After a near decade-long acting hiatus, Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned to the big screen. To ease him into the process, the actor took a couple of cameo roles in both Expendables installments, but Korean director Jee-woon Kim’s The Last Stand would mark a return for the actor in a lead role. During the film’s press conference, Schwarzenegger, long with Jamie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura talked about what it was like to work with such an iconic actor, their favorite weapons, and some of their favorite scenes. They also talked about what it was like to work with Korean director Jee-woon Kim. Hit the jump to read the interview.
Arnold, after being Governor we’re surprised you’ve come back to movies. Can you talk about that decision?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: First of all, it’s great to be back. As you remember when I got into the governorship in 2003, I said I only would run the state for the seven years remaining then I would be back in the movie business. So then it was just stepping out of the movie business rather than– I’m now going back to the movie business. I was out, I was a public servant for seven years, worked for the state of California, and now I’m back again. The only thing is that when you have left the movie business for seven years, it’s kind of a scary thing to come back because you don’t know if you’re accepted or not. There could be a whole new generation of action heroes that come up in the meantime. Things change very quickly in our business, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I was doing the cameo in The Expendables that there was such a great, positive reaction towards my appearance that Sly [Stallone] asked me to do the second Expendables that was given a bigger reaction. Instead of working four hours, I worked for four days and instead of moving on a second one. Maybe next time I’ll work four weeks in the next Expendables. So this is now my first starring role and I’m very happy that they chose a movie in which I work with very talented people. The producer I have full trust in, because we’ve worked together on several projects before. We kept our relationship alive throughout the seven years and so Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] came to me and said I want to do your first movie… It’s kind of like riding a bike.
For the rest of the cast, how was it working with such an icon?
Jamie Alexander: For me, I grew up watching this guy, and I have four brothers so they were flipping out when I said I was working with him. This guy is amazing. We work really hard, we pulled some long hours which you don’t hear him complain. He can still kick your ass at an arm wrestling contest and I had a great time. I’m really blessed.
Johnny Knoxville: For me it was a total dream come true. I grew up watching Mr. Schwarzenegger’s films too and just to be on set with him and doing a film with him was so surreal for me. He makes it so easy for you. He’s so open, pleasant and the most gregarious person I’ve ever met. He just loves being around people and happy to make movies. It was a really great experience working on this.
Rodrigo Santoro: They said it all. I also grew up watching his films. It just means he just had a huge impact on me. Conan was the first one that really caught me and that was a symbol for me. There’s a little story just to illustrate that. There was one scene where Frank [Santoro] and Sarah [Alexander], we had to cross the street and Owens, Arnold’s character is right behind the truck. He’s covering us. They’re firing guns at us and everything. He says ‘Go, I’ll cover for you.’ When we were rehearsing, we were practicing and he said ‘Go, I’ll cover you’ and I just went for it. For one second I was blind and started running. ‘No, we’re not shooting! We’re not shooting!’ He has such a confidence and there’s just something about him that feeds you and then you just feel like you’re invincible.
Knoxville: If he says you’re covered, you’re covered. [laughs]
Santoro: Yeah, it was a dream come true for me too. It was a very relaxing set.
Luis Guzmán: I’ve got to admit, I grew up watching him too. I was so thrilled. I remembered the first day I showed up to work and there’s Arnold. I was like, ‘Hey buddy, how are you doing? Let’s do this.’ He looked at me and said yeah, let’s do this. We hit it off great and again man, he’s back. It’s not ‘I’ll be back.’ He’s back. So again, it was an honor and we had such a great cast, a great director and a great crew. It all came together really, really well. What a rush.
Arnold what was your favorite scene to shoot in the film?
Schwarzenegger: For me, it was the car chase through the cornfield because how many times do we have a chance to do a car chase through the cornfield? We all can imagine how it is to drive fast on the road but to go through the corn field not knowing where you are going or if there is a ditch coming up. We did the chase for several days in this gigantic cornfield and we had to be really careful not to wipe it out on the first take. It was so much fun to get in that car and have the stunt coordinator screaming at you saying faster, faster and now bang into the car next to you. That’s the fun thing about movie making is that you have moments like that. Wow I’ve lived 65 years and to have the experience of driving through that cornfield in a Camero, it’s amazing.
How was it working with Korean director Jee-woon Kim?
Schwarzenegger: I was amazed that someone that speaks that little English can articulate exactly what he wants you to do in the scene. Many times I didn’t have to wait for the translator to translate, he was so animated and he himself is such a great actor that he would act out the scenes and you could really see what he was expecting out of that scene. Even when we did stunts he would show us how to throw ourselves on the ground, and he himself would throw himself on to the ground and would bang his head into the wall. He would act out all this stuff because he was a very passionate guy. He’s a visionary. He has a very clear look for what the look of the movie should be. He has a certain style of shooting and there was a lot of camera work that we haven’t seen in the past. At the same time he’s very collaborative because we have seen foreign directors come to America, having won the Oscar and failing terribly because they’re not collaborative. He was a team player and he was also tough. He wanted to get his way but he also knew how things are done in America.
Johnny and Arnold, you guys have done pretty crazy things to your bodies, how are they holding up?
Knoxville: I’m feeling pretty good, everything is completely healed right now. But there have been a few breaks and sprains and concussions.
Schwarzenegger: Same here. I feel good right now but I’ve had my share of injuries. I think anyone who has lifted as many tons of weights as I have and the wear and tears and you have injuries. So I’ve had a lot of surgeries and been fixed. I’ve just got back from a one week ski trip from Sun Valley and you know how kids try to out ski you but I can still do all of that stuff and also do the stunts.
Knoxville: We’re feeling good and looking good.
There are rumors that you might be doing another Conan or Terminator. Why did you pick this film and what’s the status on those?
Schwarzenegger: A lot of it has to do with timing. That’s what show business and politics have in common. I would have chosen to do Conan already if it would have been ready but Universal bought the rights to Conan. They have an executive over there who happens to be a big believer in bringing back that character. Universal was the first studio to do the film and now they want to bring it back. We want to do a bunch of Conan movies but to do them in high quality, not as a B movie. So they will be ready some time this year. The same goes for Triplets, it’s a sequel to Twins. I have been trying to get Universal to do that film for 10 years and the studio executives there until recently didn’t see the value but now the new leadership sees the value. So they have hired the writers and they’re full blast ahead and that is a movie that we will be doing. In general, I make decisions based on what the audience out there is interested in seeing me do.