BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — After a viewing of “Terminator Genisys” (opening Wednesday), the question arises: What did the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger think when he learned the present-day version of himself would be fighting the young Arnold from back in his world-class bodybuilding period?
During a chat last weekend in a Beverly Hills hotel suite, the iconic actor, popular culture phenomenon and former California governor admitted he had been concerned about that important early scene in “Terminator Genisys.”
“I was wondering, ‘How are they going to do that?’ I wondered about that from the time I first read the script. I loved the concept, but wondered a lot about the mechanics and the technology of how they would pull that off.”
The entertainer, who came to be known as “the Governator” during his time spent running California, explained, “I was basically fighting with a guy who had a really muscular body — a body that looked somewhat similar to mine at that age. He was also very good with stunts, which was also important. He learned all the fight scenes and the moves and he learned how to walk like a Terminator. He was really good.
“Yet, as we did those fight scenes over three or four days of shooting, I still was really wondering, ‘How are they going to do the face replacement, the head replacement? How are they going to make the body look exactly like mine?’ Every body is a little different.
“But when I saw [the completed film] for the first time three weeks ago, I was really blown away. It was flawless. … They literally took a year, with many, many people working on the visual effects. That scene, of me fighting with younger me, was one of the first scenes that we shot, in April or beginning of May of last year. They worked on it this whole past year — and finally just finished it just a few days before I saw it.”
At this stage in his life, with all Schwarzenegger has accomplished, he didn’t need much prodding to return to a franchise he established — and which has been so wildly successful.
The actor and filmmaker admitted, “It’s not like I had to do it. But literally a month after I was finished with my governorship, a phone call came from [producers] Megan and David Ellison, asking me, ‘Would you want to come back as the Terminator? Do you want to come back and do more movies, or are you out of the movie business altogether?’
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I would come back as the Terminator, but the story has to be good.’ Two years later they produced a script that I think was fantastic and so, after a few very minor changes, I said yes. I thought the story was a great idea and had nice twists to it. I like the time travel aspect, and the fact the time line was now different — and I liked the aspect of fighting with myself. The action and emotional rollercoaster was a great ride, so I said, ‘I’m in.’ ”
Since time travel is such a key element to the storyline of “Terminator Genisys,” it seemed appropriate to ask Schwarzenegger where and when he would want to go if time travel was possible for real.
“I definitely would like to go back to the beginning of civilization,” said Schwarzenegger. “Just to see what happened. To be a fly on the wall. Or, I’d like to go back to when the pyramids got built in ancient Egypt. How did they get built? I’m fascinated by all of this. What was the environment like then? What would it have been like in the Roman days, or later in the days of the Vikings? Imagine to be in one of those ships and see how they really came to America. Or how they went to England and went up the River Thames.
“All that stuff is the crazy history I’m intrigued by. Today you can see movies or you can read about it, but I think it would be really fun to time travel to see it firsthand for yourself.”
Before we parted ways, the “elephant in the room” for the former GOP governor had to be: “Do you miss politics?”
Schwarzenegger paused a moment, and then said, “I don’t miss politics so much, but I do miss being a public servant and making decisions to improve the state or the country. It was so much fun. It was exhilarating. It was challenging. It was tiring sometimes. It was frustrating at other times. But it was fantastic.
“It was the favorite job I have ever had. … But I do love being back as the Terminator!”