EDITORIALS

Why Isn't Jonathan Nolan Credited for Terminator Salvation?

by
April 28, 2009
Source: SlashFilm

Terminator Salvation - Credited Writers

Our friend Peter Sciretta at SlashFilm noticed earlier this week that Christopher Nolan's brother Jonathan Nolan was missing from the credits block at the bottom of the official website for Terminator Salvation. He started doing some research and even ended up calling the Writer's Guild today to try and get to the bottom of this story. If you went to the New York Comic-Con or WonderCon and saw McG talk, you'll know that he always brings up the story about how they went to Jonathan Nolan and had him do some revisions to make the story good enough for Christian Bale. But if he did all that work, then why isn't he credited?

If you look at the website or any of the final posters, you'll see that only two writers are credited: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris. These are the two guys who wrote Terminator 3 and wrote the very first draft of Terminator Salvation. Beyond that, we've only heard from McG himself that Jonathan Nolan and even Paul Haggis have potentially helped revise the script before shooting. We all know that McG talks a lot and most of the time he's just blowing hot air, but I don't think he'd lie about Jonathan Nolan, especially when his influence can even be felt in the trailers. So what exactly is going on here? Why isn't he credited?

Well, most importantly, it's about the WGA and the way they approve who gets a credit. Changes in dialogue, character, mood and tone are not necessarily considered big enough changes. Nolan would have had to change "51% or more of the story" to earn a credit. And because arbitration at the WGA is a political process and often disputed, it looks like Jonathan Nolan didn't make the cut this time. That is, if we are to believe that Nolan did contribute enough. I, for one, do believe McG, and think Nolan did make a lot of revisions, but obviously we have yet to see just how many (and we won't know until they screen it).

In an interview with Boxoffice Magazine earlier this month, McG admits that, "I never met Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato, who ultimately got credit, and I thought we changed the script a great deal." He adds that, "it's not like the Ferris and Brancato draft deserved that writing credit." And that "I credit Jonah as the architect of the picture, and I'm certain Christian feels the same way. He represents the hard time on the ground in Albuquerque, N.M., when we shot the film and really got it going." So what gives, WGA? Is Jonathan Nolan being robbed here? Or is there maybe more to this story than we actually know about?

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Reader Feedback - 36 Comments

1

that sucks

Darren on Apr 28, 2009

2

This is downright wrong. An actor who is in only 5% of a film can get credited but a writer who helped create the movie from the get-go can't get credited? These WGA politics disgust me.

SlashBeast on Apr 28, 2009

3

Writers are a weird bunch at times it seems they want credit for a story and other times they wish to be anonymous. Maybe Nolan didn't want the credit this time. or WGA is just insatiable ass that loves to screw people!

xerxex on Apr 28, 2009

4

I throw the swine flu their way!

teyhtr on Apr 28, 2009

5

Why would the WGA want to screw Nolan?! Conspiracy much? "especially when his influence can even be felt in the trailers"...what? What makes you think this? I don't think the writer's influence can be that much felt in a 2min sequence with so little dialogue, but ok... My guess, Nolan did infact helped with the script, but nothing special and McG is trying to get some of the Dark Knight's hype...

Ricardo on Apr 28, 2009

6

I said this on another site, but I can't believe this can be the final decision. Surely, legally, James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd would have to receive a 'based on characters by' credit just as they did on Terminator 3? They're the ones who should be the most miffed, seeing as they came up with the original concept and key characters that are the basis for this new movie.

Mathieu on Apr 28, 2009

7

Give credit where credit is due!!

BC on Apr 28, 2009

8

The WGA decides who gets credit and it's based on script drafts, not research or anything else. And their arbitration is, well, arbitrary. Credit is usually meted out on quantity of changes and not quality of changes. You'd be surprised how to see easy it is to get screwed out of credit. Doesn't matter anyways. Everyone in Hollywood knows who did what on what projects and, unless Nolan got screwed on "sole writing credit" (which he did not), he doesn't stand to lost money. Not much anyways. Not that anyone does it for the money. LOL!

Tony on Apr 28, 2009

9

I actually saw a foldout poster in the theater and there are 4 people credited in the screenplay, one of them in Jonathan Nolan.

Pedro Canhenha on Apr 28, 2009

10

Johnny is a pretty good writer, which is why i have so much faith in Salvation, kinda sucks he doesnt get credit.

Al on Apr 28, 2009

11

that sucks jonathan nolan is a great writer!

shirley on Apr 28, 2009

12

HEY PEOPLE, I'VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR WEEKS Why isn't Paul Haggis, Shawn Ryan, or Anthony E. Zuicker credited either? According to Nolan's own words, they did as much work as he did.

BahHumbug on Apr 28, 2009

13

and had him do some revisions to make the story good enough for Christian Bale? I'm starting to hate this guy more and more....

Ross on Apr 28, 2009

14

@ 13 Ross what he means by good enough for Bale is that Bale is a method actor and an asshole everybody knows he is, but he is willing to lose or gain any amount of weight for his roles as long as they are good enough, for it. don't Believe me? Watch "the machinist" Bale dropped like 60 lbs and ate an apple a day just to do it, so I agree he is an ass but an ass that can really act.

xerxex on Apr 28, 2009

15

If the WGA policy is really that you have to change 51% of the story to get credited that's wack and needs to be changed. You can do immense work on a script, and really totally change how things play out without changing 51% of the story and it's berserk to not give credit to someone who goes through something, works throughout the whole script changing dialogue, really shaping the story into something (hopefully) better and not get credit.

Timothy on Apr 28, 2009

16

This is such a non-issue, he made edits to the script, he didn't write it. Question: Where is his influence felt in the trailers specifically and how can you tell that?

Jim on Apr 28, 2009

17

#4 you're a joker hahaha!! That's total b.s. Having J. Nolan's name on the credits could only HELP this movie. I don't get it. But I wholeheartedly agree w/ #2. WGA politics are garbage ridden.

Conrad on Apr 28, 2009

18

Hes a good writer and the people who know that already know that he had something to do with this. Those who don't probably don't even know who he is and probably don't care anyway so honestly I don't think it matters that much besides the morale part of it. I mean he did his work and he did it well (hopefully) I think the only people who should be pissed off is him. But also Alex also you should really answer 16's question because it sounds like your the one "blowing hot air".

Cody on Apr 28, 2009

19

#16 - Okay, I've been asked that before (on Twitter) and this is the answer I gave: "I guess just Bale's character/dialogue seems to have some Batman-ish tinge, and the story is fairly dark as well?" His response was that I could get that from any trailer with Bale and I said: "I'm sure you could, yes, it was a pretty shallow statement on my part, so don't hold me to it. Just inciting some discussion..." So don't kill me over it, I'm just saying... People seem excited that Jonathan Nolan is involved and I think, maybe, some of his dialogue or dark story elements are hinted at in the trailers. But that's it, not a big deal, eh? 🙂

Alex Billington on Apr 28, 2009

21

Ferris and Brantco are (unt$

Jonah Nolan on Apr 29, 2009

22

Are we sure Jonah wasn't just a script doctor and McG has overstated his involvement? Didn't McG also say he could make an R rated movie and that James Cameron gave the movie his blessing? Maybe McG went a little too far in trying to win people over.

adam on Apr 29, 2009

23

You don't typically get story credit for a quick polish or revisions to an existing script. Nolan was probably handed a finished script with some jotted notes from Bale. He undoubtedly improved Bale's lines, etc. but he didn't sweat the structure and bones of the story, which is the real heavy lifting. I'm sure he got a fat check and I'm sure he never expected a screen credit. No controversy here.

Jason on Apr 29, 2009

24

Well, Jonathan Nolan had better helped a hell of alot because Terminator 3 sucked horribly. The only reason I even got excited and believe this could be a good movie was because of his involvement.

Javier on Apr 29, 2009

25

Can someone answer my query at #6? Why aren't Cameron and Hurd given a credit?

Mathieu on Apr 29, 2009

26

Jesus christ, can someone acknowledge what I just wrote yesterday. Nolan did just as much work as the other three guys who did edits, I know why they aren't credited (as mentioned they didn't meet the WGA guidelines as a site that is part of the internet film press... why are we just signaling out Nolan).

BahHumbug on Apr 29, 2009

27

Your facts are wrong about WGA arbitration. Writers only need 1/3 (33%) to get credit on a non-original script, and this was a sequel. B & F were not the first writers on the project, they received no special consideration. A panel of three objective writers read all the drafts, and unanimously agreed that no writers other than Brancato and Ferris-- not Nolan, not Haggis, not Ryan, etc.-- added more than a third of the finished script. Guild rules are not crazy-- you have to assume that B & F are the writers most responsible for the script, no matter what McG says.

Walter Anders on Apr 29, 2009

28

Jon Nolan got a lot of potential, that sucks indeed.

Fisherr on Apr 29, 2009

29

I agree that it blows that Jonathon Nolan isn't getting his credit on the poster, but I agree with the idea that maybe he doesn't want to be on it. Writers are weird. And even if he doesn't get his name put up there, we all know about his part and how it probably made this movie much, much better. Maybe that's enough. And at least we can all take solace in the fact that some dude named Andrew Vajna got up there. That's awesome no matter how you look at it.

Da Man on Apr 29, 2009

30

Andrew Vajna, Mario Kassar, James Cameron......those are names !!!

Dan on Apr 29, 2009

31

Once again in Nolan's own words- Haggis, Ryan, and Zuicker did just as much work as he did, why doesn't anyone care about them?

BahHumbug on Apr 29, 2009

32

Writers at Nolan's level can not take their names off a movie. He in fact sought credit, and had the WGA given it to him, he would have had no choice but to take it.

Walter Anders on Apr 29, 2009

33

@31 - Because Nolan was the one who wrote Batman. Yup, it's that silly...

Ricardo on Apr 30, 2009

34

just 2 let u know alex i live in ireland i was at the local cinema 2day and guess what is name is on the poster terminator salvation is from columbia here and its 100% is name is there

jono on Apr 30, 2009

35

Christian Bale's casting led to the John Connor's role to get expanded and I really think Jonathan Nolan only rewrote/expanded Christian Bale's Dialog. I think that Terminator Salvation's story is mainly John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris' ideas. Paul Haggis, Shawn Ryan and Anthony E. Zuiker, may have added some things to script. I feel like 5# said "Nolan did infact helped with the script, but nothing special and McG is trying to get some of the Dark Knight's hype" Also I just add that McG seems to make things up for hype allot and is name-dropping "the Dark Knight" all the time.

Jackwalker on May 20, 2009

36

He probably didn't want his tied to the lameness that was terminator salvation.

Adam on May 29, 2009

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