There have already been hundreds of different action stars that have become icons in the film industry, but only a few are more iconic than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian-American actor has been in countless action movies, and some of the most popular include The Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, and Predator.
However, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t only known today for his movies, as he has also been involved in politics in recent years. In fact, he actually became the 38th Governor of California and served in the said position from 2003 to 2011. To learn more about the acting and political career of this iconic star, here is the fascinating story behind pop culture icon Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Early Years of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, in Thal, Austria. He is the second son of Aurelia and Gustav Schwarzenegger, who are believed to have Czech ancestry. Arnold was not close to his father Gustav, and he presumed that his father favored his elder brother Meinhard over him. However, Arnold had a close relationship with his mother, and they kept in contact until her death.
Arnold’s father, Gustav, was a former athlete, so he would often encourage his sons to play Bavarian curling in hopes that they would become champions one day. Because of Gustav’s encouragement, Arnold would play various sports when he was a child.
Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding Career
Schwarzenegger eventually found his passion for weight training and bodybuilding when his football coach took him to a local gym in 1960. He would later choose bodybuilding over football as a career when he was 14 years old. Arnold would often visit movie theaters in Graz, the capital city of Styria, Austria, where he would usually see his bodybuilding idols such as Steve Reeves, Reg Park, and Johnny Weissmuller.
In 1961, Arnold met Kurt Marnul, a former Mr. Austria bodybuilding winner who invited Schwarzenegger to train at a gym in Graz. In the same city, Arnold was also mentored by Alfred Gerstl, who would later become the president of the Federal Council of Austria.
In 1965, Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army in order to fulfill the one-year service to all Austrian males that were 18 years of age. When he was still in army service, Arnold won the Junior Mr. Europe contest. However, to participate in the said competition, he went AWOL during basic training and spent one week in a military prison as punishment. After winning Junior Mr. Europe, he would then fly to London in 1966 to join the NABBA Mr. Universe. Unfortunately, he only placed second in the competition, losing to Chester Yorton for first place.
But, one of the judges during the Mr. Universe competition, Charles “Wag” Bennett, was so impressed by Arnold that he offered to coach the young bodybuilder. Because Schwarzenegger didn’t have a lot of money during that time, Bennett offered him to stay in his family home in Forest Gate, London. When he was staying in Bennett’s house in 1966, Arnold had the chance to meet his bodybuilding idol Reg Park, who would later become his mentor and good friend. The training with Bennett and Park would become successful, as Schwarzenegger would become the youngest Mr. Universe winner in 1967 at the age of 20. He would later go on to win three more Mr. Universe titles, particularly in 1968, 1969, and 1970.
Arnold Schwarzenegger would then join another bodybuilding competition called Mr. Olympia in 1969, where he placed second. However, from 1970 to 1980, he would be the titleholder of Mr. Olympia. He would become the winningest bodybuilder in Mr. Olympia until 1991 when Lee Haney won his eighth title. Despite retiring from competing in bodybuilding competitions in 1980, Arnold said that he was still working out and lifting weights.
Schwarzenegger as an Actor
When he was still bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the movie industry as an actor. His first title role was in Hercules in New York in 1970, where he went under the stage name “Arnold Strong.” However, his Austrian accent was so thick during that time that his voice was dubbed during post-production.
However, the big break that Schwarzenegger got for his acting career was in the bodybuilding documentary titled Pumping Iron, which was released in 1977 and had dramatized parts where Arnold acted. He would then be given the title role in Conan the Barbarian in 1982, which would become his breakthrough film in the United States. Arnold would become an international acting icon when he played the role of a cybernetic assassin in The Terminator, which was released in 1984. From then on, he would appear in more blockbuster movies, which include Predator in 1987, Kindergarten Cop in 1990, and True Lies in 1994.
Schwarzenegger as a Politician
Arnold Schwarzenegger would become a citizen of the United States in 1983, which would allow him to be involved in the country’s politics. His first stint within the US’s political world was as the Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He was the Chairman of the agency under President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and he would hold onto the position from 1990 to 1993. Through his connections with George H.W. Bush, Arnold would become active within the Republican Party.
The highest position that he got in the US government was as the 38th Governor of California, which he won through a recall election in 2003. He would later be reelected in 2006. As of 2022, Arnold is the most recent Republican governor of the state of California.
Even though Schwarzenegger said that he would retire from acting in order to focus on politics, he would continue to appear in various films through cameos or minor roles, particularly in The Kid & I in 2005 and The Expendables in 2010. When he officially finished his second term as the governor of California in 2011, he would return to play major roles in films like Escape Plan in 2013, Maggie in 2015, and Terminator: Dark Fate in 2019.