Memoirs of a Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger on Q

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First aired on Q (10/10/12)

From Austrian bodybuilder to Hollywood action hero to Kennedy-by-marriage to governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has reinvented himself throughout his career...and he's no stranger to scandal, either. Last year, he admitted he fathered a child with his housekeeper, a revelation that broke up his marriage to Maria Shriver. Now, he's added "memoirist" to his lengthy resumé with the publication of Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. The memoir has been receiving decidedly mixed reviews (indeed, The Guardian's reviewer goes so far as to call it "the worst celebrity memoir ever"), but Schwarzenegger is dutifully on a press tour, and gamely fielding questions about the book and (perhaps not quite as gamely) his personal life. He spoke with Jian Ghomeshi on Q in a recent interview.

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Schwarzenegger prefers to keep the conversation to his book and his life story as he presents it, but he recognizes that the media are understandably curious about his personal problems, and he admits that he can't hide from the actions he took that ultimately led to the end of his marriage. "It was my doing, and whenever you do something like that you cannot expect that the first thing that people will focus on will be your training in a weightlifting club in Austria," he told host Jian Ghomeshi. "Maria comes from a very famous family, and I have risen to tremendous stardom in the movie world. So I think that at the time this happened we were both way up there on top. So the world is fascinated about our marriage and our relationship, and when something goes wrong they're even more fascinated. So it's all natural. Even though it is painful to go on a promotion tour like that and talk about that."

In the book, Schwarzenegger represents himself as incredibly goal-oriented — not surprising, considering his career trajectory. But where does that intense drive come from? "It comes from the visions that I have," he said. "I was born with a talent that I can visualize very clearly where I want to go...when I was 15 years old I saw myself as another Reg Park, who was the bodybuilding champion of the time." Schwarzenegger says he literally saw himself up alongside Park, accepting a bodybuilding trophy. "I chased that, and I trained exactly like Reg Park. I put in five hours a day and I would eat the way he did and train the way he did."

That drive served him well in the role that made him famous: the Terminator, a role he effectively stole from under the nose of O. J. Simpson after a conversation with James Cameron convinced the director that Schwarzenegger was the right choice for the indestructible, time-travelling robot. But Schwarzenegger is quick to add that although the Terminator was an "interesting" character, he himself also has a human, emotional side.

The book focuses quite a bit on Schwarzenegger's successful career as a bodybuilder. "I always say that I was very fortunate I started out with sports," he said. "Because I felt like the lessons that you learn in sports are unlike anything else. You learn about discipline, camaraderie...and you learn about reps, reps, reps. In the end it's all about how many repetitions you do. That's what will make you successful."

He's such a household name now, that it's hard to remember that at the beginning of his career in Hollywood, Schwarzenegger was a long shot: his English was strongly accented, his name was hard to pronounce. So what gave him the confidence that he could be a movie star despite Hollywood's initial hesitation? "I figured out that the camera likes me anyway," he said.

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