He's back... Arnold Schwarzenegger tackles his first starring role in a major feature film since taking a break from acting to govern California with Lionsgate Films' The Last Stand. Arriving in theaters on January 18, 2013, the R-rated action-heavy movie finds Schwarzenegger playing a small town sheriff with big time problems when an escaped drug cartel leader makes a break for the Mexican border, taking a route that brings him through Schwarzenegger's town.
Co-starring Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro and Johnny Knoxville, The Last Stand required Schwarzenegger to handle physically demanding action scenes - and he was more than ready to get back in the action game.
Arnold Schwarzenegger The Last Stand Press Conference
What made you decide to return to acting and why did you choose this film as your return project?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "First of all, it's great to be back. As you remember when I got into the governorship in 2003 I said I only would go and run the state for the seven years that were remaining, and then I would be back in the movie business. So it was just kind of stepping out of the movie business, rather than I'm now going back to the movie business. I was just out. I was a public servant for seven years. I worked for the state of California and now I'm back again. The only thing is that when you have left the movie business for seven years, it's kind of like a scary thing to come back because you don't know if you’re accepted or not. There could be a whole new generation of action heroes that come up in the meantime. Things change very quickly now in our business, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I was doing the cameo in The Expendables that there was such a great positive reaction. It was my appearance that Sly asked me to do the second Expendables, and there was an even a bigger reaction to that. I worked four hours and four days on that movie, the second one. So maybe next time I work four weeks on the next Expendables.”
"So this is now my first starring role, and I’m very happy they chose a movie to work with really talented people, with a producer that I had full trust in, because we have worked together on several projects before, and we kept our relationship alive throughout the seven years. So Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] came to me and said, ‘I want to have your first movie.’ So, anyway, it's really great to be back and see the reaction of the people, and acting-wise I felt comfortable being back again. It's kind of like riding a bike or skiing, that you click right back into it again. And like I said, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a really talented group of actors."
What did you miss the most about acting while you were Governor? Is there anything you now miss about politics?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I think that I really didn't miss anything. I think that you get so engrossed in what you are doing and it's such a huge responsibility to run a state. California is the number one state in the union, and this is the number one country so you really have a huge responsibility. Especially when you have legislators that are somewhat out of control. To bring Democrats and Republicans together is always a miracle because everyone is so stuck in their ideological corners that they can't free themselves from that. So it takes a lot, a lot of effort to get things done, but because of that, because you are so into it and passionate about it, in serving your state, you really don't have time to miss things in the movie business. So I was like, 'This is it for right now, I'm doing now public service.' So I was very, very happy to do that. It was the most gratifying and the most challenging thing that I have ever done and it was an honor for me to serve the people."
"Then again after the seven years were over I did not look for another public service job because I didn't want to be a career politician. I didn't see myself as that. So I went back into the movie business. So it's great now to be back again and I can turn it off and there's not much I miss about being governor. I'm glad that Jerry Brown is now schvitzing it out that he's starting to figure it out, how to make the budget work and all those things. He's doing a great job and I am on with my USC Schwarzenegger Institute and Public Policy. I am working on policy issues, environmental issues and all this on an ongoing basis, and at the same time I will be doing movies."
Can you talk about how you keep in shape and how you feel about aging and doing action scenes?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Well, I cannot tell you about aging because it sucks. So there is not much. I am no different than you. We all go through the same dramas. We look into the mirrors and say, ‘What happened?’ I once had muscles and slowly, they are deteriorating. It’s all that, but the great thing is if you do work out every day you stay in shape and then you feel good. This movie was a perfect example that it required a lot of stunts. It required a lot of action and a lot of physical work and the director, Kim Jee-woon was a fanatic about seeing as much as possible done by me, done by the actors, and only make it really dangerous, where you could really risk getting injured heavily or killed, the stunt guys would take over. So that was the rule."
"We all practiced. We all rehearsed. We all did over and over the stunts and did the physical work, but when you are 65 it's different than when you’re 35. The great thing in the movies is that we are trying to not play me as the 35 year old action hero, but the guy that is about to retire and here's all of a sudden this challenge coming up where he really needs to get his act together. He cannot play like, ‘I'm about to retire.’ He has the 20 most dangerous mercenaries descending on his town, and he has only a few people to work with. Those are the people around me. So that's not much for those 20 heavily-armed, dangerous, criminals. So that's what the movie is about – the underdog. Things come out in our favor and the townspeople take matters into their own hands and the sheriff shows great leadership and all that."
In the film you have a line where you're asked how you are feeling and you respond, "Old." Were you okay with poking fun at your age?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I think it was appropriate at that moment. You don't want to dwell on it but you just throw it in and it takes the curse off then. You can make fun of yourself. I think Clint [Eastwood] did that very well. Others I have seen do that very well and when you get to a certain age, we thought we would use it too."
Looking back, what was one of your favorite scenes from The Last Stand?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "For me it was the car chase through the cornfield, because how many times do we have a chance to do a car chase through the cornfield? You all can imagine what it's like to drive fast on the road, because we have all driven fast on a road. But, I mean, you go through a cornfield not knowing where you are going or if there is a ditch coming up that you maybe end up in and then the driver does this kind of speed, and with the car next to you, the Corvette, and to have to chase. We've done that for several days with this gigantic cornfield that they kept. We, of course, had to really be very careful not to wipe it out the first two days and then have another three days to shoot. So it was very well organized, as everything was on this film and the crane shots and all this, so we really used it well, all of those takes. But it was so much fun to step in, to get into that car and to start going and to hear the stunt coordinator screaming at you, ‘Faster, faster, faster! Now bang into the car next to you. Faster!’ If you looking out, you are going 80 miles an hour through the cornfield. It’s a great thrill."
"That's the fun thing about movie-making that you have moments like that, moments where you end up being in the ice-cold water at night, just like in this last movie I did. Then you have moments like that that are a great thrill and you get out and say, ‘Wow! What an experience man! You live 65 years and then you have a chance to drive through a cornfield with a Camaro. This is really great.' I should have suspected because in Lorenzo's movies you’re able to do all kinds of things, including wrestling alligators, you remember in Eraser."
What was you experience working with Korean director, Jee-woon Kim?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I was amazed that someone that speaks that little English can articulate exactly what he wants you to do in a scene. Many times I did not even have to wait for the translator to translate. He was so animated and he himself is such a great actor that he would act out the scenes. Not necessarily with the dialogue or anything like this, but he would act out the scenes. You could really see what he's expecting out of that scene. So he really crafted the scene. It's amazing that with the little English...I mean he communicates perfectly well in English, but sometimes to explain a scene like that with what the emotional obligation ought to be, as a foreigner, becomes very tricky and very difficult. So for that he had translators, but it was really amazing how well he did that. Even when we did stunts he would go and say, ‘No, this is how I want you to throw yourself on the ground.’ And he, himself would throw himself on the ground. He would be rolling into the corner. He would be banging his head into the wall. Then when we would say, ‘Are you okay?’ He would say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me show you again, that was the wrong way.’ Then he would dive again. So he would act out all this stuff because he was a very passionate guy."
"As Jaimie [Alexander] said, he's a visionary. I mean, he has a very clear vision about what the look ought to be. He has a certain style in shooting, and I think there was a lot of moves you could see in the movie and camera work that we haven't really seen in the past. He has his own style of shooting and his own style of telling a story."
Does it hurt to get up in the morning? Does it hurt to walk around all day? How is your body holding up?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I feel good right now, but I have had my share of injuries. I think that when you lift as many tons of weights as I have, inevitably there is wear and tear, and you have injuries. When you have done various different sports like skiing, you will have ski injuries and broken femur and knees and stuff like that. When you do stunts you will have your share of injuries there and getting stitched up in movies and having broken shoulders and dislocated shoulders and all that. I have had a lot of surgeries and a lot of things that had to be fixed on the body, but medical technology is really advanced. I'm sitting here today and can do everything. I just came back from a one week ski trip with my kids in Sun Valley, and I don't have to tell you how kids try to out-ski you. They get their moments and it becomes a fierce competition where you go down the steepest moguls and those expert runs. I can do all of that still and also do the stunts. I feel great that I still can do all those things."
What's your strategy for choosing film roles now and is there a Conan in your future?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "[...] "Let me just say that a lot of it has to do with timing. That's what show business and politics have in common - a lot of it is timing. I think that I would have chosen to do Conan already if it would have been ready, but the Universal Studios just bought the rights to Conan. They have an executive over there that happens to be a big believer in bringing back that character, and Universal Studios was the first one to do the movie with Dino De Laurentiis and now they want to be back and do a bunch of Conan movies, but to do it really high quality, not as a B movie. Do the high quality like the first one was that John Milius directed and Dino De Laurentiis produced and Universal has presented. They want to go back to that. So they will be ready by sometime this year. "
"Same is also with Triplets, the sequel to Twins. I have been trying to get Universal Studios to do that for 10 years. The studio executives that were there up until recently did not see the value, but now the new leadership sees the value and says, ‘That's a brilliant idea. Why haven't they done it? We want to do that.’ So they hired the writers and they are full blast ahead. That's a movie that we will be doing. It depends on the timing. Sometimes there are projects I am not available and other times there are. I would say in general you’ve always got to make decisions, as I said earlier, what movie would be interesting for people to see. What is it that the audience out there wants to see me do? Based on that, that's how I make decisions."
In this post-Newtown tragedy period there's been a call for Hollywood to back off on gun violence in movies. Do you think that will happen? Do you believe it's really an issue Hollywood needs to address?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I think one has to always keep it separate. That this is entertainment and the other thing is a tragedy beyond belief and this is serious, the real deal. I think that whenever you have a tragedy like that it would be foolish not to look into always what can we do as a society to improve the situations and to make those kind of things – to reduce the risks of those kind of issues. Will it go away? No, it will never go away, but we always have to make a 100 percent effort to use those moments and to figure out ways of how can we do better. How can we do better with gun laws? If there is any loophole, if there is a problem there, let’s analyze it. Let's not jump to conclusions. Let's analyze and let’s also find out are we really dealing with the mental problems the right way as a society. Do we have a mechanism in place that if we see someone that is unstable, what do we do with that person? Remember we are not in China or some country where we make people disappear. In America you can’t just arrest someone because they act strange. So you have that problem and you have to deal with that. What do we do with that when we see someone that is unstable? So we have to analyze how do we deal with mental illnesses? How do we deal with the gun laws? How do we deal with parenting? Does a mother need to collect those guns that the little kids are shooting? All this. Everything has to be analyzed. Nothing, no stone unturned. I think that is what we owe to our people. I think that is what they ought to do rather than make it political."