Arnie: "I Had No Idea 'I'll Be Back' Would Become The World's Most Famous Quote"

The Terminator on movies, politics and why they never should have made a Predator film without him

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Ahead of the release of Terminator: Genisys, we sat down with Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the highlghts of his career, being the Governor of California and why nobody should make a Predator film without him.

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How was it facing off against a younger version of yourself in Terminator: Genisys?

It was a lot of fun to do. I knew it would be tough to make it believable because they had to recreate me using visual effects, but when I saw the finished scenes, it was extraordinary. The technology really has advanced a lot; we’ve done something we could never have done in any of the previous Terminator movies.

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Out of all the films you've been in, which are your favourites?

Well, Pumping Iron (1977) was a very important movie. It gave me a chance to promote both bodybuilding and myself – people didn’t know me. It was good to get the Hollywood community saying, “Well, this guy comes alive in front of the camera.” It was a very important movie for me.

I think I’d then pick Conan the Barbarian (1982) because it was my first studio movie that was promoted internationally. It was a great breakthrough and really showed I could be a leading man. Of course, there were doubts at the beginning, but it was a breakthrough that really put me on the map.

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The Terminator (1984) was a big breakthrough in a different way because it was more of an acting role. It didn’t just rely on my body; it relied on being believable as an evil, destructive machine. After that, I was offered all the action roles – Commando (1985), Predator (1987) – but the most meaningful was Twins (1988) because it was the first time I did comedy. I got Ivan [Reitman, the director] and Danny DeVito and said we’d do the movie for free – we’d take the risk without a salary. Of course, it was a huge success and the studios were happy.

These are the steps I’ve taken – it's been a merging of both action and comedy. I'm fortunate to have always worked with talented directors, which allowed me to shine on the screen.

You mentioned Twins. Is Triplets happening?

I hope so. In politics, you’ve got to get everyone else to agree with you, because it’s not a one-man show – the same can be said about making movies. The studio and scriptwriters have to agree and the people out there have to show a desire for it. I’ve already seen the first draft of Triplets so we’re marching in that direction. There’s a sequel to Conan that Universal want to do and another Terminator movie so there’s a lot of other interesting projects coming up too.


Some of your films have either been continued or remade – does that bother you?

I’m happy when anybody re-does a movie of mine – I’m happy if they want to upgrade it. It hasn’t always worked out well; with Predator, I think people weren’t happy that I wasn’t in it. Studios have to be careful about which films they pick. Predator is definitely one you don’t want to do without me.


Which of your catchphrases did you not expect to catch on?

Every one of them. When you do a movie, you have no idea what will become a quoted phrase. I had no idea when I said "I’ll be back" that it would be the most repeated line in movie history. It’s the same with "Hasta la vista, baby" – I remember wondering why we were talking Spanish all of a sudden!


Which current action stars do you see having a career similar to yours?

I think Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the most like me. He’s also very refreshing because he comes from an athletic background, is a fantastic wrestler and has a wonderful personality. He has the action hero body which people like, especially the younger audience.

Although he doesn't have the body, I also like Liam Neeson because of his age and the fact he always gets into these weird situations where his daughter gets kidnapped and he needs to find her. You’re not sure if he can pull it off but you’re rooting for him because he looks like the underdog. He does a great job with the stunts and from an acting point of view also.


Do you think you’ll ever team up with James Cameron again? [he directed Arnie in The Terminator]

Yeah, I would work with him any time – even if he calls me one day and asks me to be in Avatar. He's a very good friend of mine; we hit it off right at the beginning when we started filming The Terminator and I’ve always respected his writing and directing ability. He’s a great human being.


Would you say you preferred being the Terminator or the Governator?

I felt really fantastic doing the governorship – having the responsibility of running a state that has one of the largest economies in the world was unlike anything else. It was such an honour to get elected twice by the people. Politics was never my profession – I’d never wanted to chase that career, but felt like I could do a better job than the traditional politicians. It was fun. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have three careers – the athletic career, the showbiz career and the political career. I couldn’t say one is better than the other.

Terminator: Genisys is out on 2 July. Maggie is out on 24 July.

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MORE ESQ&A:

Ethan Hawke
Oscar Isaac
David Oyelowo
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