Athletics metaphors have a way of making their ways into descriptions of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spirit of cooperation in the most collaborative of the arts. Even though the success of his movies frequently relies on his outsize shoulders and outsize name on the marquee, he’s one center and cleanup hitter who understands that the team is mission one.
“Arnold is a team player,” says Sharon Stone, who co-starred with him in director Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall” (1990). “One of the pleasures of working with Arnold is that he knows that the better you do, the better the team does.
“He always encourages everyone to do their best,” Stone continues. “He taught me a lot about how to be a solid professional and how to handle myself, which has been good for me since a great many of the things that have happened to me came after I worked with him. He instilled in me that if everyone does their absolute best, you’ll all make the best picture possible.”
The Austrian-born action star plays tennis on a regular basis with Japan-born Hiro Yamagata, the second highest-selling artist in history (at $1.6 billion) — whose “Earthly Paradise” exhibit will highlight this year’s Governors Ball on Academy Awards night. Yamagata, with whom Schwarzenegger wrote the book “Yamagata,” cannot say enough about his collaborator.
“He is my great friend,” Yamagata says. “We play tennis together whenever we can. He is a fair person, and I respect him. He has a warm heart. He always wants to help people and have them do better. He championed my paintings when I came to America after living in Paris. I don’t forget what he did to introduce my work to others. I feel that I am honored to know him. He is nothing if not considerate.”
Any collaboration with Schwarzenegger — whether that means co-authorship (Arnold has also written books on bodybuilding), Kennedy family duties, charitable involvements, his former post as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports or even making movies — means that compassion is a necessary ingredient.
“I have spent time with him on and off the set, professionally and socially,” says Arnold Kopelson, producer of “Eraser.” “He’s a really warm and caring human being and is considerate of the feelings of everyone around him. I have seen this not only on the set with people working with him as well as children and strangers visiting the making of the movie, I have seen him with his wife and children. It’s a beautiful thing to see, because his screen image is very different from the man I know.”
Sargent Shriver, Schwarzenegger’s father-in-law — Arnold is married to TV personality Maria Shriver — feels that the actor’s great success is all of his own doing.
“He is generous,” Shriver says. “He is highly intelligent, expert in financial matters, expert in artistic taste, open-minded and sensitive to the needs of others. Most of us Americans must be impressed that in addition to all of his specific qualities of character and intelligence, he is a self-made man.”
The wide-body who won his first Mr. Universe title by age 20 and went on to four more, as well as seven Mr. Olympia titles, has made a success of himself in many fields, but the movies, of course, remain the greatest success story.
He moved from bit parts (billed as Arnold Strong in Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” in 1973) to the Golden Globe as Best Newcomer in Films for Bob Rafelson’s “Stay Hungry” (1977) to star of low-budget action hits — “Terminator” (1984), “Raw Deal” (1986) — to bigger-budget films from action aficionadoes Walter Hill, John McTiernan and Verhoeven to broad, children-friendly comedies that reinvented his image.
“As a performer, he’s very, very serious,” says John Irvin, who directed him in “Raw Deal.” “He prepares for a role the way the most conscientious actors do. But the seriousness is not solemn or pious. That’s what makes him so personable and a joy to work with. He does it with a light touch. And he’s under no illusions about his range as an actor.
“He’s very unaffected, unlike a lot of actors. Another thing I particularly admired is that once the film is finished, he gets actively involved in promoting it. A lot of actors withdraw gracefully, so to speak, after the picture is done and you never see them again. He relishes and enjoys promoting a film and the producers love him for that,” Irvin says.
“He has become more professional as an actor, businessman and co-worker,” said John McTiernan, who directed the star in “Predator” (1987) and “The Last Action Hero” (1993). “He’s very sensitive to the people around him and he became more considerate as he became a bigger star, which is rare. The part of him his co-workers see is a man of extraordinary focus and discipline, and he doesn’t multiply work for you with the kind of star indulgences that can do that.
“He’s very funny and has let the person that he is come through the camera. Very few people can do that. It’s part of the essence of being a star.”
Mario Kassar, who was executive producer on three Schwarzenegger movies — “Red Heat” (1987), “Total Recall” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) — feels, like Stone, that the star’s professional comportment is at the center of his success and appeal.
“One thing is for sure, the guy is very focused,” Kassar says. “He knows what he wants and he sets about to get it and he does get it. He’s so professional and prepared, whether it’s a marketing meeting or doing a scene. And you had better be, too. He is logical and has no room for nonsense.
“That doesn’t mean he’s humorless. On the contrary, he’s very gentle and loves amusement. But the great attribute is his ability to focus and get things done.”