Ever since he vacated the governor’s office, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been hard at work shooting movies of, well, varying quality and engaging into very public spats with the POTUS himself. Now he adds another position to his résumé, as impressive as his biceps: that of an environmental crusader.
“I don’t feel like a political activist. I feel like someone who is passionate about certain issues” – explains the actor when we meet in Cannes, where he is promoting marine life documentary Wonders of the Sea directed by Jean-Michel Cousteau. “When I was younger, I was passionate about bodybuilding and wanted the world to experience it. Now I am passionate about environment. Which seems quite natural, because I only did healthy things to my body. I never inhaled.”
Why did you decide to do this project? It’s not every day that you narrate documentaries, really.
I was very fortunate that my nephew, who is an entertainment lawyer, came across this film. He told me: “You have to see this – it’s in 3D, it will blow you away.” The thing is, a film like Wonders of the Sea is very entertaining. That’s great, because you don’t want to put an environmental message in The Terminator – it’s not the purpose of it. Jean-Michel’s father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, always said that you have to protect what you love, so we want people to fall in love with the ocean.
People need to understand they have the power to change things. We don’t rely on one person and we don’t rely on Trump – we rely on each other. So let’s not wait for governments to solve our problems.
Do you worry more since Donald Trump got elected, especially as far as the environment is concerned?
Do I look like a person that worries? I never worry – I like to act. America is the greatest country in the world. We have our problems, but we always weather through them, so everything will sort itself out. Our constitution has been written so well it’s bulletproof.
At the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy we teach our kids to get up and get involved. Just go and get your hands dirty! When I became governor, I didn’t really know all that much about this stuff. That’s what made me work together with the Democrats to pass the toughest environmental laws in the United States. We believed that no one could stand in our way – we literally sued the federal government and today, California is leading the nation. The message here is quite simple: Don’t ever take ‘no’ for an answer.
It’s very telling that after years of rejection now you are narrating a film and it’s considered its biggest selling point. When did you notice that your accent has actually become an asset?
When I first came to Hollywood, they told me I would never become a leading man. They said: “Forget it. First of all, you are too big. This is the 1970s and we prefer Dustin Hoffman, the Al Pacinos and the Woody Allens. Also, your accent gives us the creeps. We could see you maybe in Hogan’s Heroes as a Nazi officer.” It was all negative stuff like that, but luckily, I didn’t listen. And then I did Conan the Barbarian and John Milius said that if he hadn’t found Arnold Schwarzenegger, he would have to build one.
I thought: “This is great!” And then I did The Terminator and James Cameron said that what really made it work was that I actually talk like a machine (laughter). He basically credited the success of the movie to the fact that I don’t talk like anybody else. People started writing about it and it became acceptable. And then it changed from acceptable to hip. All of a sudden I had the most quotable lines in movies – and it was because of the accent! Like ‘It’s not a TUMAH!’ If I would say it right, the kids wouldn’t have laughed. Ivan Reitman (director of Kindergarten Cop) said: “You totally fucked up this word, but everyone seems to love it so we are going to keep it.” Or ‘GET TO DA CHOPPA!’ I say things differently and a lot of them are wrong. But I still run into people who say: “I didn’t see you there at first, but I knew it was you – I heard your voice.” This is how recognisable it is now.
It seems that at 69, you are fine with where you are.
You can say that I am 70 – I believe in rounding things up. Life has taken me on a fantastic ride. I had a lot of goals as a kid and I accomplished them. But I didn’t know I would be able to do that! I am not a shrink, so I won’t try to analyse my life, but I know I was very fortunate to have a father who believed in discipline. Every day, he would make us do 200 push-ups before we were even allowed to eat breakfast. He was a police officer and he would always say: “Whatever you do, be useful”.
I grew up after the Second World War and I hated it. I hated the atmosphere, I hated that everyone was drinking. All the men I knew were depressed. So when I saw my first documentary about America, I said to myself: “Now I know where I am going.” Some people have this ability to visualise things and I guess I am one of them. It could be genetics or you just grow up and BAM! You are different. Michelangelo started drawing when he was 3. Where did it come from? He didn’t go to art school. I always believed that everything is possible – even when I decided to run for governor. So I am not laughing when The Rock announces he wants to run for president one day. He has a great personality, he is engaging and there were many before him that did the exact same thing.
Yes, but then they end up fighting with you over the Celebrity Apprentice on Twitter.
I voted for him, but that doesn’t mean I can’t attack him. He decided to eliminate $1.2 billion in grants for after-school programs. He decided to rob the children, so of course I had to speak up. So when he does something to the environment I will be the first one to say something about it. Power is tricky. You go in there with certain expectations and all of a sudden you realise the implications of your every move. It’s a learning experience. I surrounded myself with people who were much smarter than me, but every day I would try to educate myself, because it was overwhelming. It’s fun when you run for office, when you say to yourself: “I’m going to crash them all!” But then the game is over – you are in charge of something big. I can’t tell you why Trump does the things he does – I don’t know what makes people tick. But I still believe that if he is successful, we all are successful.
Find the full interview HERE
Actor, businessman, politician, activist and former professional bodybuilder known for such films as The Terminator, Predator and (or is it only us) Last Action Hero. He served two terms as the Governor of California. He will be back.