Arnold Schwarzenegger has always been larger than life.
First, he was the Austrian stud who intimidated and muscled his way into winning five Mr. Universe bodybuilding championships. Then, he used his good looks and natural guile to make his mark in Hollywood and ultimately become one of the biggest box-office stars in the film business. Films like Conan the Barbarian, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, and True Lies are all part of the Schwarzenegger legend. But it was James Cameron’s seminal 1984 film, The Terminator, which truly established Schwarzenegger as a major international movie star, whose classic line: “I’ll be back!” became part of modern culture.
Schwarzenegger became a symbol for action heroes and a rough-hewn brand of macho swagger. When he began to tire of Hollywood, he shifted his attention and relentless ambition to politics and successfully ran for Governor of California, having already become part of political royalty by marrying Maria Shriver of the fabled Kennedy family dynasty.
Though his marriage ended after he admitted to having fathered a child with the family housekeeper, Schwarzenegger is not a man to admit defeat. He has resurrected his film career of late and is now about to see whether his name still carries weight in Terminator: Genisys, the fourth installment in the Terminator franchise. Having wisely skipped T3 (the Christian Bale film that was widely panned), Arnold decided to return to the role that turned him into a major movie star.
“I always said that I would do another Terminator if the story is great,” Schwarzenegger says. “I think I really enjoyed this story when I read it. I wanted another chance to get into the character, because I’ve always been very passionate about it. It’s a great and interesting character. I think it’s a great story and I feel like I’ve been playing him my whole life. It’s part of me.”
In Terminator: Genisys, Arnold returns to the role of the seemingly indestructible android who, this time out, has been programmed to protect Sarah Conner from the machine invasion that is in the process of destroying earth. The stunningly beautiful Emilia Clarke (Daenerys of Game of Thrones) takes over the Sarah Connor role and she and Schwarzenegger may well return the Terminator franchise to its former glory days.
STRIPLV: Arnold, are you excited about returning to the Terminator franchise that catapulted you into one of the biggest movie stars in the history of Hollywood?
SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s been a very rewarding experience to get back into the role. It was kind of like riding a bicycle—that you never really lose it—now I’m back again. James Cameron created a great concept about machines taking over the world, and in our present day, this is more true than ever. So I think a new generation of audiences is going to be anxious to see our Terminator movie and be part of this new journey. There are incredibly talented people who are part of this movie and it’s a very visionary story. It’s a big and exciting world that we’ve created.
STRIPLV: Were you worried about coming back to the role, in case the film wouldn’t be able to deliver the kind of action that the first two films were so famous for?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I never would have become involved if the story and the visual effects were not bigger and better than ever. We all knew that we had to raise the game and go way beyond what we did in Terminator and T2. We were ahead of our time with the visual effects on those films, and we want to be even further ahead with what we’ve done with this movie. We want audiences all over the world to feel that they’re witnessing a very powerful and entertaining movie. We want to deliver on every level possible.
STRIPLV: Has the film industry changed a great deal since you were the top box-office star in the ‘80s and ‘90s?
SCHWARZENEGGER: To me, the important thing is that my movies can play anywhere, and people will understand the drama, the action, or whatever, and get entertained. Whether it’s a Conan script or a Terminator movie, the movie has to play the same way on all the different continents. That’s very important. From the beginning when I was getting started, I always looked at everything in a global way, whether it was bodybuilding or fitness promotion. Even though I passed environmental laws in California, I was thinking about how to make it effective all over the world. It’s always about the world. With movies, even though I had big fights in the beginning, I remember that, with Universal Studios we were going to do promotion for Conan the Barbarian, and I said, “Let’s go to 10 countries.” They said, “No, no. That’s not how we do it. We visit three countries: England, France, and the Cannes Film Festival.” I wanted to go to Italy, Germany, Japan. I kept at it and eventually they sent me to 10 countries, but they thought it was a little out there. They said: “This guy just likes to travel around.” But it had nothing to do with traveling around. I thought that the world was the marketplace, not just America.
STRIPLV: Obviously, big new markets, like Asia and particularly China, are very important to Hollywood studio productions…
SCHWARZENEGGER: Look what happened: I was totally on-the-money. I’m so happy today, because I was so right and way ahead of the curve. Now, in China, The Fast and the Furious made like $400 million and will end up making more over there than in America. China’s right behind America. So the world is very important for box office and making big movies. You need to go to China, Japan, African nations. You need to go to these places and make sure they’re building theaters all over the world. It’s a world economy.
STRIPLV: With a massive film like this, actors like yourself are forced to imagine the background and work with the green screen in the background. Do you ever worry about the final product itself and whether it’s going to match your own vision?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think that when you are shooting the movie, you really are not aware of any of that. It is sometimes challenging when you film and you only see a green background and then you have to kind of imagine that this is inside some huge factory or this is the future world and all of those things, so that will be then put in later on when you’re not there. And what is really surprising is then when you watch it, because I was not there when a lot of this stuff was done visual effects-wise, and all of a sudden to see the size of the movie and to see it then with the music and to see it all when it’s totally finished. Like, I’ve just watched it literally a few days ago, before I went to Brazil, and then came over here to Australia—I was blown away by it.
STRIPLV: You’ve played in many different kinds of movies, including the recent horror film, Maggie. What’s your favorite role of your career?
SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s hard to say. I enjoyed playing with Danny DeVito, the twin brother, as much as I enjoyed being the Terminator, the cyborg machine, or being Conan, or being Jamie Lee Curtis’ husband in True Lies. These are all very fun characters. I know the people enjoy me playing the tough characters or the funny characters. I also enjoyed being in the jungle with those guys and fighting the Predator. These are all fun characters to play. But, I also have the joy of playing my real-life character. That’s a much more challenging character to play. Being someone who’s on a fitness crusade, always out there promoting health and fitness, and being on an environmental crusade, protecting the environment.
STRIPLV: You are a man of enormous ambition and you have accomplished virtually everything you have ever set your mind toward achieving—from bodybuilding to movies to politics. Did you surpass your own expectations?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I never thought that I would be able to do all of those things to the extent that I did it. I would say that I always was very motivated; I always had big visions. I’m very serious about my visions. I see them very clearly. Unlike most people, I really see them clearly, and therefore I see that you can go after them, if you work hard and if you know how to get there. That’s number two. And number three, I think it is because of America. America is… it’s always known to be the land of opportunity, but I have experienced it firsthand. It’s not just a slogan or a saying. It is really the land of opportunity, because only in America, you can do something like that.
STRIPLV: Did you ever find yourself getting caught up in your own image when it seemed like you were on top of the world?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I never took myself too seriously. What I did take seriously and very serious were the issues that I tackle—that if you talk about promotion of health and fitness and you become the chairman of the President’s Council on Fitness and you go through all 50 states and you go into the schools and you promote the idea of hiring more physical education teachers. Or if you go out and try to get an extra $500 million for after-school programs. Or if you go out and try to convince the people to get off fossil fuels and to go into more renewable energy, since we have an abundant amount of that. So those issues I take very seriously. But I don’t take myself that seriously, because I’m… to me, life is all about, you know, hard work, and my father always said to me, “Be useful.” To be useful, it’s very important to do something that is bigger than you are, causes that are bigger than you are, but have a good time at the same time. Smile, have a good time, have a positive attitude and see always everything “the glass is half-full,” rather than half-empty.
STRIPLV: You’ve had personal ups and downs in your life. How do you move forward?
SCHWARZENEGGER: By not dwelling on your mistakes.
“ I refuse to dwell on the negative, because there’s no point. It won’t change anything. You need to move forward, become a better man, do greater things. You can’t stop. It’s ridiculous and counterproductive to indulge in suffering and guilt. It won’t make things better or help you deal with it. I will never do that. I will always go forward in life.”