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He’ll Be Back

by on January 28, 2011
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Ever since I recently rewatched “Pumping Iron,” I have been haunted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps this is an omen of things to come, a confirmation of his return to acting after serving as the Governor of California.

According to The Huffington Post, the Austrian-American actor is currently reading three scripts, one of which he is considering for his first major comeback role. That film is “With Wings as Eagles” — the true story of a Nazi soldier who saved the lives of the ambushed Americans he was ordered to kill.

Upon hearing this news a few days ago, I was elated. The notion that my childhood hero will indeed “be back” is beyond thrilling. Even more exciting is his plan to plumb the depths of his acting abilities.

“I have to adapt my roles to my age. Extreme fighting or shooting is not possible anymore. I want to be more encouraged as an actor and I believe that I can manage this challenge,” Schwarzenegger said.

He can indeed. But since 1970, Schwarzenegger’s film career has largely been viewed as a joke. To most people, he is nothing more than a hulking machine, spitting testosterone and one-liners. Beneath all that muscle, however, is bracing vulnerability. There is a subtle sensitive side to almost every character he has played.

Three, in particular, come to mind…

Dutch — “Predator” (1987)

Here, Schwarzenegger portrays a military leader who shows genuine respect and affection for the members of his team. He is not afraid to show fear, either. This is evident in a scene in which the team discusses the creature hunting them. Dutch smiles cryptically and says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” In that moment, he is not only referring to the monster, but reminding himself of his own mortality. In lesser hands, that moment would have been a simple display of machismo, but in Schwarzenegger’s, it is haunting and transcendent.

The Terminator — “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

To quote Simon Pegg in “Spaced,” I cried like a child at the end of this movie. When Schwarzenegger’s classic cyborg character reveals the human heart beneath his metal skeleton and says goodbye to the boy he was sent to protect, I just can’t help myself. What makes the moment even more poignant is the fact that it reflects Schwarzenegger’s evolution from a menacing action machine to a sensitive actor. Like the Terminator, there is a tender heart beneath his foreboding exterior.

Harry Tasker — “True Lies” (1994)

In this film, Schwarzenegger plays a secret agent hiding his life of espionage from his average, all-American family. His image as a ruthless spy is really a façade; underneath, he is a loving husband and father.

These films were staples of my childhood — and they continue to influence me today.

“Predator” and “Terminator 2” are pure adrenaline rushes and two of the greatest chase thrillers ever made. “True Lies” is thrilling as well. When I was a kid, I always felt like a super-spy after I watched it. It was as if I couldn’t get out of Schwarzenegger’s shoes and see through my own eyes.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was my Clint Eastwood, the kind of hero I aspired to be. I was, and still am, drawn to the wholesomeness of his action films. (Yes, I just called “Terminator 2” wholesome.) They are great escapes that you can’t help but watch with childlike exuberance. I can’t wait until the day Schwarzenegger delivers on his promise, the day he comes back.