Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story
Do you think you know about Arnold Schwarzenegger? While you may know him as the star behind the Terminator movies, or as the famous Hollywood actor, did you also know that Schwarzenegger was born and raised in Austria? Did you know that he was a professional bodybuilder before he became a movie star? In this book, you will learn more about Schwarzenegger and his secret to success. How he became a multi-award-winning bodybuilder, a top-grossing actor, and later on, a two-term governor of California. This book will explain how Schwarzenegger was able to achieve all these accomplishments. Schwarzenegger is more than the face behind the Terminator. He is also a family man and a leader with strong determination. In this book, you will learn a lot from Schwarzenegger himself and about his action-packed life story.
Out of Austria
I was born in Austria in the year 1947. Hitler had just been defeated in the war. The citizens were afraid that we would be invaded by the Soviet Union. There were many years of famine. My father and mother sacrificed a lot to raise me and my older brother, Meinhard, who was one year older than me. We grew up in a rural farm village. My father was a police officer and my mother was a housewife. We lived in a small house with two bedrooms and a kitchen. It was in the kitchen that we ate, did our homework, and bathed. Mother took care of our home. She used to go from village to village to collect our food. She foraged for grain, sugar, and butter.
Father was a big, muscular guy. Meinhard and I would often help him to shovel coal outside our home because we needed to store enough for winter. I grew up in the time of the Cold War when many Austrian citizens wanted to seek refuge in America. Meinhard and I often went to the movie theatres in the city: the first film we saw was Tarzan. We were amazed by it and watched the film several times. In my eyes, it was as though Tarzan would swing out of the screen right at us. I was very amazed at how Tarzan could move from tree to tree and communicate with wild animals.
I bought movie tickets from the money I earned through my little business ventures. When I was 10 years old, I made money selling ice cream by the lake. I saw many people buying ice cream from a stand and discovered that I could buy one dozen ice cream pops for only one shilling. Then, I would walk along the lake and sell them for 3 shillings each. It was nice at the lake park. People would come there to rest, play sports, or swim. The ice cream businessman took a liking to me.
He would lend me a cooler to keep my ice cream cold. In one afternoon, I could make 150 shillings (around $6.00). Afterward, I would go to the movies with my brother. As a 10-year-old, I knew that I was meant for bigger things. I had dreams of going to America. I told my plans to anyone who would listen. I shared my dreams with my family, my neighbors, and my teachers. One day at the bus stop, an older girl was waiting beside me. I told her, “I‘m going to America someday.”She just smirked at me and said, “Yeah, sure, Arnold.”But I did. I reached my dreams and I couldn’t be more proud.
Building a Body
Our history teacher often assigned us newspaper articles to write our reviews on. It was a fateful day when he gave me the sports section. It was there I saw the awesome picture of Mr. World. His name was Kurt Marnul; he had just made a record on the bench press for lifting 190 kilograms. I became friends with the lake lifeguard, Willi. One day, I saw him doing push-ups and he asked me if I wanted to try. Willi was friends with a group of weightlifters and bodybuilders. At first, bodybuilding was like a game to me, but as I got older I became more serious. When Willi and his friends went to Vienna for the World Weightlifting Championship, I tagged along. There I saw Mr. World, Kurt Marnul in person.
He showed off his amazing physique, which inspired me. What further ignited my passion for bodybuilding was seeing the movie ‘Hercules and the Captive Women. Willi told me that the leading man in the film was Reg Park, Mr. Universe. At age 15, I started my formal training at the gym. Willi was friends with Kurt Manual. One day, he told me that Mr. World himself was hanging out by the lake. It was so amazing to see my idol in person! He was kind and looked cool and he always had a beautiful woman by his side. I spent more time with my older friends, who became my mentors. That is common at the gym; older guys become like brothers, training the younger ones. We always shared bodybuilding magazines where we learned how to train, what to eat and how to further build our muscles.
I was very inspired by American magazines. Often, there were photos of bodybuilders posing at Muscle Beach, California. They showed off their great bodies, flexed their muscles, and did their signature poses. What was more, was that bodybuilders always seemed to be surrounded by sexy women in bathing suits. I also read the life story of Hercules’ Reg Park in these magazines. He was from a poor family in England. He got into bodybuilding and with hard work, Reg eventually became Mr.Universe. With his rising fame, Reg was cast as Hercules. He became a millionaire and lived in Rome with his beautiful wife.
At 15 years old, I already had a solid dream: bodybuilding will be my ticket to America. First, I would train to become Mr. Universe. Then I could go to America and be a movie star like Reg Park. I saw it very clearly in my mind. Because of that, I had extreme focus and dedication. I knew what I wanted to do and where I was headed. I worked hard to realize my goal.
I went to Munich to work as a gym trainer at the Universum Sport Studio. As a kid from a farm village, I was amazed by the huge city. Munich was full of activity. There were many hotels, shops, restaurants, and commercial buildings. People from all over Europe were there. I was already 19 years old and had served for a couple of years in the army. In the gym, I was able to train men of various occupations; cops, businessmen, construction workers, entertainers, athletes, and others. I met Germans, Americans, and other nationalities. I became close friends with bodybuilders like me. My friends and I help to train each other. We would help one another to weight lift and improve our bodies.
I had to work 8 hours a day, so to develop my own body, I woke up early in the morning to train. I would work out for two hours before work and two hours after work. If there were fewer customers, I would work out for 30 minutes during my lunch break. Most bodybuilders join Mr. Austria first, then Mr. Europe before trying for the title of Mr. Universe. But I couldn’t wait that long – I made myself ready for the huge competition of Mr. Universe. I signed up straight for Mr. Universe which would be held in London in two months. I developed this technique called “shocking the muscle”. One thing aspiring bodybuilders should know is that our muscles adjust so easily. If you keep on lifting every day, even if you add more and more weight, your muscles will increase in endurance.
You can surprise them by lifting ultra-heavy weights. As a result, your muscles will become stronger and more durable. I made it to London in 1966 for Mr. Universe. I had little money in my pocket. All my belongings fit into one gym bag. When I saw the other contestants, I was intimidated. Their bodies seemed more defined than mine. But I was already there and there was no backing out. The competition was held at Victoria Palace Theatre. Each contestant had to impress a panel of judges. We would stand in groups of two and pose our bodies, highlighting each of our body parts. We were given numbers pinned to our posing briefs. For example, the judges will call “Number 8 and Number 14, please step forward and show us your quadriceps.” Then the judges would compare and deliberate.
As the day went on, I realized that I had overestimated my competition. I was the tallest among all the contestants. I became more confident with my own body. Somehow, in the evening, word got around that there was this tall teenager with a weird name who had big potential. The contest came down to me and an American named Chester Yorton. He won Mr. Universe that year, but many people predicted that next year I would win. When I returned to Munich, I realized what if I went to London not just to join the competition, but to win? What if I trained harder with my eyes on the goal? After all, it was Chester and not me who won the trophy.
From that day on, I swore that I would go back, not just to compete, but to take home the prize. I had a clear image in my head of me at center stage posing as Mr. Universe.“Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!”It felt so good to hear people shouting my name when I finally won the title of Mr. Universe in 1967. It was just as good as I imagined. I went up against bodybuilders from India, Mexico, Jamaica, Scotland, South Africa, and other countries. When I finally won Mr. Universe I couldn’t have been more thankful. Because of my achievement, more customers came to train in our gym. I walked around the Munich streets in my posing briefs. It certainly paid off, because the number of our gym members doubled that year.
At that point, I asked myself, how will I finally get to America? I thought that if I could win Mr. Universe again in 1968, I would dominate the bodybuilding scene in Europe. And that is exactly what I did. I trained harder than ever. I worked out 5 hours every day, 6 days a week. I didn’t let anything or anyone distract me from my goal. When I won Mr. Universe again, I was all over the bodybuilding magazines in Europe. There was a photo of me carrying a sexy lady on my left arm and flexing my biceps on my right arm. I also received a telegram that changed my life.
The telegram was from Joe Weider. He was like the Hugh Hefner of bodybuilding; he owned all the popular muscle magazines. Joe invited me to compete in the Mr. Universe competition in America. He offered me an all-expense paid trip. I was going to see New York for the first time – my dream was finally coming true. The contest was held in Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, I lost. The night of the competition, I felt frustrated; Joe Weider himself had brought me to America and I disappointed him. I had no money, only my small gym bag.
I didn’t know how I would get back to Munich. The next morning, Joe Weider called my room and invited me downstairs for an interview. He told me he wanted to put me on the cover of his magazine. I shared my life story with him. After my interview, Joe told me that I should stay in America and that he wanted to become my training coach. He said that I should join the Mr. Universe America competition again the next year. Joe offered to cover all the costs for my car and apartment so that I could concentrate solely on my training.“You’re going to be the best.” Joe told me. From then on, more doors opened for me. I started a new life in America.
Joe Weider ran his stories about me. He wrote articles about my training, my progress, and my daily routine. It was he who introduced me to the world of filmmaking. I was 22 years old at the time. Joe met the producers of Hercules in New York. They were looking for a bodybuilder for the lead role. The producers were supposed to get Mr. America, Dennis Tinerino for the role. But Joe knew how to sell me, he convinced the producers that I was their guy. Joe bragged that I won Mr. Universe three times. Somehow, though I could only speak a few English words, I landed the job. After that, I starred in the bodybuilding movies ‘Stay Hungry’ and ‘Pumping Iron.
Meanwhile, I met the love of my life in New York in the year 1977. I was invited to attend the Robert Kennedy Celebrity Tennis Tournament. It was held at the NBC Building. I met Tom Brokaw, NBC’s late-night news anchor. Then I met Ted Kennedy, the senator of Massachusetts. It was incredible being in a television studio and meeting one of the most prominent families in the US. But it just got better. Tom asked me if I had come alone. When I said yes, he immediately called out for Maria. Maria Kennedy-Shriver worked as a news reporter for NBC. I found her very attractive. She had this beautiful long black hair.
She liked to laugh and she radiated this positive energy around her. Maria had a good personality which made me want to be with her all the time. I also met Eunice, Maria’s mother. The first thing that I said to Eunice was “Your daughter has a great ass.” It was just the thought that was running through my head. Luckily, Eunice wasn’t offended. She just told me, “That’s very nice.”It was a fun night. Maria and I danced. I also met a few more distinguished people, like the singer Diana Ross and US Vice President Walter Mondale. It wasn’t a tournament, the tennis match was for charity. When the event was done, Maria and her cousin, Caroline invited me to Hyannis Port.
Hyannis Port is actually where the Kennedy family compound is located. I told them that all I had with me were my tennis shorts. But Maria and Caroline were persistent. I found myself meeting the rest of the family. I sailed and swam with the Kennedy cousins. I even met their grandmother, Rose Kennedy. Of course, all while wearing my tennis shorts.
I got signed up for the Conan the Barbarian film series. I also became an official American citizen. Around this time, I was already making $1 million for the second Conan movie and discovered that this was what I wanted to do – be a movie star. Mr. Universe Reg Park opened his gym after starring in one Hercules movie. He didn’t make a career out of acting. But I thought, what if I do more? What if I work on my acting more and become one of Hollywood’s top leading men? I knew that I couldn’t be a dramatic actor like Dustin Hoffman or a comedian like Steve Martin. But after being cast as Hercules and Conan, I figured I could be a larger-than-life character just like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.
When I realized this, I felt at peace. Again, I visualized it clearly in my mind. I believed 100% that I would be Mr. Universe and it happened. This time, I saw myself clearly as a successful Hollywood actor. And I knew that if I believed it, if I could see it, then I could achieve it. I had doubts about the Terminator project when it was first presented to me. The Terminator is the villain of the movie. He only speaks a few lines. But the director James Cameron convinced me to do it. It was 1983. I was supposed to play the role of the leading man, Kyle Reese, who is a brave soldier.
The Terminator is a killer robot. He came from the future which is the year 2029, the world had already been dominated by computers. Terminators are created to wipe out all of the human race. A group of humans created a huge resistance movement, led by a man named John Connor. The Terminator was sent back in time to hunt down Sarah Connor, John’s mother, and kill her before she gives birth to John. The Terminator chases Sarah in the present time. Her only hope is Kyle Reese. Kyle is a loyal member of the resistance movement. He slipped through the portal before it was closed. Kyle’s mission is to save Sarah so that John Connor will live. He wants to stop the Terminator once and for all.
James Cameron, the film’s director, was the brain behind this story. I met him for lunch one day and found myself talking about the killer robot. I told James that the actor who would play the Terminator should train hard. He shouldn’t blink when he shoots a gun because he is a machine. When he loads bullets, he should not even be looking at the gun. I told him that when the Terminator kills, his face must be blank. The robot should not have any emotion. There must be no trace of joy or victory on his face. He doesn’t blink, he doesn’t think, he just does what needs to be done. Suddenly, Cameron said, “Arnold, why don’t you become the Terminator?”I declined, but he was persistent. Cameron said that it seemed as if I was already into the character and was more interested in the Terminator than in my role as Kyle Reese. He thought I would be great on screen. I had concerns about the role being challenging, but James reminded me it was the title role, and he made me imagine my face on every movie poster.
Just because the Terminator is the villain doesn’t mean that he is evil. He could even be seen as the hero. What made the difference is how I would play it. The Terminator, after all, is a machine. It is not good, nor is it evil. James saw that I was passionate about the character. He said that I would be remembered as the Terminator. The film was released right before Halloween in 1984. The Terminator had the number one spot on the movie charts for six weeks, for which it grossed $100 million. It was so incredible. When I walked the streets of New York, people began to recognize me and call me the Terminator.
Marriage and Movies
Things were going well with me and Maria. I became a top-grossing actor and she was also soaring in her career. Maria became the co-anchor of CBS Morning News. We decided to get married in 1986. I was 37 years old and she was 30. It was funny because two days before the wedding I was in the middle of the jungle in Mexico. I was shooting for the movie Predator. I asked my producer if we could postpone the filming for a few weeks to give time for my marriage preparations. But he said we could not, the rainy season was coming and it could ruin the whole film. I chartered a jet plane for the first time in my life just to arrive on time for my wedding. Nevertheless, it was all worth it. Maria and I were married in the church near the Kennedy compound. She was very beautiful that day.
Everything went in slow motion as I watched her walk down the aisle. More than her grand wedding dress, what made Maria lovelier was her smile. She looked very happy and she made everyone else feel it, too. Something hilarious happened in the middle of our wedding ceremony. Just as Maria and I were about to say “I do”, the door of the church suddenly opened. Everything stopped. We all turned around to see what was happening. The man who interrupted my wedding was none other than Andy Warhol, the famous visual artist and also my good friend. He came with Grace Jones in tow who was wearing an elegant green dress and a green fur hat. Maria and I were just so happy that Andy and Grace made it.
Meanwhile, I made it my target to double my salary for each new film. For the most part, I became successful. For the first Conan film (1980), I made $250,000. The Terminator (1984) gained me $750,000. Conan the Destroyer (1984) was $1 million, while Commando (1985) was at $1.5 million. For the Predator (1987), I made $3 million, Running Man (1987) was $5 million, and Total Recall (1990) was at $10 million. I learned that the more money you bring into Hollywood, the more money you will get back. One secret of my top-grossing films was the humor. I made sure that there were punchlines and funny one-liners in between the action-packed scenes. That was so the viewers will be relaxed after the breath-taking fights and chases.
There was one scene in the Terminator where the killer robot is repairing its own body. Suddenly, a janitor knocks on the door. The janitor says, “Hey pal, you got a dead cat there, or what?” The audience saw the Terminator choosing his response. He selected YES, NO, WHAT, GO AWAY, PLEASE COME BACK LATER, F YOU, and F YOU A-HOLE. The Terminator selects the very last one. The janitor just ran away. It made the audience think I would shoot the guy or knock him dead. I chose the last response to make the audience laugh out loud every time.
Maria and I were blessed with four beautiful children. We have two girls and two boys. Their names are Katherine, Christina, Christopher, and Patrick. I made sure to spend time with them, despite my busy schedule. I would often take my kids to the movie set or the gym. We went on hiking, skiing, and fishing trips. We celebrated every Halloween with full costumes. There was one time when Maria dressed up as the Terminator. There was a picture of me kissing her while she was wearing the actual Terminator mask from the set. When I was growing up in Austria, my father said that we should not talk at the dining table. When it was time to eat, we should focus on our food. But I changed that tradition with my kids. I made it a point that at every dinner we share what happened in our day.
I was happily married with four kids. I became a successful bodybuilder and movie actor. I was already in my fifties, but it seemed that life had more to offer me. People liked to joke about me entering politics. The former governor of California, Pete Wilson once held a council dinner in 1994. In front of everybody, he said “I’d like to see you become governor, Arnold. It’s pretty much the same as your role in Kindergarten Cop.” It made everyone laugh. Ronald Reagan was also a Hollywood actor before he became president of the US. Some would like me to run for the presidency, but that is not possible because the Constitution requires that the president should be a natural-born US citizen.
I like the idea more of becoming a governor than being a congressman or a senator. If you are a governor, you are the captain of your ship, you are the main decision maker. Congressmen and senators, meanwhile, have to share the work with their colleagues. I take pride in my adopted state of California. Its land area is bigger than several countries. The population of 38 million is four times that of Austria. Our economy is worth $1.9 trillion. The people are so diverse that we have over 100 languages. I also take pride in California being the home of the geniuses and billionaires of Silicon Valley. However, the tech bubble burst in 2000.
California’s economy went into a dive. There was also a widespread power shortage. Blackouts happened across the state. There was also a huge budget deficit. These were only some of the challenges I faced as a governor. In January 2001, I made my New Year’s Resolution. I reflected on myself. Should I explore being a producer or a director, like Clint Eastwood? Should I explore being a visual artist since I found out how much I love painting? I was filming for Terminator 3 at the time. At that point, nothing seemed more important to me than running as governor of California in 2002. I wrote it on the top of my list.
People started calling me the Governator. I didn’t have experience in politics. I wasn’t a mayor or anything, I just wanted to bring change to the state of California. I belonged to the Republican political party, which means that I have a more conservative view. I became friends with fellow Republicans like John McCain and George W. Bush. The people re-elected me in 2006 and I stepped down as governor in 2010.
As soon as I was out of politics I went back to making movies. I came back with the film ‘Expendables’ which I co-starred with my good friends Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. I want to be an inspiration to people. I know that I am not perfect, but I want to share some of my principles to help others. These valuable ideas not only came from me, but also from the successful people that I met throughout my life. The first one is to make the most out of every day. Each day has 24 hours. The best way to spend it is with productivity. One day, I gave a lecture to the students of the University of California. One young man raised his hand and asked about the increase in tuition fees.
The young man complained that a college education is simply unaffordable. He told me that he needed more financial aid. He also said that he needed to work part-time to cover the fees. I asked him what was wrong with having a part-time job. He replied that he needed more time to study. So I asked him how much time he spent in class. He said that his class schedule is three hours every day, and then he needed another three hours for self-study. That was six hours. I asked him what he did with the remainder of his time. I suggested to him that he has plenty of time for class and a part-time job. He should spend more time studying and working rather than going out with friends and dating girls. There was nothing for him to complain about.
The second principle is to never blame your parents. You may have had a tough upbringing. Maybe your childhood was unhappy. Maybe your parents were too strict or unsupportive. Maybe they weren’t around when you were growing up. But you cannot blame them for what is happening to you now. It is your life. The problems you have are yours to solve. It may be that you grew up in poverty or you experienced child abuse. Remember this: you can change your life. You are an adult and you are in control. You can make new experiences for yourself and your children. I didn’t blame my father for being too strict. I didn’t get mad at him for being unsupportive of my bodybuilding. He used to ridicule me. He used to hit me and tell me that my gym training was garbage. He told me that I should do something more useful with my time, like chopping wood.
Instead of being negative, I used these painful experiences as my motivation. I told myself that it didn’t matter what my father thought, I loved bodybuilding and I had a goal. Nothing could stop me from achieving my goal. The third principle is to stay hungry. Stay hungry for success, self-improvement, and for living a better life. If you have reached your goal, go and make a new one. Don’t be like former athletes who talk about their achievements twenty years ago. Always do more. Bono, the frontman of the band U2, started as a musician. After earning millions, he became a music producer. Then he became an AIDS advocate. He has led many charities and non-government initiatives.
Donald Trump is from a wealthy family. But he managed his inheritance well and got 10 times the return. My father-in-law, Sarge Kennedy, traveled around the world until the day he died. He always looked for new experiences in life. You’ll have lots of time to rest when you die. While you’re still breathing, do everything you love, spend time with the people you value the most, and be a blessing to others.
You learned the life story of Arnold Schwarzenegger. You learned about his secret to success which is having a clear goal. When he wanted to be Mr. Universe, he saw himself standing on the pedestal and winning the trophy. When he wanted to be a movie star, he visualized himself as one of the best in Hollywood. When he wanted to be a governor, he wrote it as his number one goal. Arnold Schwarzenegger trained hard and worked hard. He became a great bodybuilder, a big movie star, and an admired governor. You can achieve many things in life, as well. Make the most out of every day. Take control and live your life to the fullest.