July is a big month for Hollywood birthdays. First I paid tribute to the Italian Stallion Sly Stallone, and then we looked at the best films from Tom Hanks. Today I will gush over the unlikely stardom and success of Arnold Schwarzenegger as he turns the big 65. I had mentioned that Sylvester Stallone is my favorite action star of all time, but if it were not for the Italian connection Arnold might hold that spot.
Big Arnie started weightlifting when he was 15 years old and within a few years he was winning global competitions. Let’s take a look back and marvel at Arnold’s amazing career as a body builder, actor, businessman, and politician.
Arnold is one of the most enduring icons of professional bodybuilding, and is credited with helping to bring the sport into the realm of mainstream sports. Throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s Schwarzenegger won title after title with his first big win coming in 1968 when he won the professional Mr. Universe title.
In 1970 Arnold realized his biggest dream in bodybuilding by winning the Mr. Olympia title for the first time, a feat which he repeated 6 more times! My favorite video from his competition days is this one below (I don’t know what year it’s from). The audience was so awestruck with his enormous size and perfect muscle-group balance that he was called back for several encores. They wouldn’t stop cheering… even on his way off the stage he continued to go through his different flex poses. During this time Arnold was as big as you could be in the world of professional bodybuilding, literally.
One of Arnold’s first well received films was actually a docudrama about professional bodybuilding called Pumping Iron. The film focused on the competition between Arnold and Lou Ferrigno (the original Hulk) during the 1975 weightlifting circuit. Arnold would go on to win easily, and viewers of the film learned exactly how much this guys LOVES weight training. According to the Schwarz in the controversial video clip, the burn you feel from working out, AKA ‘The Pump’, is better than sex… not figuratively… actually better than sex.
Oh and if you were wondering how big Arnie took the edge off after a big workout… he enjoyed the marijuana from time to time. Here’s a clip of him smoking a joint and, unlike Bill Clinton, admitting that he did inhale.
Arnold’s first big break was in the 1982 fantasy epic, Conan the Barbarian, which was written by Oliver Stone and co-starred James Earl Jones. The film received mostly good reviews and was a box office success, followed by the sequel Conan the Destroyer in 1984. The Conan films made Schwarzenegger an international star and led to the iconic roles we all remember. Here’s the original trailer.
*Side Note – Even though Arnold retired from professional bodybuilding years earlier, he got in such good shape for Conan that he came out of retirement in 1980 to win his 7th Mr. Olympia title (a record at the time).
The Terminator – 1984
This film was an unexpected hit at the box office, and launched the amazing career of writer/director James Cameron. The immortal line, “I’ll be back” doesn’t begin to tell the story of how many hits Arnold would have in the coming decades. Original trailer and movie poster below:
Commando – 1985
Probably my favorite Arnold movie of all time. Why you ask… because the number impossible heroic feats that the film tries to pass off as possible is hilarious. My friends and I still get a kick at analyzing his character’s strength and invulnerability. Here’s the trailer:
Here’s the epic final shootout which made Commando the bloodiest Schwarzenegger movie of all time.
Oh and one more thing that makes this movie
ridiculous amazing. Although the overriding theme of the film is one of impossible odds and insurmountable obstacles to save his daughter from evil villains, the main bad guy, Bennett, is an overweight washout who wears a chain-metal vest??
Predator – 1987
Any action star can take out an enemy army in the jungle, but only Arnold can face off against an invisible alien, who hunts humans for sport, and win.
Best Dutch (Arnold’s character) one-liners from the film include:
1) What’s the matter? The CIA got you pushing too many pencils? – to Carl Weathers character, Dillon
2) Stick around. – after throwing a knife straight through an enemy fighter’s gut
3) If it bleeds, we can kill it. – sound logic
4) Come on! Do it! Do it! Come on. Come on! Kill me! I’m here! Kill me! I’m here! Kill me! Come on! Kill me! I’m here! Come on! Do it now! Kill me! – Arnold’s accent just makes this scene
5) Run! Get to the chopper! – again… the accent
The Running Man – 1987
Just sheer ridiculousness… love it!
Twins – 1988
Arnold’s first foray into comedy.
Total Recall – 1990
This sci-fi action flick was huge at the box office, and a remake is actually due to come out this week (we’re giving away movie merchandise!)
Kindergarten Cop – 1990
Another fan favorite for those who like the lighter side of Arnie.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day – 1991
James Cameron’s epic sequel was a mega hit at the box office and won four Academy Awards. Fans loved seeing Arnold’s character as the good guy this time, taking on the more advanced T-1000, played by Robert Patrick, who is programmed to kill John Connor.
True Lies – 1994
This one’s always worth a repeat viewing. Bill Paxton‘s role as a cowardly con artist is hilarious.
Eraser – 1996
Batman & Robin – 1997
This movie was awful… thank god they stopped with this franchise and Christoper Nolan (who’s birthday is also today!) started fresh with Batman Begins. I included it in this list because the amount of painful one-liners by Arnold is so bad, it’s good. Have a look:
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – 2003
Critics, fans, and even James Cameron seem to generally approve of this sequel. I wasn’t a huge fan because I loved Terminator 1 & 2 so much I would have preferred for the series to end there, but I do give props to Arnold for still looking the part in his mid 50’s.
Following in the footsteps of actor-cum-politician Ronald Reagan, Arnold ran as a socially liberal republican for Governor of California in recall election of 2003. He ran again in 2006 and won handily, serving for more than 7 years in the position.
Becoming Governor in any state within the U.S. is a big deal (and in fact his Predator co-star Jessie Ventura served as Governor or Minnesota for 4 years), but keep in mind that California is a massive state with a huge economy. If you compare California’s economy against global economies it’s the 8th or 9th largest in the world! That means California’s economy falls somewhere in between India and Italy… so yeah kind of a big deal.
After Reagan was Governor of California he went on to become a two-term president of the United States. Unfortunately for Arnold the U.S. Constitution says that you must be born in the U.S. to become president. Schwarzenegger has said that we would probably run for President if the law was changed, and there was some talk of amending the Constitution to allow his candidacy, but alas it never came to a vote.
This Arnold fan will certainly be waiting to see what’s in store next, and I’m definitely looking forward to his upcoming cameo in The Expendables 2 which is coming out next month.
So here’s to you Arnie! Happy Birthday and please don’t ever retire… from anything… ever… seriously.