He’s been a bodybuilder, a governor, a stand-in for Donald Trump, and a Terminator. But Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legacy will always be as one of Hollywood’s most popular action stars. To celebrate his 70th birthday, here are 20 facts about some of your favorite Ahnold movies.
1. SCHWARZENEGGER’S NAME ALMOST KILLED PUMPING IRON BEFORE IT GOT STARTED.
And not because it was hard to pronounce. According to Pumping Iron co-director George Butler, cash was so tight during the film's production that he once visited a film development lab hoping to get some work done on credit. When the employee asked him what he was doing, Butler told him it was about bodybuilding. Suddenly, the man turned icy and asked if it had anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Butler told him he was the star, the lab turned him away. The reason? The actor’s first movie, 1970’s Hercules in New York, had burned his business. “I won't give you any credit,” he said. “I had a movie in here … Hercules in New York and they never paid a bill and they owe me thirty grand."
2. CONAN THE DESTROYER HELPED MAKE SCHWARZENEGGER AN AMERICAN.
Schwarzenegger gained U.S. citizenship during the filming of Conan the Destroyer. He retains dual Austrian and U.S. citizenship to this day.
3. THE IDEA FOR THE TERMINATOR ALL STARTED WITH A FEVER DREAM.
James Cameron had a tumultuous experience making his directorial debut in 1981's Piranha II: The Spawning, but as he once put it, sometimes "nightmares are a business asset." While in Rome for the horror movie's release, Cameron had a fever dream of a "metal death figure coming out of a fire." That idea eventually morphed into The Terminator.
4. DIE HARD WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SEQUEL TO COMMANDO.
We have Schwarzenegger to thank for Bruce Willis's debut as tough NYPD cop John McClane in Die Hard: The former Moonlighting star was only cast in the role after the Governator turned it down. The film—now considered one of the greatest action movies of all time—was originally intended to be a sequel to Schwarzenegger's testosterone-fueled Commando, and a script was commissioned based on Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, about an NYPD detective fighting German terrorists who take over a skyscraper. However, the disappointing box-office performance of Schwarzenegger's first attempt at a sequel, Conan the Destroyer, led him to drop out of Commando 2. The script was then repurposed into a standalone action film, and the rest is Hollywood history.
5. PREDATOR FOILED A CONAN SEQUEL.
A third film called Conan the Conqueror was planned for a 1987 release, but Schwarzenegger was unable to appear in it because he was shooting Predator.
Eventually, Schwarzenegger’s three-movie Conan contract expired and the idea was later refashioned into 1997’s Kull the Conqueror starring Kevin Sorbo. Kull happened to be a character based on another pulp fiction series by Conan creator Robert E. Howard.
6. TOTAL RECALL WAS IN DEVELOPMENT FOR OVER A DECADE.
In 1976, fledgling screenwriters Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon teamed up to adapt Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” The pair purchased the rights to the piece that year, but soon hit the first of many delays on the road to the screen.
Difficulties in reimagining the story as a film forced the pair to take a long break from the Dick story to work on a different project. (This distraction would prove rather fortuitous, ultimately becoming the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s Alien.) Over the course of many years, the Total Recall screenplay went through more than 40 revisions.
7. BILL MURRAY, PATRICK SWAYZE, AND DANNY DEVITO ALL TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF KIMBLE IN KINDERGARTEN COP.
Bill Murray turned down director Ivan Reitman, who he had worked with in Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), and in the Ghostbusters movies, without giving a reason. Patrick Swayze and Danny DeVito also said no.
8. THE STUDIO WANTED O.J. SIMPSON TO PLAY THE TERMINATOR.
It's been bouncing around the Internet for so long that you probably think it's an urban legend, but Orion co-founder Mike Medavoy admitted that he had strongly suggested O.J. Simpson for the part of the title role, and Cameron dismissed the thought because Simpson came off as too nice of a guy.
9. SCHWARZENEGGER DIRECTED A MADE-FOR-TV HOLIDAY MOVIE.
It was 1992, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was coasting on a career high, having starred in Terminator 2: Judgment Day just one year before. So naturally he took some time off to direct a made-for-TV remake of a classic 1945 rom-com about a food writer who has to pretend to be the perfect housewife lest she lose her job. It just makes sense. Swap out original star Barbara Stanwyck for Dyan Cannnon, add in Kris Kristofferson as the love interest, and TNT’s Christmas in Connecticut is good to go.
10. THE ACTOR HAD A CLOSE CALL ON THE SET OF TRUE LIES.
Schwarzenegger almost died on the set of True Lies, when a horse he was riding during one of the film’s most memorable action sequences got spooked by a camera boom and started rearing up near the edge of a very steep drop (the actor estimates it was about 90 feet to the ground). Arnold managed to slip off the horse in time, and a stuntman pulled him to safety.
11. HE WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD IN JINGLE ALL THE WAY BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.
Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus. Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.
12. ARNOLD CAME BACK FOR A THIRD TERMINATOR, BUT AT A PRICE.
Schwarzenegger was paid $29.25 million to reprise his role as The Terminator in T3. His contract stipulated that $1.5 million of the budget should be set aside for private jets, a fully-equipped gym, deluxe hotel suites, limousines, and bodyguards for his personal benefit at all times during production. On top of that, Arnold also received 20 percent of the gross receipts on ticket sales, DVDs, TV rights, game licensing, and in-flight movie licensing on the movie worldwide.
13. PUMPING IRON INSPIRED SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
To create a contrast in Pumping Iron, the directors decided to focus on Schwarzenegger’s rival for the 1975 Mr. Olympia title, a soft-spoken Brooklyn native named Lou Ferrigno. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s bombastic confidence, Ferrigno was depicted as being browbeaten by his domineering father. According to Butler, screenwriter Nik Cohn saw the scenes of the Ferrignos arguing over the dinner table and used it as inspiration for a project of his own: His story, "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," was turned into 1977’s Saturday Night Fever.
14. SCHWARZENEGGER WAS INITIALLY TURNED DOWN FOR TOTAL RECALL FOR BEING TOO MANLY.
Despite the gradual growth of main character Douglas Quaid’s imagined virility, there was a limit to how far producer Dino De Laurentiis was willing to stray from the original character in Total Recall. He insisted that someone like Schwarzenegger was out of the question for the part and even turned down the Terminator star when Schwarzenegger expressed interest in the role.
15. SCHWARZENEGGER SPOKE JUST 58 WORDS IN THE TERMINATOR.
Technically, The Terminator says more than Arnold's 17 sentences, but one is an overdubbed voice of a cop, and the other is in Sarah Connor's mother's voice, when the Terminator was trying to trick her.
16. PENELOPE ANN MILLER TAUGHT SCHWARZENEGGER HOW TO KISS ON CAMERA.
Penelope Ann Miller, Schwarzenegger’s love interest in Kindergarten Cop, gave her co-star some tips on the art of the onscreen smooch. She instructed him to grab and hold her before going in for the kiss, otherwise it would look like they were “swallowing each other up.”
17. HE TOOK TANGO LESSONS TO PREPARE FOR TRUE LIES.
Schwarzenegger may have been very comfortable with action sequences, but he needed extra help in a different area when filming True Lies: He had to take tango lessons prior to filming, to give his Harry Tasker all those smooth moves on the dance floor.
18. JACKIE KENNEDY HELPED PUMPING IRON BECOME A HIT.
A week before Pumping Iron premiered in January of 1977, the film’s press agent was able to stage a press luncheon in New York featuring an impressive list of the city’s notables like Andy Warhol and George Plimpton. But the most significant guest was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who appeared as a favor to a mutual friend of hers and Schwarzenegger’s. Her presence at an event meant to promote a bodybuilding movie was so unique that it received a considerable amount of press attention. “She certainly gave Pumping Iron a big publicity boost,” Schwarzenegger would later write. Onassis even attended the film’s premiere with her son, John F. Kennedy Jr.
19. JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME WAS THE ORIGINAL GUY IN THE PREDATOR SUIT.
The “Muscles from Brussels” was reportedly fired from the movie because he complained too much about how uncomfortable the suit was.
20. THERE WAS A SEQUEL TO JINGLE ALL THE WAY STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.
No original cast nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"