Conan? T-800? Arnold Schwarzenegger turns 75 as his best character – 7/31/2022

In theory, it would be impossible for Arnold Schwarzenegger to become a star. With an unpronounceable last name and an incomprehensible accent, the bodybuilder from a village in Austria would not, at first, have a chance in Hollywood.

Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, never paid much attention to the rules. Now reaching the age of 75, he won as an athlete, conquered cinema, became a successful businessman and became governor of California. All of this fueling the best character he can conceive: himself.

Everything we need to know about Arnold was already well captured in the documentary “Pumping Iron”, directed in 1977 by George Butler in Robert Fiore. By showing Schwarzeneger’s rivalry with bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno for the Mr. Olympia, the film shows how the Austrian’s personality, a mixture of determination, good humor, sarcasm and bravado, always put him one step ahead of his peers.

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‘Pumping Iron – The Man of Steel Muscles’

Image: Reproduction

Released here as “The Man of Steel Muscles,” “Pumping Iron” was a turning point for Schwarzenegger. He had already dipped his toe in the movies with the dreadful “Hercules in New York,” and landed a supporting role in Bob Rafelson’s “The Bodyguard,” primarily as a romanticized version of himself.

The world, however, saw the real Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron”, and the doors that were ajar were flung open to accommodate his imposing figure. Soon, he was circulating among the Hollywood elite, an exotic figure at parties and awards shows, the talkative guy with a larger-than-life personality.

A millionaire by the time he turned 30 with a keen eye for business, Arnold set himself the goal of stardom by controlling his own journey. He ignored the voices that told him to change his name, to modify his approach, and went straight into the project that would make him a star: 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian.”

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‘Conan the Destroyer’

Image: Fox

The success of the John Milius film showed that Schwarzenegger was right on the path he was taking. He returned to the barbarian in “Conan the Destroyer”, and played exactly the same role, but with a character named “Kalidor”, in “Fire Warriors”.

It was at the same time that he agreed, against the advice of his agents, to be the villain in a science fiction film by a budding filmmaker. James Cameron’s “Terminator” not only cemented the Austrian’s rising status, but also landed his second iconic role in the 1980s.

The world then surrendered to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Global B-Cinema began spawning clones of Conan and Deathstroke with staggering speed. Everyone wanted to discover the next charismatic comic book superhero-looking buff who could carry a movie on his back. Difficult task: he was unique.

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‘Terminator’

Image: Fox

From there, Schwarzenegger’s every move was calculated to broaden his audience beyond the stock bubble. Yes, he played John Matrix in “Commander”, practically a comic book character in the flesh. But he amended with the mix of horror and science fiction “The Predator” and then risked a comedy with “Twin Brothers”.

Until the late 1980s, Schwarzenegger built his movie star image by working within his limitations. He didn’t convince like the common man, like Harrison Ford. He didn’t wear the Tom Cruise heartthrob print. He also didn’t have the dramatic gifts like Robert De Niro or Jack Nicholson or Tom Hanks.

On the other hand, Arnold understood that his persona it was bigger than any paper. It could be a betrayed cop in “The Survivor”, a Russian cop in “Red Inferno” or an undercover cop in “Kids Cop”: they all worked by not hiding that they were a Schwarzenegger cut. Quaid in “Total Recall”? Totally Schwarza, catchphrases on everything.

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‘The future Avenger’

Image: TriStar/Carolco

The 1990s consolidated Arnold Schwarzenegger’s power as the biggest star on the planet. The trigger was a phenomenon. In 1991, he resumed his partnership with James Cameron in “Terminator 2”, which became the biggest film of the year and one of the most important works of modern cinema.

The turn of the character played by Arnold in “T2” – from an unbeatable villain, the murderous cyborg becomes a valiant hero – was a reflection of the actor’s own image management. The film solidified its status, capping a hitherto always on the rise career.

The fall did not take long, and came two years later with “The Last Great Hero”. John McTiernan’s film was perhaps the last project executed in a structure anchored in the star’s name and in the dollars injected into the endeavor. Architected as a parody of the action cinema embraced by Hollywood, the adventure left audiences confused and ended up being run over by “Jurassic Park”.

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‘The Last Great Hero’

Image: Sony

The failure of “The Last Great Hero” did not affect the career of the star, who tried to resume the partnership with James Cameron once again in the action comedy “True Lies”, in 1994. The role of icon of the genre, however, , was already starting to weigh heavily on Schwarza, who already had political aspirations.

No film after “True Lies” has left a mark on his filmography. If “Junior”, “Archive Burn” and “A Toy Hero” were harmless projects, it was with “Batman & Robin” that Arnold returned to the spotlight.

First for a salary of $25 million, one of the biggest checks paid to an actor at the time. Second, despite the complete creative disaster of the Joel Schumacher film, Schwarza comes out without any major scratches. Could it be: with an avalanche of catchphrases and an acerbic sense of humor, understanding how silly the movie was, in “Batman & Robin” Arnold was 100 percent Arnold.

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‘Batman & Robin’

Image: Warner

Heart surgery put the star on enforced hiatus in 1997, and his comeback two years later with “The End of Days” wasn’t his most inspiring moment. He seemed to be just filling his time with forgettable movies like “Day 6” and “Side Effect” before resuming his most iconic character in the third “Terminator” in 2003.

It was the moment when Arnold Schwarzenegger also made a radical turn in his life. The movie star left the scene, and the politician came in his place, as he took over the government of California first in a buffer term and was later elected to a full term. No matter the outfit, it was Arnold, the larger-than-life guy, once again in the spotlight.

As governor, Schwarzenegger implemented applauded measures, others more controversial, but always as a liberal politician, defender of environmental causes and often clashing with his fellow Republicans. Even so, at the end of his term, his approval rating was very low. Despite the suggestion that he would pursue public life as a Senate candidate, Arnold ended his role as a politician in 2011.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger Campaigning for California Government

Image: Steve Yeater/AP

His return to the movies was timid, and he never reached the peaks of his heyday. Schwarza was supporting Sylvester Stallone in the “The Expendables” trilogy and also in the thriller 2013’s “Escape Route” – the same year he headlined the modest “The Last Challenge”.

Not even his return as the cyborg T-800 in two more “Terminator” films, in 2015 with “Genesis” and in 2019 in “Dark Future”, put him back on the level he experienced in his glory days. Schwarzeneger, however, seems to be okay with this scenario.

Especially because their interests, in post-Trump America, are different. After a complicated divorce, ending 25 years of marriage to Maria Shriver, Arnold is dedicated to defending environmental causes and other political issues, especially against the rise of the far right and Covid-19 denialism.

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‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

Image: Fox

Its main focus, however, appears to be the Arnold Sports Festival, an annual multi-sport competition in which the Arnold Classic, a bodybuilding tournament, stands out. With editions all over the world, including Brazil, the event marks Schwarzenegger’s contribution to the practice that equipped him with the means to, decades ago, leave Austria to embrace fame and wealth in the United States.

It is curious that Arnold Schwarzenegger chose bodybuilding to close a cycle in his life. What comes as absolutely no surprise, however, is a global event, now the second most prestigious in its category, to be named after him. Schwarza, after all, was always his best character.

About Hrishikesh Bhardwaj

Tv specialist. Falls down a lot. Typical troublemaker. Hipster-friendly advocate. Food fan.

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