He’s in great shape for 67, true to form for a movie star who combines brains with brawn and advocates body building as character-building. Though the long-anticipated arrival of this superhero was delayed by a technical hitch (nobody’s perfect…) it was greeted by a standing ovation.
“I’m glad to be back!” Arnold Schwarzenegger announced to the audience, or as billed in the blurb: “intimate gathering” of 1,100 people crammed into a function room at the Lancaster London Hotel.
While the road to Hollywood was paved with Golden Globes, it was on the rain-soaked streets of London that the young Arnold took his first steps to stardom.
“London was important for me – that’s where I first came for the Mr Universe competition in 1966,” he explains. “The year after that, I became the youngest Mr Universe at the age of 20. That was the first stage in my career where my dreams became a reality.”
He went on to win the Mr Olympia title seven times, starred in a string of blockbuster movies and ventured into politics to become governor of California – held back from running for the ultimate goal of President through an accident of birth.
“I would have run for the president but I can’t, because you have to be American to do that. The Americans made that a law because they didn’t want a British president!” Arnie guffaws in his guttural Austrian accent.
He puts his self-discipline down to his strict upbringing in an Austrian village in the austere post-war era. His single-minded pursuit of body-building as a teenager, to the dismay of his parents, almost bordered on obsession – but it is this compulsion to succeed which drives him.
“I had photos of the body builder Reg Park on my bedroom wall. My mum saw them and started crying, because instead of girls, I had pin ups of naked men with oiled bodies!” he laughs. “She even asked the doctor about it and he said it was normal for kids to have idols. My parents wanted me to be normal, married, with five kids, like the Von Trapp family from the Sound of Music – I wanted to be unique.”
A firm believer in the American dream, here’s Arnie’s winning formula:
“Believe in yourself. Be prepared to work your butt off and make sacrifices. The loser stays down – the winner gets up. Don’t be afraid of failure and don’t be held back by the naysayers. Shoot for the stars – don’t go half way. You have to have drive, a goal, and a vision.”
Arnie’s fiercely competitive edge led to early rivalry with other leading men on the movie scene – most famously Silvester Stallone. “I used to hate him!” admits Arnie. “When he did Rambo II, I was so annoyed because he looked ripped, and that was my department!”
When the opportunity arose for them both to be involved in the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, they decided to put aside their differences. “There’s a picture of us doing the waltz together – of course I was leading!” jokes Arnie.
His muscular physique was dismissed as “overdeveloped” when he first set out to make a career in movies, but this was the very attribute which earned him his first ever role in the film Hercules in New York.
He was also told that his accent was terrible and his speech monotonous – yet it is his “robotic” voice that defines the character of The Terminator, which gave him his first big break.
Jonathan Ross, acting as interviewer for the evening, urged Arnie to tell the story of how during filming, he argued that the line “I will be back” would be more in keeping with the character. But he lost the argument – and now “I’ll be back!” is his best-loved catchphrase, closely followed by “Get to the chopper!” from Predator.
Arnie and Wossy seem at ease in each other’s company – perhaps a little too laid back. The resulting conversation is more comfy chair than psychiatrist’s couch, with too-personal subjects quickly glossed over.
A brief reference was made to the divorce Arnie describes as “one of my biggest failings”. But being a glass-half-full kind of guy, he insists that the split from Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, was amicable and his children emerged unscathed and are all doing well.
With Terminator: Genisys scheduled to open in July 2015, the Legend of Conan on the cards, and the possibility of a sequel to the Running Man, there are plenty of projects in the pipeline.
“I’m still passionate about what I do and hungry for success”, Arnie sums up. “I still work out, I’m in good shape, so I have the energy to do these movies. This is not a dress rehearsal. You only get one life – live it!”
Review by Angela Lord
Monday 17th November 2014