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The Expendables 2 - Arnold Schwarzenegger interview

The Expendables 2

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ARNOLD Schwarzenegger talks about making his big screen comeback alongside former action rivals Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis in The Expendables 2 and why he had a lot of fun.

He also reflects on his own career, from idols through acting to politics as governor of California, as well as why he almost never said “I’ll be back”. He was speaking at the UK press conference for the film…

Q. How has the bar been significantly raised with The Expendables 2?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I was happy that I got asked to come back. For me, it was really interesting because one day you are thinking about policy and trying to stimulate the economy by fixing the budget problem in the state, and you’re talking about educational issues, and all of a sudden the next day you’re on a [film] set and having a shoot-out with Van Damme and with Sly and Bruce Willis and all those guys. This has been the interesting part of my life, going from one to the other. But I was very appreciative that Sly asked me again and I think this movie will really blow everyone away because there is so much great action and funny scenes. It really will make you laugh… a lot. I thought everyone’s performance was great. I thought that the first one was almost impossible to top but the second one is bigger and better than the first one. I think it’s going to be very successful.

Q. In the old days, there used to be quite a bit of competition between you guys. How was it working together? Was there a lot of competition on-set?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I have to say that for me it was the opposite. Everyone was very helpful to me. I had been out of the movies for eight years and so they actually went a bit overboard thinking that I didn’t know how to hold a gun anymore! But everyone came together and helped, which was really terrific. But at the same time, we were very competitive. I think that if you grow up trying to be the best then you have to be competitive because the more you compete, the more someone is there that is a challenge and the more your performance improves. So, I think that because of watching their action movies, I tried to step it up. So, we were always competing about who has the most defined muscles, who has the best body, who has the biggest gun and who kills the most people and who kills people in the best way. There was competition like that all the time.

Q. Some might say that there are a lot of parallels between acting and politics. What parallels have you found?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, I think that there are a lot. You’re always as good as your last movie and that’s the same with politics. If you are successful with a certain policy, then you’re hot; if you’re successful with the economy, or bringing down the unemployment rate, then you’re hot. But if you’re not successful, then things go south very quickly. I think that communication and how to talk to the people is the same as in showbusiness. In acting class, they talk to you always about keeping it real and don’t act… connect with the people and connect with the partner that you’re acting with. The same is also true in politics. In politics, you sometimes feel as though you are talking to a wall. I think one thing that is extremely important is to connect with people in order to be successful and bring the people in so that they become your partners. But there are a lot of differences also.

Q. For action fans, the finest moment in any action film is the one-liner. There are so many great ones in this film but I wonder when you look back on your careers what you think the best and worst one-liners you’ve ever uttered are?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think that one-liners are very important and sometimes you don’t even know when you’re making the movie that it’s going to be a great line. I remember when we did The Terminator and I came to the line “I’ll be back” I had no idea that it was going to be an important line. In fact, I got into an argument with Jim Cameron about it. I wanted to say: “I will be back!” But he said: “No, I wrote it ‘I’ll be back.” But I said that I didn’t like the way the ‘ll sounds… the ‘ll. I thought it sounded too soft and it would be more machine-like if I said: “I will be back.”

But he said: “No, I wrote it, ‘I’ll be back’. So, do me a favour and just say, ‘I’ll be back’! We can shoot it 10 times, do 10 different versions and I’ll pick the best one, but just say the line.” So, I did say the line “I’ll be back” and sure enough I had people come up to me afterwards and say: “Say the line! Say the line!” And I’d say: “What line?” So, they’d ask me to repeat it and I would, but they’d say: “No, say it the way you say it in the movie!” So, [with extra meaning]: “I’ll be back.” So, that line clicked with people and it was a big line. But I didn’t know when I shot it. Sometimes you do know… in Commando, for instance, where I hold the guy over the cliff by his feet and say: “I lied…” And then I drop him. I knew that would be funny. And I’ve never had a bad line [laughs].

Q. You mentioned this is your first movie in eight years, so I wonder what the feelings were on the first day back on a film set? Were there any nerves?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The interesting thing is that when I was governor and I visited a movie set, which I did quite frequently in Hollywood because I wanted to thank people for shooting in California because it’s good for the economy… it’s a huge business there. A lot of States now offer tax incentives, so now productions go outside the State of California. So, I always wanted to go and thank them. But whenever I walked away my assistant or aid would always so: “Don’t you miss that?” I remember one day we were coming off the set of a Tom Cruise film and he was in a harness, hanging upside down doing some fight scenes, and I said: “No… I’m so happy that I don’t have to hang upside down in this harness and do this fight scene over and over. I’m happy being governor. I can’t imagine doing that again!”

But then all of a sudden, a few years after I said that I’m on a movie set and I’m having the greatest time. I think the first movie was the ideal movie to be in when you came back because, first of all, it was the top action heroes. Everyone worked together, the spotlight doesn’t go on any one person, it’s spread out across all of those action heroes. So, it was a safer way to come back. So, I was very fortunate that Sly invited me to come and do that cameo and then asked me to come back again in this one and do something bigger. I had the best time from the moment I arrived in Bulgaria and started filming, all the way to the end. It was difficult for me to leave, in fact, because I knew those guys were going to have more fun for a few more months. But I had to go to my next film, The Last Stand. But certainly it was perfect working on a movie like this.

The Expendables 2

Q. You’re obviously in great shape for this film. But have you had to adapt how you train to stay in shape?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Yeah, I do the curls first now! I think that Sly always used a much more scientific way of training. I remember you were always looking for the latest method. But he’s right that I come much more from the old school. I believe in reps and doing it every day for an hour a day. I do the same exercises I did 50 years ago and they still work. I eat the same food I did 50 years ago and it still works. I have a great time. I’d addicted to exercising. I have to do it every day. I have to do something every day and also some cardio-vascular training. Here, in London it has been fun because they have the Boris bikes all over London, so we go bicycle riding here and sight-seeing at the same time and having a great time.

But to me exercise has always been part of my life, and also watching what you eat. But it is, without any doubt, tougher as you get older. Your metabolism slows down, your muscles don’t respond in exactly the same way anymore… then when you do action scenes and fight scenes and are running around, you take longer to recuperate. But so what? Right? It doesn’t matter. It’s not like we don’t get paid for it and it’s not like we don’t have a good time. We’re passionate about what we do, so it’s all terrific. No matter what age you’ve reached, we have a great time. I had a great tome working with all the action stars. It’s the first time I’ve worked with Jason and I thought he was great. He’s such a talented actor and is so believable on the screen. I think he really shines in this movie. So, I was happy about that.

Q. You kind of invented this kind of genre but growing up, did you have any role models you aspired to?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I remember when I was 14 or 15-years-old being at that age where physical strength and athleticism, watching He-men and all that stuff really excited me, and so I was also watching the Hercules movies. I remember one guy, Reg Park, a British bodybuilder, who entered Mr Universe when he was very young. But he won it and continued to win it a second and third time. So, he was my idol. I read everything about Reg Park and followed his footsteps and trained like him. I said if he could make it, I could make it. It was a blueprint, basically, for how to get there, to win the championships. The training was laid out. And then I saw the Hercules movies and thought that’s exactly the route I was going to go. So, yes he was an idol for me and a very big motivator. He gave me a vision of where to go and how to get there.

Then, of course, there were American stars such as Kirk Douglas. But John Wayne comes to my mind. I saw a lot of John Wayne movies that were very heroic to me. I was at that age, where they were very inspirational. But I think I took it a step further than most kids, who might see it and decide to work out a little bit. For me, it was right away: “I’m going to win the championship, I’m going to make movies, I’m going to make millions of dollars like Reg Park. I’m going to get into the gym business and I’m going to live exactly the same life as he has…” So, that’s what I did. I took it a step further.

Q. You’ve such a varied career with body-building, acting and then politics. So, what has life taught you?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think most of my lessons come from sports. That’s why I always emphasise to young kids to get involved in sports because it’s where you learn about discipline. It’s where you learn to keep going, where if you think you can’t make it, you can. I’ve heard all my life that ‘this is impossible, you can’t make’ it and ‘you’re going to fail’ but I didn’t listen to them and I made it. You also learn how to get up when you fail. As we go through life, we will never be successful in everything. I remember as a lifter, the amount of times I tried to lift 500lb in the bench press and failed and failed, but then one day at the German championships in power-lifting I bench pressed 500lbs.

Also, in politics, when we tried to bring through a policy… we may have failed five times and on the sixth time the press would say: “Don’t you understand that people said ‘no’? It’s over. So, don’t try it again.” But I would say: “Look, I’ve failed to many times but I came back and did it.” And it was the same with that and sure enough, the sixth time we won. So, you learn never to give up. It’s one of the important lessons that you learn. You also have to have vision. No matter what you do, you first have to have a vision… to see your goal, to believe in it, have faith in it and chase it. And then it’s fun to chase it. If you don’t have a goal or a vision, then you have nothing.

Read our interview with Sylvester Stallone

Read our interview with Jean Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins