Schwarzenegger life story packs series of body punches
AMERICA:An autobiography by the actor, body-builder and politician casts light on his immigrant success
WHEN ARNOLD Schwarzenegger was growing up in a little village in Austria, his father beat him. The youngest in the family, Arnold was the last to wash in the dirty water that was carried from the well. But Schwarzenegger always knew he’d succeed.
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Schwarzenegger’s autobiography published this week, is a lesson in the importance of knowing what you want. By age 15, young Arnold had a detailed plan to emigrate to America and become a rich businessman as well as a movie star.
Self-discipline, determination and the conviction that rules are for other people took Schwarzenegger to the top of three professions: body-building, Hollywood and politics. His publisher, Jonathan Karp, calls it “the greatest immigrant success story of our time”.
The character that emerges from Total Recall is as freakish as the dozens of glossy photographs of muscle-bound Schwarzy that illustrate the book. He’s a force of nature whom one might too easily dismiss as a boorish clod.
Schwarzenegger’s first words to Eunice Shriver, the Kennedy sister who would become his mother-in-law, were: “Your daughter has a great ass.”
In Hollywood and politics, Schwarzenegger was underestimated. In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes programme, he recalled the talent scouts who told him: “It’s Dustin Hoffman. He’s a little guy. Al Pacino. He’s a little guy. Woody Allen. Those are the sex symbols . . . Don’t you get it?”
Schwarzenegger’s heavily accented English and unusual name didn’t help. But he has never taken no for an answer. “When someone tells you no, you should hear yes,” he writes in “Arnold’s Rules” at the end of the book.
By 2003, Schwarzenegger had tired of playing action heroes for $30 million a movie. He went to see the Republican king-maker Karl Rove to suggest he stand for governor of California. “How could Rove have been so wrong?” Schwarzenegger asks. “He was a political genius, and he dismissed me!”
Back in Austria, Schwarzenegger’s father Gustav was the local police chief. He’d been a Nazi storm-trooper during the second World War, but that was never talked about.
“The promise of Hitler . . . that we’re going to create the Third Reich, and we’re going to build this fantastic place for you, and we will . . . rule the world. All of that was gone and what was left was losers,” Schwarzenegger told 60 Minutes.
Silence became a way of life. “That’s the way I handle things. And it has always worked,” Schwarzenegger says. “But . . . it’s not the best thing for people around me.”