Hey folks, Harry here… Early this year, I spent a couple of days on the set of THE LAST STAND, which marks the former Governor of California’s first feature film star turn. Yes, he’s had his cameos in the two EXPENDABLES films. At the time of this interview, he had shot his cameo in the second one of those, but it had yet to be released.
I had met Arnold at a lunch with Stallone & my wife Yoko, back in 2007, where he mainly chatted with Yoko about our friend Marcus Owens, a noted badass in Austin. I’d spent most of the morning in a really chilly cornfield in New Mexico. The corn was very fragile, left up long after it should have been harvested, just so that Arnold and Eduardo Noriega could do some crazy car stunts in Malachai’s domain. Sorry, different film, but really… what film geek goes to a cornfield and not think of that freaky ginger?
I’d met Eduardo Noriega on the set of DEVIL’S BACKBONE in Spain, where he was also playing a bit of a bastard. But for me, the big excitement was the opportunity to actually watch Jee-Woon Kim direct a film.
Jee-Woon Kim has directed A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, A BITTERSWEET LIFE, THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD & I SAW THE DEVIL. He is a South Korean Directing Badass – and here I was on his first American set watching him directing Arnold Schwarzenegger. TOO COOL.
The set was a bit muddy, but due to the frigid temps, the mud was frozen, until it warm up – which made getting me around, something bordering on hilarity. Fatass in a wheelchair in a muddy cornfield, it was a good thing Schwarzenegger was there, we could use all the spare muscle we could find. Sadly, Arnold never was required to heave ho on me. But the thought was constantly in my mind.
Now – if you’ve seen the most recent trailer, you’ve seen some of the shots I saw shot this day. Watch for the scene where Arnold is in a car, that is on another car’s hood, and Arnie is leaning out the window firing into the windshield of the other car. This was some of the subtle nuanced film work that I observed in my two days of shooting that I watched.
Arnold was quite taken with my new spikey hair do. And wanted to have lunch with me where we would conduct the interview. I recorded the interview on my iPad, but I was supposed to just have about 20 minutes with Arnold, that turned into over an hour.
At the beginning of the interview, I, of course screwed up the recording, so we will join the interview already in progress. I was asking what happened with CRUSADE, a legendary film project that Paul Verhoeven had been a part of for years. What I didn’t know was that after Verhoeven, the project had a bit of a life with Ridley Scott – and here’s that part of the story…
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think that they were called up by Time Warner… I think maybe they’ve joined forces with Time Warner… Something happened where someone said, “Look guys. I cannot go 20 million over a hundred. I have to actually cut 20 million, because we have these new guys and they don’t understand that you’re spending so much money, so do me a favor. Try to bring it in for 80” and Ridley Scott just walked. He says, “Forget it.” So then we were dead on DEEP FREEZE. He then went off and did THE CRUSADE, but then without me…
Harry Knowles: Yeah, he subbed Orlando Bloom for Arnold Schwarzenegger, that does not make sense.
AS: But in any case he did a great job with…
HK: But you owned the project now, right?
AS: I did, but then I sold it to the hairdresser. [Arnold asks someone the name of the hairdresser.”]
HK: Peter? That’s the hairdresser I know of.
AS: He had his hair straight back… He bought it for a few million dollars. They got the script… But ultimately he bought the script. (Laughs) I was involved in so many of those epic kind of movies, it could be…
HK: Well it’s like… What was the film WINGS AS EAGLES? That was a great script.
AS: WINGS AS EAGLES, that was the writer that did BRAVEHEART.
HK: Yeah, Randall Wallace.
AS: That’s right. What is he doing now?
HK: Randall? I haven’t heard of him doing much. You know it was him and Jonathan Hensleigh and that whole… Now Mark Protosevich is getting pretty good work nowadays. We hired him to do JOHN CARTER OF MARS when I was a part of doing that at Paramount and he turned in an amazing draft of it. The last act wasn’t quite worked out yet, but we could have gotten it where we’d be good to go, but the studio wanted to hire a “hotter” and flashier name and that guy ruined the script. So what made you choose…
AS: [Arnold turns to Yoko who is sitting next to Harry.] Let me ask you a question. What is your take on all of this movie stuff?
Yoko: I love it. I love getting to see what he does and getting to come to places like this.
HK: She’s never been to a cornfield before in her entire life.
Yoko: I have never been to a cornfield before, now I have.
AS: Now you see the playground where I grew up in Austria. That’s how I grew up. It was cornfields and we were playing Hide and Seek in the cornfields and I spent a lot of time in places like this.
Yoko: See I always associate cornfields with ominous things, so thinking of little kids playing in a cornfield… It’s a different take on it.
HK: I just loved as we were driving up seeing the crew members just sort of disappear into the cornfields as we were approaching.
AS: There’s something nice about that. It’s also kind of weird.
HK: Yeah. It all goes back to Cary Grant for me. Watching NORTH BY NORTHWEST is just one of my favorite things ever. I actually got to see that film in the cornfields in California.
[The Tape Stops.]
HK: We do events at famous locations. I keep trying to talk them into doing a TERMINATOR 2 down in the ravine, in the wash area. I just always thought that would be probably the best location from T2.
AS: That would be funny.
HK: But we do all sorts of events like that. We did all of the John Waters films in Baltimore. Let’s see, what other weird stuff did we do? We did CHRISTMAS STORY at the house in Ohio where they shot. It gives people a connection to the places in the films and I’m always trying to inspire people to take a look at movies, but then use it as an excuse to maybe travel to explore the areas that are in the films or cultures of the films. If there’s a Viking movie, I’ll buy like a Viking drinking horn and host a screening where we are all drinking mead, which is sort of nasty actually. I always thought mead would be tastier since it came from honey, but it’s a little weird.
AS: Are you into Viking stories and all of that?
HK: Oh yeah. My father traced our family back to Olaf II from Norway, so as a result I’ve been raised by my father with a great love of Viking history.
AS: You maybe can help us. We have been trying to find a book that John Milius gave me to read 30 years ago when we did CONAN and it’s an old book written, as far as I remember, by a Swedish or Norwegian writer and it was translated and called THE VIKINGS. It was like three generations of Viking stories and it could easily be that the movie that Kurt Douglas did with Richard Fraser was based on that book.
HK: I love Ernest Borgnine in that film.
AS: I’m trying to find that book.
HK: I’ll find it for you. I actually think my father….
AS: It’s like a thousand pages and it’s three generations and it’s called THE VIKINGS. Milius is a little bit…
HK: How’s he doing?
AS: He’s back east, so he’s not in California. Franco Columbu used to treat him and do his physical therapy with him and all of that stuff.
HK: Is he able to talk now? I understand he had…
AS: He wasn’t able to then, but they say that he’s coming back slowly and that he’s doing well, but it must be so frustrating for someone that loves to talk. There’s no one that can hold court better than John Milius.
HK: I hate that I have never gotten to meet Milius. He’s so bigger than life. I’ve listened to every commentary he has done, read everything he has written, read every one of his drafts of unproduced scripts, all sorts of stuff… His KING CONAN was one of those that I was really rooting for, but then the rights got all weird on it.
AS: You mean the one that he wrote… The last…
HK: The older one. I actually think that would still play.
AS: I think it would be a great story, yeah.
HK: I thought it was fantastic.
AS: Now they’ve screwed it up again.
HK: People screw it up, but at the same time if the Millenium guys could get their hands on that script and get you in there to be an older Conan I think it would be magnificent. That’s what the fans wanted. It’s the reason… Momoa, who played Conan, he had the right look, but the director was this guy who didn’t understand that Conan needed to have a little bit of the Devil in him. His eyes needed to light up more, but he never really directed it to that which I thought was a shame.
AS: You’re right. You understand it or you don’t. I mean I’m sure the director did everything he could in his power or his talent, but you know you have to be born for that.
HK: Didn’t you have your run in with Marcus Nispel? I do think you have to be born for it, but Marcus Nispel… I worked with him on his TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake he did and I found him a little bit crazy and I believe he was working with you at one point on END OF DAYS.
AS: END OF DAYS yeah, but I think that the background that he comes from which is doing commercials and being a person that was into the visual feast… He was so much looking forward to scenes and what the visuals were, but didn’t talk much about the meaning of the story. The whole thing about Millenium and the Devil coming back… He could never really get into that whole thing, so eventually… Also he spent a lot of… He was very expensive. I think the script was meant to be like 80 million, but eventually went to a 100 and then…
HK: Then he had that contract that he wanted everybody to follow about him having to have a lot of orange on set and all of these weird. It got published by TMZ at some point, but…
AS: Someone published it. I don’t know who it was…
HK: Well actually I don’t think TMZ was around back then.
AS: Yeah, I don’t think it was around then.
HK: I did not publish it. (Laughs)
[An assistant to Arnold comments “It’s usually him.”]
HK: We commented on it, because it was just a crazy document.
AS: Yeah, it was totally wacky.
HK: But I saw that movie very early. Peter Hyams brought me out to show it to me over at Light Storm. I always liked that film.
AS: Yeah, but I mean he was also the wrong director. He did not have the potential… I think visually and intellectually to really do something with that movie, but he was recommended by Jim Cameron, so we thought “Well he must know.” Then we realized finally that Jim Cameron doesn’t always… when it is not his movie…
HK: Peter is a good shooter
AS: But also with Hyams I was in the alley and I was getting beaten up by all of those guys, these devil worshippers, and I said to him… I said, “You know when you lay there and the rain comes down, it’s such a weird shot with the lights hitting your face, the streetlight and with all of these people beating you up. It would interesting to have some handheld camera work under there and have that kind of point of view” and he said “That’s crap stuff.” He says, “I don’t believe in that.” I say, “Are you saying that Jim Cameron does crap stuff? He uses the handheld a lot.” He says, “I don’t want to criticize the guy, but he over lights all of his sets and I don’t like the way his things look.” I said to myself “What a moron.” I mean here’s a guy that just got recommended highly by Jim Cameron and he starts picking the look of his movies apart, how stupid is that? But anyways, I just thought it was crazy to criticize the lighting and the camera work of Cameron when in fact… And the reason why I think he felt defensive was because whenever I saw the playback I couldn’t see anything. It was so dark. I said “Why don’t you fucking light it up? Light it up, so we can see things” and he said “You’re used to Cameron’s lighting, it’s over lit. It’s terrible.”
HK: Yeah, that’s Peter. (Laughs)
AS: So anyways.
HK: So what was it about LAST STAND that made you say “This is my first starring role after governorship?”
AS: I think it was the story. I thought it was an interesting story. You know you read these stories… If I would have read this story maybe ten years ago I maybe wouldn’t have thought that, so as you get to a certain age you find certain stories appealing and so I think the age that I’m in today and this guy was kind of like in the 50’s and…
HK: And even though you’re in your late 40’s, you can… (Laughs)
AS: It’s a guy that had his heyday which was that he belonged to a major police department, the LAPD, and had been in drug enforcement and had had the shoot outs and the big drug raids and to do all of that, but you know he felt at one point “alright, I’ve had enough. I’m shot up enough. I have enough wounds” that “this is for the younger guys, I should move on. Maybe I should get back to my home town were I came from where there’s a position open to be the sheriff.” I think that whole thing of going back to something smaller and then kind of having a quiet life and you think that’s what it is and everyone around you wants to get out of there. I could relate to that, because me and some of the other kids in my hometown all wanted to get out and explore the bigger life and so this is what this story was about, the deputy comes to him and says “Can you get me a job? Can you help me? I want to move on. The most daring thing I did was rescue a cat from a tree…” I thought that was really great that there was this desire of getting out, because it’s boring, but then all of a sudden this town gets hit by something that no one has every expected and something that no town ever wants to have happened to them, where it becomes the center of evil that all of these well trained military guys with heavy weapons descend on this town when their biggest weapon is maybe a shotgun in that town and only four people are working at the Sheriff’s station. So he now has to rise again to the level of where he was when he was a young guy at the LAPD. Does he have that in him? Did he get rusty? So everyone was tested… Those young guys were obviously then woken up and he says, “Look, this is not a boring town. This could change into that.” And he felt all of a sudden “If I don’t pull this off, this town will be mowed over and run over by these guys.” So I think that coming from behind and trying to rise to the occasion along with the comeback and overcoming the fear of the age and all of those kinds of things. I think all of that made it appealing to me. Like I say, back in the day it maybe wouldn’t have been. Those things wouldn’t have meant as much to me as today, because in today in real life you face all of those things where you say “Can I still do that? Can I do this? Would people still buy me as that character?” So you are going through all of that, so I could relate to the character and what he goes through.
HK: What was it about Jee-woon [Kim] that made you think “This is the guy I want to have bring me back to theaters.”
AS: As soon as he came over to my house and we started talking about movies and he gave me a movie to watch and I watched it, which was THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD.
HK: What did you think of that?
AS: I loved it and I felt like it was just such a spectacle and the camera thing with the eagle coming down and then flying over the train and all… I just wanted to talk to him and really understand how he did that shot in the first place and then of course when you talk to him you find out it was a screw up and it didn’t work right away, so they had to do all kinds of things. (Laughs) But when you watch it, it looks so well organized, but there’s these wires over the train and things broke and everything got screwed up and he was telling me how they operated it… How they get an idea and they get obsessed about it and then it’s kind of like a new invention. “How can we do a shot like that with the eagle coming down and flying over this train and doing this long shot like that? How do we do that?” Then they start working on it, even though they are already maybe into production, not preproduction, but… Then that’s why they shoot like 130 days. They go off and if they have an idea like that, they will just stop shooting and they will go off to a camp and have a powwow and they all meet and they discuss and talk about “How could we rig something like that?” In America that doesn’t exist.
HK: Well it’s like when Kurosawa used to sit up on the mountain and just wait for the right clouds to show up and he’d have his whole army of people and he’d just do that.
AS: Exactly and people admire the artistry, but then when they hire them then all of a sudden they want them to change. So I of course fell in love with his work, so then I saw I SAW THE DEVIL and the other one I saw first… A BITTERSWEET LIFE and I just loved that movie and immediately wanted to do the remake of that movie. It was such a brilliant idea and such a human story, those things happen. Then I saw I SAW THE DEVIL and all of his films and I would literally have people over at my house, friends and I was so enthusiastic about them seeing this great work, because it was so different the way it was shot and the energy. It was not like… The guy in I SAW THE DEVIL, it was not like him going and killing a girl, the way he was just stabbing away at bodies and the people was this explosive energy and hostility and you just felt like “That guy is really sick.” I mean the enthusiasm… See there were certain things always there in his films, so I couldn’t wait to shoot with him, because he was always talking about westerns and his impression of American western and I thought, “That’s funny. Here’s this South Korean with an Austrian schnitzel, he’s trying to figure out how to do an American western movie.” (Laughs) I thought there was something funny…
HK: Klaus Kinski did an awful lot of westerns for the Italians, you know.
AS: Klaus Kinski was a really sick guy. He did talk shows and would say things that would make people’s hair stand up. I mean he was really out there, this guy.
HK: He was, but he was beautiful on screen.
AS: He was wonderful, because he had all of this twitching and all of this madness there.
HK: One of my favorite westerns is Klaus Kinski in THE GREAT SILENCE under Sergio Corbucci. It’s just… The movie just blows my mind, like it’s unlike any other western I’ve ever seen. It’s just beautiful. I love that in that film all of the color becomes snowy and wintery and all of the westerns are always the browns and the rich gold and yellow colors. Wonderful film, but yeah I love my Europeans becoming western heroes, because in America a lot of them were people that moved over here to this country and they’d be out in the west.
AS: It’s accurate, but it’s just funny that you have people from… I think foreigners fall in love with western movies more so than Americans even, because think about what Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone did over there. They made western movies and they became huge hits.
HK: How much do we love samurai films, you know? For us, I mean when Kurosawa said “I can’t make westerns, I have to make samurai movies” it’s like thank God he made samurai movies, because we wound up adapting them and making some of the best westerns.
AS: That’s right. As a matter of fact when we did CONAN, Milius had me watch Mifune movies many times, then SEVEN SAMURAI and movies like that.
HK: You see it in the way you handle your sword in that film. It’s very purposefully Mifune-esque in the way he moves it and the way you move it.
AS: But it’s his whole attitude rather than kind of this guy that is… He sees himself as this great warrior. He is a great warrior, but it’s kind of like he’s all over the place.
HK: No, your drunk scenes are very Mifune-esque.
AS: The way he deals with women, the way he grabs them and…
HK: The way you hit the camel…
AS: See that’s all Mifune. We watched those movies over and over to get a little bit of that kind of personality for me, yeah.
HK: So how much did you shoot on EXPENDABLES 2?
AS: Four days. You see the first one was four hours, because this was a sneak attack, because… California is one of those very odd places that if the governor does anything else but govern, then… If a republican governor does anything else, I don’t… It was always out to find something wrong, so I had to be very careful. When wrote for READER, they didn’t want me to go and write the column, so they made a big stink out of that and then we did the Arnold’s Classic every year and they made a big stink out of that. I had to go in on Friday, so I only missed one day and all of that stuff…
HK: When Sly called me up to give me the scoop on you and Bruce and him doing the scene and then I wrote that story and then the next day I get a call from Sly saying that you called him asking if I could please modify it, because the California government was giving you nothing but hell for that.
AS: Exactly, yeah. Any ways, so it ended up all working well, because we convinced them that I didn’t spend any days of the government work on any movie set, so therefore we shot it on a Saturday and we shot it from ten in the morning to two in the afternoon and it was in a Church, so we rented no studio space or anything like that and no one knew that I was there. So we did all of this very quickly, so Sly was directing I remember… (Laughs) He wanted us to be out of there in no time.
HK: That scene changed so much. He kept calling me up saying like “What do you think I should do here?” He’d tell me the scene and then he’d call me up three weeks later and tell me a different version of it.
AS: Yeah, but it ended up great. I mean I had no idea of any of that, because he just said to me “Can you be in the movie?” I said, “Absolutely, we just have to figure out how to do it so that it doesn’t become a scene in Sacramento and the media writes about it like I’m having one foot already back in my career and I’m not thinking about the governorship and all of those things. We have to be very careful,” so he said “Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out.” Then all of a sudden he says to me “I have a scene written, check it out.” I did and I was like “Looks great.” It was three pages and I remember thinking “I don’t know how they are going to do this in just a few hours, because normally you do 2.8 pages a day,” but he was very organized and he busted Bruce and me all of the time when we blew our lines. He knew everyone’s lines and we were laughing so much, because we felt like little school children being reprimanded all of the time that we didn’t get our act together. (Laughs) Obviously we got our act together enough so they could have something to cut together. It was four hours, so I said to Sly when I walked through it. I said, “Look, if this movie is successful, then next time I’m going to work four days.” I made it up you know? It’s just stupid talk. So I made up “four days” and he says “Alright that’s great.” So the movie was successful, then he came in and says, “Okay, I have…” It was more like six days, then they toned it down to four days and that’s really all the time I had, because then I started to shoot on this movie and so he started shooting just two weeks before and so we were figuring out “How do we do this before this?” It all worked out perfectly. I went to Bulgaria and then I shot four days exactly and…
HK: And you got to fire some weapons this time it looks like.
AS: (Laughs) I got to fire some weapons. It’s amazing what was packed into these four days. It was literally amazing. They were really, really organized and Sly was as sweet of a guy, very helpful in everyway to make sure that I get… He realized this is the first time after eight years that I’m now with the weapons again and I’m doing all of this stuff, so he had the weapons guys really pay close attention and show me all the weapons and how they work, how you load it, how you take it apart, and the rules of when weapons are on the set and all of those things. So the stunt coordinators, the stunt guys, the other actors, everybody was extraordinarily helpful. It was kind of a real buddy system unlike something that I’ve ever experienced. We’ve always had really well organized sets on most of the movies, but that particular camaraderie that I saw, and it was also the beginning of the movie, so there’s usually more camaraderie than an end maybe, but everyone was just fantastic and made my life and my shooting easier and made it be a great experience.
HK: Do you feel being governor has changed you at all as an actor?
AS: I think probably a combination of things have changed me. Actually that was my biggest fear, when I got into the governorship where they said, “I hope Arnold doesn’t go and all of a sudden get serious.” I always felt like the people in government take everything or they pretend to be really serious. If they are or not, who knows with these people a lot of times in politics? But I didn’t, because I always felt like what I enjoyed about my self was that I could always see everything as serious, but also in a humorous way step back and see it in a funny way. If it is successes, if it is an article you read about yourself, that you can step back and say “I’m not that good. That’s bullshit” or if someone writes bad about it and say “Geeze, if people would really know the truth, they’d know that isn’t true…” (Laughs) It’s somewhere in the middle maybe. So you step back and you laugh at it all no matter how bad it is or not matter how good it is and I felt like my attitude about life and everything, I was hoping that in politics I wouldn’t see too many negative things, so I wouldn’t have too many disappointments or too much public pressure, political pressure, that it would change me as a person and the way I look at things. So I think even though I believe that it didn’t change much, but I think that there are certain changes, because you are exposed for seven years to problems and really severe problems, especially since after we had the economic crisis. So that does change you and it does make you look at things in a different way, but I think whatever changes I went through I feel like were helpful for the acting. I think you can be a much better actor if you experience not only just highs, but also tremendous lows and you go through some real personal struggles and you go through some pain and humiliations, defeats, and all of this, and also great victories. So I think that makes you a better actor and also what has changed is it is now eight years later and I’m eight years older and so now when I read scenes I maybe see more in it than I maybe used to. I think a lot of those changes worked to my advantage.
HK: Are you ever going to do that Clint Eastwood turn where you start directing?
AS: It could easily be right now I just really wanted to get into it and get back into the craft of acting and feel what that is like and see if I have the discipline of waiting on a set and how I feel about sitting with everyone and eating and you know running around with the makeup and the blood and stuff like that.
HK: So is it still fun?
AS: It’s like every step of the way is a new experience. It’s almost like… I remember when I had my heart surgery and everything I did after that was kind of like “This is great, I could do that.” It becomes kind of a new life experience with everything.
HK: One year ago I had my spinal surgery. I had stenosis of the spine where I had calcium going around my spinal cord and they fixed it and I’m in the process of learning how to walk and everything. They had me in that tent… I had to get from my wheelchair into the golf cart and I’ve never done anything like that in terms of transfer. I was neurotic about doing it and then I felt my feet slipping into the mud and I was like “Hell, my arms are strong” and was pulling up like 340 to get in place… My father had his stroke five years ago now and he takes everyday after that as just being a miracle. He expects to die at any moment, but at the same time he’s running around on his own now. I think he’s actually a happier person since the stroke than he was before. I think before he was always worried about when he was going to die and now he’s just happy to have every day he has.
AS: Right. I think when something like that happens, like a stroke with your father, with your spinal operation, then afterwards you don’t know… You took for granted that immediately you got up and stood up or that you turn in bed easily, but then all of a sudden you think about every move.
HK: Yeah, you’re doing action scenes again!
AS: The same thing happened when I started to do film and I remember it was in Bulgaria and we were firing with the weapons and for the first time your blood is spiking again and you’re overcome by the noise and everyone was having the biggest guns going. [Makes firing noises] and all of this stuff. I remember when I did this scene, I looked at the gun and I said, “That is great. I did it!”
HK: It’s better than being younger.
AS: The imaginary world is a little easier than the realistic world. (Laughs)
HK: You see the entire California legislature…
AS: Better than sitting with your legislators there and battling it out over the budget and all of these things. So they always ask me down there, “What’s the difference between this and politics?” I say “In politics you are a lot of times surrounded by people that want you to fail. They want to derail you, because that’s the way politics work.” I said, “Here, you have like 300 people all dedicated to make you look studdly on the screen. It’s a different attitude.” Even the guys that are supposed to be your enemies in the movie and Stallone, the head of the opposition and the enemy and all… everyone that surrounds you is just very sweet and very helpful and in politics you sit down and in negotiations you look around the table and you know when you look them in the eyes that the people out there that they represent are secondary, it’s all about politics. It’s all about how can they represent their party and derail you, because you are maybe from the other party…” There’s all of that going on and it’s a different world, but I tell you I don’t regret one second of the second years that I put in, because it was the most wonderful seven years.
HK: I can’t even imagine. I mean I can’t even imagine what being a governor must be like.
AS: It’s such a great responsibility, but you’ve got to be ready for it and you’ve got to have the big picture and you’ve got to have the balls, because that’s a place that if you don’t have the guts and you start whining about the things that happen, then you’re not going to make it. So I had a great, great experience even though like I said I had my victories and my defeats, but it was a great experience and Sacramento became kind of the biggest classroom in the world. Everyday, every meeting you learn, because there’s no way when you have never dealt with power like this before… I mean you’ve dealt with it, but not on that level where you go into these minute details and you sit there and you learn and you get debriefings beforehand and then you get debriefed afterwards and you try to figure out how to solve problems and all of this, that’s the greatest education you can get. That alone has changed me forever with all of the stuff that I learned there about everything. So it’s a wonderful life and to be able to go back and forth like that into these different worlds… It’d be one day at the Arnold’s Classic and bodybuilding, the next day to be on a movie set, the next day to be in the governors office and to be in the White House and hang there with the president, it’s fantastic.
HK: Certainly throughout the entire time you were governor I would watch all of your campaign videos and… Every time you quoted one of your movies on anything I would get that video sent to me from your fans that wanted me to post it on the site and I was like “No, it’s separate. He’s a governor now.” I’d have to deal with the relentless speculation of whether or not you would ever make movies again and I’m so glad that you are making movies again. That ends a rather arduous seven-year debate that was going on into my email accounts. (Laughs)
AS: Well it was a normal and very easy decision, because I was always a big fan of Cincinnatus, who George Washington modeled himself after, because he stepped into that and was up to the opportunity, got away from farming, stepped into that to protect Rome and it was way before Christ. I think it was like 400 years or so before Christ (460 BC)… he protected the Romans, did everything, trained the warriors, trained the horses, trained everyone so they were set to protect themselves, stepped back and gave the reign back and got out of there from being the leader of Rome and went back to farming. To me that is something… It’s very hard to do, because the mind is power hungry and we want to climb always, which I do, but at the same time I thought, “That would be so cool to be able to do that. Not to look at yourself as special, but no go back to what your real love was and here was an opportunity. Here they needed you, but then go back again.” That’s the way I felt, so that’s why it was not that hard of a decision.
HK: They always said that’s the greatest thing that George Washington ever did was that he stepped down instead of becoming “King of The Americas.”
AS: That’s right. He just stepped back and I think there’s something cool about that.
HK: So I heard a rumor that you might be doing a film with Sly?
AS: That’s right, THE TOMB. As soon as I read now the new script of BLACK SANDS and as soon as we see how long it would take them to prep the movie.
HK: What do you think of ACT OF VALOR?
AS: I think it’s great. It’s fantastic. Did you see it? This movie is awesome. It’s like a 10 million dollar movie… I don’t know what it cost, but it looked like a 100 million dollars.
HK: Well the US government helped them…
AS: They gave them everything, because they trusted them.
[Arnold’s assistant asks how the Bandido brothers got that kind of access.]
AS: Because they have been, for four thousands years doing the TV promotional trailers and TV spots for the military, for the Pentagon. So they shoot all of the aircrafts and aircraft careers. They do all of the airplane shots when they try to get people to enlist in the military. They do all of this stuff…
HK: Every time a Marine has to fight a knight…
AS: They are doing those commercials and so they love those guys, so they said to them “Look, if you ever want to do a movie, we give you the schedule of our maneuvers, so if you want to cut in our maneuvers and use that action for your movie, that’d be okay.” So they had the schedule when exactly and where the submarine would emerge from bellow the ocean and come up, so that they would be ready with the boats, the rafting boats, get up on top, go out, get to the top, get into the submarine… You could not hire a submarine to do that in the middle of the ocean, not somewhere on the side, but in the middle of the ocean and to do just you know pop the thing… The air goes out of the rafting boat and the weight pulls it down under the ocean, so that there is no trace of the that boat again, gone. You see it all in front of you in the same shot, but like cut here and cut here and all of the sudden the boat is gone. You see it disappear. You see the real stuff and you see real Marines and real Air Force guys. Everything’s real and in they place a few actors in there that looked not out of place and not recognizable, so that they all fit together. It was really well done.
HK: I find it fascinating that the two projects that you attach yourself to right after governor, one is by one of my favorite directors… I mean Jee-woon… I have been praising him since THREE EXTREMES which was before TALE OF TWO SISTERS and I love Korean cinema so much that I married someone who’s Korean. (Laughs) It just made me totally open to the culture and I fell in love with it, but to put the rebirth of your career into the hands of someone who doesn’t speak English, who is just bringing it from a cinematic point of view and then for this next film to be two guys that have basically done a documentary pseudo film… I just find it fascinating what your choices are, not in a critical fashion, but it seems like you are choosing to work with people that are so invigorated by the process of filmmaking that they are getting you excited about making movies again if that makes sense.
AS: I think that… You know when you meet these characters you kind of get enthusiastic about what they want to do and you watch their projects and therefore you know that whatever they are talking about, they actually could do, not because they have no talent or anything. They have great talent and you’re in awe of what you have just seen, so you say “I want to be in their movies. I want to be directed by those guys. I want to be part of those kind of action scenes.” So I think that’s how I make my decisions.
HK: Like I said, I look at it from the outside, not with whatever your thoughts are and it’s just interesting that you come back and you don’t say “Okay Jim, you’re shooting AVATAR 2, you lost Quaritch in the last film, want me in this one?” That seems like it would have just been the safest sort of move you could have done, but instead you’re sort of putting yourself out there and doing lower budget films.
AS: I like the idea of starting out again. To me it’s a different approach. It’s not like “I want to continue on where I was,” but I want it kind of “Okay, I’m back here and I want to start out with the struggle and not demand a big budget, but actually feel better with a smaller budget and with something that doesn’t have the huge expectation or anything like that, but let’s do the best possible job, put the movie out there, have the screenings, promote it, but not hype it.”
HK: Was there any hesitation about your first film that you’re shooting and starring in being in New Mexico and not California or did you finally say “I so don’t care about politics anymore, I’m just going to go shoot movies.”
AS: But I do care. The only thing is that I fought for seven years to get Californian legislature to give movies a tax credit and the only way that I got it at all in 2009 was as part of the deal to raise taxes. So there was a list of things that I did to give me a return for me as a Republican who has promised never to raise taxes to raise taxes. We needed it, because it was a 60 billion dollar two year budget deficit and I said… I said, “But for me to do that is like for you guys to all of a sudden be pro-life.” I said, “So that’s a philosophic change and that will cost you, so let’s start here.” So we did some of the environmental things through that so we could start building certain projects. They did the movie credits, the 500 million dollars over five years and all of that stuff.
HK: I would kill to get some good tax credits in Texas.
AS: It’s a stupid thing in California that they don’t want to compete with New Mexico or with Louisiana and those kinds of places, because they are losing out… We could be doing this movie over there, so what I’m saying is that I cannot blame Lorenzo [Di Bonaventura] and Jee-woon to come over here and do the movie over here, when it in fact costs them eight million dollars less.
HK: And it’s the right setting.
AS: So I don’t feel bad about that at all, because this state is smart in getting the movies over here.
HK: And you’re rewarding their smartness.
AS: In our state I fought for it. Our state could have this movie over there and we could have found cornfields in California. It’s that simple, so this is why I don’t really feel bad about it. I wish we could film in California, but as every studio had said, “We’re going to do our movie in Vancouver. We’re going to do our movie in Australia. We are going to our movie in New Zealand. We are going to do our movie in Louisiana.” The big movies are all done now outside of California. The smaller ones that can benefit from these tax breaks, almost two million dollars, they shoot now in California… This last year there were over 80 movies more shot in California, small movies, because of the tax break, but the big movies and big meaning more than like 10 or 15 million dollar budgets, they always still go outside the state.
HK: That’s like LONE RANGER shooting here now. It’s the reality. I mean I’ve been advocating in Texas for the Texas legislature to do a good tax break for filmmaking. Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan and that whole group, we just never… We can’t get the legislature to agree to it. It’s a brutal process.
[Arnold’s assistant mentions “They need to come to a movie set and see how it works, because we did that in Louisiana on EXPENDABLES, because they wanted to get rid of their tax incentives. We brought them to the set and they upped it after they saw all of their workers and stuff.”]
AS: But it’s much more complicated, because what makes it complicated is in California for instance the Republican legislature said to me, “What am I going to tell my constituents when we give the movie industry money, but they, the manufacturers in California that are dying don’t get a tax credit?”
HK: It’s like in Texas I sort of started backing off of the support for the tax credit thing after what started happening with education in Texas where they literally started robbing the budgets of all of the schools to where teachers were getting fired and classes started getting up to like 32 students per class, which is not a good teaching environment for kids… That’s where I think a lot of the focus has to be shifted back to, to education more than anything with our state. It’s gotten ridiculous.
AS: Oh yeah, that’s a whole other subject, because it’s labor that is robbing education and the pensions and all of that in California… Now Jerry Brown is talking about raising taxes and it all sounds good, but before you do that I say, “Let’s look inside the pensions, the public pensions, because there’s three billion dollars right there of extra money that they could use for the budget.” I think that that has been a real problem, that money has been taken away from education and has gone into public pension benefits and other benefits for public employees and the monopolies that a lot of labor is creating like with the prison guard union in northern California where you can’t build any private prisons, because otherwise the public employees union gets pissed off, because their guys are not getting the jobs. It’s all of that politics… There’s three billion dollars in prisons that you’re spending too much, there’s three billion dollars in pensions that you’re paying too much, so there is money there for education, but they don’t want to take from there. You will notice that when you get in politics…
HK: I’m not… (Laughs)
AS: No, but when you look into it you always find out that there is no one really fighting for the kids. They all are fighting… The janitors are fighting for their money. The roofers are fighting for their money. The teachers are fighting for their money. The principles, the administrators, they all sit on the bargaining table. They are all fighting for their money, but there’s no one fighting for the kids and if you don’t get more money into the classroom, the education will always go downhill in America.
HK: Did you see that wonderful documentary, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN?
AS: Yes, absolutely. I know that woman very well who has done a great job of being the head of education, but she was gotten rid of because she was too good. She rubbed the unions the wrong way. That’s the problem, people like her get fired. People like her don’t get to be hired anymore, because she’s “too ambitious.”
HK: That’s a crime.
AS: Yeah, it is.
HK: It does limit who the best people are.
AS: That’s right and the kids get the shaft. Anyways it was good to talk to you. I’ll see you later, okay?
HK: I’ll see you later today and I’ll see you tomorrow as well.
AS: It’s good to have you on set.
HK: Yeah, take care.
The next day I went to set and they were continuing to shoot the cornfield. This time from the other side of the field. I got to see some of the film, actually about 30-40 minutes of footage editted together and the tone of the film is pretty straight. The action is closer to THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD in that hyper-reality manner. Luis Guzman is awesome in the scenes I saw - and actually Johnny Knoxville is having quite a bit of fun in this. But I'd be lying if I just wasn't gob-smacked in love with seeing Arnold on screen again. Yeah, he's older - but that adds loads more of humanity to him on screen. It's like when Clint stopped being Mayor and went back to the screen. It felt right. As if all was centered with the world again. Arnold is back!