Arnold Schwarzenegger first gained fame as a bodybuilder, using that as a launching point to become a huge Hollywood star and, later, the governor of California.
Who Is Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, near Graz, Austria. He rose to fame as the world’s top bodybuilder, launching a career that would make him a giant Hollywood star. After years of blockbuster movie roles, Schwarzenegger went into politics, becoming governor of California in 2003. In 2012, he returned to his acting career, starring with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone in the film The Expendables 2. Within just one week, the movie had climbed to the No. 1 spot at the box office, bringing in nearly $28.6 million. His recent films include The Expendables 3 (2014) and Terminator Genisys(2015).
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, near Graz, Austria. Schwarzenegger’s childhood was far from ideal. His father, Gustav, was an alcoholic police chief and one-time member of the Nazi Party, who clearly favored Arnold’s brother over his gangly, seemingly less athletic younger son.
Gustav is reported to have beaten and intimidated Arnold and, when he could, pitted his two boys against one another. He also ridiculed Schwarzenegger’s early dreams of becoming a bodybuilder. “It was a very uptight feeling at home,” Schwarzenegger later recalled. So uptight and uncomfortable, in fact, that Schwarzenegger would later refuse to attend the funeral of his father, who died in 1972, or his brother, who was killed in a car crash in 1971.
As an escape, Arnold turned to the movies, in particular Reg Parker, a bodybuilder and star in B-level Hercules movies. The films also helped propel Schwarzenegger’s own obsession with America, and the future he felt awaited him there. Getting to his new country was the issue. Schwarzenegger found his answer in Joe Weider, the man behind the International Federation of Body Building, an organization that sponsored contests such Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia.
Weider loved Schwarzenegger’s bravado, sense of humor, and the potential he saw in the young bodybuilder. Weider’s instincts couldn’t have been more dead-on. In all, Schwarzenegger would win an unprecedented five Mr. Universe titles and six Mr. Olympia crowns during his bodybuilding career.
Equally significant, Schwarzenegger, who had immigrated to the United States in 1968, helped propel the sport into the mainstream, culminating in the 1977 documentary, Pumping Iron, which tells the tale of Schwarzenegger’s defense of his Mr. Olympia crown.
Making it in Hollywood
Since his first foray to the local movie house in his hometown of Graz, Arnold had dreamed of making it big in Hollywood. With his ascension to the top of the bodybuilding world, it was only a matter of time before he’d move over to the big screen.
After acting in a few small parts, Schwarzenegger received a Golden Globe Award for Best Newcomer for his performance in Stay Hungry (1976). With his intense physical strength and size, Schwarzenegger was a natural for action films. He became a leading figure in several popular 1980s action movies, including Conan the Barbarian (1982). Schwarzenegger also starred as a deadly machine from the future in The Terminator (1984). The science-fiction drama spawned two sequels—Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).
Off-screen he continued his remarkable story, marrying into the Kennedy family by tying the knot with Maria Owings Shriver, daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her husband R. Sargent Shriver.
Schwarzenegger’s American story sounded improbable, except to those who knew him. “This is a man of bottomless ambition,” said George Butler, producer and director of Pumping Iron, in a 2003 interview. “It’s always been there … He sees himself as mystically sent to America.”
In 2003, Schwarzenegger again showed his resolve to succeed when he threw his hat into the ring for the California governor’s race and won a seat in a special election. In a state that was mired in severe budget woes, the newly elected Republican governor promised to bring economic stability to his adopted state.
As expected, Schwarzenegger brought his own unique brand of confidence to his new job. “If they don’t have the guts, I call them ‘girlie-men,'” he said of Democrats, early in his first term. “They should go back to the table and fix the budget.”
Still, as governor, Schwarzenegger worked to improve the state’s financial situation, promote new businesses, and protect the environment. In 2006, he easily won his bid for re-election. Throughout his career, Schwarzenegger has credited former U.S. President Ronald Reagan as a personal inspiration. Remembering his early years in the United States, Schwarzenegger once said, “I became a citizen of the United States when [Reagan] was president, and he is the first president I voted for as an American citizen. He inspired me and made me even prouder to be a new American.”
His second term in office did not run as smoothly, however. Schwarzenegger struggled to help the state through difficult financial times. After leaving office in January 2011, he sought to revive his career in the entertainment industry. In March of that year, Schwarzenegger announced plans to work with famed comic book creator Stan Lee on a new animated series inspired by his time in office.
Only a few months after leaving office, Schwarzenegger made another announcement. He and Maria Shriver made their decision to separate public in May. The news followed Schwarzenegger’s acknowledgement that he’d fathered a baby with a member of the family’s household staff. Schwarzenegger and Shriver have four children: Katherine, Christina, Patrick, and Christopher. Patrick followed his dad into the acting business, appearing in several films as a child before taking a leading role in the 2018 teen tear-jerker Midnight Sun.
‘The Expendables’ and Return to Hollywood
In 2010, Schwarzenegger starred alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone in the film The Expendables. In August 2012, he reunited with the film’s cast for a follow-up film, The Expendables 2. Just one week after the film’s premiere, it had climbed to the No. 1 spot at the box office, bringing in nearly $28.6 million.
Schwarzenegger made headlines again later in 2012, when he admitted for the first time to having an affair with his Red Sonja co-star, actress Brigitte Nielsen, in the mid-1980s, while he was dating and living with Maria Shriver. Nielsen had written about the adulterous relationship in her 2011 memoir, You Only Get One Life, but Schwarzenegger didn’t publicly confirm Nielsen’s account until the fall of 2012, when his memoir, Total Recall, was published.
Continuing with his acting career, Schwarzenegger rejoined Sylvester Stallone for The Expendables 3 in 2014. He returned to the film franchise that made him a star the following year. Schwarzenegger starred in Terminator Genisys (2015) with Jason Clarke and Emilia Clarke.
In January 2017, Schwarzenegger replaced incoming president Donald Trump as host of NBC’s reality game show The New Celebrity Apprentice, produced by Mark Burnett. After the show received low ratings, President Trump took a jab at Schwarzenegger in an appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast. “I want to just pray for Arnold … for those ratings,” the president said.
Schwarzenegger responded on social media: “Hey Donald, I have a great idea. Why don’t we switch jobs? You take over TV because you’re such an expert on ratings and I take over your job and then people can finally sleep comfortably again.” However, within a few months the actor announced that he would not return to the show.
He later surfaced in early 2018 when Eliza Dushku, a former co-star from the 1994 action movie True Lies, claimed she had been sexually assaulted by the stunt coordinator during filming, when she was just 12 years old. Schwarzenegger tweeted: “I’m shocked and saddened for Eliza but I am also proud of her – beyond being a great talent and an amazing woman, she is so courageous.”
Schwarzenegger endured a health scare while undergoing surgery for a catheter valve replacement at a Los Angeles hospital in March 2018. The valve replacement failed, resulting in emergency open heart surgery that proved successful. According to his spokesman, Schwarzenegger was soon in stable condition, reportedly waking up with the words “I’m back,” in a nod to his famous Terminator character.