‘Total Recall’ by Arnold Schwarzenegger
I was pushing all the time, and from the perspectives of Ronda, Anita, and Lynn, the work could be incredibly hectic. We were juggling projects in movies, in real estate, in bodybuilding. I was flying around constantly, schmoozing with people from all walks of life. Everything just nonstop. But they were not average workers with a punch-the-clock mentality. They became like members of my family. They looked out for one another and saw me as a challenge. They would accelerate to my speed, and when I sped up, they sped up.
To me the work didn’t feel intense at all—just normal. You do a movie or a book, you promote the hell out of it, you travel around the world because the world is your marketplace, and in the meantime, you work out and take care of business and explore even more. It was all a joyride, which is why I never thought, “Oh my God, look how much work there is. It’s so much pressure.”
If I heard somebody complaining, “Oh, I work so hard, I put in ten- and twelve-hour days,” I would crucify him. “What the fuck are you talking about, when the day is twenty-four hours? What else did you do?”
When I wanted to know more about business and politics, I used the same approach I did when I wanted to learn about acting: I got to know as many people as I could who were really good at it.
I felt like there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to play both sides: my very outrageous side, wearing motorcycle boots and leather, and my conservative side, with the elegant suit and tie and British wing-tip shoes. I wanted to feel comfortable in both worlds.
“Now that studios are coming to me,” I said to myself, “what if I go all out? Really work on the acting, really work on the stunts, really work on whatever else I need to be onscreen. Also market myself really well, market the movies well, promote them well, publicize them well. What if I shoot to become one of Hollywood’s top five leading men?”
People were always talking about how few performers there are at the top of the ladder, but I was always convinced there was room for one more. I felt that, because there was so little room, people got intimidated and felt more comfortable staying on the bottom of the ladder. But, in fact, the more people that think that, the more crowded the bottom of the ladder becomes! Don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty. Even though it’s harder to get there, that’s where you belong and where there’s less competition.
You have to practice each move thirty, forty, fifty times until you get it. From the bodybuilding days on, I learned that everything is reps and mileage. The more miles you ski, the better a skier you become; the more reps you do, the better your body. I’m a big believer in hard work, grinding it out, and not stopping until it’s done, so the challenge appealed to me.
He knew everyone’s name and made it very clear that you couldn’t fuck with him or cheat. Don’t ever think you’ll get away with it. He’d scream at you and punish you publicly and make a scene, all the while using precise terminology that made the lighting guy feel, “This guy knows more about lights than I do. I’d better do exactly as he says.” It was an education for someone like me, who does not pay attention to such details.
Whenever I finished filming a movie, I felt my job was only half done. Every film had to be nurtured in the marketplace. You can have the greatest movie in the world, but if you don’t get it out there, if people don’t know about it, you have nothing. It’s the same with poetry, with painting, with writing, with inventions. It always blew my mind that some of the greatest artists, from Michelangelo to van Gogh, never sold much because they didn’t know how. They had to rely on some schmuck—some agent or manager or gallery owner—to do it for them. Picasso would go into a restaurant and do a drawing or paint a plate for a meal. Now you go to these restaurants in Madrid, and the Picassos are hanging on the walls, worth millions of dollars. That wasn’t going to happen to my movies. Same with bodybuilding, same with politics—no matter what I did in life, I was aware that you had to sell it.
As Ted Turner said, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.”
Many actors get their cues from the marketing department, but I wanted it directly from the viewers, without the interpretation.
once you pick a director, you have to have total faith in him. If you question everything he does, then you will have nothing but struggles and fights.
No one gets up in the morning and says, “I’m going to be difficult today,” or “I’m going to derail the movie,” or “I’m going to be a bitch.” People just have their hang-ups and insecurities, and acting definitely brings them out.
“You being funny with your accent is twice as big a deal as me being funny. They expect me to be funny!”
if you’re doing standup, nothing has to tie together at all. First, you make a few jokes about whatever’s in the news, like Jay Leno does. Then you pick some people in the audience and work them over, and you make sure to throw in some jokes on yourself to take the curse off the fact that you’re making fun of other people.
The White House always made the mistake of appointing big sports names, but not people who had a record of getting the job done or had the ability to follow through. You needed an athlete or idol, yes, but someone who would do the work, not just sit on the throne. I had a clear vision of what had to be done. And by this time, I was addicted to public service, especially doing things for kids. It had nothing to do with fame anymore.
It all sounded great in the script, and it was doable—just a matter of reps, reps, reps. But the preparation was pure pain and discomfort.
I told him what was in my gut: “I came to America because it’s the greatest place in the world, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep it the greatest place. For that to happen, we can’t have schmucks running for president or hanging out at the White House. We need good leaders, and we need to move the agenda forward and have it be the same in the states and the same in the cities. So I always want to make sure that I vote for the right person and that I campaign for the right person. I need to know what they stand for, how they’ve voted in the past, how did they represent their state, were they great leaders, and all those kinds of things.”
I thought about what I had that those kids didn’t. I grew up poor too. But I had a fire inside of me to succeed and two parents who pushed me and taught me discipline. I had a strong public school education. I had after-school sports with coaches and training partners who were role models. I had mentors who told me, “You can do it, Arnold,” and then made me believe it. They were around me twenty-four hours a day, supporting me and making me grow.
But how many inner-city kids had those tools? How many learned the discipline and determination? How many got the encouragement that would let them even glimpse their self-worth?
o matter what you do in life, you have to have a business mind and educate yourself about money. You can’t just delegate it to a manager and tell him, “Half has to stay locked in investments so that we can pay the taxes, and I’ll keep the other half.” My goal was to get rich and stay rich. I never wanted to have the phone call where the manager says, “Something went wrong with the investment. We can’t pay our taxes.” I wanted to know the details.
We understood each other so well by then that I gave him just a few instructions. The first was my old motto: “Take one dollar and turn it into two.” I wanted big investments that were interesting, creative, and different. Conservative bets—the kind that would generate 4 percent a year, say—didn’t interest me. Offshore corporations and other gimmicks didn’t interest me; I was proud to pay taxes on the money I earned. The more we paid the better, in fact, because it showed I was making more money.
I also wasn’t interested in the investments that often attracted Hollywood business managers, such as trendy hotels and clubs. I could tolerate big risks in exchange for big returns, and I would want to know as much as possible about what was going on.
I always told Ronda and Lynn, “Never share my calendar with anybody,” and I would tell Maria only a few days in advance. I’m a person who does not like to talk about things over and over. I make decisions very quickly, I don’t ask many people for opinions, and I don’t want to think too many times about the same thing. I want to move on.