A few weeks ago I literally skipped into The Savoy. I then glided into the Abraham Lincoln room upon a cloud of immaculate manners and excellent service. I then ran to the front row and sat as near to the edge of my seat as possible with a big stupid grin on my face. It was Arnie Day.
In his latest movie, Sabotage (read my review), Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Breacher – the leader of a highly trained DEA unit who specialise in entering and clearing hostile environments. When, during a cartel bust, $10,000,000 goes missing, Breacher and his team find themselves under investigation from Internal Affairs; and under threat from someone who is gruesomely bumping them off one by one.
To promote the UK release of Sabotage, the motherflipping Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself was coming to town and I was in the front row to listen to him talk to the assembled press about… pfft, anything. I didn’t care – I was going to get to see Arnie!
Even the appearance of “comedian” Keith Lemon as a guest moderator couldn’t spoil the day, although he did manage to waste some precious Arnold time. I just pretended he wasn’t there, and have done the same, where possible, here. You’re welcome. Let’s Arnold.
What was it like working with David Ayer?
I think he’s very talented. I think, if you see training Day – you can see he’s a fantastic writer, and when you see his directing – in End of Watch – you can tell that he likes action. He likes realism. He brings as much reality to the screen as possible. It’s a totally different movie from a typical Hollywood action film. It’s about payback time. If you take something from a drug cartel, they will pay you back, and this is what this movie is about: a battle between good and evil, but in the end, you also see good crossing the line.
David did a great job. What I did like was his insistence on us training with the Los Angeles SWAT team, so that when we got to the set we could act out those characters really well and know how to handle the weapons. Not that I haven’t already handled a lot of weapons in my life! But SWAT handle their weapons in a different way. And the way they breach doors, the way they storm buildings, the way they come through buildings without killing the good guys and getting the bad guys… You have to learn that, you have to study that. It’s like a ballet, the way they move – that’s what made it really interesting for us, his insistence for us to train with them and get on the set very well prepared.
What is it like to play a dark character?
I play a good character.
But, I mean…
He deviates from his mission. He has to wipe out the cartel and the drugs, but he starts looking for revenge because they tortured and killed his family. So now he crosses the line. He becomes kind of like a flawed hero.
You mean as the character, to go home? Or as Arnold?
The character that I play does not go home and turn off. The character is twenty-four hours a day consumed by the fact that his family was killed by a drug cartel. All he knows now is revenge. He blames his fellow officers that were with him for that, he blames the cartel for that: he blames everyone.
But, as Arnold, when I go home I don’t think about the movie anymore. I just go and have my work out every night, have dinner, rehearse for the next day… It is all business during the time of shooting.
In recent films of yours, like Last Stand and Sabotage, we’ve seen a different side of you. Your characters have been more vulnerable and aggressive. Is that something you’re actively seeking out, and something you’re looking to add to your classic roles when you revisit them, like as Conan and the Terminator?
No. I do not have a master plan. “Here’s what I wanna do now”. I think it has to do with hitting a certain age. Especially after coming out of a government job, you see that the world is a lot more complex. Therefore you start getting attracted to characters that are written more complex and multi-dimensional. So I’m attracted to those kind of characters now, whereas twenty years ago, I may not have been attracted to that same script. I think that, the whole world, twenty years ago, it was not so intense, the drug war. I, as Governor, dealt with the drug issue in California, in real life, so that story was appealing to me.
The next movie, for instance, Terminator, that I did not plan either. It’s just that they bought the rights that were available and came to me. I felt very honoured because I did not want to be replaced in the movie. So I was honoured that they got me back in the movie – I love that character, playing a machine. At the same time Universal Studios is coming to me and saying “we want you to play Conan”, so I thought “this is really great. To go back to these old, original characters that actually made my career!” But, again, it is not a plan. I did try to do more Conan movies, but the people who owned the rights… I didn’t want to do the movies with! Right? I didn’t want to do a Conan movie that was like a half-assed movie. I wanted a Conan movie with a great budget behind it, with a great director behind it, because then it can be a successful movie.
Then they’re talking to me about Kinderga… err… Twins. Wanting to do Triplets. Again, this is something that I’ve chased for twenty years, but there you have it right? At first they’re like “there is no sequel, there’s no sequel, there’s no sequel”, then all of a sudden they call me and say “remember how you always talked about a sequel? I think it could be great!” But it is a different studio now, a different executive now. It is a new generation. The old guard is gone. There are new people in there. So this is the way it happens. I do one project at a time. I don’t really have a theme or a plan. Some ideas work, some don’t work, but I believe very strongly in those characters in those films.
There’s a great scene, early on in the film, of you in the gym, working out: classic Arnold stuff. For people that see the film, and see you doing those exercises, the lat pull down, the one arm dumbbell row, the pullover… Could you recommend some extra exercises that people could add to those in the film, to build a workout out of it?
Well if you do pull down’s that a back exercise, if you do rowing it’s a back exercise… what else?
Yeah. Pullover, which is a chest exercise, the key thing is that you train the whole body. But that scene was not a documentary about my workout, right?! You didn’t see me squat, and then do the calf raises, the abdominal work: the sit ups, the leg raises, the shoulder exercises, the bicep exercises, the tricep exercises… they left all of this out, because if you really want to train, you should do the total body. You should go from one exercise to the next without stopping – that way you do the muscle training and the cardiovascular training together.
You are working with an amazing team in this movie, with a helluva lot of muscles? Who do you think is the most kickass of your co-stars?
You know, it’s very hard to say… because, in their own ways, they were all very tough guys. I mean, David Ayer, I think, wanted to know ahead of time if those guys were the real thing. So it’s not someone acting ballsy, or it’s not like a director having the luxury of saying “OK we’re going to start shooting in a year. I like this actor here. He doesn’t look yet the part, but by the time I’m through with him and the personal trainer and the training with the SWAT team, he’s gonna look the part.” It was none of that. He picked really very, very tough guys. And all of them, they all went through martial arts training; all put on the headgear, even the girls. They put on the headgear and were pounded away on, kicked, and everything like that. Because you don’t want them to come to the set and baby themselves – you want them to go all out and really be thrown around, and do as many of the different stunts as possible.
When anyone says they do all their own stunts, that’s nonsense. Because the fact of the matter is no production will want an actor to do even some high jumps, where they could twist an ankle or something – nothing major, but it will take you out of the movie. It will shut down the movie. So they don’t like it if you get injured. I get injured on every movie. Usually smaller things, like banging my head on a camera or something like that, then you get stitched up quickly and come right back and continue shooting. You’re able to do that because the visual effects guys will wipe out, you know, the stitches. But if you have a broken leg, or a torn shoulders – then you have to shut down.
So we had all really physically tough guys. For instance, Joe Manganiello: he’s a football player, he has been working out, he has been doing martial arts, he’s doing cross training and all those things. So he’s the real deal, he’s fantastic! He lifts a lot of heavy weights and he can take a lot of punishment, and he can give a lot of punishment!
Sam Worthington. He worked like a mad man for this! You know how he gets into the character; he’s that kind of a guy. He’s terrific! He was willing to put the hours in at the gym, the hours into the martial arts and the weapons training, and all that.
I had a great time working with those guys. It felt like I was thrown back to the Predator days! When I was with this ensemble cast and surrounded by…
I have the original. In my office. I have all the Terminators, a Predator, the alligator from Eraser, the jet from True Lies, all those…
Keith interrupts again and asks how long Arnold trained for.
On Conan, I started a year before. The horse training and sword training. It’s one of those things that if you do something casually every day that by the time the film comes around it has become second nature. You don’t get anymore the sore wrist from the sword, because the swords are heavy, the fight scenes are relentless and, if you have a director like John Milius, he believes that you should be able to do all of the swords and tricks and stuff. I’d never done any sword work before so… I come from a bodybuilding background, reps, reps, reps, it’s all about reps. To me, the more often you practice, rehears, use the weapons, the better you are going to be on screen.
Is that in your contract?
No. Contracts are all bogus anyway. Who pays attention to a contract?! If an actor is contracted to do forty days of work, and then he walks off the set – what are you gonna do?! You can just cry. You can’t say “I’m going to punish you” – then they won’t perform for the next three days! He’s gonna be sick, right? Emotionally sick. Then the shrink comes to the set! Contracts are only for lawyers to have a good time and make their money and stuff.
I don’t have it in a contract that I have to go down to New Orleans next week, to practice, to rehearse, to do camera tests with all the wardrobe. There’s nothing in my contract for that, but of course I want to go! You want to go. I want the director, Alan Taylor – who is a fantastic director, (Note: THIS IS FOR TERMINATOR GENESIS) I want him to have the ability to make the right choices. “What does this leather jacket look like? What do these combat boots look like? How does he look in this t-shirt? How does he look with this haircut?” All of this. Doing this with the director, working with the stunt coordinator. It’s not in your contract, but you do it because common sense tells you this is the right thing to do to make the movie successful.
I interviewed Liam Neeson recently and he claimed that you are fiercely jealous of his status as Hollywood’s Reigning Action Star. Is he talking absolute rubbish?
Oh. That I’m jealous of him? No. I’m not jealous of anybody. I love being me. I do admire people. Liam Neeson is one of the people I admire. As much as I admire Sam Worthington and Joe Manganiello. Or Jim Cameron, with his directing ability. I admire people, but I am jealous of nobody.
How is Triplets coming along? How is Eddie Murphy fitting in there with Danny DeVito and yourself?
For Triplets? We’ve not done any rehearsal, but I’ve met with him several times. He’s very, very funny and he is going to be perfect in Triplets.
The moderator winds everything up.
How did we do? You all have a good day!
Sabotage is released in the UK on the 7th of May. You can read my review here.
Massive thanks to the lovely Lauren Henley at Think Jam.