Arnold Schwarzenegger Shares the Secret to Being a Great Modern Action Hero  

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies Sci-Fi
Movies Sci-Fi

The latest instalment in the Terminator franchise is a direct sequel to Terminator 2 and takes place 28 years after the close of Judgment Day. Picking up Sarah Connor’s story, the James Cameron-produced sixth film in the series puts Linda Hamilton’s Connor – who returns to the franchise after a 28-year absence — in protector role again. This time she’s alongside Arnie’s T-800 and MacKenzie Davis’s enhanced human resistance fighter from the future, Grace.

Together, they attempt to evade the relentless pursuit of an all-new Terminator model – Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 – whose mission is to assassinate humankind’s latest hope, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Dani has some significance in the future of the new timeline Sarah Connor helped to create when she halted Judgment Day, as a key figure in the war against the machines. Grace and Sarah will ultimately help Dani to understand what she must do.

As Terminator: Dark Fate gears up to hit screens, Fandom puts questions gathered from our fan communities to franchise star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, in the words of the Austrian-American goliath, stick around

I Created the Competition

“They followed the rules,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger, in explanation of what makes today’s action heroes successful. He’s answering a question from fan Amirpa4, who wants to know the iconic action movie star’s opinion of action heroes on screen in 2019. The rules, says Arnie, that he and his contemporaries set in the 1980s.

Taking their cue from Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme et al, the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Dave Bautista — and presumably also the rest of the superhero set including Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Henry Cavill and Jason Momoa — are all successful, then, because they subscribe to the Schwarzenegger ethos.

Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) in great shape as the T-800 in 1984's The Terminator.

Which is? “You’ve got to have the body to prove you’re an action hero,” says the Terminator star, and former Mr. Universe. “The way it used to be in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, you couldn’t get away with that [now]. They have no body. ‘Just pretend that you’re tough’ [was the approach]. They didn’t really have the body to back it up.”

Action stars from that era include Errol Flynn, famous for playing Robin Hood, and Steve McQueen, not to mention Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Rock Hudson… the list of ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ icons goes on.

“Then came the era in the ‘80s, with Stallone and myself and Van Damme and all those guys. Then, it was a requirement you had to have a body,” he continues. “And then [followed] the competition over who had the better body? Who has the better knives; who has the better guns; who kills more people; makes more money at the box office? We were in all-out competition in the ‘80s.”

Did he feel the pressure of that competition? “I created the competition; I fuelled it,” he laughs.

Today’s action heroes and their respective movies were certainly born out of Schwarzenegger’s legacy, but when you factor in actors like Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler, for instance, there’s also a raft of successful action heroes who blend in a dose of old Hollywood, too. Perhaps Arnold does consider those actors for having the body to back it up, of course — certainly that image of Craig emerging from the sea à la Ursula Andress — in all his ripped glory — in Casino Royale is burned onto the retinas of all whose eyes regarded it.

I Was Born For Sweets

Given that Schwarzenegger is still making action movies at the age of 72, it begs the question as to how he manages to stay so youthful – something fan Paul West was keen to know. He actually asked how he has managed to age so much better than Stallone – a question Arnie laughs heartily at.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator Dark Fate
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Dark Fate.

“This is something that you maybe have to ask Sly!” says Schwarzenegger. “One thing I can tell you is exercise. And being happy. I’m not saying that Sly is not! But I’m just saying for myself, exercising daily, and being happy and eating well. Not really well, but well – that’s important to know. Balance [is key]. I cannot stop something completely. It’s impossible. I cannot stop sweets. I was born for sweets. So why would I all of a sudden not eat sweets? I want to smoke a stubby, so why would I stop smoking a stubby? So there are certain things … even though they say it’s not good [that I] do in moderation.”

He also buys into part-time veganism.

“I would say five days a week I don’t eat any meat period,” he says. “No animal products. But on Sunday I slap a steak on the barbecue. I make myself a steak, or someone makes a good wiener schnitzel and then I cheat. So, that’s ok. I think those are the things that keep you young. I also don’t look at myself as being 72. I’m kind of stuck being 50 or something like that. So when I go to the set and I do my stunts, I also don’t feel like I should treat myself like an elderly gentleman. I just do like I did 20 years ago. So it’s an attitude thing.”

Fusing Acting and Politics

Any time Arnold Schwarzenegger opens his mouth, it seems, a new one-liner is born. “I was born for sweets” will undoubtedly be a quote tripping off your tongue forever after, having read this article. While Arnie says he doesn’t have a favourite one-liner (and, jeez, there are MANY), he does think he’s got the reason they’re so memorable cracked.

“It depends what the circumstances are and how you say the line,” he says. “Just remember: a stupid line became famous just because of the way I say it. I mispronounce all this s–. So, “It’s not a tumour, it’s not a tumour at all”, from Kindergarten Cop… it’s because I didn’t say tumour with a t, I said it with a d – ‘dumour’ – [that it’s funny]. All the kids started laughing, and then they thought, ‘This is brilliant; the kids are laughing without being told to laugh, that is really great’, so they kept [the wrong pronunciation] in the movie. Or ‘Get to the choppa’. There’s no ‘r’ there. Chopp-a. It’s just the way I say it. People think that’s funny and they try to imitate that.”

“When you finish a speech and you say, ‘I promise you, I’ll be back’, people just applaud.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

He recounts the story of his most famous line from the Terminator films – “I’ll be back” – recalling how he wanted to change it to “I will be back” because he had trouble wrapping his tongue around “I’ll”, before James Cameron stepped in and overruled him.

“He was upset right away that I was trying to change a little something, but in any case then it became the most historic line, period,” he says.

A line that is referenced over and over, even today – 35 years after it first entered the lexicon in 1984’s The Terminator. It’s a line that has even helped him in his political career.

“Everyone knows where it comes from. It is the most usable line,” he says. “I know when I do a speech about something, it doesn’t matter if it’s about health, the environment, or [something else], all of those lines are so easy to use: ‘And then we’ve got to terminate climate change’. It’s great to say ‘terminate’ rather than ‘stop’ … When you finish a speech and you say, ‘I promise you, I’ll be back’, people just applaud. So it’s a great line. ‘Hasta la vista, baby’. It’s a great line.”

We’re looking forward to one day seeing him use Jingle All the Way‘s unforgettable “Put that cookie down, now!” in a speech, should he ever step back into the heavyweight political arena.

Terminator: Dark Fate hits screens in the UK on October 23, Australia on October 31 and the US on November 1.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.