The Rise & Fall Of Arnold Schwarzenegger
make Hollywood tons of money, you can get away with many things, but crossing
certain lines (as Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen have recently learned) can take
any successful name to the point of no return and Arnold Schwarzenegger is the
latest big name about to discover this and more so since his film career was in
decline and he is also a political figure with a marriage tie to one of the
most powerful, famous, beloved and successful political families of all time.
arrived on the pop culture scene via his bodybuilding success and in
documentary films like Pumping Iron,
Lou Ferrigno was actually the most successful bodybuilder in pop culture
playing The Incredible Hulk on the
highly successful TV series. Older
stereotypes of bodybuilding (too numerous to list) still prevailed and even
after Schwarzenegger’s success, many still prevailed.
considered the icon of the masculine Reagan 1980s, that was actually a title
that first belonged to Sylvester Stallone as Rocky served as a precursor for many mindless 1980s films and other
shallow projects, political and otherwise.
Back then, Schwarzenegger was still doing TV movies and small roles in
other films. It was the 1982 Conan The Barbarian that showed he
could be a box office star and carry a film, though being in a project written
and directed by John Milius at that filmmaker’s peak did not hurt. However, Schwarzenegger returned for the
horrid sequel Conan The Destroyer
and it was a big dud, smack in the middle of the Reagan’s Presidency and the
same year James Cameron turned things around for Schwarzenegger with the first Terminator film.
was still not big box office yet or a big star.
Conan spin-off Red Sonja (1985) was another mistake,
but Commando the same year was another hit.
Raw Deal (1986) should have
worked a little better and been a bigger hit, but it showed the potential of
his tough guy attitude translating well on screen, then was quickly followed by
the first Predator in 1987, which
also saw The Running Man do
business. Hollywood then expected Red Heat (Walter Hill’s Cold War transplant of his 1982 hit 48 HRS) to be a huge hit, but it
tanked. Schwarzenegger was at a
crossroads and it was the final year of the Reagan Presidency.
Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator
2 and True Lies all followed,
establishing him as the top box office star and though he would still have duds
(Last Action Hero, Junior), it seemed as if he would be a
huge star for many years to come.
However, his core action fans were not happy with Last Action Hero and this hurt the box office of the underwhelming Eraser.
Jingle All The Way was as
idiotic as anything he had done before and did not go over well with anyone,
but the biggest mistake of all was playing Mr. Freeze (a role originally
offered to Patrick Stewart, who was not able to get out of his contract in the
best luck he ever had) in the horrendous Batman
& Robin (1997) and the result was permanent damage to his action credentials
and core audience.
he made his best film in years with End
Of Days, a Peter Hyams-directed supernatural thriller Hyams took over at
the last minute and was the best Schwarzenegger film since True Lies, but audiences stayed away and two pricey duds in The 6th Day and Collateral Damage followed, showing he
had lost his some of his core audience permanently. Collateral
Damage suffered the additional problem of being delayed due to the events
of 9/11/01 and could not be salvaged.
hurrah came with Terminator 3, his
first big blockbuster since True Lies,
but Cameron was not on board and though some people liked it, as many were
disappointed and that left Schwarzenegger doing the cameos that he started his
career with, but in lesser films and they were an aside to being elected
Governor of California.
the brink of Hollywood turning to him for big box office and some kind of
comeback (sitting on projects ranging from more Terminator films to a Westworld
remake to a possible, horrid-sounding Junior
sequel) he has a nightmare scandal that runs contrary to much of what made his
myth and box office possible, including honesty, integrity and Neo-Conservative
integrity. All this happening as the
country is changing direction, Bin Laden is gone, Neo-Conservatism imploding
slowly before our eyes and the project Schwarzenegger’s career ideologically
(the hard body is better than the soft one and it could have “won” us the
Vietnam fiasco) shot down by the elimination of Bin Laden (no Vietnam Syndrome
in that success) means his scandal (still unfolding and progressively uglier
each day) could not have arrived with timing that is much worse than it is now.
Even if one
of the better projects for him to do surfaces (a True Lies sequel, another End
Of Days-type thriller, a comedy that might actually be funny?), the party
is over. He was already losing audience
years ago and succeeded by different kinds of action stars (which explains why
Dwayne “The Rock’ Johnson has so few hits, a bad copy of a one-of-a-kind
figure) and Stallone (despite so many bombs) has now outlasted Schwarzenegger
in the genre.
risk a few hundred million on a film with a star who might have more scandal to
hide? Why would audiences tolerate a
star who has taunted them for decades as if he was invulnerable to criticism or
rules after what he has done and with how bad things are in the country right
now? Whether realized subconsciously or
explicitly, the man who represented the 1980s supposed integrity, high living
and out of control mentality now is more of a shocking mirror reflection of its
failures, lies, excesses and immorality (which is especially bad when it is the
ideology overdoing it on preaching such) than anyone could have expected when
he first arrived on the scene.
might make more films, but it will never be the same. Now its really, really, really, really
personal (to paraphrase the hype ad on the second Terminator film) and it is not compatible with spending $12 a movie
theater ticket and suspending one’s disbelief for a few hours when you see the
same man for free obsessively on the small screen over things he knows he
should have never done.
irony of all is that a new Conan
franchise arrives a few months after the scandal breaks and even has some buzz
going for it, while a new Total Recall
is being made. Unless the kind of
filmmakers who helped make him a big star (Cameron, Paul Verhoeven) can work
some kind of miracle, which would only yield a temporary reprieve, Schwarzenegger
might be back but few will really care and spend their money on actors and
stars who respect their integrity and time.
Hasta La Vista Baby indeed.