Arnold Schwarzenegger's life is one of superlatives: The best bodybuilder of all time. The biggest box office draw for a time. The most powerful man in the most populous state in the country. His may be the greatest success story on the planet, and he doesn't need to work another day in his life to prove it.
At this point, he's so rich and important, he doesn't even have to shave himself—but he still does. In fact, he stopped a groomer on the set of our shoot and took a straight razor to his own face to neaten up the beard he grew for The Tomb, his upcoming movie with Sylvester Stallone.
After dismissing the shaving lotion we offered him for being "too effeminate"—what were we thinking?—the ultimate man's man and icon talked training, movies, and politics in the world's most imitated accent.
How has the fitness industry changed in your lifetime?
Arnold: Thirty years ago, I could be traveling for a movie and be in a hotel and there would be no gym. Today, nearly every hotel has a workout facility, or there's a place right around the corner. The availability of equipment is much better.
Why is America so fat?
You can't come home and just watch TV or say, "I don't have the energy to cook, so let's just go out and get McDonald's." Not that McDonald's doesn't also have healthy foods, but most of the time people eat the stuff that makes you gain weight—thousand-calorie shakes and malts, and things like that.
When it comes to healthcare reform, we need to give incentives for living healthy. Exercising every day and not smoking should reduce your healthcare costs.
When you see grownups who are obese, their kids are going to be obese.
So what is the solution to the youth obesity crisis in America?
You have to teach kids how to live. My mother started cooking at 4 o'clock. We'd come home from school, do our homework, play soccer, and then eat my mother's food—vegetables, meat, and potatoes. We didn't have a TV set. For as long as parents don't recognize the problem, as long as no one has time to cook, you're going to have this problem.
I also think more money has to be put into physical education programs in schools. I think the food that is being served in most schools today is terrible.
But when I was governor of California, we were the first state to ban soda in schools and junk food in the vending machines.
Action movies used to be considered B movies, and now they're A movies—the bread and butter of the studios. The original action movies that Sly, Bruce Willis, and I did in the '80s were popular because the heroes had muscles and looked believable.
Now there are a lot of capes and tights, which is OK. There's room for both kinds. But that's why The Expendables 2 is coming out. It's for fans who like muscles and guns. There need to be movies with real muscles, real guns, and fight scenes instead of just people flying around with capes on and superpowers.
How do you choose a movie role these days?
It has to be appealing to everyone. It's egotistical to ask myself, "What [role] would be a great challenge?"
A Shakespearean role may be great and maybe I would pull it off, but is it really what people want me to do? I am performing for the people, not myself.
Just like when you're a politician. You do the people's work and not the policy that appeals to you.
That's the way I look at acting because we are using a lot of people's money. You have to bring that money back and be financially responsible.
How did your training evolve throughout your movie career?
It depended on what objective [the director] had for me.
When I did Stay Hungry, Bob Rafelson made me lose 30 pounds. So two-thirds of my training was cardio, and one-third was weight training.
Whereas, when I made Conan the Barbarian, they wanted me to look like a powerful guy who had gotten his body through fighting and hard work. I had to be big and strong but not as defined, so I did heavier training.
In general, after I stopped competing, I started training faster. I would do six sets in a row without stopping. I did higher repetitions. I also do more cardiovascular training now to keep the heart in shape and burn off the fat because the metabolism slows down when you get older.
What is the worst lie ever told about you?
That in 1979 I shared a joint with President Obama.
Because he didn't inhale?
Because he didn't share! [Laughs]
What will set your new autobiography, Total Recall [out this October], apart from the other bios on you?
Readers will get the feeling of what it was like to grow up in Austria after the dreams of the Third Reich had been shattered.
To grow up in an environment where people felt like losers, and then to make it out of there and become the world champion of bodybuilding, making it in the movies when no one could pronounce my name, marrying a Kennedy, and becoming governor.
I'll take them through what working out in Austria was like, and how I developed the
drive and the will and the fire in my belly.
[At this point, Arnold asked us a question.]
Arnold: What's the story with carb back-loading? My assistant was telling me about it, and I didn't understand it
MF: It's a diet strategy created by nutritionist John Kiefer. The idea is to not eat carbs in the early part of the day, and then after you train, load up on carbs. Your muscles will absorb them better.
If you want to have more of a relaxed diet and eat more junk foods without gaining fat, time your carbs later in the day after your training.
Arnold: Franco [Columbu, Arnold's best friend and a fellow bodybuilder] and I, the week before competition, used to go to the House of Pies [in Santa Monica, CA], and eat pies at night. But we did not know what you just said. Instinctively, we just felt like we needed the pie.
Other bodybuilders would say, "You guys are crazy, it's going to smooth you out. You're going to f-k everything up with your diet and lose the competition." But after dieting, we couldn't even think straight. So we would go like an addicted couple and devour our pies just like animals.
They were usually cherry pies. We'd be so happy walking out of there, like we had our fix. But it was always at night, like eight or nine. Now, when you explain it, maybe that's the reason why it didn't have the bad effect that everybody was worried about.
Q And Arnold
The Governator fills in the blanks.
The strangest thing I've ever seen in a gym was...
A cigarette machine and a huge amount of beer mugs. It was the gym I managed in Munich. This was 45 years ago, and nobody talked about how smoking was bad for you.
My best bench press was...
520 pounds. I was 20 and weighed 245.
My worst movie was...
Hercules in New York. There's this political battle over water-boarding at places like Guantanamo Bay.
I think that [the interrogators] should just say, "Hey, if you guys don't talk, you'll have to see Hercules in New York."
I guarantee those guys would talk much faster with that treatment.
My legendary competitiveness...
Has toned down a little bit. When I was young, I wanted to be the king of the world. Today I would be happy with just being president.
The strangest request I ever got from a fan was...
To run away and get married. But he wasn't my type. He was a little too tall. [Laughs]
Some of the movies I've made. On a personal level, I made mistakes that I regret. But my list of regrets is much shorter than the moments I enjoyed.
My big dream now is...
To live forever. But I doubt it.
The hardest thing in life is...
To have a vision. If you see yourself doing certain things, it's easier to work your way up that ladder because you know which ladder to climb. Once you know what you want to do, the how-to material is out there. I was lucky to be born as a person who always had a very clear vision.
America needs to...
Live within its means as a country. We shouldn't be spending a trillion more dollars a year than we take in. We ask ordinary people not to do that, so why is government doing it? We need to invest in our future and rebuild our infrastructure.
We also need green technology. We are destroying our environment with pollution. We need to power our cars without gas and create energy without coal.
I think we need to insure everybody. We have the greatest health-care system, but 48 million people aren't happy with it.
The hardest thing as governor was...
Going to the funerals of the fallen firefighters and cops. Meeting the young wives who had just started a family and meeting their 5-year-old children who would never see their dad again. I don't have tears in my eyes many times, but that does it.
My most satisfying accomplishments were...
The way that we brought the economy back in California before the recession and rebuilding the infrastructure. I also campaigned for stem cell research, and the people approved three billion dollars for it. We're No. 1 in the country for stem cell research.
Then the environmental progress that we made. We're 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We passed historic legislation to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% by 2020.