As Arnold battles the T-X and Reese battles Washington, a lot of couples will battle each other over whether to see "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" or "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" this week, while their kids raise their voices to see the animated "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas."
It's been 12 years since the $100 million "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" more than doubled its budget at the box office. After a protracted time spent tied up in rights issues, the franchise is back on track, albeit without director James Cameron, and without stars Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong.
"I was just excited about the idea, to even see the movie, much less be a part of it," said Nick Stahl, the "In the Bedroom" star who stepped in for Furlong as future resistance leader and killer-machine target John Connor (see " 'Terminator 3''s Nick Stahl Cautiously Talks About Sci-Fi Sequel"). "Immediately, you just kind of think, 'Where are they going to go with this? Where's the next sequel going to take us in the series?' I jumped at the opportunity, of course, and it just worked out." (Click to see photos of "T3.")
"T3" sees the villainous, self-aware Skynet computer system that rules the future sending an advanced female cyborg, played by newcomer Kristanna Loken, to eliminate a few key people in the present day. The human resistance programs another Arnold model Terminator to stop her (see " 'He Said He'd Be Back — Schwarzenegger Talks 'Terminator 3' ").
"Of course [Arnold] has done the character twice before, [so he's] so knowledgeable about the fight sequences," Loken said of working with the imposing Schwarzenegger. "He knows what works, what doesn't work. And I definitely learned a lot by watching him."
"My character was new, in the sense that I didn't have anything to follow," she added. "[But] I definitely had ['T2' cyborg] Robert Patrick and Linda Hamilton in the back of my mind. Their bodies were so amazing, and Arnold. I was confident with my work, [but] you definitely feel some pressure. It's such an anticipated film."
Talk about pressure. Claire Danes was vacationing in Australia with her longtime boyfriend, singer/songwriter Ben Lee, when she got the last-minute call to come aboard "T3."
"It was a lot to process," the former "My So-Called Life" star remembered. "It was a departure for me. I've never worked in this genre before. I was hired the day before I started filming, because they'd initially cast another actress. ... I read the script that night and had to decide if I was going to commit. I was so delirious and jetlagged I couldn't say anything but, 'Sure.' "
All of the major players in "T3," Arnie included, said they'd be happy to return for a "T4" if the audience demands it.
"The audience campaigned for [the 'Terminator'] to come back," Schwarzenegger said. "So it is the audience again, the fans, that have to make this one a huge box-office success. If that happens then clearly we're going to do another one."
Though it isn't as clear whether or not Elle Woods will return for a third "Legally Blonde," anticipation for part 2 was running high earlier this week at the "Red, White & Blonde" premiere in New York (see " 'Legally Blonde 2' Tickles Fans Pink; LeAnn Rimes, Hilary Swank Attend Premiere").
Reportedly budgeted at only $18 million, the first installment made nearly $100 million. In the sequel to the surprise 2001 hit that put Reese Witherspoon on the Hollywood A-List, Elle Woods goes to Washington to campaign for a bill banning cosmetics testing on animals. (Click to see photos of "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.")
Both movies will compete this week against "Sinbad," which features the voice of Brad Pitt as the swashbuckling ship captain, and last week's box-office topper "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (see " 'Charlie's Angels' Sequel Kicks Butt At The Box Office").
— Ryan J. Downey, with reporting by Nick Zano