. … We never speak one word to each other. She just wants to eliminate me, I’m in her way, I try to eliminate her, so there’s this adversarial relationship from the beginning to the end.”

“There’s a lot of things that we’ve done that haven’t been done before on just a really large scope,” Loken explained. “My model [is] more advanced than Robert Patrick’s [from 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'] and Arnold, so I can do even other things that they couldn’t and also use my femininity as another trait to get what I want.”

But just because Schwarzenegger is battling a Terminatrix out to kill John Connor doesn’t necessarily mean he’s one of the good guys.

“It is the same model, but it is a different character,” Schwarzenegger emphasized, “which has to be again programmed for certain things — not to kill human beings, or to kill human beings, to destroy the T-X, or not to go after [her]. All those kind of things, and there’s also very interesting surprises in the film where sometimes you don’t know, because I do turn evil in the film, and then again I turn good, and there’s all kinds of twists like that.

“It feels great to play the Terminator again,” he continued. “You feel like you’re doing something that not only pleases you, but it also pleases [the fans]. … There’s not one single interview that I’ve done in the past 10 years where I’ve promoted any of my films … [in which] people didn’t come up to me and say, ‘When are you gonna do another “Terminator”?’ That’s the first question I get.”

“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” is due in theaters July 2.

— Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Nick Zano