Personal detailsName: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Born: 30 July 1947 (Age: 66)
Where: Thal, Austria
Height: 6' 2"
Awards: Won 1 Golden Globe
All about this star
In all of Hollywood history, there cannot be a better example of The Self-Made Man than Arnold Schwarzenegger. A millionaire many, many times over, he's made fortunes both through acting and property deals: he's married into the Kennedy clan, making him American royalty: and, of course, he's one of the very few stars whose films are promoted purely by the use of his surname. SCHWARZENEGGER in Some $200 Million Epic. You've seen it many times. In fact, they could just use his Christian name. Arnold would work equally well. You couldn't say the same for Tom (Cruise, that is). Oh, and in 2003 he became Governor of California, taking control of the fifth biggest economy on the planet. How much higher could he possibly go?
As ever, it's all down to the early years. Yet, unusually, Arnold wasn't driven to success by a rabid neediness engendered by childhood neglect. Born on July 30th, 1947, in the isolated Austrian village of Thal, down by the Italian border, he was subject to intense discipline from a very early age. Hitler's homeland in the immediate post-war period was a tough place to live, and Arnold was 14 before his family enjoyed such luxuries as a fridge, a phone and even indoor plumbing. His father, Gustav, was a police chief in Graz, leaving Arnold and his older brother Meinhard to be raised by their mother Aurelia. You'd expect a policeman to be a strict father, but Gustav was doubly so. Being a curling champion, he was keen to push his boys to athletic excellence too. They would rise at 6, do their chores, then perform sit-ups and squats before their breakfast. They were allowed out on Sunday evenings but, legend has it, were required to deliver a 10-page essay on their activities before retiring to bed.
It worked. Meinhard rapidly became a champion boxer. Arnold too was quick to find a beefy vocation. Training for the local soccer team, he began to lift weights. Studying his body, now aged 15, he realised that to give it perfect proportions he'd need 20-inch biceps - he set to work immediately. At 18, there was National Service, and Arnold signed up, only to go AWOL within a month in order to attend the Mr Junior Europe bodybuilding contest in Stuttgart. He won, with a perfect score, and spent seven days in the brig for his pains.
In 1966, he left the army to attend University in Munich, studying marketing. He also accepted an invitation to train at that city's famous Putzingger gym. In September, he came second in the amateur Mr Universe contest in London. Second being no place for a Schwarzenegger, he returned the next year to win it. He turned professional, everything was looking good. Then tragedy struck as first Meinhard was killed in a car crash, then Gustav died of a stroke. Neither, sadly, saw Arnold win the Pro Mr Universe title in 1968.
But Arnold kept going. Invited by bodybuilding champion Joe Weilder to train in the US, he decamped to America and continued a career unparalleled in its success, becoming Mr World as well as Mr Universe. He took the latter title every year till 1975 when he retired (though he'd return to win it again, against all predictions, in 1980). A later documentary, Pumping Iron, showed Arnold in the run-up to one of these victories, gradually and wittily shattering the confidence of his main rival, Lou Ferrigno (later The Incredible Hulk). He was obviously highly intelligent, massively disciplined and a master of competitive psychology. And funny, God was he funny.
Being the greatest bodybuilder in history was not enough, though. Arnold had set his sites on following his bodybuilding hero Reg Park into acting, and in 1970 played a demi-God unleashed on Earth in Hercules In New York (Park had played Hercules in the early Sixties). It wasn't a good film, but Arnold (credited as Arnold Strong) rather stood out, only partly because his voice was dubbed. Appearing on the Merv Griffin Show, he was spotted by Lucille Ball, and was given a prime role in her new sitcom, Happy Anniversary And Goodbye. It never aired - one of Arnold's very few failures.
While his film career took a while to take off, Arnold continued winning those bodybuilding titles. He also made his first million on the side. Forming a bricklaying partnership with fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu, he financed a series of fitness books and cassettes. These in turn financed the purchase of an apartment block and a consequent succession of lucrative real estate deals. He was driving a Mercedes and living in a flash Los Angeles home before he ever won a decent movie part. And he still found time to earn a degree, by correspondence, from the University of Wisconsin, majoring in International Marketing.
In 1977, Arnold met his wife, Maria Shriver, cousin of John F. Kennedy's doomed son, John. It was in many respects an odd coupling. Arnold, unsurprisingly a big fan of capitalism, was a staunch Republican, while Shriver hailed from the world's most renowned Democrat dynasty and, as a TV journalist, was politically active in that direction. Nevertheless, having met at a Pro-Celebrity tennis tournament, they dated for eight years and, after Arnold proposed while they were boating on a lake in Austria, they married in 1986. They have four children - Katherine Eunice, Christina Maria Aurelia, Patrick and Christopher Sargent.
At first, Arnold's looks condemned him to vaguely comic bit-parts. He was a thug in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, with Elliott Gould as Phillip Marlowe. He was a bodybuilder, alongside Jeff Bridges and Sally Field in Stay Hungry (for which he won a Golden Globe - not a lot of acting awards on the Schwarzenegger mantelpiece, it must be said). He had a bit part in the ensemble comedy Scavenger Hunt, played The Handsome Stranger in the roustabout Western Cactus Jack, and was musclebound hubbie Mickey Hargitay in The Jayne Mansfield Story.
1982 changed all that. At last a role arrived that really suited Arnold's build, and his impossibly thick accent. Boosted by a brutal script (courtesy of John Milius and Oliver Stone) and unflinching direction from Milius, Conan The Barbarian was a perfect vehicle. Packed with cleavings, bitings, head-buttings, beheadings and even some freaky sex with a witch who turns into a ricocheting ball of energy, it made Arnold a star at last. Immediately, he followed it up with two more sword'n'sorcery epics - Conan The Destroyer and Red Sonja - but he also nabbed a more important role, as the time-travelling cyborg assassin in James Cameron's The Terminator. This would be a cult hit, a sleeper, but it would eventually make both Cameron and Schwarzenegger. It would also take Arnold into the world of rock music - he'd appear as The Terminator in videos for Guns N'Roses' You Could Be Mine and Bon Jovi's Say It Isn't So (he'd also, appropriately turn up in AC/DC's Big Gun video).
Many actors would have now looked to vary their roles, but ever the pragmatist, Arnold decided he was on to a good thing. Hence Commando, Raw Deal, Stephen King's The Running Man, the fantastically strange and exciting Predator, cop drama Red Heat, then the sci-fi epic Total Recall. The formula was joyfully consistent - extremely big guns, monstrous explosions and sharp, cruel one liners. Remember Arnold skewering that guy on an absurdly big knife in Predator ("Stick around"), or executing Sharon Stone in Total Recall ("Consider that a divorce")? Classic stuff.
Once his reputation as a box-office draw was sealed, Arnold did spread his wings a little, if only because he realised family films made even more money.