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The Last Stand – Arnold Schwarzenegger interview

The Last Stand

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ARNOLD Schwarzenegger talks about making his comeback to leading man action roles in The Last Stand and why he wanted to take a seven year break to go into politics.

He also recalls some of his favourite one-liners, confirms that a new Terminator movie is being written and what he hopes to achieve in the future, both personally and professionally. He was speaking at a UK press conference.

Q. When you were getting back into movies, what were you looking for – an old school Arnold action movie?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think that I was fortunate, first of all, that Sylvester Stallone asked me to be in The Expendables, so that was kind of breaking the ice. I had a great time working for four days in Bulgaria and then went directly from Bulgaria into New Mexico, where we filmed The Last Stand. So, by the time I got to the set of The Last Stand I felt that I had warmed up and was not as concerned as I was at the beginning about getting back into it again and wondering what it would be like, my first movie and so on. So, it was a good ice-breaker and I thank Stallone for that.

What I was looking for in a movie was just simply a typical kind of Arnold action movie and this one had great chase scenes, great action, great fight scenes and shoot-outs and it also had some great comic relief and a good story. I also played a character who was somewhat more vulnerable than I would have played in the past and I liked that. Of course, when Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who is the producer of this movie, came to me with Kim Ji-woon, the director from South Korea, I was very impressed with all his work that he has done on his previous movies and I thought it would be really interesting to have a new look in action movies. So, I think it was a combination of things.

And then of course as they put the cast together I got more and more excited. When I heard that Johnny Knoxville was in the film… because my whole family, my kids, were all big films of his films and his comedy. I thought he would be a really great addition to the film. And when I heard that Jaimie was going to be in the film I was very excited because she is so athletic and she’s talented. She quickly picked up the movies and learned.

Q. Welcome back! Was it always an intention to return to action movies during your governor-ship or was it more a case of when the time came it felt right?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, you have to look at it more like an ongoing kind of acting career and movie career, and stepping out f that for seven years and doing the governorship and then to go right back to what I was doing before. So, it was not like a debate: “Should I go back to movies? Or should I go back to action movies?” One thing was very clear and I made it always very clear at the beginning when I got into the governorship, and that was that I wasn’t trying to become a career politician. This was not like I was going to be governor for seven years and then I was going to run for the Senate and then for Congress. That was never my interest.

I mean I just thought that California was in crisis and I felt that, in a sense, California and America has given me every opportunity that I have. Everything that I’ve accomplished in life was because of America and because of California, so I should take seven years out of my life to be a public servant and to serve the people of California regardless of the lack of pay. I gave the money back as a matter of fact. It was like $187,000 a year, which is petty cash to me. So, I gave it back to the State. I wanted to do it for free. I didn’t want to earn any money from it because it was an honour to do that job.

Q. I remember seeing you in The Jayne Mansfield Story where you played Mickey Hargitay. What I’m intrigued to know is when you played that did you have ever imagine you’d have such a long acting career? Or did you think every movie was another step?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: When I played Mickey Hargitay, I played Mickey Hargitay because I was a big admirer of Mickey Hargitay. I thought it was amazing that someone who comes from Hungary could win the Mr Universe contest in 1956 and then come to America with broken English and get married to Jayne Mansfield. And then all of a sudden he’s in the weight and training manufacturing business, the fitness business, the gym business and all of those kinds of things… I thought that was an extraordinary accomplishment. But I had no idea that I would go way beyond all of that because you never know. You can do a great job, you can go out and promote these movies, but in the end it’s the media and the people who have to buy it. And so that’s how you build a career.

So, for me when I was 15-years-old I wanted to be Reg Park, the British bodybuilder, who won Mr Universe three times and then did Hercules movies. I thought: “Wow, if I could accomplish that I’m home free.” And then all of a sudden it took off. It went beyond the Conan movies, the Terminator movies, Commando and Predator. The career took off and all of a sudden I was very fortunate that in the ’70s, ‘80s and ‘90s all those action movies where you needed a body that was believable and muscular became an ‘in’ thing. I was right at the forefront of that. So, again… only in America.

The Last Stand

Q. Working with Johnny Knoxville, were you ever tempted to do a Jackass-style stunt?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I was not about to try a Jackass kind of stunt at all because, as you know in his mvies, the stunts work really well when they fail and that’s when people laugh… when Johnny crashes and he breaks his bones and is hospitalised and barely crawls away. So, I was not about to try that! In our film it was about ‘how do we do this stunt and not get hurt?’ So we can do it over and over again. I tried to explain this to Johnny. I said: “Johnny, this is now a different movie. It’s not your type of a movie. Here, let’s make things work.” But of course he didn’t listen all of the time.

If you remember the telephone poll he climbs up? It really was him up there and he got in the situation where the tyihng crashed and he was on it and he crashed into the truck and we all thought he was going to be dead! And I said to him again: “I’ve told you so many times not to try and do that because we would have had to close down the set if you got hurt.” But he was like: “No, no… this was really fun! What a fun ride!”

Q. You have such an extraordinary life and it’s always been about setting goals and taking on the next challenge. So, at this stage in your life, what you feel looking to the future are the types of goals and challenges that you look forward to achieving?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, I think basically even though I’m 65-years-old I’m just as hungry for growing, for getting smarter, for having more experiences, for doing more movies, for doing bigger and better movies, to work with interesting actors and interesting directors, and to do even better with my work to clean the environment and to create a sustainable energy future in the world and to work with the UN and various different organisations and with environmentalists to get that accomplished. And to work at the Schwarzenegger Institute at USC, to work on stem cell research and better government practice and political reform on those issues. And to have a good time and reach out and try to help people that need help.

I’m still involved in the Special Olympics as an international coach and I have a foundation that deals with after-school programmes, which provide after-school programmes for kids that don’t have parenting in the afternoon, or both parents are working, so they don’t get into trouble and so they get an education and tutoring and parenting and all that stuff. I’m involved in a lot of different things and I’m having a great time being involved in all of those things.

Q. In the film, you play a sheriff looking after a small town. What do you think of Obama’s gun laws?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, I think the key thing is when you have a tragedy like that, then everyone comes together and has a very serious debate over what we can do in order to minimise these kinds of experiences. Is there something that can be changed within the gun laws? Is there something that we can change in the way we look at mental illness? Is there something we can change when it comes to parenting? Are we slacking off on parenting so that kids are roaming around and not having the same kind of leadership that we used to have? Are we looking seriously at whether our schools are safe? So, when someone comes in should there be metal detectors or guards in the schools as this is a new world where these things happen? So, I think one has to look at all of those things and I think that if I’m not mistaken the Obama administration looked at all of those things and much more. So, it’s not just a gun thing. It’s all of those things. It’s looking at them in a comprehensive way so that then you can do justice and make changes and make improvements. You have to use an opportunity like that, when a tragedy like this happens, to make improvements.

Q. Out of all the characters you’ve played, who would be victorious in a fight?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, I think that they’d all join forces right away because that’s the kind of characters they are, because most of the characters I play are within law enforcement or some authority, whether it’s a CIA agent, an FBI agent, a sheriff, a police officer, a police chief, a fire marshal, or a spy or secret agent. They’re all pretty much the same characters. They have authority, they bring law and order and they fight the bad guys. Where it’s different is if you look at the Terminator movies. There, I’m a machine and I’m not on the law;;s side – quite the opposite.

Q. So, would the Terminator win then?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I don’t know. We’d have to go and have a look at Terminator 5 and see what happens.

Q. What can you tell us about Terminator 5?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: We’re writing it now. There’s three projects that are being written right now that involve me. One is Terminator 5, the other is a Conan movie that Universal is doing and there’s the sequel to Twins, which is called Triplets. We’ll all look quite different in that. The third one is Eddie Murphy, so figure that one out.

The Last Stand

Q. What advice would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, I think the first and most important thing is that you’ve got to have a goal and a vision. To go in the direction that I went takes a lot of work. And I don’t think you can do the work – the five or six hours of working out a day – if you don’t have a clear goal or know why you’re doing it. If you just hang out at the gym and train for five or six hours a day without a goal is almost impossible. And then what I went through when I got to America was educating myself over there and work. I had to grind it out and work my way up in Hollywood, which is very, very difficult. All of those things are very hard, so you have to be very determined but the most important thing is you have to have your goal always in front of you.

Then it has to be fun. I always had fun doing all of those things because I knew why I was doing it and I was absolutely convinced that I would get there no matter what anyone said. My whole life everyone always said ‘it can’t be done’, ‘you’ll never do it’, ‘you will fail’, ‘no one has ever gone from Austria and become a Mr Universe, blah, blah, blah’, or when I ran for governor people were sceptical. It was ‘you’re going to lose’ and ‘people don’t take people from show-business seriously in politics’. So, I’ve heard all the ‘it’s impossible’ thing but I didn’t pay any attention because I believed that I could do it. So, that’s the key thing. You’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve got to have a very clear vision, and you’ve got have the fire in the belly and go out and not be shy with working because it takes a lot of work.

Q. Do you still strain for five or six hours a day?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Not still. That was in my early days. Now I work out an hour and a half a day.

Q. What are your thoughts on the use of CGI in action movies?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, for me it doesn’t matter. It depends what story it is. If you do a Spider-Man story, I can’t imagine you could do it without CGI, or a prehistoric movie or those big battle, epic movies. You can’t produce today 10, 20 or 100,000 warriors. So, you have to do it in CGI. I remember even in True Lies we used a lot of CGI and in The Terminator movies. It depends what the story is. I think that with The Last Stand we used very little CGI because it was just the cornfield in the background that did not co-operate and stay the same colour throughout the shooting of the movie. So, it started out green and then all of a sudden it turned yellow. So, you had to do something with that. So, we used CGI on that. But it was much more a film like The Expendables, where you used the old fashioned way, which is you do the action, you figure it out, you choreograph the action, and you try and get as much reality as possible – because in the end people can tell. So, if you’re doing a movie like The Last Stand, you should do it that way. If you’re doing a movie like Spider-Man or Iron Man or Superman then you’ve got to go with the CGI.

Q. What is your personal favourite catchphrase?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I would say there is not one, probably several. Obviously, the ‘I’ll be back’ line and from Commando the “I lied” line. Or ‘it’s not a tumour’. Or when I nailed the guy with a knife through the chest into the poll in Predator and said: “Stick around!” These are classic lines. But the interesting thing is that you never know ahead of time which line is going to make it because there are a lot of lines in movies but somehow people themselves pick the lines and make them famous. So, you never know.

Read our interview with Jaimie Alexander and Johny Knoxville