Interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger
Exposed Meets Arnold Schwarzenegger.
For nearly twenty years, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest action star in the world. That’s an easy thing to forget given his later films and his time as Governor of California (which earned the nickname “The Governator”), but it’s something that immediately comes flooding back upon meeting the man in the flesh. Liam Neeson may be the titan of box office action nowadays, but it’s not something that evokes jealousy in the former Mr. Olympia. “I’m not jealous of anybody,” he smiles, before exuberantly proclaiming: “I love being me!”
And why wouldn’t he? At 66, Arnold is three films into his comeback trail this month with Sabotage, David Ayer’s directorial follow-up to well-received 2012 cop thriller End Of Watch.
Following his role in The Last Stand, and a team-up with fellow eighties action icon Sylvester Stallone in last year’s frivolously fun Escape Plan, Sabotage sees Arnold in the role of DEA Task Force commander Breacher Wharton. When Breacher’s task force raids a cartel warehouse only to leave with $10 million of the cartel’s money stashed for themselves, the commander and his team soon find themselves with their backs against the wall when the cartel in turn begins targeting them one by one. It’s dark, gritty and intense stuff, all the hallmarks of a David Ayer project.
A much sought-after director, working with Ayer was a huge draw for Arnold. “He films a different kind of movie than is typical of Hollywood,” he reveals. “I think that, when you see Training Day, he’s a fantastic writer – and when you see his directing in End Of Watch, you can see that he likes action, he likes realism and he tries to bring as much realism to the screen as possible.”
Realism is certainly Ayer’s forte, something he demands of his cast as much as of his visuals. With Sabotage, Ayer sent his team of assembled actors on a three month regime of martial arts training and even specialist training with the LAPD SWAT unit, generally regarded as the most efficient tactical force in the world today.
“The way that they breach doors, the way that they storm buildings, all of this we had to study. That’s what made it interesting, his insistence on us to train with them, to practice with them – and when we got on set we were very well prepared.”
Preparation may well have been the buzzword of production for Sabotage, but casting actors up to the challenge was also paramount. Relatively inexperienced in being part of an ensemble cast, Arnold soon found he was in fine company with the likes of True Blood’s Joe Manganiello and Avatar star Sam Worthington.
“They were all in their own way really tough guys,” he says, quick to shake off any pretense of Hollywood glamour muscles. “David Ayer wanted to know they were ahead of time. It’s not like the director having lunch with a movie star and saying it’s a year from now and this actor here doesn’t look the part yet, but by the time I’m through with him he will. It’s not like that, they are really very, very tough guys.”
Worthington’s action pedigree has seen him spend the last couple of years headlining the likes of the Clash Of The Titans movies, while Manganiello earned himself a staggering female fan base by pairing his True Blood role of Alcide with an appearance as Big Dick Richie in 2012’s Magic Mike.
While Arnold meanwhile is no stranger to the rigorous physical preparation that comes with such a project, his characters have always maintained a pretty rigid moral standard, making his choice to play Breacher (“a sort of flawed hero” the star claims) another in his recent series of left-field choices.
“I want to go with more challenging roles” he admits. “When you’re at a certain age – especially coming out of a government job – you see the world as a little bit more complex than it really is and therefore the characters are written as more complex and multi-dimensional. I’m attracted to those kinds of characters now but maybe twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been attracted to the same script.”
It’s clearly not all part of a master plan, with the Austrian actor’s next project turning back the clock entirely and seeing him return to the franchise that made him an icon to begin with.
“The next movie is Terminator; and that I did not plan either. It’s just that they bought the rights that were available for future Terminator movies and they came to me and I felt very honoured because everyone else had been replaced in the movie. I felt very honoured that they kept me in the movie. I love that character.”
The stoic T-800 isn’t the only character Arnold plans on revisiting, however, just the first in a series.
“Universal Studios is coming to me and saying ‘we want you to play Conan’ and I said ‘wow’, this is really great to getting to play these old original characters that actually made my career, but again it’s not a plan,” he claims. “I tried to do more Conan movies, but the people who owned the rights I didn’t want to work with because I didn’t want to do a half-assed movie. I wanted to do a Conan movie that was on the level of A movies, you know, where they put a budget behind it, they put a great director behind it, because then it can be a successful movie.”
Given his body of work over the years, Arnold does acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with the studio system and sequels. Having taken a break from acting for the duration of his governership, most of Hollywood’s big studio positions are now filled by an entirely new set of younger execs. Execs who grew up on Schwarzenegger classics like Kindergarten Cop and Twins, and want to see more – with Twins now having a sequel in active development.
“All of a sudden there’s Triplets there and it’s something we’ve had an idea for since the movie came out but they kept saying “there’s no sequel, there’s no sequel. Then, all of a sudden, they call me and say – ‘didn’t we always talk about a sequel?’”, he laughs. “But it’s a different studio executive now, a new generation, the old guard is gone. There are new people in there, and so this is basically the way it happens. Some of those ideas work, some don’t work, but I believe very strongly in those characters and in those movies we do.”
A long gestating rumour has Eddie Murphy joining Arnold and DeVito in the matching cream coloured suits, which Arnold acknowledges, but admits they’ve yet to get much further than planning.
Decades of work in some of the most high-profile action movies of all time have done nothing to chip away at Arnold’s gleefully enthusiastic demeanour. That pay-off line grin ever present when asked how he unwinds from a day shooting these sorts of projects, simply declaring: “A cigar is always needed.”
Certainly the former Governor is known for his love of stogies, having been introduced to them by John Milius during the filming of the first Conan movie and taken his love of Cubans with him into office, where he conducted the bulk of meetings from a fumigated smoking tent on his balcony. Work stays at work now though, he says. “When I go home, I don’t think about the movie anymore. I just go, I have my work-out every night, I go for dinner.”
He’s not completely capable of switching off, however – admitting that he does finish his evenings with rehearsals. “I come from a bodybuilding background where it’s reps, reps, reps, it’s all about reps, and for me it’s the same with acting. The more often you do a scene, the more you rehearse, the better it is.”
Clearly it’s a routine he won’t be able to give up anytime soon, with zombie drama Maggie and Terminator: Genesis next on the horizon (complete with Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor) and a return for both Conan and Julius Benedict coming; Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legendary catchphrase has become strangely moot. He won’t be back – because he’s clearly not leaving the cinema screen any time soon.
Head to www.schwarzenegger.com for more.
Words: Van Connor