Few Hollywood stars have a genesis story as unlikely as that of Terminator Genisys star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 67-year-old was born in a small Austrian village, became Mr. Universe at age 20, and moved to the U.S. without speaking a lick of English (his first film role, Hercules in New York, was entirely dubbed). By the time he was in his thirties, he was one of the world’s biggest action heroes, and well on his way to a two-term run as the governor of California.
Since leaving office in 2011, Schwarzenegger has return to acting, starring in actioners like The Expendables movies, The Last Stand, Escape Plan, and Sabotage. But none of those were as eagerly anticipated as Terminator Genisys, the fifth film in the man-vs.-machine series which lands Arnold back in a leading role as the T-800, aka “pops.” In this reboot, he protects a young Sarah Connor (Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke) as she and a time-traveling Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) hatch a plot to destroy Skynet before it launches.
We went back in time with Schwarzenegger to look back at some of his most memorable roles in our latest installment of “Role Recall,” which you watch in the video above. Some of the highlights:
Stay Hungry (1976)
Schwarzenegger made his film debut in 1969’s low-budget Hercules in New York and had a small part in Robert Altman’s 1973 thriller The Long Goodbye, but his first meaty role came in this dramatic comedy co-starring Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. It was, as he puts it, the actor’s first “movie movie.”
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The actor’s first major leading role he played the titular warrior in this swords-and-sandals hit was no walk in the park. Schwarzenegger had to do all of his own stunts, as there was no actor his size who could double for him. As a result, there were some moments on the set: At one point, a wolf that was supposed to be chasing his character was unleashed too early, and the actor was dragged down a rock formation. “Those kind of injuries happened all the time throughout the whole movie,” he said.
The Terminator (1984)
Schwarzenegger initially went out for the role of Kyle Reese (which would ultimately go to Michael Biehn) in James Cameron’s inventive sci-fi classic, with O.J. Simpson set to play The Terminator. But Arnold was so insistent to his director about how the villainous 'bot had to look and act that Cameron finally said to him, “Why don’t you play The Terminator?” The character, of course, became Schwarzenegger’s most celebrated.
The actor had another major hit on his hands with the release of this extraterrestrial thriller directed by John McTiernan. But the production didn’t go down without some shenanigans. Arnold spent part of his honeymoon with new bride Maria Shriver on the Mexico set. “And that was a bit of a mistake,” he said. “The first night, Maria and I were checked into a hotel room, and she wanted to take a shower. So she opened up the curtain and the whole bathtub was filled with frogs… She freaked out. That was the end of that honeymoon right there.”
It was Schwarzenegger’s idea to cast Danny DeVito to play his long-lost brothers in this hit helmed by Ivan Reitman, which marked the action star’s first foray into broad comedy. And it paid off in more ways than one. “He’s a great chef,” he said. “So when you have lunch, you go many times to his trailer and he cooks pasta and meatballs and all that kind of stuff. And he also had great stogies, so we smokes some really great cigars.”
Total Recall (1990)
The actor got bruised and battered again on the set of this Mars-set thriller, which was based on a classic Philip K. Dick story. In the scene where his character, Douglas Quaid, chases after a subway train and bashes the window in with his gun, the crew’s faulty timing to caused the glass to explode early, resulting in a badly cut wrist for Arnold. So they bandaged him up over lunch and tried it all over again.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest proponents of making his metallic baddie from the original Terminator a heroic protector in the Cameron-directed sequel T2, which remains his highest grossing film to date. “I thought it was really a terrific idea,” he said. “I think the relationship was really well written between me and the kid [Edward Furlong as John Connor]…. It brought a lot of emotional elements into the whole thing.”
True Lies (1994)
Cameron and Schwarzenegger struck box office gold once again three summers later with this thriller about a man who keeps his profession as a secret agent exactly that from his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). The actor flashed a grin recalling Curtis’s iconic striptease: “It was a fun scene to watch,” he said. “She’s a gorgeous-looking woman, she did a great job the way she danced.”
Terminator Genisys opens everywhere Wednesday.