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Surely there are many reasons why an actor would be excited to be a part of a new Terminator movie, but for Gabriel Luna there was definitely one particular aspect that stuck out: the chance to do scenes with franchise star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fortunately for him, he got such an opportunity in the making of Terminator: Dark Fate – even getting to go toe-to-toe with him in a major fight sequence… but what makes the story extra special is that the young actor filmed that notable sequence while unknowingly having two fractured ribs.
Terminator: Dark Fate held its domestic press day in Los Angeles this past weekend, and it was while sitting down with Gabriel Luna that I learned about the surprise injury he brought with him into one of the most significant weeks of his acting career. I asked him what it was like filming sequences with the action legend that is Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he took he back to way before production even started, and he was counting down days until the big day:
It was certainly a date that I had circled for a long, long time. And we had this ever shifting schedule, so that date started to kind of push and push, and I’m like, ‘Oh man,’ chomping at the bit for this moment. Cause I know I have this scene of dialog with him, standing face-to-face with him. Months and months and months of waiting and preparing, and just, ‘All right, I gotta get my body, I have to get my mind, everything has to be there.’ And the funny thing about that is literally the day before we start to shoot, that week, I’m rehearsing a stunt, and I feel a little something in my back, like a little pinch. ‘What the hell was that?’ I’m like, ‘Holy shit.’
As those with any exercise experience can attest, that kind of “pinch” can be scary. Sometimes it turns out to be absolutely nothing, just a momentary bit of pain caused by a tweaked nerve, and sometimes it can be the first indicator that something is really wrong. Of course, having read the headline and the first paragraphs of this story, you know that in this case it’s the latter.
Given the lack of clarity the “pinch” presents, the natural thing to do is wait and see if it continues to be a problem. This is the route that Gabriel Luna took, taking the “sleep on it” method, but that turned out to not fix things. And certainly not helping him at all either his part as Rev-9, a nearly unstoppable villain in Terminator: Dark Fate – meaning that most of his scenes saw him taking considerable hits. Said Luna,
I go to bed and I wake up real sore, and I was like, ‘Man, I must have pulled something.’ So I go to work, working it out, you know, taking knocks. I took a lot more knocks in this one than I usually take, as I usually play the good guy. And then I’m like, ‘Dang, this thing is kinda funky back there.’ Danko [Jordanov], one of Arnold’s stunties gave me this nice little tackle, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s good; good job.’ And then I’m like, ‘Whoa, something’s going on.’
When “sleep on it” failed, “play through the pain” was the mentality that took over for the actor. Gabriel Luna was being given the chance to perform scenes and do fight choreography with the star of not only Terminator, but also Predator, The Running Man, Commando, and so many others, and he was not going to delay things because his back felt tweaked.
The good news is that doing his Terminator: Dark Fate scenes with Arnold Schwarzenegger was entirely worth it, as Luna had a blast crippling with the former Governor of California, and found himself wowed by his scene partner’s continued commitment to the craft:
I did the whole week, did all my stuff with Arnold, we’re fighting, and I’m impaling him, and throwing him across [the room], and he’s just so wonderful, dude. He’s just so helpful. He makes himself available to you. This is not his first rodeo, and he loves just the physicality of it. He’s an athlete, and I come from athletics background as well. So I think that that’s where we jived. So we get through that whole week. We do the fight, we do the scene, we’re doing all this – meanwhile I have this back brace that I have, and all this other stuff.
Having completed the work that he had been passionately anticipating, Gabriel Luna opted for some physical therapy, and it was there that he learned that what was going on with his back was much more serious that a lower back muscle strain. The actor explained,
I’m like, ‘Ah, dang, that week was awesome. I’m so happy that got through that.’ And then I was like, ‘I’m going to get a massage.’ I get my massage and Panda, our masseuse, he gets to that spot, and he’s like, ‘No, no, no, no. This isn’t a muscle. You should go to the doctor.’
Those are definitely not words that you ever want to hear from a masseuse, and it was a message that Gabriel Luna took to heart, and an appointment was made.
After tests were done, the Terminator: Dark Fate star got the news: two fractured ribs. That’s pretty serious and scary stuff, but as the actor explained, the situation could have been much worse:
I went to the doctor, got my X-rays – John Kelly, our producer, takes me out there, and apparently I had two fractures in my floating ribs. Thank God they’re not the ones that are attached to the sternum. Then you have difficulty breathing. In this case they were just the floating ribs. They’re like, ‘Well, there’s really nothing you can do except for wear a brace. You’ve made it through the worst of it.’
So I made it through a week, but like the biggest week of probably my filmmaking life, running on adrenaline and Advil.