Forgiving Arnie

When Arnold Schwarzenegger informed that troublesome police officer in The Terminator (1984) that "I'll Be Back", little did anyone know how prophetic those words would become.

Arnie - as we have all come to know him, such is our universal affection for the Austrian body-builder - was a millionaire long before he ever became a movie star.

Cleverly exploiting his fame as Mr Universe/Olympia and his instincts for real estate, Arnie didn't need to do movies - and his performance in 1969's Hercules in New York, which had to be dubbed because of his unintelligible accent, strongly suggested he shouldn't.

But, as we all know, Arnie went on to become one of the biggest film stars on Earth, brandishing his limited acting talent and unlimited audience appeal in such brawn-driven action movies as Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Terminator (1984), Raw Deal (1986), Red Heat (1988), Commando (1985), Predator (1987), True Lies (1994), Eraser (1996), Total Recall (1990) and Terminator 2 (1991). We even bought him as a sensitive type in 1990s Kindergarten Cop. That's how much we loved him.

Then Arnie went into politics, channelling his celebrity-fuelled popularity to rule California as governor from 2003 to 2011.

Arnie had to give up making movies to do this, of course, which after a string of flops including End of Days (1999), The 6th Day (2000), Collateral Damage (2002), Batman & Robin (1997), Junior (1994) and Jingle All the Way (1996) was perhaps a good thing.

He'd moved on. He was tired of films and we, it seemed, were tired of seeing him in films, content to forever worship the cherished memory of Arnie blasting his way through one squad of bad guys after another in his unique, stone-faced style.

But not so.

With his hugely successful two-term stint as "The Governator" now over, Arnie is set to return to the big screen. And we are ready to embrace him. Or rather - to be technically accurate - the studio bean counters who green-light movies have enormous faith that we will.

This is despite the scandal that erupted in 2011 when it was revealed that Arnie - even in a scandal we call him Arnie - had secretly fathered a child with his maid 14 years ago while married to Maria Shriver.

As soon as she found out she confronted him, the news broke and so did their 25-year marriage.

But what ensued was not a career-damaging expose, but a relatively fleeting scandal-as-entertainment episode that appears to have, if not faded from people's memories, been relegated to the "and then that happened" basket.

When Arnie's memoir, Total Recall, came out last year it was a dud. This could have been a signal that, yes, the public was reacting against Arnie because of his deplorable behaviour.

But no. Seems we still want him in our lives.

When we saw Arnie humping around with a machine gun alongside fellow ageing action men such as Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris in The Expendables 2, we got the joke about sexagenarian macho men still humping around with machine guns.

But Arnie's return is no joke.

His new film - The Last Stand - has been getting strong, even warm reviews, and his upcoming slate of movies is formidable.

On Arnie's dance card are: Captive; The Tomb; Ten; Unknown Soldier; another Terminator film; another Conan film; and, believe this if you dare, a sequel to Twins, the 1988 film with Danny DeVito, called - hold on to your seats, folks - Triplets. Eddie Murphy is slated to appear. Look out for it at next year's Oscars.

Nobody argues that what Arnie did to Maria was despicable, immoral, terrible, awful.

But with the same breath, nobody argues that they'd love to see Arnie back in movies, doing what we love to see him do - namely, firing machine guns, swinging swords, triumphing over bad guys without the need for negotiation.

While Lance Armstrong can wave bye-bye to whatever career he had planned and to spend the rest of his life apologising for his drugs-in-sports scandal, Arnie gets a free pass. Both cases involved massive deception and lying, both in private and in public. Yet while Armstrong gets crucified on a daily basis, Arnie gets a free pass.

It's an odd truth about modern life: some public figures we never forgive, others we wave through, chalking up their scandal as just another footnote to a brilliantly interesting and entertaining career that we just don't want to see end. The reasons for this are steeped in mystery.

Hang on...strike that.

The mere prospect of seeing that Twins sequel is worth letting anything through to the keeper. Especially if it's for Arnie.


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