The ‘Governator’ should retire to contemplate his future in a museum
YOU have to laugh: at 64, Arnold Schwarzenegger has become a museum piece.
Okay, that’s not quite true. His birthplace in the village of Thal, near Graz in Austria, has become a museum dedicated to his life and career. And it has received the blessing of the man dubbed “the Austrian Oak”.
Several things made me titter. One, Arnie was apparently born in the local hospital, not the house that bears his name. Two, the museum seems to be littered with tat and some of the relics of his youth, like the dumbbells he used as a teenager, posters, a replica of his desk as California’s Republican governor, a life-size figure of Schwarzenegger in his prime, and his childhood bed. Three, Schwarzenegger packed up and left Thal in 1966, aged 22. He headed west, for America. By 1969 he was in the movies. Admittedly Hercules in New York (with a musclebound Arnie billed as “Arnold Strong”) wasn’t particularly classy entertainment but then that criticism could be levelled at most of his output.
What Schwarzenegger had was drive, ambition and guts. He set out to escape his modest roots and make it big. America was his goal and that’s precisely what he did. An ego twice the size of Jupiter helped him on his way, as did the five Mr Universe titles he collected enroute. By 1976 he was the premier bodybuilder on the planet.
Movies followed, with first the “thud and blunder” Conan adventures and then The Terminator propelling Schwarzenegger into the big time. He was never much of an actor – and with his thick Austrian accent he could barely be understood on screen – but he had size and presence which was all action flicks asked of him. He enjoyed a decade of mega success before Last Action Hero brought him down in 1993. His career never really recovered and as he sought to embrace selfreferential spoofs and comedies, so his political ambitions took centre stage.
Of course Schwarzenegger’s ego meant he continued to dabble in movies, notably in The Expendables with Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. He also dallied with his housekeeper, siring a son and executing his marriage in the process.
I bet that won’t be covered by his new museum. Schwarzenegger is now said to be eyeing up several opportunities including an Expendables sequel and a new $30m action flick, Last Stand, in which he plays a smalltown sheriff at war with a rogue drugs lord.
Will 21st-century audiences accept a resurrected Arnie? I suspect his time has passed. He could never match Stallone as a performer and, though a year younger, looks older. Can he still hack it? I doubt it. Maybe he will become a fixture in his own museum, tearing tickets and telling stories about the time when, albeit briefly, he ruled the world (of cinema).