Arnold biking at 75. / Instagram
Arnold Schwarzenegger is 75. He’s not holding much back anymore. The 7-time Mr. Olympia opened up in a profile in the April issue of The Atlantic magazine under the title “Arnold’s Last Act.” That article’s writer followed Arnold through a workout in Gold’s Gym Venice and all the way to the Auschwitz museum in Poland. Five revealing topics are addressed in the following excerpts. To read the entire article, go here.
ON HIS AGING BODY
“They play Pumping Iron in a loop in some of the gyms,” Schwarzenegger told me, grinning at the idea of his souped-up old self still presiding over the pretenders. We all get soft and dilapidated, but it cuts much harder when you’ve been “celebrated for years for having the best-developed body,” as he put it. “You get chubby. You get overweight, you get older and older.” Just imagine, he added wistfully, “the change I saw.”
ON BIGGER CHALLENGES
He felt alienated by the complacency of his boyhood friends: They aspired to a government job with a pension, maybe; church on Sunday; the usual. “I say to myself, Are we really just clowns? And just do the same fucking things as the guy before? … And I’m like, What the fuck? I better get out of here.” Standing on a stage in South Africa [in 1980] after winning Mr. Olympia yet again, Schwarzenegger felt the same old restlessness. “I looked around and said to myself, I’ve got to get out of this.” He charged into showbiz and became similarly huge, making $35 million a film at his peak. “But then I outgrew that,” he said, mentioning Terminator 3, which brought in a burly $433 million at the box office in 2003. “And somehow I feel like I was standing on that stage again in South Africa.” Next? Politics!
ON FATHERING A CHILD WITH HIS HOUSEKEEPER
[U]pon leaving Sacramento [where he was California’s governor], Schwarzenegger was greeted by scandal. He admitted to fathering a son in the 1990s with Mildred Patricia Baena, a family housekeeper for 20 years. Mildred and Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, had been in the house pregnant with his children at the same time.
After the story came out, Schwarzenegger retrenched for a while, tried to repair relations with his five kids, including his no-longer-secret teenage son, Joseph Baena. He and Shriver tried marriage counseling. It did not suit him, and it did not save the marriage. “I think I went two or three times,” Schwarzenegger told me. He dismissed the therapist as a “schmuck” who was “definitely on her side.” He admitted that he’d “fucked up” but did not believe the situation required any deeper exploration. “The fucking weenie gets hard and I fucking lose this brain and this happened,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest mistakes that so many successful people make, you know, so what am I going to say?”
ON FRANCO COLUMBU
“It’s wild, because these are not just friends [dying],” he told me. “If people have a tremendous impact on your life, that means that a chunk of you is being ripped away.” On the morning when we went to Gold’s [Gym], Schwarzenegger made a small detour afterward to show me the one-bedroom apartment he used to share with [Franco] Columbu at 227 Strand Street, in Santa Monica.
They lived there for about a year in the late ’60s, not long after each had landed in the States, while they were both making a living laying bricks. The dwelling, a blue-and-beige box with institutional windows, betrayed no trace of the behemoths who’d once resided there. Schwarzenegger stared up at the soulless space. “He was the best,” he said of his friend.
ON RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
If only he could have run for president. [As a naturalized citizen, he cannot.] That remains his recurring lament. Entering the Mr. Universe of political campaigns would have been the logical last rung of his life’s quest for something bigger. Schwarzenegger said he thinks he could win. This is hard to imagine—a moderate Republican prevailing through the MAGA maelstrom of the GOP primaries? And he’s not about to become a Democrat, either….Still, if they tweaked the Constitution, he told me, he would love to run, even at 75, which he insists is “just a number” and not that old.
Also check out: Howard Stern Interviews Arnold: 5 Things We Learned and Arnold Schwarzenegger: Rules for Success