When you ask the “Governator” for his Five Favorite Films and he gives you six instead, you don’t question it. But that’s because Arnold Schwarzenegger takes film as seriously as he has applied himself to each of his many other careers, including bodybuilding, politics, and real estate. “I mean, there’s just so many great movies in history,” he said, “that it’s very hard to really pick one, or five.”
In the early 1980s, Schwarzenegger quickly became the go-to guy for action films — The Terminator, Predator, Commando, and True Lies are just a few of the films that have helped cement his superstar reputation over the years. This week, though, we get to see him do something different in Aftermath, a new drama inspired by actual events that follows a grieving man’s descent into darkness when loses his wife and daughter in a plane crash. See below for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Six Favorite Films (who are we to argue?) and a little about his experience becoming a tragic character.
I think that [E.T.] was a whole new way of entertaining. I think that the whole idea of shooting from E.T.’s point of view — humans. And always making us kind of look like villains, and scary. You know really — how did E.T. feel in this world? And then the whole idea of being a fish out of the water kind of idea, it was so well done. Spielberg did just a spectacular job on that. It was literally for everyone to enjoy. I mean, it doesn’t matter — women, men, young, old — everybody could enjoy that movie.
Titanic is just — the storytelling, and the size of it, the visual effects… The first thing was just brilliantly — every character was brilliantly fleshed out. Which is typical Cameron. He’s just so good at that. And then, he adds the action. You know, which is what everyone looks forward to. Everyone knows the story of Titanic and that it’s going to hit an iceberg. So you just wait the whole movie for that major crash; but then in the meantime he builds all these stories and all the relationships — all the different characters and all that. I thought that it was just really well done, visual effects, personal stories about people, the character’s development, the action, and then the end. The emotional roller coaster ride was –and the music. Everything was a a straight 10.
So it was no wonder the number one movie, when it came out. It was spectacular.
And then The Godfather, I think, when you talk about action movies, the combined story with action. And again, you know, really well fleshed out characters and all that. I mean Godfather is without any doubt one of the best of that kind.
And it happens to be that Al Ruddy, who produced it, is a good friend of mine also. And he has, of course, the best stories of during the making of Godfather. Really wonderful stories. So that’s one.
Westworld. Now that’s not — kind of — the most known movie, but it just had the most profound impact on me — what got me to be really interested in playing The Terminator. Because Yul Brynner plays a machine that malfunctions and it’s a very well made movie, a very well written movie.
Have you been watching the TV show?
No I have not. I heard about it, yes. And they shoot it out at the Melody Ranch which is one of my favorite places; where I usually drive my tank. I have a tank out there.
Westworld [is] so unique. You have Yul Brynner — who was kind of like at the height of his career — and he was a brilliant stage actor and film actor. And he played this tough western guy.
And you could not tell, at all, that it was a machine until — there were certain mannerisms when things started not functioning well that he acted out that were just brilliant. All of a sudden you realize, “Wait a minute, this is a machine.” And then when you saw them working on it at night, and scrambling, fixing it, then you really realized it’s a machine. He just did it so well that I learned from that, when I did Terminator. I looked at that movie; I remembered it very well, and then re-watched a few times. Because it was like there was no one that played a machine better than Yul Brynner. And it was a really great story, also.
So then The Sound of Music is another one of the movies that I just think the world of. Very, very entertaining. Because, you know, it’s Austria: the music, the look of it. I think it was really a movie that was a very interesting story but it sold my homeland visually in such a spectacular way. And I have gone, of course, to all of the various different locations that they shot the scenes and all that in Salzburg and around in the Alps and all that stuff. It’s a really spectacular, entertaining film. And it tells a lot about that era in Austria.
Are you normally a fan of musicals as well?
Not really, but I mean, I enjoy them. It’s not like I want to see another musical, but just recently when La La Land came out, I just loved that movie. I thought it was truly — yeah, I thought it was the best movie of the year, without any doubt. So I am not really looking forward to kind of like, “I’ve got to see another musical,” but when I see really well made ones, like La La Land, or Sound of Music — or something like that — I think they’re really fun to watch.
But I like all kinds of different movies, as you can see the movies I pick; I don’t get stuck in one genre or the other. Because the key thing always is, are they unique? Are they very entertaining? Are the characters really well written? And is it directed really well and interesting? So it’s all about how do they entertain you and suck you into the story. It’s really what matters.
Of course, I never like to stick to five, so let’s put a sixth one in because that way you have a little bit more and, well, bigger triceps. So we put in Unforgiven. It’s of course also one of those movies. Clint is an idol of mine. I always idolized him since before I came over to America. I loved his Western movies and followed his career very closely, then became friends with him and really admired him. Tremendously skilled as a producer, as a director, the music he does for his movies, the acting, the directing — I mean everything. So he’s really a very solid guy. He developed into a kind of real genius.
Kerr Lordygan for Rotten Tomatoes: And another great movie is Aftermath. It’s a different thing for you — hardcore drama — and it’s very moving. What drew you to it?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I was very much aware of the real story, because I read a lot about that and saw it on television. And then when I got the script about that story and kind of like — not exactly the story, but I mean, based on that story, I thought, “Wow, this is really interesting.” And it was one of the most sought after kind of scripts in Hollywood, and it read well; the character was really well developed.
And I said to myself, “Well, it gives me chance to do something again that I have not been able to do my whole life,” because in most action movies you just move from action to action — not really great character scenes to character scenes, you know? So it’s not written that way, and this movie was really just written that way; where you — from morning to night — you just work on a character and on a scene and then the drama and everything, and that gave me a good opportunity to do something that I haven’t done before. I really enjoyed doing that, challenging myself that way.
And it’s very very tough to do because emotionally, I’m used to doing things physically that are very tough to do, but not emotionally. So you kind of have to really push yourself and give it everything that you got.
RT: Did it come easy for you? To fall in to that dark place?
Schwarzenegger: I wouldn’t say easy; I had to work on it. Because I’ve never had this kind of trauma happen to me, so you really have to kind of get into someone else’s life, in a way. But I think that the locations sometimes are very helpful with that. You go on a crash site where you see dead bodies and all that, on trees, and inside the plane. It gets you into that kind of emotional stage. And also if you sit around body bags in the gymnasium — so it was all acted out or staged so real that when you go in there, when you hang out there long enough, you will get into that emotional state. And so that’s what I did, I was just always working on feeling like that in reality. That upset, that sad, and frustrating, and angry, and being in a state of despair. That’s the key thing.
RT: It’s a hard movie to say that you ‘enjoy’ because there’s not very much light in it at all.
Schwarzenegger: But the interesting thing is I did enjoy the work, because it was different in a way. And it was, in a way, satisfying that, even though you went through some emotional drama throughout the whole day — and if it’s crying, or being upset, or whatever it is, totally lost — at the end of the evening you felt like, “Wow that was really interesting, that I got to that place.” And you enjoy that you actually felt real. That it was real to you at that moment, when you did the scene. There’s something enjoyable about it that you’re able to do it, and in trying to stretch in acting and to do something different.
RT: And you look great; we got to see your butt.
Schwarzenegger: Thank You.
RT: No butt double for you?
Schwarzenegger: No, no. I don’t need one.
RT: No, you don’t.
Aftermath opens on Friday, Apr. 7, 2017 in limited release and On Demand.