Arnie’s career is inexplicable. His first Hollywood movie, Hercules in New York, is about as bad as it gets. Both its plot and lead actor are unintelligible, and the result is laughable. If you showed someone this movie and said that the lead actor, a giant, muscle-bound foreigner would go on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest names, and eventually the governor of California, they would laugh in your face.
Even now (after his reign in Hollywood has largely culminated) there is something incomprehensible about him. How did we accept that this man could play an American cop? He has a broad Austrian accent, and the physique of a body builder, yet no one ever mentions that in his movies. No one ever says, “Hey Arnie, what’s with the accent, and do you work out seven hours a day, or what?”
My answer is simply that it comes down to charm. Arnie is a compelling guy. He imbues a certain likability to his characters with a goofiness that an actor like Sylvester Stallone isn’t capable of pulling off. In a lot of his roles, there is a slight, winking knowledge to just how insane his role in film is, and a nodding sense of how much fun he is having at being a movie star.
And there is a sweet spot to any Schwarzenegger role. If he veers too far into comedy, it falls apart (see Junior and Jingle All the Way), but if he tries anything a little darker (see End of Days and Collateral Damage), it doesn’t hold up. However, if you put him in something in which he can run around, shoot guns, make quips, and finally save the day, then you’re going to be happy, and the sweetest spots are when you can pair him with director James Cameron, because if Arnie is remembered for anything it will be as the merciless, unstoppable Terminator, the 1984 role that certified him as a movie star, and made for my dad’s favorite movie of all time, and as such was a staple of my youth (that is, until T2 came out to replace it).
So why is Arnie a Cinema Saint? Because he’s my hero. When I was young in England, and the weather was shitty, and there was nothing else to do, I would watch movies. And my parents indulged my movie love, without worrying about ratings and letting me watch whatever I wanted (within reason, obviously), so I watched movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and and I memorized them word-for-word, and I always had faith that Arnie would save the day, and he always did.
Finally, it’s wonderful to see now that Arnie is using his stature and movie career to forward some great projects like After School All-Stars, a charity that sets up after school programs in at-risk communities. And also, how can you not love a man who does this: