T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to morph at Worcester's Rock & Shock

by Craig S. Semon
October 17, 2013

Without a moment's hesitation, Robert Patrick candidly reveals what was the catalyst that made him want to become an actor in the first place.

"Chicks. Yeah, chicks," the gravelly voiced actor answered. "I played football a little bit in college. I quit football and tried to figure out, what else can I do to attract chicks? Oh, yeah, there's drama. I used to act in plays. Let's check that out. Let's do that. So I sat in on some drama classes, and I packed it in and headed to Los Angeles."

Not only is he a straight shooter and a go-getter with a strong work ethic, the 54-year-old Marietta, Ga., native, who will be appearing this weekend at "Rock & Shock" at the DCU Convention Center, has become one of the most recognizable go-to guys in Hollywood. But it wasn't always that way.

When Patrick came to Los Angeles, he didn't know a soul. He was living out of his car. He had no connections. He had no agent. He had nothing. After being spotted in a small play, Patrick got his first movie audition.

"It was a Roger Corman-produced movie, the King of the B-Movies," Patrick said. "And, once I got the job working with Roger Corman, that director recommended me to another director and so on and so on."

After several forgettable Roger Corman films, Patrick landed his first audition for a big, Hollywood blockbuster. It was 1990's "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and he nailed the role of a military-trained assassin causing havoc on Christmas Eve at Washington's Dulles International Airport.

Soon after "Die Hard," Patrick auditioned for another graduate of the "Roger Corman Film School," James Cameron, for the role of the T-1000 in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

With his piercing cold blue eyes and his "mimetic poly-alloy" fingers tips that doubled as very lethal, elongated icepicks, Patrick secured a permanent place in the annals of pop culture.

Patrick said he had no idea how awesome of a movie "Terminator 2" would be, nor how the role was going to change his life.

"I didn't read the script for 'Terminator 2' until after I done two auditions," Patrick said. "After I did two auditions, they had me do a screen test and, of course, I read the script right before I did the screen test. And, then I got really nervous because I realized how great of a role it was."

Patrick, who was a fan of the first "Terminator" movie, was told to do one thing by Cameron — create an intense presence, which he certainly did.

"I started thinking like an American Indian tracking an animal," Patrick said. "I know enough about predators and how to slow things down and make myself look something other than human. I just went from there. Everything you see in the movie is what I created at the initial audition. All the movements and the way I turn myself and run, all that is my input."

Patrick also went into a special mindset to play the T-1000.

"I listened to a lot of industrial music, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, Ministry," Patrick said. "I worked out…I was in incredible shape and, by the time I got done training for this thing, I literally felt that I could kick, kick, kick Arnold Schwarzenegger's (expletive). And I carried myself that way."

While he was cast as the T-1000, Patrick acknowledges that he had a lot of help bringing the role to life.

"All the special effects that Stan Winston did, all the animatronics wizardry that he produced, all the help I got from Industrial Light & Magic. Dennis Muren, the Academy Award-winning effects wizard, and, you know, Jim (Cameron) was not going to let me fail," Patrick said. "I was the ultimate killing machine. I had no feelings. I was always locked on target. And that's what we went with."

What would it take for Patrick to reprise his role as a liquid-metal, shape-shifting killing machine? First, he said, he would have to be invited to the party. And, then, he would have to do a lot of serious soul-searching to decide if it is worth it.

With any iconic character with a devoted fan base, Patrick said, you owe it, out of respect for the fans not to mess up the franchise.

"We made an indelible impression on the culture. And they have the original performance up there. Do you want to taint that in any way? Is it a smart thing to do? Unlike a terminator, I aged. Does it make sense that a terminator aged?" Patrick said. "There are a lot of questions. …"

Another iconic role offered to Patrick was FBI Agent John Doggett on "The X-Files." He took the role despite the pressure of replacing the show's star, David Duchovny, who was distancing himself from the popular series after seven years.

"I got excited about doing something on TV after doing something on 'The Sopranos.' And Chris Carter offered me a great role on 'The X-Files.' "

In addition to playing his share of military brass, psychopaths and bad guys, Patrick, who is happily married and the father of two children, has also been able to tap his paternal instinct. In 2005, Patrick played the King of Rock 'n' Roll's father in the 2005 TV miniseries "Elvis," and Johnny Cash's daddy in "Walk the Line."

"A lot of what you see in 'Walk the Line' was basically me playing my dad. And my dad's a tough son of a (expletive) and I love him," Patrick said. "I love Johnny Cash. I grew up in the South. I love that Southern music. Johnny Cash was one hell of a guy. He's a Christian. I'm a Christian. There're a lot of parallels there. I understand the South. That is kind of how I got that role. I understand that world. But I also, love Eminem and I love his new single, 'Survival.' "

Patrick also played a firefighter in "Ladder 49" (opposite his "Walk the Line" co-star Joaquin Phoenix) and was cast in the disbanded Worcester Cold Storage Fire film.

He is still creating memorable roles on TV's "True Blood," "Sons of Anarchy," "The Unit" and the short-lived "Last Resort," and in recent major motion films, including "Safe House," "Trouble with the Curve," "Jayne Mansfield's Car" and "Gangster Squad" (which he played Officer Max Kennard, his favorite role to date). Patrick also has the dubious distinction of being the only actor killed by all three of the Planet Hollywood founders: Willis in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder," Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and Sylvester Stallone in "Cop Land."

"I love Stallone. I did two films with Stallone. I love Schwarzenegger. I did two films with Schwarzenegger. I only worked once with Bruce but Bruce is a great guy," Patrick said. "They're all great guys. They're all three great professionals. They're all three killed me in different times in my career. And each one of them has made an impact on my life."

Patrick said the three actors that he had the most fun working with were Clint Eastwood in "Trouble with the Curve," Harrison Ford in "Firewall" and Rober Duvall in "Jayne Mansfield's Car."

"You audition every day, no matter what you do. Your audition should always be the best you can, no matter what you do. So that's how I approach my career," Patrick said. "No matter what the circumstances, no matter how big budget, how little budget, whatever the situation. I go in there and try to give it the best that I got and that's all I can do. And, at the end of the day, it's all in God's hands anyway. There is nothing else you can do."




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