Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of those people many of us grew up seeing on the screen. We watched him embody Conan, we laughed as he bumbled around Danny DeVito, and we will never forget how he played a cyborg assassin in Terminator.
Older generations will also remember his impressive bodybuilding days, while younger folks may recognize him as the former governor of California.
The former Austrian-American bodybuilder has gone through many roles in his life, both onscreen and off. He started out as a penniless immigrant seeking the “American dream” and ended up becoming an accomplished actor, author, politician, and businessman.
But what do you really know about the life of the man behind the scenes? As Arnold puts it, “If my life was a movie, no one would believe it.”
Read his personal account below :
“I’d felt from the time I was ten years old that I was destined for something bigger than staying in Austria, even though, at that time, I didn’t quite know what I was going to be. I remember buying this magazine and reading about a young kid in a factory town who trained hard, became Mr. Universe and went to America. Then all of a sudden he was offered Hercules movies!
“I thought, ‘Well, this is exactly what I would like to do.’ He trained five hours a day, so I started training five hours a day. Whatever he did, I did.
I went home and I said to my family, “I want to be a bodybuilding champion.”
Now, you can imagine how that went over in my home in Austria. My parents, they couldn’t believe it. They would have been just happy if I would have become a police officer like my father, or married someone like Heidi, had a bunch of kids and ran around like the von Trapp family in Sound of Music.
That’s what my family had in mind for me, but something else burned inside me.
I wanted to be different; I was determined to be unique.
I was driven to think big and to dream big.
Everyone else thought that I was crazy. My friends said, “If you want to be a champion in a sport, why don’t you go and become a bicycle champion or a skiing champion or a soccer champion? Those are the Austrian sports.”
But I didn’t care. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion and use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars. So, of course, for extra motivation I read books on strongmen and on bodybuilding and looked at magazines.
So this is rule number one. I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission. So rule number one is, of course, trust yourself, no matter how and what anyone else thinks.”
It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That’s what I believe.
After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is
be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?
The only way that I ever got anyplace was by breaking some of the rules.
After all, I remember that after I was finished with my bodybuilding career I wanted to get into acting and I wanted to be a star in films. You can imagine what the agents said when I went to meet all those agents. Everyone had the same line, that it can’t be done, the rules are different here. They said, “Look at your body. You have this huge monstrous body, overly developed. That doesn’t fit into the movies. You don’t understand.
And the agents also complained about my accent. They said, “No one ever became a star with an accent like that, especially not with a German accent.
And yes, I can imagine with your name, Arnold Schwartzenschnitzel, or whatever the name, is, on a billboard. Yeah, that’s going to draw a lot of tickets and sell a lot of tickets. Yeah, right.” So this is the kind of negative attitude they had.
But I didn’t listen to those rules, even though they were very nice and they said, “Look, we can get you some bit parts. We can get you to be playing a wrestler or a bouncer. Oh, maybe with your German accent we can get you to be a Nazi officer in Hogan’s Heroes or something like that.”
But I didn’t listen to all this. Those were their rules, not my rules.
I was convinced I could do it if I worked as hard as I did in bodybuilding, five hours a day. And I started getting to work, I started taking acting classes. I took English classes, took speech classes, dialogue classes. Accent removal classes I even took.
I had a good time doing those things and it really helped me. And finally I broke through. I broke through and I started getting the first parts in TV; Streets of San Francisco, Lucille Ball hired me, I made Pumping Iron, Stay Hungry. And then I got the big break in Conan the Barbarian.
And there the director said, “If we wouldn’t have Schwarzenegger, we would have to build one.” Now, think about that. And then, when I did Terminator, “I’ll be back,” became one of the most famous lines in movie history, all because of my crazy accent.”