For all those wondering what has become of the third installment in the Terminator series, the question has now been answered. For Terminator 3: Armageddon is alive and well and living on the internet in script form. The only minor glitches barring its path to the multiplexes are that James Cameron has not written it, Arnie has signed nothing resembling a dotted line to appear in it, and no studio has enthusiastically thrust a mountain of cash in its general direction.
In fact, said sequel is, as yet, merely the culmination of three years work by an aspiring screenwriter who, having tried to attract Hollywood's attention in every other way, decided to share his vision with all and sundry by launching his efforts into cyberspace. T3 is one of a long line of unpublished scripts on the Net - but the first to try to follow-up such a blockbuster.
Terminator 3: Armageddon intends to set straight all the unanswered questions and paradoxes of the first two films. Set in an archetypal future-sucks world, the script sees Sarah and John Conner trying to save both the world and each other from three terminators (the original, the T-1000 and the all new T-INFINITY, a supercyborg of fantastically evil proportions).
The author is one Daniel l. Perez, a 23-year-old from Jackson, Michigan. He grew up on a farm, has a degree in electronics engineering technology, and put pen to paper in 1992 after a viewing of Terminator 2 sent his brain into overdrive.
"After the terminator is melted down," explains Perez, "Sarah and John think that the battle is over, since everything that reinforces the existence of Sky-Net was destroyed.
"But without the existence of Sky-Net John Conner cannot exist in his present form. Because if it doesn't exist, then John's father, Kyle Reese, has no way to get back to the year 1984 to be John's father. And if destroying the terminators and the spare parts meant destroying the existence of Sky-Net, why is Sarah talking about the terminators in a past tense and implying that she is still aware of their existence? It is inevitable; history has to fulfil itself..."
Inspired by such theories, Perez succumbed to the screenwriting bug and composed, with pen and paper, "80 pages of one of the worst treatments ever written". After several rewrites and fruitless attempts to turn the idea into something resembling a movie reality, he finally enlisted the help of an independent studio head, "who helped to fix all the small plot aberrations and errors".
During this time, early 1993, Perez sent his first letter to James Cameron's production company Lightstorm Entertainment, only to receive a short reply informing him that the letter was "unsolicited and so would not be forwarded"
"Then, in the spring of that year, I received a weird grey envelope from Lightstorm with even weirder contents after earlier sending a letter to Stan Winston. Inside was a several page photocopy of a story from the February 22nd, 1993 edition of The New Yorker, about Barry Diller using his computer to do his work in the entertainment industry and taking it to meetings." Key phrases of the article had been underlined, complete with a list of names at the top that indicated Cameron was indeed one of the recipients. Quite how Perez came to receive a copy is baffling but it gave him a clue as to how he should proceed.
"In the autumn of 1993 I purchased a computer, " he explains, "then in 1994 I joined CompuServe and began to try to distribute this script to others on the On-line service."
Sadly, early reaction proved far from positive, and in defending the script Perez ignited a "flame-war" (a bunfight between quarrelling Internet users) between himself and his surfing critics.
In addition, he also had Hollywood to deal with. Having drafted in the assistance of an agent, he once again approached James Cameron and Arnie himself, dropping the agent's name in correspondence. The result proved merely to be a threat of legal action from the agent, a blow which, along side the ongoing Net abuse, nearly brought Perez's writing career to a halt.
"I was so emotionally crushed by this that I just packed the printed copies of the T3 screenplay in a box and put it away..."
He began work on another, completely different movie script, and in the autumn of 1995 the internet came to his assistance.
"In my web travels, I found a producer who was offering screenplay reading services. I sent a copy of this other script to him, and his review showed I needed to do a lot of work. But at that time I was also thinking of the T3 script."
Then Perez had a stroke of luck...
"I was listening to the first track on the soundtrack CD to Die Hard With A Vengeance, Summer In The City, when I got a vision of how to end the T3 script. I went back to the boxes with the T3 script, got them out, unstuffed the files containing the script on my computer and began to work on it again."
Perez then resubmitted his new T3 draft to the same producer.
"His critique showed there was still many mistakes, but I was not deterred this time from getting this story out to the world."
As a result, Terminator 3: Armageddon made his internet debut in January 1996 and more than 1,000 surfers visited the site within a month. Now, thanks to some very favourable feedback (people can leave reviews of the script in a separate chatroom on the site, and e-mail the author) business is booming, with more than 10,000 people having checked out the site to date.
Perez, meanwhile, is busy working on a further draft of the script - and as far as he is concerned, this is the one that will turn Cameron's head.
"I will continue to work on this and keep approaching Hollywood from different angles until this script is made into a film," he declares. "This script has an 'original' ending that even James Cameron would envy."
Lightstorm's reaction, on the other hand, was less than enthusiastic.
"We don't know anything about it," sighed a terse spokesperson.
Perhaps Cameron is hard at work on his own version of terminator 3?