July 30, 1947
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the second of two sons born to Gustav, an Austrian police chief and
his wife Aurelia. Arnold and his brother Meinhard were raised in a home void of luxuries such
as running water and central heating, and from a young age he and his brother were reared with
a sense of discipline by their strict father.
It was while visiting a gym with the soccer team that Arnold first took an interest in the
endeavors of weightlifting. That, along with a fondness for "Hercules" films, prompted him
to become a regular at the gym. Aspiring to build up his frame, he spent several hours each
week pushing both mind and body to the limit and beyond in his virtual zen-like quest to
enhance his physique.
Mandatory service in the Austrian army did not diminish his enthusiasm for bodybuilding, and even
though his father hoped he would end his devotion to a sport which was viewed with skepticism
and distain by many, Arnold was determined to stick it out. At one time he even went AWOL in
order to compete in a contest. Eventually, the sport brought him to where he was able to
realize his dream of movie stardom...America.
He continued to train under the tutleage of fitness czar Joe Weider who was instrumental in
getting Arnold his first role in a motion picture. Weider told producers that Schwarzenegger
was a Shakespearean trained actor in Austria. Arnold got the part playing the son of Zeus in
the low-budget camp effort entitled, "Hercules Goes Bananas". He was billed as Arnold Strong,
because his name was something the filmmakers found difficulty in pronouncing, and his accented
voice was dubbed. Basically, he had the physique but little else for the role. From there,
Arnold racked up several victories in bodybuilding, and invested his contest winnings, along
with earnings from a mail-order business he had set up, into real estate holdings. All this in
the event that his dream of stardom was never realized, for Hollywood did not think that his
long name, strange accent, and physique would be something which would draw filmgoers.
Arnold did gain a bit more respect when he played--of all things--a gym regular who plays the
fiddle (!) in Bob Rafelson's 1976 effort "Stay Hungry", appearing onscreen with the likes of
Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. Schwarzenegger took home a Golden Globe for Best Male Actor in a
film debut. He was also the subject of the documentary "Pumping Iron".
For the next few years, Arnold kept himself busy with his mail-order business, business school,
and becoming a big celebrity. As a celebrity, he was among the invited at the Robert Kennedy
Memorial Tennis Tournament in 1977, where he and his court partner, football star Rosey Grier,
met defeat at the hands of two young girls. It was there that he first met aspiring tele-journalist
Maria Shriver, who has been quoted as saying, "I fell in love with him almost as soon as we met."
In 1982, following a brief return to bodybuilding, Arnold played the title role in the highly
anticipated adaptation of Robert Howard's "Conan the Barbarian." For preparation, Arnold and
his co-stars learned the Japanese martial art of "kendo" and watched Akira Kurosowa films.
Despite its R-rating, "Conan the Barbarian" was a big hit, and Arnold followed up its success
with "Conan the Destroyer." He drew greater acclaim and breakout status as a cybernetic
assassin in James Cameron's "The Terminator." Interestingly, it was originally intended that
Arnold play hero Kyle Reese, but after reading the script Arnold thought the robotic nemesis
was a much more interesting character. He wound up playing the Terminator, and his dead-pan delivery
and ironically his accent, made the role unforgettable. Although a small hit at the box office,
the film found a larger audience, and fanbase, once it hit video.
It was during a trip to Austria with Maria, who by this time had found a niche as a reporter
for CBS, that he proposed to her in a rowboat. Following their much publicized wedding
in Hyannis, Mass., in 1986, Schwarzenegger went on to play a former G-man turned small town
sherriff in "Raw Deal". Though many critics liked it, not many people saw it. His next
forays were again in science-fiction and action, first as a soldier fighting a malevolent
extraterrestrial in "John McTernan's "Predator", then as a convict participating in a
Survivor-like game show in "The Running Man".
Arnold's knack for humor was evident when he engaged in onscreen mayhem in the comedy
"Twins" opposite Danny Devito. The film showed some serious box office muscle and it was
Arnold's first film to make $100,000,000 at the box office. Arnold exercised his shrewd
business savvy by signing on for a percentage of the gross as opposed to a huge up-front fee.
Arnold was the embodiment of the American (a naturalized citizen since 1983) dream when he was
appointed by President Bush to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness, traveling to
schools throughout the country to check on their physical education programs and at times
finding none existed. He also became instrumental in implementing athletic programs for inner
city children, and for years has helped with the Special Olympics, which mother-in- law,
Eunice, founded. He also became partners with fellow action stars Sylvester Stallone and
Bruce Willis in the business venture of the Planet Hollywood restaurants.
Shortly after the release of "Jingle All the Way," Arnold underwent elective heart-valve
replacement surgery. But he recovered in time to make the rounds promoting his efforts as
the villain Mr. Freeze in Joel Schumaccher's "Batman and Robin".
Despite the lackluster domestic box office performances of his recent efforts, "End of Days"
and "The Sixth Day," Arnold is still a sizable draw at the box office and his films often
are popular releases on video and DVD.
His devotion to notable causes have earned him accolades from the Simon Wiesenthal Center
among other organizations. Arnold is highly regarded as a true professional in the world of
cinema and no doubt is a true professional personally as he has enjoyed a rather lengthy
marriage, by Hollywood standards, and has four children.
Photo © unknown
Written by: Robert Baum ©2001 [used with permission]
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