Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to replace Donald Trump on NBC’s hit show “The New Celebrity Apprentice”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, a cigar clamped between his jaws like a punctuation mark for his broad smile, climbs aboard a tank on a warm November afternoon. This is no movie prop, and it's not just any tank. The 46 tons of moving metal belongs to Schwarzenegger himself, the larger-than-life success story who has been everything from Conan the Barbarian to the Terminator, Governor of California to cigar-chomping icon.
Spend any time with Schwarzenegger and you quickly get the impression that this is his world. We're all just along for the ride.
"It drives as well today as it did when I was 18," he says. In his black, short-sleeved polo and black leather pants, he has a formidably muscular presence—not quite the perfection when he was dubbed "the Austrian Oak" as a young bodybuilder, but still extremely solid, his eyes glimmering with mischief beneath a head of preternaturally brown hair, his handshake firm but not aggressive.
He lowers his six-foot-frame through a hatch into the driver seat of the intimidating mass of metal. It's an M47 Patton, named after the bombastic and brilliant American general of World War II, and it's very likely the actual tank Schwarzenegger drove when he joined the Austrian army as an 18-year-old.
"From my youngest days, I wanted to drive tanks," Schwarzenegger says, "but when I got in the army, they told me, ‘You're too tall.' My father had connections and so I got to go to tank-driving school." He presses forward, taking the beast on a rumbling spin around the property.
This is a man who gets what he wants, whether it's unmatchable fame, hundreds of millions in net worth or a vehicle that can crush SUVs for breakfast. When he heard in 1991 that the Austrian military was planning to retire an old group of tanks it had received from the United States in the 1950s, Schwarzenegger began making inquiries. He located what he says is the very machine he had driven back in his youth, the number 331 still painted on its steel hull. As chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under President George H.W. Bush, he was able to pull a few strings via the Pentagon to buy the tank—its cannon disarmed, but its engine very much intact—and have it shipped to the United States, where it eventually made its way to Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Santa Clarita in the San Fernando Valley.
He drives the behemoth as often as he can, sometimes crushing things for charity, but even at the age of 69 there just isn't that much free time. Like the Terminator, Schwarzenegger never seems to quit, and his schedule would flatten a younger man. He's been filming a movie (scheduled to hit theaters later this year) with Jackie Chan in China and he travels regularly on behalf of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, addressing concerns about climate change and air pollution. "I make movies and commercials, I give speeches for my institute on the environment," he says. He's hands-on with After-School All-Stars, a program designed to channel at-risk youth into productive after-school activities.
And now he has a new TV show.
Schwarzenegger is making his first foray into reality television, taking command as the mentor seeking a mentee in "The New Celebrity Apprentice." He is stepping into the shoes of the show's long-time host, President-elect Donald Trump, who uncorked the catchphrase "You're Fired" on a regular basis. Trump's tenure as host ended in 2015, right around the time he announced his presidential campaign, but he remains an executive producer of the show, as well as one of its owners.
The new show debuts on NBC January 2, though taping was done over the course of a month in early 2016. Schwarzenegger is impatient about the lag time: "You shoot something and it comes out a year later-but you wish it would come out right away," he says.
"I did the show for two reasons," he says. "I loved watching it. It was a great show that always sucked me in. I thought Trump did a great job with it. When I heard he'd been discontinued, I thought, ‘There's an interesting show I could host.'
This new boss had been a business success even before he made a fortune in movies. "Most people don't know that Arnold was a millionaire before he was cast in Conan the Barbarian," says Mark Burnett, executive producer and creator of "The Apprentice." "Arnold had massive success not only in real estate but also in professional sports, acting and politics. He shares a great deal of his experience from all of them on the show."
The new season pairs Schwarzenegger with his nephew Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger and super model Tyra Banks, and a host of competitors, from retired athletes such as Laila Ali, Eric Dickerson and Ricky Williams, rockers like Vince Neil and Boy George and TV personalities.
"Everyone was, in one way or another, surprising," Schwarzenegger says. "It depended on what the challenge was, which people would emerge with an interesting talent or connection. When you see a UFC fighter [Chael Sonnen], who is used to fighting and beating up on everybody, and he's very articulate and sensitive in the way he approaches a certain subject, it surprises you. It gives you a chance to look inside these famous people."
Misleading preconception is a two-way street. "I thought he'd be a jerk, even though I'd never met him," says contestant Lisa Leslie, a three-time WNBA MVP. "But at the end, we all went to his home for a barbecue and he was gracious and humble, kind and respectful. He did say that, during the show, he turns it on when he needs to. But I found him to be a very compassionate man."
"Arnold encourages contestants to take ‘big swings,' " says Burnett. "He looks at things like energy, positivity, passion and hard work in making his decisions. And he loves people. He was a great leader on the set, and the cast and crew absolutely loved him...He spent literally hundreds of hours preparing for this shoot. He really wanted to understand what makes this series work, and made sure that he was prepared. His passion for whatever he does is infectious; it really comes across on television."
What makes a good boss? "Someone who is able to make people understand their vision," Schwarzenegger says. "Someone who can articulate what's expected, who can direct people to the ultimate goal, to bring everybody together to fight for that. You can have creativity; it's all part of teamwork. But you have to be firm and have a clear vision. If people don't follow you, there are consequences."
A promo for the show features a clip of Schwarzenegger being engineered, Terminator-style. At the end, a robot arm fires up his cigar, which has become as much a part of the Schwarzenegger image as his physique, his accent or his open-faced smile. When he first appeared on the cover of this magazine in Summer 1996—he's now the only man to appear on three Cigar Aficionado covers—Schwarzenegger told the story about being introduced to his first cigar in the 1970s. Asked how many humidors he owns today, Schwarzenegger rolls his eyes.
"That's like asking how many shoes I have," he says. "I have some unbelievable humidors, a collection from around the world, 100 different designs. I have a lot of lighters, too. I very rarely buy a cigar because I get so many as gifts. I don't keep that many around, maybe 200 at any given time."
One-time box-office rival Sylvester Stallone, who Schwarzenegger joined on screen in The Expendables series as well as Escape Plan (2013), says there's a certain fastidious quality when Schwarzenegger sits down with a cigar. "Arnold is what I would call ‘a neat smoker,' " Stallone says. "He doesn't demolish a cigar by chomping away on it. He savors it."
"When I worked with Arnold, he was totally into [cigars]," recalls Danny DeVito, who costarred with Schwarzenegger in the 1988 comedy smash Twins. "For a guy who was all about health and fitness, he was amazing. He's a friend and it's a cool thing smoking with a friend. You enjoy a good meal, a couple of drinks and a nice Partagás."
Schwarzenegger can also be an unapologetic cigar smoker, as actor Jim Belushi recalled in the film Red Heat.
"The fucker smoked a Montecristo No. 2 in a cop car with the windows closed," Belushi told Cigar Aficionado back in 2010. "The car filled with smoke and I got sick to my stomach. Arnold says, ‘What's the matter, Jim? Does a little cigar smoke bother you? Here—try one.' " Belushi is now a huge cigar fan himself.
"I used to smoke the extra-long ones," Schwarzenegger says. "I got off them because I smoke less now. Now I like smaller cigars." Of course, for a man like Schwarzenegger, small is relative. "I like the Partagás [Serie D] No. 4," he says, referring to Cuba's most popular robusto. "That's become one of my favorites. I like some of the non-Cubans, when they're good. But I love a Cuban cigar when it's good."
He smokes cigars while driving his Hummer around his Brentwood neighborhood, or while playing chess sitting outside at home. But he avoids cigar bars.
"I always go outside," he says. "At my house, I have a big fireplace and sit outdoors when I smoke. I won't smoke in the house."
As governor of California from late 2003 to early 2011, Schwarzenegger couldn't smoke in his Sacramento state house. Government regulations prohibited smoking anywhere in the capitol building, including the governor's office, and smoking was prohibited within 20 feet of the building. His solution? He constructed a tent within the capitol's large, open-air atrium, with no side of the tent closer to the building than 20 feet.
But before there is a cigar—or work—there is always working out. Early one morning, he and two pals head for the gym. They come gliding out of the dawn fog on their mountain bikes, silent and imposing: large men in workout clothes and long-sleeve jackets, rolling quietly down Santa Monica's Main Street like an advance squad for the fitness army. A few pedestrians who are out this early call his name as he rides by—"Arnold!" He smiles broadly and gives a wave of acknowledgment, but he doesn't break the pace on his daily jaunt to the Gold's Gym in Venice. Though the building itself has moved, Gold's has been Schwarzenegger's home base since he arrived in California almost 50 years ago.
"I'm addicted—I have to do it," he says. "My day cannot start without doing something physically. And I work out at night before bed: cardio, weight-training. I want to stay in shape as long as I can."
Schwarzenegger and his small posse head back into an endless series of rooms filled with weight-resistance machines and free weights. He greets old friends but walks with purpose. Despite his fame and legend, his presence here is so regular that his movement through the large facility barely stirs a ripple.
His workout is compressed but purposeful: 10 reps on one machine, then 10 reps on another, back and forth until he's done 40 on each. He then moves to the next pair of machines, alternating sets with one of his biking companions, Ralf Moeller, a 6-foot-6 actor and retired bodybuilder who towers over Schwarzenegger like a joshing younger brother.
"You know," Moeller confides, "between Arnold and me, we have 14 titles."
"Yeah, but 13 of them are mine," Schwarzenegger says with a laugh.
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