Arnold Schwarzenegger returns imminently in the role that defined him, as the chisel-jawed vengeful cyborg, the Terminator. Not that he had the itch to return to acting while rumbling through his eight-year stint as the governor of California.
“To be honest with you, I had not one single minute or desire to be acting again [during that period] and I think the reason is the [political] job is so overwhelming,” he says. “It’s huge. It’s such a different thing to do something for a movie or in business versus serving 38 million people and being in charge of the state and all the crises that come up all the time.”
And there were many in his period of office from 2003 to 2011, including two financial dramas. “The last thing on your mind [at a time like that] is: ‘Why couldn’t I do another movie?’ ”
Schwarzenegger professes humility about being asked to return to the series that began in 1984 as a minor sci-fi film directed by the unknown Canadian James Cameron before its sequel seven years later, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2), distinguished itself as one of the greatest sci-fi action films in modern cinema.
That was 20 years ago and Schwarzenegger admits he returns to the role as a different actor and person. “First of all, there’s a refreshing kind of attitude or feeling because I feel like I was out of it for quite some time and now it is so nice to come back again and feel the same enthusiasm I felt at the beginning when I started this whole thing,” he says.
But he believes he is a different actor also “because when 10 years pass, you’re a different person”. And he adds: “When you’re a father of children [he has three sons and two daughters], you can relate to certain things differently to 20 years earlier. I think that you get more mature, you get to be wiser, you think about certain things more … You’re much more in touch with your emotions.”
That might sound surprising coming from an actor thought of — if one can ignore the cliche of the stiff, monosyllabic Austrian — as a physical performer rather than an emotional one. But he says he is now getting films he would not have been offered two decades ago, such as the recent post-apocalyptic drama Maggie.
But Terminator was always the one. Unfortunately, other people deemed it opportune to continue the franchise. After Terminator Salvation, starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, failed to fire in 2009, rights to the Terminator character survived more than a rise of the machines: they went through bankruptcy, a failed auction, a private equity purchase, numerous producers and directors (including Denis Villeneuve and Ang Lee) and two studios.
Eventually, shooting began on the film in 2014 under the direction of Alan Taylor, who had previously directed episodes of The Sopranos and Game of Thrones as well as Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World.
Schwarzenegger was governor when Terminator Salvation misfired and subsequently he was crucial as bargaining for the rights progressed, being asked by potential producers if he would contemplate returning to the role. The 67-year-old says he told them: “I would be honoured because 31 years after doing the first one to be asked back again was very unusual. Most franchises change the actors: they changed the [James] Bonds and the Batmans. So here, I’m still in there, so that’s good. I felt very happy about being asked again.”