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The World According to Arnold

Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger knows what he wants—and usually gets it.
David Shaw
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 11)

worldwide superstar.


Although his movies continue to receive mixed reviews, the critics have become increasingly supportive of his performances. He was "attractively vulnerable" in Total Recall (the Los Angeles Times); "appealing, relaxed and genial" in Kindergarten Cop (The New York Times); "impressive, hilarious, almost touching" in Terminator 2 (Newsweek). It helped, of course, that his massive box-office success gave him increasing clout over script, cast and directing choices--and that as a result, he began to work with very good directors, James Cameron and Ivan Reitman among them. Schwarzenegger was broadening his horizons--and gathering new admirers. When he made Red Heat in 1987, co-star Jim Belushi pronounced himself "totally surprised" that Schwarzenegger kept up with him when Belushi improvised his lines. Schwarzenegger even improvised a few lines himself.


No one would mistake Schwarzenegger for Jim Carrey--or Cary Grant--but within a certain range, he has developed a surprising, if broad, comic touch that relies largely on making fun of (or playing against) his Predator/Terminator avenging hulk persona. Many people still laugh at Schwarzenegger's often-wooden mannerisms and the absurd plots and over-the-top mayhem in his action movies, but as The New York Times observed in its review of Kindergarten Cop in 1990, "no one laughs at Arnold Schwarzenegger better than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself." Even in his most brutal action films, it's his sense of humor that distinguishes him from Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and other denizens of the death and destruction genre. On several movies, Schwarzenegger has asked that extra comic lines be written for him.


He now tries to alternate big-budget action movies with smaller comedies like Twins, Junior and Jingle All the Way (which he should be filming by the time you read this and which is expected to be in theaters for Christmas). On some comedies, Schwarzenegger willingly defers his customarily colossal up-front payday and takes a giant chunk of the eventual profits instead. That way, a smaller film is not overburdened financially before it begins shooting--and if he guesses right and works hard, he still gets rich(er).


Schwarzenegger says he'd ultimately like to direct--and to act--in a war movie, a Western and a dramatic movie. He'd like to do a love story, too, if he could find the right vehicle. (This from a man who once responded to the observation that his movie characters rarely have a love interest by saying, "I have a love interest in every one of my films--a gun.")

But he knows that his options are limited somewhat by his image. He brings a certain baggage--he calls it "luggage"--to the screen. He's a very male male, on and off the screen. Big. Physical. Tactile. Primitive.

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