You can call Arnold Schwarzenegger many things: Mr. Universe, the Terminator, and even the one-time governor of California. However, there is one thing he says no one should call him. "I always tell people that they’re correct when they say that I’m a typical American success story," the Predator and True Lies star recently told a sold-out crowd of admirers. "But they're wrong when they say I'm self-made."
On June 28, the actor, bodybuilder, and politician participated in a lively panel with book editor Dian Hanson as part of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' An Evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The event also included a special 3D screening of 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the launch of ARNOLD, the new two-volume photo book edited by Hanson and published by TASCHEN. ARNOLD details Schwarzenegger's journey from an impoverished boy growing up in post-WWII Austria to one of the most iconic movie stars of all time.
Following introductions by Doris Berger, the Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the Academy Museum, and Benedikt Taschen, Publisher and Founder of TASCHEN, Schwarzenegger kicked off the discussion by expressing his gratitude to everyone in attendance and those who has helped him throughout his career. "This event wouldn’t have come about without the great work of Benedikt Taschen and his entire team, the people that run this museum, this Academy, Dian, and all of you," he said. "If I would be self-made, I'd be sitting here by myself."
Looking back on his childhood in Austria and his early days as a burgeoning celebrity bodybuilder in the States, Schwarzenegger shared how isolated he felt in his hometown of Thal. "It was this interesting combination of beauty and this place that I, personally, didn't feel like I belonged," he recounted to the nearly 1,000 guests in attendance. "I had the urge from very early on in childhood to get out of there."
"I became obsessed with America," Schwarzenegger explained. "I remember at the age of 10, we saw videos in our classroom about America, and I saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood, the beaches here in California, the New York skyscrapers, the cars with the huge wings, the six-lane freeways— Everything was just so big and so beautiful that I really wanted to come to America... That's what launched my desire to do anything and everything I could to get out of Austria."
As those familiar with his extraordinarily unlikely journey know, Schwarzenegger managed to find his ticket out of Austria via bodybuilding — a pursuit that resulted in him becoming the youngest-ever Mr. Universe winner at the age of 20. Then, thanks to countless photo-ops, competition wins, and his role in the 1977 bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger became a household name and soon landed on the radars of filmmakers such as John Milius (Conan the Barbarian) and James Cameron (The Terminator).
The rest is, as they say, history. Schwarzenegger is regarded today as one of the most successful and well-known men of his generation. Despite all that he's accomplished, his advice for others looking to replicate his success remains fairly simple. "Don't ever think you can cut short the work," Schwarzenegger says. "It takes work, work, work."
ARNOLD is now available to order via the Academy Museum store.
Reporting by Alex Welch