Eight years as California’s governor obviously has molded Arnold Schwarzenegger into a political animal, even though he has returned to his previous career. The onetime bodybuilder turned actor turned governor has returned to acting, but he addresses the hot button issue of movie violence and its correlation (if any) with the recent wave of mass shootings directly and without hesitation when asked during a press conference about his upcoming high firepower action movie “The Last Stand.”
“This is entertainment and the other thing is a tragedy beyond belief,” he responds. “ This is serious, the real deal. I think that whenever you have a tragedy like (the Newtown, Conn. school massacre) it would be foolish not to look into what can we do as a society to improve the situation and to make those kind of things —reduce the risks of those kind of issues. Will it go away? No, it will never go away, but we always have to make a 100 percent effort to use those moments and to figure out ways of how can we do better.”
Having left office two years ago after deciding not to run for another term, Schwarzenegger went on to list possible ways to address the surge in random gun violence.
“How can we do better with gun laws? If there is any loophole, if there is a problem there, let’s analyze it,” he says. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s analyze it and let’s also find out are we 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, what do we do with that person? Remember we are not in China or some country where we make people disappear.
“In America, you can’t just arrest someone because they act strange,” Schwarzenegger notes. “So you have that problem and you have to deal with that. What do we do with that when we see someone that is unstable? We have to analyze how we deal with mental illnesses. How do we deal with the gun laws? How do we deal with parenting? Does a mother need to collect those guns that the little kids are shooting? All this—everything—has to be analyzed. Nothing, no stone (should be left) unturned. I think that is what we owe to our people. That is what (government officials) ought to do rather than make it political.”
While the Austria native sounds like he is still governing, he also makes it clear that he is done with politics and, at least for now, is back as an actor.
“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, and then I would be back in the movie business,” he insists, in his distinctive accent. “So it was just kind of stepping out of the movie business, rather than I’m now going back to the movie business. I was just out. I was a public servant for seven years. I worked for the state of California and now I’m back again.”
Of course, having been away from Hollywood for as long as he was, Schwarzenegger is understandably anxious about how he will be received by moviegoers.
“When you have left the movie business for seven years, it’s kind of like a scary thing to come back because you don’t know if you’re accepted or not,” he candidly admits. “There could be a whole new generation of action heroes that come up in the meantime.”
While he has made cameos in “The Expendables” and “The Expendables 2,” Schwarzenegger is making his true movie comeback with “The Last Stand,” in which he plays a small town sheriff, who must make a stand with his small team of deputies against a vicious drug lord, who is making his way back to Mexico with an armed escort of mercenaries after escaping federal custody. Part comedy, part action movie, “The Last Stand” is directed by South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon, and stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville and Eduardo Noriega. Knoxville plays a colorful local armaments collector who is deputized to help Schwarzenegger’s Sheriff Owens capture the dangerous felon.
At 65, Schwarzenegger is no spring chicken, and performing the stunts that used to come so easily to him was more of a challenge, he admits.
“I once had muscles and slowly, they are deteriorating,” he says. “The great thing is if you do work out every day (and) you stay in shape, then you feel good. This movie was a perfect example in that it required a lot of stunts. It required a lot of action and a lot of physical work. The director, Kim Jee-woon, was a fanatic about seeing as much as possible done by me, done by the (other) actors. Where you could really risk getting injured heavily or killed, the stunt guys would take over. That was the rule. So we all practiced. We all rehearsed. We all did over and over the stunts and did the physical work, but when you are 65 it’s different than when you’re 35. The great thing in the movies is that we are trying to not play me as the 35 year old action hero, but the guy that is about to retire and all of a sudden this challenge is coming up where he really needs to get his act together.”
Schwarzenegger says producer pal Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, a onetime Warner Bros studio executive responsible for greenlighting the “Harry Potter” and “Transformers” franchises, who now heads his own production company, convinced him to make his comeback on “The Last Stand.”
“I feel comfortable being back,” Schwarzenegger says, dressed in a dark suit and looking tanned and rested. “It’s kind of like riding a bike or skiing—you click right back into it. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a really talented group of actors.”
Asked about his favorite sequence in the film, Schwarzenegger says it’s the climactic car chase in which he and the druglord (played by Spain’s Noriega) race their respective hot rods through a cornfield.
“How many times do we have a chance to do a car chase through the cornfield?” he quips. “You all can imagine what it’s like to drive fast on the road, because we have all driven fast on a road, but you go through a cornfield not knowing where you are going or if there is a ditch coming up that you may end up in.”
He continues, “It was so much fun to step in, to get into that car and start going, and to hear the stunt coordinator screaming at you, “Faster, faster, faster! Now bang into the car next to you. Faster!’ It’s a great thrill. That’s the fun thing about moviemaking—you have moments like that, moments where you end up being in the ice-cold water at night just like in this last movie I did and then you have moments like this that are a great thrill and you get out and say, ‘Wow! What an experience, man!’ You live 65 years and then you have a chance to drive through a cornfield in a Camaro.”
While he may be out of politics, Schwarzenegger says he will continue his efforts in public service through his association with USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, a nonpartisan think tank comprised of international leaders in business, public policy and education. He also says he will continue to work on environmental matters.