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Arnold Schwarzenegger - Biography

TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Personal details

Name: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Born: 30 July 1947 (Age: 68)
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. He played Danny De Vito's dopey brother in Twins, where he was hilarious singing along to Yakety-Yak, and was impressively frustrated in Kindergarten Cop. He also turned briefly to directing with the TV movie Christmas In Connecticut, a comedy featuring Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson where Arnold made a split-second Hitchcock-style appearance (he'd earlier helmed an episode of Tales From The Crypt). Later, he'd move into family entertainment again, playing a pregnant man in Junior, and assaulting the Christmas market with Jingle All The Way, as a harassed father seeking the world's most popular toy.

But action was always Arnold's middle name, and his blockbuster years began with Terminator 2 (affectionately known as T2), in 1992. From here on in, Arnold was resolutely The Good Guy, beginning in T2 as a cyborg assassin turned protector, saving the world and even weeping little cyborg tears. But sometimes good guys come last (not a saying in Schwarzenegger canon), and now he had to cope with his first major disaster - Last Action Hero. Now, with Arnold starring and John "Die Hard" McTiernan directing, you'd think it would have been a marvel. And it was. As the cartoon super-cop Jack Slater, Arnold was a paragon of side-splitting self-deprecation, the stunts were fabulous, the script pacey, clever and amusing. But it seemed the public only wanted to see Arnold shooting people in the face with bazookas - the film bombed.

Undeterred, back he came with True Lies, another comic stunt-fest, once more directed by James Cameron. This time the world caught on, accepting Arnold as Bond-like secret agent Harry Tasker, clowning around with Jamie Lee Curtis. So he did the same again, with Eraser, this time playing a super-smart US Marshall who wipes out the pasts of witnesses, allowing them safe futures. These movies were huge in every respect, with Arnold coming across far more like the cool, witty, convinced fellow he was back when he played himself in Pumping Iron. But now he added an extra touch of humanity to his repertoire, being really quite moving as the bereaved Mr Freeze in Batman And Robin, then agreeably panicked as the alcoholic cop trying to save the world from Gabriel Byrne's Satan in End Of Days.

Arnold (maybe we should say Ah-nold, just the once) declared many times that he would eventually leave the action genre behind, rather than appear like a pathetic ghost of himself (like Clint Eastwood insists upon doing). While he still had it in him, though, he decided to go out with a bang. After the sci-fi clone thriller The Sixth Day (shades of Total Recall) came Collateral Damage where he was firefighter Gordon Brewer, who goes after international terrorists when his family are murdered (a movie toned down after the events of 9/11). Then came the long-awaited T3 where the long-suffering John Connor has reached his twenties and is menaced by a female T-X terminator, Arnie being a T-100 model sent back through time to save him. With James Cameron no longer involved in the franchise, the movie lacked a truly intelligent storyline, concentrating instead on in-jokes and spectacular special effects.

Schwarzenegger would now take a cameo in Welcome To the Jungle, a vehicle for The Rock, Arnie's successor as the world's premier cartoon hard-man. And he'd take another in a new star-studded version of Jules Verne's Around The World In 80 Days, hilariously sending himself up as Prince Hapi, a Turkish aristocrat who invites Steve Coogan's Phineas Fogg and Jackie Chan's Passepartout to join him in a hot-tub. But his film career would then be put on hold as he finally made his entry into the world of politics. When in 2003 it was discovered that California was suddenly billions in the red, it was mooted that Governor Gray Davis might be ousted in a recall election. When just such an election was called, Arnie stepped in on the Republican ticket, announcing his candidature on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, just eight weeks before the vote was to take place. Immediately, the media went into overdrive and, the polls looking bleak, so did Davis, famed as a dirty campaigner. An interview from 1975 was pulled out where Arnold might possibly have expressed admiration for Hitler while filming Pumping Iron. He was accused of supporting apartheid and of indulging in orgies with body-building groupies and prostitutes. Drug-taking was brought up, then 15 women came forward claiming that at some point between 1979 and 2000 he had spanked them or grabbed their buttocks or breasts while on-set. Arnold apologised for any distress caused but, as none of them had complained at the time, went on his merry way. Beyond this, there was the earlier claim in the National Enquirer that Scharzenegger had engaged in a seven-year affair with former child actress Gigi Goyette. There was alleged to have been a love child. But once America Media Inc, owner of the Enquirer, had bought Weider Publications, owner of seven body-building magazines, and Arnold was taken on as executive director of two of those mags, the Enquirer had made no further mention of Goyette.

None of this seemed to damage Schwarzenegger. It was as if people expected a bit of sleaze in Hollywood. On October 7th, Gray was indeed recalled and Arnie crushed his enemies in the elections, with 1.5 million votes beating his closest rival by a clear 500,000. He'd made it, just like Ronald Reagan before him. Interestingly, following the success of former wrestler and actor Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, Schwarzenegger was the second star of Predator to become state governor (in the movie Ventura had outdone Arnold with the classic hard-man line "Lose it here, boy, and you're livin' in a world of hurt"). Immediately talk began of an assault on the Oval Office. Of course, not being born American he couldn't be President (he became a US citizen in 1983), but that didn't seem to worry anyone. Indeed, a scene from the future-set Demolition Man, where Sandra Bullock explains to Sylvester Stallone that the popularity of Arnie's movies has forced a constitutional amendment so he could become president, was now discussed as being highly prophetic. Article 2 of the US Constitution was under grave threat.

During his first year as Governor in Sacramento, the Governator (one of his many nicknames, along with Conan the Republican) used his charisma, Hollywood stature and incredible promotional skills to great effect. He charmed extra effort from his staff, schmoozed the Democrats controlling the state legislature and convinced the people that he would tackle the projected deficit of $15 billion and rescue California from the strangling influence of "special interests". His first hugely populist step in battling the deficit would be to refuse his new $175,000 salary and to use his own private jet for transport. In typically idiosyncratic style, much of his business was conducted in a tent set up in the courtyard of the State Capitol buildings, where Arnold could enjoy a cigar without breaking California's tight non-smoking regulations.

Politically speaking, Schwarzenegger was no ordinary Republican. Though right of centre on some issues, he was very definitely left on others. He took a Leftist stance on abortion and gay rights and annoyed his friend Charlton Heston by supporting increased gun control. Californians would back him when he suggested the state should borrow $3 billion to fund stem cell research and approved tighter control of the gaming industry (though, oddly, they'd not support his plan to tax millionaires an extra 1% and invest the proceeds in mental health care). More right wing leanings would be revealed in Arnold's deriding Democrat opponents as "girlie men", and his support for the "three strikes and you're out" policy where triple offenders would be jailed for life no matter how petty their crimes - a policy that succeeded in packing California's jails. Schwarzenegger would also infamously refuse to grant clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a former murderer and gang leader who'd spent his 24 years on Death Row becoming a renowned anti-violence campaigner and even being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. That said, in his first ten months of office Arnold had ordered the parole of 48 prisoners convicted of murder, a massive number by Californian state traditions. He was not always consistent.

He became especially confusing in his dealings with the "special interests" he'd sworn to disempower. In his first three years as governor he'd accept over $90 million in donations, including major contributions from estate developers, financiers, retailers, insurers and oil and energy giants. Much would be made of his failure to address high insurance and high petrol prices, as well as environmental issues such as excessive logging and pollution. His desire to deregulate the energy market did not sit well with a public still smarting after being fleeced by the likes of Enron. He was gradually losing the people's support.

Ordinarily, when Schwarzenegger encountered any difficulties he'd go public and be backed by the electorate. However, this populist measure would blow up in his face when in November, 2005, he went against the advice of his wife and called a Special Election, asking voters to back eight separate propositions he said would help him fulfil his manifesto promises. Amongst other changes, the propositions would make it easier to sack poor teachers by changing employment rules, would prohibit unions from using members' money in political contributions and would enforce spending limits on the state. Prescription drugs would be made cheaper for low income families, parents would be notified if a minor requested an abortion, and the electricity industry would face more regulations. A mixed bag, then. However, despite support from many teachers and predictions from economic experts that state expenditure would be smoother and reduced over time, the outrageous $250 million spent by interested parties during the election meant that Schwarzenegger was defeated on all eight counts. A terrific humiliation by anyone's standards. Nevertheless, Arnold would remain true to himself, bounding around with his usual irrepressible optimism, trying to get things done. He would succeed in banning the sales of violent video games to kids and would please his Hollywood peers by allowing them to sue the paparazzi for massive compensation should they be harmed due to the photographers' actions. He was bouncing back.

Arnold certainly maintains connections with his Hollywood friends. In 2005 he even sneaked away from his gubernatorial duties to cameo in The Kid And I, written by and starring his True Lies co-star Tom Arnold. There's often talk of him returning to the movies, probably in some bloated sequel to an earlier hit, like The Terminator or True Lies. And it's possible that this might occur, if, perhaps, he felt he needed one last cinematic boost before he went for President (once his powerful friends have altered Article 2, of course). It is truly amazing how he keeps rising. Back in 1999 he was already so famous that he inadvertently brought down the Japanese Minister for Defence. Having lost his passport in Japan, Arnold had to fill out some forms for a temporary replacement. The minister couldn't resist pocketing them as a souvenir, but was caught and forced to resign. It has to be said, doesn't it? Hasta la vista, baby.

Dominic Wills


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