That was the idea behind last night’s Arnold Classic Australia Business Forum, held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. And there was certainly an air of the boardroom on stage with two black leather chairs positioned in thick red carpet; Arnie taking his position to the right and interviewer Richard Wilkins to the left navigating The Terminator through his life.
Not that Arnold needed much coaxing to happily talk about the experiences that made him the powerful brand that he is. Over the course of an hour, he waxed lyrical about young Arnie wanting to escape from Austria after being seduced by the intoxicating images of America, his career in politics, and of course, his status as an action star.
Those wanting to know the secret of their idol’s success had to make do with platitudes, as he boiled things down to bite-sized self-help guru quips (‘Losers stay down, winners always get up’ he shouted to rapturous applause). It’s more interesting to listen to him talk about a time when Arnie wasn’t the biggest star in Hollywood (pun very much intended). Wrong accent, wrong name, wrong body shape: it seemed the boy from Austria could do nothing right. Obviously, the boy did good in the end, but Arnold is candid enough to admit that he didn’t just become a success overnight.
Sitting back in his chair, in a suit and trainers, he had the audience in his hand. He’s no fool and is quick to give the people what they want upfront; shouting out lines from Kindergarten Cop, Predator and Conan. In hindsight it could be seen as a way of easing the crowd in, because for all his showmanship, Arnie – as the name of the forum suggests – wants to talk about more serious things than ‘choppahs’ and ‘toomahs’.
It’s during these moments that Arnie the politician comes to the forefront. It’s not hard to see why he ran for two terms as Governor; talking lucidly and passionately about health and the environment. In the Q&A he’s asked to name his influences and quickly reels off Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Gorbachev, willing to explain his reasons without it seeming like he just pulled their names out of a hat. Unsurprisingly, the 45th president does get mentioned just not by name. Wilkins refers to him as the big guy and, whilst not leaping at the chance to tear another strip off Trump, Arnie made it clear that he finds their much publicised twitter fight amusing, “I think it’s great that I’m the most important thing to him.”
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening. This could have been an hour of tired reminiscing, sharing stories about beating Stallone at poker (probably). Instead, whilst it was more sober than some people were expecting (the hydrogen highway is not likely to be high on a fan’s list of topics for the Commando star to talk about), it did offer a glimpse into the mind of one of cinema’s most beloved stars.