“The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.”
Actor. Producer. Businessman. Philanthropist. Activist. Bodybuilder. Politician.
For an immigrant who was initially known primarily for his ability to lift very heavy things, Arnold Schwarzenegger has had an incredible life that has included being one of the biggest action stars the world has ever known as well as serving two terms as the Governor of California. Despite being from Austria, he is the human embodiment of the American Dream.
Here are a few things you may not have known about “The Governator.”
45. Party Pooper
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father, Gustav, served in World War II as a Hauptfeldwebel, after voluntarily joining the Nazi Party in 1938. He was later discharged in 1941, after suffering a bout of malaria.
How’s that for a bummer to start this list? Not that we’re in any way implying that the choices Arnold’s father made are reflective of who Arnold is. Still, you have to admit it’s surprising to learn that one of your favorite actors is the son of a National Socialist!
Germany during World War 2.
44. In Rod We Trust
According to Schwarzenegger, his parents were very strict.
Here’s how he described it: “Back then in Austria, it was a very different world… if we did something bad or we disobeyed our parents, the rod was not spared.”
Physical ramifications for bad behavior were just par for the course in the Austria of Arnold’s youth.
43. It’s Meinhard Knock Life
Arnold’s father, Gustav, had a clear preference for his eldest son, Meinhard. It apparently stemmed from his unfounded suspicion that Arnold was not his biological son.
Oof. That would make family dinners pretty brutal.
42. Somewhere to Put the Magnets
Schwarzenegger’s family was not well off. Even by the standards of Austria between World War 1 and 2.
Arnold has recalled that one of the highlights of his youth was the day his family bought a refrigerator. As in, the thing that keeps your food cold.
41. Basically the Plot of “Big”
Schwarzenegger started lifting weights when he was 14 years old.
How does that happen? Well, his dad wanted him to be a police officer, while his mother wanted him to go to trade school. Obviously, they weren’t considering the third option: become an internationally renowned bodybuilder-cum-political activist. Hence, with the wisdom of a 14-year old, he decided to make a career out of being an absolutely massive human.
Seems to have worked out so far.
40. Breaking, Entering, and Lifting
He was so dedicated as a teenager that when the local gym was closed he would break in to work out. “It would make me sick to miss a workout,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it.”
That sounds… healthy.
39. Behind Barbells
Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army for a year, as part of the mandatory service requirement for all 18-year old Austrian males. He went AWOL during basic training so he could compete in the Junior Mr. Europe contest and spent a week in military prison.
38. Don’t Skip Leg Day!
In his first Mr. Universe competition, Schwarzenegger came second to Chester Yorton because Yorton’s leg definition was judged to be superior.
37. The Big Bang
With a new training regimen that sculpted his legs into text book examples of perfect human legs, Schwarzenegger took his first Mr. Universe title at the age of 20, the youngest ever.
36. Who Knew?
Back when Arnold was still adjusting to speaking a new language, he frequently told his English coach, Roger C. Field, about his biggest ambition: that he was “going to become the greatest actor.”
That says a lot about Schwarzenegger’s character. At a time when many people would be struggling with the simple hardship of getting used to life in a new country, Arnold was already dreaming about and working towards becoming an actor… in a language he barely knew!
35. Scaling Mount Olympus
At the age of 23, Schwarzenegger captured his first Mr. Olympia title, which he would go on to win another six times.
34. Arnold Got Stoned… Kind Of
Arnold once won the Munich stone-lifting contest, in which he lifted a 560 lb stone between his legs.
Never heard of a stone-lifting contest? You’ve been missing out. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like: dozens of absolutely massive gentlemen struggle to lift up hunks of rock, all in front of an adoring crowd.
It’s basically the geological olympics.
33. Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That
In 1977, Arnold made an interesting life decision: he posed nude for the gay magazine “After Dark.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with the magazine’s demographic. You just have to assume that, had he known he would one day run for political office, Arnold may have wanted to negotiate the “nude” part of the job.
Schwarzenegger struggled with anxiety and learned how to overcome it when a friend taught him Transcendental Meditation.
31. Hulk Sad
Schwarzenegger was convinced to compete in his 6th Mr. Olympia in 1975 by filmmakers George Butler and Robert Fiore to make the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. He handily beat Lou Ferrigno, the future Hulk, and then retired from bodybuilding until 1980.
Schwarzenegger admitted to using anabolic steroids when they were legal. He called the drugs “tissue building.”
29. Mute Button
In his first film, “Hercules in New York,” Schwarzenegger’s accent was so thick that his lines had to be dubbed after production. In his second film, he played a deaf-mute.
28. Don’t Stop Believing
Schwarzenegger has discussed his early struggles in developing his acting career: “It was very difficult for me in the beginning – I was told by agents and casting people that my body was ‘too weird’, that I had a funny accent, and that my name was too long. You name it, and they told me I had to change it. Basically, everywhere I turned, I was told that I had no chance.”
27. Set it to Cimmerian
Schwarzenegger broke through with the 1982 sword-and-sorcery epic “Conan the Barbarian” which was a box office hit. This was followed with a sequel, “Conan the Destroyer,” which did not destroy at the box office.
26. He’ll be Back
In 1984, Arnold appeared in James Cameron’s “The Terminator,” in what many would say is his career’s signature role.
25. Show Me the Money
When he did, indeed, come back as the title character in 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” he hit his commercial peak as the Terminator sequel was the highest grossing film of that year with a box office of $519.8 million.
24. An Argument for Immigration
In 1993, he was named by the National Association of Theater Owners as the “International Star of the Decade.” Not bad for an immigrant with a weird shaped body, a too long name, and a funny accent.
23. Conan the Republican
Schwarzenegger became a Republican because the Democrats of the 1960s were far too similar to the Austrian socialists he had left behind in his home country. He was inspired hearing Nixon talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, and strengthening the military.
22. He’s Here to Pump… You Up!
Arnie’s first political appointment was as chairman on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
21. The Cimmerian Candidate
When Schwarzenegger first announced his candidacy for the 2003 California recall election for Governor of California, it made national and international news, with budding comedians in the media quickly dubbing him “The Governator” and “The Running Man”… and referring to the ensuing recall election as “Total Recall.”
Schwarzenegger won the election by 1.3 million votes becoming only the second foreign-born governor of California since 1862.
19. Political Rollercoaster
Schwarzenegger won some early political victories by repealing an unpopular increase in the vehicle registration tax and preventing driver’s licenses from being issued to illegal immigrants. However, he started to feel backlash when powerful state unions began to oppose him. After a special election he called in 2005, in which four ballot measures he sponsored were defeated, Schwarzenegger accepted personal responsibility and later commented, “no one could win if the opposition raised 160 million dollars to defeat you.” It was later found that the unions’ use of compulsory fundraising during the campaign had actually been illegal. Vindication!
18. Reaching Across the Aisle
Against the advice of his fellow Republican strategists, Schwarzenegger appointed Susan Kennedy, a Democrat, as his Chief of Staff.
17. Take Two
As he moved towards the political center, Schwarzenegger won re-election with 56% of the vote compared to 38.9% for his opponent Angelides. It was a margin of well over a million votes.
16. Gasta La Vista
In 2006, Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, creating the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions. He also signed another bill prohibiting large utilities and corporations in California from making long-term contracts with suppliers who do not meet the state’s greenhouse gas emission standards. The two bills were part of a plan to reduce California’s emissions by 25%.
15. Small Shoes to Fill
In addition to fighting global warming through politics, Schwarzenegger also took steps to reduce his personal carbon footprint by adapting one of his Hummers to run on hydrogen and another to run on biofuels.
14. We Can Dream
Because he is not a natural born American citizen, Schwarzenegger cannot run for president. However, he was portrayed as the president in both “The Simpsons” and “Demolition Man.”
13. True Lies
In an April 2010 report, ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Schwarzenegger one of the 11 “worst governors” in the United States because of various ethics issues during his terms as governor.
12. Can’t Please Everyone
Although he began his tenure as governor with a record-high 89%, he left with a record low 23%.
11. Leaf Him Alone
In an interview with GQ magazine in October 2007, Schwarzenegger said, “Marijuana is not a drug. It’s a leaf. My drug was pumping iron, trust me.” His spokesperson later said the comment was meant to be a joke. A hilarious joke. If you’re high.
10. Your Clothes. Give Them To Me Now!
During his initial campaign for governor, allegations of sexual and personal misconduct were raised against Arnie, dubbed “Gropegate,” because the name “Predator” had already been taken.
9. Putting the Buff in Buffet
Schwarzenegger is quite the savvy businessman, starting with bricklaying business, then a mail order business, a real estate investment venture, a chain of international theme restaurants, a shopping mall, a sports festival, and a movie production company. Before his divorce, he was worth anywhere between $400 and $800 million.
8. Little Hummer Boy
Schwarzenegger was the first civilian to purchase a ‘Humvee’. He was so enamored with the vehicle, that he lobbied AM General to produce a street-legal, civilian version, which they did in 1992. Because when Arnie wants a Hummer, he gets a Hummer.
7. It’s Me or the Kennedy
Schwarzenegger was in an open relationship with Sue Moray, a Beverly Hills hairdresser’s assistant, when he met Maria Shriver at a tennis tournament. He dated both women for a year until Moray issued an ultimatum. Schwarzenegger ended up marrying Shriver. So… oopsies.
6. What Dreams May Come
Schwarzenegger has apparently been lobbying legislators for a possible constitutional change that would allow him to run for president or has been considering filing a legal challenge to the provision. A Columbia University law professor noted that while, “the law is very clear, it’s not a hundred percent clear that the courts would enforce the law rather than leave it to the political process.” “The Simpsons” already predicted Donald Trump. Perhaps they can go two for two.
5. Now with 50% More Heart!
Schwarzenegger was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, an aortic valve with only two leaflets. A normal aortic valve has three leaflets. In 1997, he opted for a replacement heart valve made of his own transplanted tissue, opting against a permanent mechanical valve as it would limit his ability to exercise and physical activity.
4. Elephant Love
Arnold’s safari vehicle was charged by an elephant while he was in South Africa. Arnold, being an absolute legend, chuckled as the elephant chased the vehicle, then took some time to talk about how important elephant conservation is.
“I couldn’t have written this safari encounter better if it was a movie. I’m absolutely in awe of these beautiful, strong animals, even though some of us had to change our pants after this. We need to stop killing them — take a photo, not a shot. Would you rather be able to experience these creatures or a hunk of ivory? I thought so.”
You can check out the video of the elephant encounter below.
3. Last Action Hero
In 2004, Schwarzenegger saved a drowning man in Hawaii by swimming out and bringing him back to shore.
2. Trying Abstinence on for Size
Schwarzenegger did not vote for Donald trump in the 2016 US Presidential election, the first time he did not vote for the Republican candidate since becoming a citizen in 1983.
1. The Baena of Maria’s Existence
Twenty-five years after marrying Arnold, his wife Maria Shriver was horrified to learn that he had actually slept with the housekeeper Mildred Patricia Baena. Not only that, but he had fathered a son with her fourteen years earlier, which his wife didn’t know about.
Although Baena was the housekeeper, Shriver kept the house.