HE SAID HE’D BE BACK

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger opens up in an in­ter­view with

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger re­turns im­mi­nently in the role that de­fined him, as the chisel-jawed venge­ful cy­borg, the Ter­mi­na­tor. Not that he had the itch to re­turn to act­ing while rum­bling through his eight-year stint as the gover­nor of Cal­i­for­nia.

“To be hon­est with you, I had not one sin­gle minute or de­sire to be act­ing again [dur­ing that pe­riod] and I think the rea­son is the [po­lit­i­cal] job is so over­whelm­ing,” he says. “It’s huge. It’s such a dif­fer­ent thing to do some­thing for a movie or in busi­ness ver­sus serv­ing 38 mil­lion peo­ple and be­ing in charge of the state and all the crises that come up all the time.”

And there were many in his pe­riod of of­fice from 2003 to 2011, in­clud­ing two fi­nan­cial dra­mas. “The last thing on your mind [at a time like that] is: ‘Why couldn’t I do another movie?’ ”

Sch­warzeneg­ger pro­fesses hu­mil­ity about be­ing asked to re­turn to the se­ries that be­gan in 1984 as a mi­nor sci-fi film di­rected by the un­known Cana­dian James Cameron be­fore its se­quel seven years later, Ter­mi­na­tor 2: Judg­ment Day (T2), distin­guished it­self as one of the great­est sci-fi ac­tion films in mod­ern cin­ema.

That was 20 years ago and Sch­warzeneg­ger ad­mits he re­turns to the role as a dif­fer­ent ac­tor and per­son. “First of all, there’s a re­fresh­ing kind of at­ti­tude or feel­ing be­cause I feel like I was out of it for quite some time and now it is so nice to come back again and feel the same en­thu­si­asm I felt at the be­gin­ning when I started this whole thing,” he says.

But he be­lieves he is a dif­fer­ent ac­tor also “be­cause when 10 years pass, you’re a dif­fer­ent per­son”. And he adds: “When you’re a fa­ther of chil­dren [he has three sons and two daugh­ters], you can re­late to cer­tain things dif­fer­ently to 20 years ear­lier. I think that you get more ma­ture, you get to be wiser, you think about cer­tain things more … You’re much more in touch with your emo­tions.”

That might sound sur­pris­ing com­ing from an ac­tor thought of — if one can ig­nore the cliche of the stiff, mono­syl­labic Aus­trian — as a phys­i­cal per­former rather than an emo­tional one. But he says he is now get­ting films he would not have been of­fered two decades ago, such as the re­cent post-apoc­a­lyp­tic drama Mag­gie.

But Ter­mi­na­tor was al­ways the one. Un­for­tu­nately, other peo­ple deemed it opportune to con­tinue the fran­chise. Af­ter Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion, star­ring Chris­tian Bale and Sam Wor­thing­ton, failed to fire in 2009, rights to the Ter­mi­na­tor char­ac­ter sur­vived more than a rise of the ma­chines: they went through bank­ruptcy, a failed auc­tion, a pri­vate eq­uity pur­chase, nu­mer­ous pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors (in­clud­ing De­nis Vil­leneuve and Ang Lee) and two stu­dios.

Even­tu­ally, shoot­ing be­gan on the film in 2014 un­der the di­rec­tion of Alan Tay­lor, who had pre­vi­ously di­rected episodes of The So­pra­nos and Game of Thrones as well as Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World.

Sch­warzeneg­ger was gover­nor when Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion mis­fired and sub­se­quently he was cru­cial as bar­gain­ing for the rights pro­gressed, be­ing asked by po­ten­tial pro­duc­ers if he would con­tem­plate re­turn­ing to the role. The 67-year-old says he told them: “I would be hon­oured be­cause 31 years af­ter do­ing the first one to be asked back again was very un­usual. Most fran­chises change the ac­tors: they changed the [James] Bonds and the Bat­mans. So here, I’m still in there, so that’s good. I felt very happy about be­ing asked again.”

He re­turns in a dou­ble dose of the epony­mous char­ac­ter, both a guardian and an orig­i­nal 1984 model try­ing to kill Sarah Con­nor. Don’t ask any more about the plot, although Arnie can syn­the­sise: “What’s great about it story-wise is one is pro­grammed to pro­tect the ma­chines and one is pro­grammed to pro­tect the hu­man race and there is ma­jor con­flict and there­fore an epic baaaat­tle breaks out.”

It’s a time-travel film, al­beit one faith­ful to the se­ries; but don’t think too much, just marvel at a scene at the LA Ob­ser­va­tory in which the sex­a­ge­nar­ian fights an in­cred­i­ble dig­i­tal ren­der­ing of a 1984 ver­sion. “It’s wild how you can do that,” he says, smil­ing. Sch­warzeneg­ger re­calls the dig­i­tal scan­ning of his body but en­dured a mi­nor frus­tra­tion when he saw the body­builder dou­ble he had to fight. “No­body is ex­actly alike,” he says, and de­spite this dou­ble’s big “arms, del­toids and great waist, I could see the dif­fer­ence with my old body”.

He en­thuses about how the vis­ual ef­fects depart­ment later made the nec­es­sary changes. “It was amaz­ing to watch it fin­ished and to see your­self fight­ing against your­self,” he says, laugh­ing. “So you’re kind of a lit­tle con­fused about who you should root for!”

Aus­tralian ac­tor Jai Court­ney knew who to sup­port. “I don’t think I would have been ex­cited about mak­ing a Ter­mi­na­tor film if he hadn’t been a part of it,” he says. “It cer­tainly le­git­imises things some­what. We’ve seen what hap­pens when you stray away from that.”

While Sch­warzeneg­ger’s par­tic­i­pa­tion and a more ac­ces­si­ble plot than Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion bode well, Court­ney notes these are dif­fer­ent times from 1994. “It’s hard these days with a film of this size to make it as ‘adult’ as those early Ter­mi­na­tor films,” he ob­serves. “You can’t make a $200 mil­lion movie that’s R-rated any more.”

Court­ney is joined in the film by another Aus­tralian, Jason Clarke, as well as Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke (no re­la­tion). Court­ney and Jason Clarke are both film­ing sig­nif­i­cant roles for Hol­ly­wood block­busters (Clarke has moved from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to this and on to Ever­est).

Are the films choos­ing Court­ney or is he choos­ing them? “It’s a bit of both,” says the 29year-old Western Aus­tralian Academy of Per­form­ing Arts grad­u­ate.

“I’m not at a point yet ca­reer-wise where I have the free­dom to wait it out for the ideal job … Part of me [wishes] I could do that but you have got to pay the bills — and I love work­ing.”

Sch­warzeneg­ger loves work­ing, too, but it looks as though he has sated any act­ing bug with a se­ries of ac­tion films in quick time since leav­ing of­fice. Yet pol­i­tics still bites.

He gov­erned with such aplomb and pop­u­lar­ity, some lament he is un­able to fol­low in the foot­steps of fel­low ac­tor and Cal­i­for­nia gover­nor Ron­ald Rea­gan, who went on to two terms as pres­i­dent of the US. Sch­warzeneg­ger is con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­hib­ited from con­test­ing for that post be­cause he was born in Aus­tria.

He is con­fi­dent he could do as good a job as any­one else, but doesn’t lament his in­el­i­gi­bil­ity (although he lob­bied for a change in the clause).

In­stead, he has thrown him­self into phil­an­thropic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and pol­icy work. Even as a body­builder, he felt obliged to use his “star power” to ad­vance cer­tain causes, ini­tially health. Af­ter his two terms as gover­nor, he says, Ter­mi­na­tor: Genisys, “I felt like I didn’t want to walk away from those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­cause my job is fin­ished.”

He es­tab­lished the Sch­warzeneg­ger In­sti­tute for State and Global Pol­icy at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and says: “My new cru­sade is the en­vi­ron­men­tal cru­sade.”

The Repub­li­can’s mes­sage for Aus­tralia? “Ev­ery coun­try is ex­tremely im­por­tant in or­der for the world to ac­com­plish its goals, which is to re­duce green­house gases and pol­lu­tion,” he says. “[Whether or not] you be­lieve in global warm­ing — that has noth­ing to do with that — but pol­lu­tion right now is killing seven mil­lion peo­ple a year world­wide, so there’s an end­less amount of peo­ple dy­ing right now in Aus­tralia, as well as Aus­tria, just be­cause we’re pol­lut­ing the air and the wa­ter and the soil.

“We can do bet­ter than that.”

June 27-28, 2015

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger with Emilia Clarke and Jai Court­ney in

left; Court­ney with Jason Clarke, be­low

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