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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 13)

 

Schwarzenegger is not universally beloved. No one as big and rich and successful and aggressive as he is could possibly be without enemies. After the runaway success of Terminator 2 in particular, Schwarzenegger says he was "sitting on top of the mountain," ripe for attack by those envious or resentful of his triumphs. His next movie, Last Action Hero, suffered from assorted rumors--among them the (false) story that the movie had been roundly criticized in a test screening in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena. But four writers worked on the screenplay for Last Action Hero, and rumors that the movie was in trouble began circulating in Hollywood very early. Critics generally (and understandably) panned it--some quite ferociously. Having cost $100 million to make, Last Action Hero took in only $50 million at the box office in America after it was released in 1993 (although as Schwarzenegger points out, its success abroad still made it "the twelfth-biggest grossing movie of the year worldwide.")

By and large, Schwarzenegger seems to be respected and well-liked in the various circles in which he moves. Not surprisingly, he is especially popular with those for whom he has made a fortune. Since the 1980s, his films have grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide. Terminator 2 took in more than $500 million, True Lies more than $400 million. Twins, Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop also topped $200 million apiece in global box-office gross.

Schwarzenegger is--in Grazer's words--"the dream star for a producer and a studio." Unlike many stars--who consider themselves artistes and, hence, are above such philistine concerns as marketing and promotion--Schwarzenegger "is willing to do all the promotion, all the press, all the smiling you could want," as Grazer puts it.

Schwarzenegger is not only willing; he's eager. Before he even asks about a script for a movie, he wants to know what the poster will look like--what's the concept for the movie, the central image, the marketing plan. When the movie comes out, he'll sit in a hotel room all day long while reporters from around the country are shuttled back and forth, one after another, each asking the same basic questions, all pretending to be interviewing him in their hometowns: "Hi, Arnold. Welcome back to Seattle [or Houston or Cleveland]. Thanks for this exclusive interview."

Newsweek once wrote, "Self-promotion comes as naturally to Schwarzenegger as flexing his triceps," and with his ego, his natural charisma, his hands-on style and his immense store of nervous energy ("I hate to be doing nothing"), it's obvious why he loves marketing and promotion. To him, it's just another performance--one with a clear and immediate payoff: "You have to let the world know what you have out there. It doesn't make any sense to just work on the product but not on getting it out there.

"I'm involved every step of the way when it comes to marketing, internationally and nationally," he says. On Eraser, he's been trying to arrange a special screening in the Olympic Village in Atlanta next month. "Fifteen thousand journalists from around the world in one place," he says, his face alight with the joy of so irresistible a marketing opportunity.

A week goes by before I get another call from Stankard. Schwarzenegger wants to know if I'd like to come to the Warner Brothers set in two hours. Stankard's calls seem more like summonses than invitations. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Control, clearly likes setting the terms of any engagement or transaction. But he is giving me a lot of time. I agree to go to Warner's, where

he's filming Eraser, in which he plays an elite federal marshal assigned to the witness protection program; as is usually the case in a Schwarzenegger action movie, the fate of the world hangs implausibly in the balance. I show up in a hellacious rainstorm and race to his trailer, where I find him eating lunch with Arnold Kopelson, the producer of Eraser.

"It's goulash and dumplings," Schwarzenegger says to me. "Sit down. Have some."


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