IAR INTERVIEW: Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks 'The Last Stand' and Politics

Thursday, 17 January 2013 15:38 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks 'The Last Stand' and Politics

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back!

The legendary action-star left Hollywood to become the Governor of California almost a decade ago and now finally returns to the big screen with The Last Stand, which opens in theaters on January 18th. 

The former-Governator appeared in a minor role in his friend Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables and The Expendables 2, respectively, but has not starred in a major movie since ‘2003s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. However, the actor has stayed very busy since resigning from politics having shot the upcoming film The Tomb, also co-starring Stallone, and toying with the idea of returning to two of his most successful franchises with new installments of Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, as well as Triplets, which is the proposed sequel to Twins co-starring Danny DeVito

But first Arnold can bee seen doing what he does best … kicking ass in The Last Stand. The new film, which was helmed by South Korean director Jee-Woon Kim (I Saw the Devil), stars Schwarzenegger as the Sheriff of a Mexican boarder town who must defend his community from a dangerous drug cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) on the run from the FBI and trying to escape to Mexico. In addition to Schwarzenegger, the film also boasts an impressive cast of supporting actors including Johnny Knoxville (The Dukes of Hazzard), Rodrigo Santoro (There Be Dragons), Jaimie Alexander (Thor: The Dark World), Luis Guzman (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), Zach Gilford (Answers to Nothing), Peter Stormare (Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), Harry Dean Stanton (The Avengers), Genesis Rodriguez (Casa di Mi Padre), and Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker (A Dark Truth).   

I recently had the pleasure of attending a press conference for The Last Stand, along with several other members of the press, and had a chance to hear what Arnold Schwarzenegger had to say about his new film, his big screen comeback, leaving politics behind, doing action scenes at his age, working with director Jee-Woon Kim, the Newtown tragedy, and his advice to Congress. 

The Austrian born bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician began by discussing his long awaited return to making movies. “First of all, it's great to be back,” Schwarzenegger said as only he can. “As you remember, when I got into the governorship in 2003, I said I only would go and run the state for the seven years that were remaining, then I would be back in the movie business. So it was just kind of stepping out of the movie business rather than leaving it for good. I was a public servant for seven years. I worked for the state of California and now I'm back again. The only thing is that when you have left the movie business for seven years, it's kind of a scary thing to come back because you don't know if you're going to be accepted or not. There could be a whole new generation of action heroes that come up in the meantime. Things change very quickly in our business.” 

“But I was very pleasantly surprised when I did the cameo in The Expendables because there was such a positive reaction to my appearance. Then Sly asked me to do The Expendables 2, and then there was an even bigger reaction to that,” the actor continued. “So this is now my first starring role. I'm very happy that I chose to work with really talented people, and a producer (Lorenzo di Bonaventura) that I had full trust in because we'd worked together on several projects before. We kept our relationship alive throughout the seven years I was Governor and Lorenzo came to me and said, 'I want to have your first movie back and I want you to star in it.' So it's really great to be back and see the reaction of the people. Acting-wise I felt comfortable being back again. It's kind of like riding a bike or skiing, you click right back into it again. Like I said, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a really talented group of actors.”

Schwarzenegger was then asked what he missed most about acting while he was Governor, and what he now misses most about politics. “I think that I really didn’t miss anything about acting when I was Governor,” he answered. “I think that you get so engrossed in what you're doing, and it's such a huge responsibility to run a state. California is the number one state in the union and this is the number one country, so you really have a huge responsibility, and especially when you have legislators that are somewhat out of control. To bring Democrats and Republicans together is always a miracle because everyone is so stuck in their ideological corners that they can't free themselves from that. So it takes a lot of effort to get things done. But because of that, because you're so into it and passionate about it, and serving your state, you really don't have time to miss things in the movie business.” 

“So I was kind of like, this is it for right now and I'm doing public service,” the former-Governator continued. “So I was very, very happy to do that. It was the most gratifying and the most challenging thing that I've ever done. It was an honor for me to serve the people. Then again, after the seven years I did not look for another public service job because I didn't want to be a career politician. I didn't see myself as that, so I went back into the movie business. It's great now to be back again and there's not much I miss about being Governor,” Schwarzenegger admitted. “I get that Jerry Brown is now trying to figure out how to make the budget work and all of those things, and he's doing a great job. I have my USC Schwarzenegger Institute of Public Policy and I'm working on policy issues, environmental issues and all of this on an ongoing basis, and at the same time I will be doing movies.”

Schwarzenegger is now sixty-five years old but is still capable of playing a believable action hero, however, the new film definitely address this issue, as did the actor himself. “I think it was appropriate in that moment. You don't want to dwell on it, but to just throw it in, I think takes the curse off it then. You can make fun of yourself,” he explained. “I think Clint (Eastwood) did that very well, and others I've seen have done that very well too when they hit a certain age, so we felt we'd use it as well.”

The actor continued by discussing the aging process and how he feels about doing action scenes at his age. “Well, I can tell you that aging sucks! I'm no different than anyone else. We all go through the same drama. We look in the mirror and say, what happened? I once had muscles and slowly they are deteriorating,” he joked. But the great thing is if you workout every day, you stay in shape and you feel good. This movie was a perfect example because it required a lot of stunts, a lot of action and a lot of physical work. Director Jee-Woon Kim was fanatic about seeing as much as possible done by me, and only when it got really dangerous and I could risk getting injured or killed, would the stunt guys take over. So that was the rule, and we all practiced, and we all rehearsed.”

“But when you're sixty-five it's different from when you're thirty-five, Schwarzenegger continued. “I think the great thing in this movie is that we're trying to not play me as the thirty-five year old action hero but as a guy who is about to retire, and this is all of a sudden a challenge coming up where he really needs to get his act together. He has twenty dangerous mercenaries descending on his town and he has only a few people to work with. So that's what the movie is about, the underdog. Things come out in our favor, the townspeople take matters into their own hands and the sheriff shows great leadership and all that.”

The international action star was then asked to discuss his favorite moment in the film. “For me it was the car chase through the cornfield, because how many times do we have a chance to do a car chase through a cornfield? I mean, we all can imagine what it's like to drive fast on the road because we all have driven fast on the road, but to go through a cornfield, that has not been done in a movie before,” Schwarzenegger explained. “Of course we had to be very careful not to wipeout the first two days because we only had three more days to shoot. So it was very well organized as everything was on this film. But it was so much fun to get into the car and to hear the stunt coordinator screaming at you, 'Faster, faster, faster! Now bang into the car next you! Faster!' If I looked down, I would see I was going eighty miles per hour through the cornfield. It was a great thrill and that's the fun thing about filmmaking, that you have moments like that. I’ve lived sixty-five years and now I get a chance to drive through a cornfield in a Camaro. But I should've expected it because in Lorenzo's movies you're able to do all kinds of things, including wrestling alligators like I did in Eraser.”

Schwarzenegger also talked about working with South Korean director Jee-Woon Kim, and the challenges of collaborating with a director who doesn’t speak English and needs an interpreter. “I was amazed that someone that speaks that little English can articulate exactly what he wants you to do in a scene,” the actor explained. “Many times, I did not even have to wait for the translator to translate. He was so animated and is such a great actor himself that he would act out the scenes. Not necessarily with the dialogue or anything like that, but he would act out the scenes so you could really see what he was expecting. So he really crafted the scenes but sometimes to explain what the emotional obligation ought to be, as a foreigner it becomes very tricky, so for that he had translators.”

“But it was really amazing how well he communicated,” Schwarzenegger continued. “He had a very clear vision of what the look ought to be. He has a certain style in shooting, and I think there was a lot of camera work, as you could see in the movie, that we haven't really seen in the past. He has his own style of shooting and his own style of telling a story. At the same time, he is very collaborative, which is important because we have seen foreign directors come to America in the past, having won an Oscar but then failing terribly because they're not collaborative. It would be a mistake for Jee-Woon Kim to come over here and say, ‘I don't want to listen to you, I’ll do it my way, the South Korean way.' Well, the South Korean way maybe is great, but you need to know also the American way and you need to be collaborative, and that's what he did. He worked together with us every step of the way, and he was a team player, but very tough. I mean, he wanted to get it done his way, but he knew also how things are done in America.”

Next, the actor talked about his overall career, and if there’s anything that he hasn’t done yet on screen that he would like to do in the foreseeable future. “Again, I think that every actor always looks for challenging roles and for things that you have not done,” he said. “So each of my movies has some unique twist to it and scenes that I have not done before that are very challenging. I'm very open-minded about it. I read a lot of scripts and look at different things, but at the same time I have to also be realistic. I may see something that I want to do, and I will take it to Lorenzo and he will say, 'Oh, this is fantastic, but I don't think anyone is going to see it.' So then what are you going to do? Then you have to go out and raise your own money, get a million dollars together, shoot it in your backyard, and then put it out there or something like that.”

“On the other hand, it is show business,” Schwarzenegger continued to explain. “It's the show, it's the acting, it's the performing, it's all of this, but you've got to be able to sell it also because movies cost a lot of money and you've got to make sure people see it. I always think about how can I make sure that (the studio) gets its money back. Because the only way that we are going to make the next movie, and the next movie, and five movies a year is if we get the money back, with a little profit of course. So that's the idea. We are in a global economy, as we all know, and the same is with the movie business. So you've got to really think about, does this movie also sell well and would the people enjoy it in Germany? Would the people enjoy it in the Middle East? Would the people enjoy it in Africa, in Australia, in Asia? So you have to think about all of this. In the old days, they only thought about America and if someone likes it overseas, great, but it doesn't matter. But today it's different. Two-thirds of the money is being made overseas, and that share is getting bigger and bigger, so therefore we have to pay attention to that.”

Since The Last Stand does contain a lot of over-the-top violence, Schwarzenegger was asked his opinion of the recent Newtown tragedy and if he thinks that Hollywood needs to take responsibility for the violence in entertainment. “First of all, I think it's two different issues. I think one is to always keep it separate, that this is entertainment, and the other thing is a tragedy beyond belief. It's serious and the real deal,” the actor answered. I think whenever you have a tragedy like that you would be foolish not to look into all the ways in which we as a society can improve the situation to reduce the risk of those kinds of issues. Will it go away? No, it will never go away, but we always have to make a one hundred percent effort to use those moments and to figure out ways of how can we do better. How can we do better with gun laws? If there is any loophole, if there is a problem there, let's analyze it. Let's not jump to conclusions, let's analyze and let's also find out if we are really dealing with the mental problems the right way as a society? Do we have a mechanism in place that if we see someone that is unstable, we do something with that person?” 

“Remember, we are not in China or some country where you make people disappear,” Schwarzenegger continued. “In America you can't just arrest someone because they act strange. So you have that problem and we have to deal with that. What do we do when we see someone that is unstable? So we have to analyze how we deal with mental illnesses, how do we deal with the gun laws, and how do we deal with parenting. Does a mother need to collect those guns and take her little kids shooting? Everything has to be analyzed, no stone unturned. I think that's what we owe to our people, and I think that's what they ought to do, rather than make it a political issue.”

Finally, always the politician, the former-Governator was asked if he has any advice for the new 2013 Congress. “Well, two different things. We in Sacramento got things done. We didn't get everything done, but we got most of it done. So when you talk about the environmental progress that we have made, the foster care progress that we have made, the education progress we have made, and all of those things as well as infrastructure, rebuilding California and all the commitments that Democrats and Republicans have made to move the state forward, I mean they should be so lucky in Washington to be able to make those kinds of decisions.”

“In Washington, no decision has been made, period,” Schwarzenegger stated. “I mean even now with the fiscal crisis, they solved ten percent of the problem. The immigration problem that has been around for more than ten years, they have not touched. An energy policy, they have not come up with. An environmental policy, they're struggling over and they cannot figure it out. So there are the fights on every level there and nothing is getting done. I mean, as far as I'm concerned there is a reason why the American people are very disappointed in Washington, because we're spending $2.5 billion just on Capitol Hill and those lawmakers and not performing. In the private sector they would be fired in two seconds. So hopefully with the new Congress there will be a breakthrough and something would be done.”

The Last Stand explodes into theaters everywhere on January 18th.

To read what Arnold Schwarzenegger had to say about a few of his other upcoming film projects, please click here

To watch our exclusive video interview with Jaimie Alexander about The Last Stand, please click here.  

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