MR SCHWARZENEGGER, NOW 67, talks to Roald Rynning about the Terminator, his health and his hobbies, which are not what you’d expect.
What made you return to the Terminator franchise?
I love the character and the script was fantastic. It had the feel of Terminator 2. Alan Taylor (Thor; The Dark World) directed it, so there’s hardcore action and some really great visual effects.
Was it strange to be back on the Terminator set?
It felt amazing. As soon as I slipped into the Terminator jacket and put on the sunglasses and saw the motorbike parked [nearby], I knew I was back. I slipped effortlessly into character.
The jacket and sunglasses are symbols of your success...
The first time I wore them, they made me a star. The second time I wore them, they turned me into a superstar. Each new time, they have had a tremendous effect on my career and my life.
Were you apprehensive about returning to the role?
A little. Since the Terminator is
a machine and I can’t look much different, I had to get back into the same shape I was in back then...
The key thing [to making sequels] is to outdo the previous ones.
You seem to love challenges...
I do. When someone says, ‘You can’t do that’, I get really involved. For my whole life I’ve heard that I’d never make it. I was 15 when I started bodybuilding in Graz [Austria] and I was told, ‘You’ll never be a bodybuilding champ. Austrians aren’t known for that.’ And I did it. At 20, I won my first Mr Universe title and they said, ‘Bodybuilders have never been big in movies.’ Or, ‘Guys with accents never make it. Americans only like Americans, so forget it.’ And I still made it.
Your films have grossed billions of dollars worldwide. But
after you became Governor of California in 2003, your films no longer performed as strongly. Are there any films you regret having done?
I don’t regret a single movie, but every time one doesn’t go through the roof, I get pissed off. I have an ego.
Why did you decide to run
Because the situation in California was disastrous and it gave me a chance to honour a debt to my adopted home country... I had lived way beyond my dreams, and all because of America.
You have recovered from two heart operations (both in 1997, to replace an aortic valve), a 2001 motorcycle accident, surgery
on your left shoulder (after
stunt work on Terminator 3), a hip replacement (after a skiing accident) and knee problems (after an injury working out). How is your health these days?
I feel great. I can still be an action hero. Giving up is not in my vocabulary, but the physical therapy after an accident is tedious, painful and takes time. After the operation on my shoulder...I had no strength in my arm; couldn’t even lift it.
Were the heart operations scary?
Yes, because a percentage of people die from the operation. But it was like getting a tooth pulled. Broken ribs and a pierced lung were much more painful.
Do you still do your own stunts?
I like to do them, but I won’t do anything dangerous. My ego isn’t so big that I have to prove that I can do everything. There are many stuntmen that can do dangerous stunts better than me. And I’m the first guy to give them credit.
You were married to Maria Shriver for 25 years. [She filed for divorce in 2011 after he admitted to fathering a child with the family’s housekeeper.] How is your relationship now?
We get along really well. We are responsible parents and talk to each other all the time. The most important thing is that the [two] kids are doing well, and Maria is an extraordinary mother.
You once said that the affair
that led to the birth of a son ‘inflicted unbelievable pain’ on your wife and children, and that it was ‘the stupidest thing I’ve done’.
And you can’t blame others. But I’m not one for looking back. Every minute you look back, you lose a minute looking forward.
How have you coped with over
30 years of tabloid stories and paparazzi?
If you’re not willing to let anyone write anything bad about you, you should not be in politics, show business or sport. In a way, it’s a compliment when you get knocked because that means you’re at the top. You just have to deal with it. And stop complaining.
Is your image different from your private self?
I’m quite different from the outrageously tough characters I play. They’re all action and don’t say much. Privately, I love to talk and I cry easily. I like to paint, draw, collect art and look at beautiful things. I have a sensitive side. I consider myself a peaceful and kind person, not a macho man. I got into action movies because of my physique. But when I do comedies, I feel much more comfortable.
Do you still work out?
For 80 minutes every day. Since my heart surgery, I’m not training as heavy. I’m training as hard, but it’s more
reps with lighter weights. The doctors thought that would be better.
And you still enjoy a cigar?
I smoke less than I used to. But one little cigar at the end of the day isn’t bad.
You will next reprise old roles
for The Legend of Conan and the Twins sequel, Triplets. Do you ever think of retirement?
That word isn’t in my vocabulary. My father worked into his 90s. I’m happiest working on a movie set. As long as the audiences want me, I will continue as an action hero. I wouldn’t be happy sitting back... I will be doing things until I’m six feet under.
» Terminator: Genisys is out now.
This article first appeared in Ed#487 of The Big Issue.