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Arnold Schwarzenegger Versus the Devil

The action star shows his vulnerable side in END OF DAYS.

By Edward Gross     November 22, 1999

If you've got terrorists threatening the world's oil supply, you call on James Bond. If you've got Satan threatening the human race with extinction, you turn to Arnold. After a two year absence from the big-screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a dramatic return in director Peter Hyams' END OF DAYS as ex-cop Jericho Cane, a man barely managing to keep his sanity in the wake of the loss of his family. Cane is emotionally beaten and destitute, yet the fate of humanity has fallen into his hands.

What follows is Arnold's take on the film, his character and his future plans, which might include DOC SAVAGE ('I'm considering it,' he says, 'but it's not written'), and the soon-to-start-filming THE SIXTH DAY ('It's about cloning, and then we're either going to do TRUE LIES 2 or VERTICAL LIMIT).'

HOW DID YOU APPROACH SUCH OFF-KILTER Material LIKE THIS?

It was very important to do the movie in such a way that it causes surprises all the way through. We didn't want to go the traditional way, in which you come in as the hero, the knight in shining armor. You know right away that, yes, he's the hero and he's perfect and he's going to kick some butt and wipe out the enemy. That worked in the '80s and the early '90s. That doesn't work anymore.

So I chose this film because it showed the character as a vulnerable guy and it had all the twists and turns. People never know what's going to happen. Here I start out with a gun to my head, wanting to take my own life. This is the first time where I'm on drugs and alcohol. I've lost my family. I've lost my job and my friends. This is the end of the rope kind of thing. This is something that I've never played before. I am so vulnerable in the movie that people don't know whether or not the Devil will have success seducing me. Will I become possessed by the Devil because I am so vulnerable? The vulnerability factor was important to make the story work.

To show the power of the Devil, we had to make [the character of] the stepmother very powerful and strong. She's a 65-year-old woman but she is strong internally and externally. So she threw me around like a doll. When I read the scene, it was one of my favorites in the movie because it's something we've never seen before. It's normally me always kicking butt, but for me to get the beating, and to go down and down and down, and to realize that the gunpower is not the ultimate power in the end, is the basic message.

THIS IS THE FIRST FILM IN WHICH WE'VE SEEN YOU CRY. WAS THAT DIFFICULT?

Crying is part of the vulnerability, in this case. It wasn't hard to do. We had to be as real as possible. I couldn't act the crying. I had to dig down deep inside and find the moments that are very upsetting and do make you cry. I think that anyone who has a family is capable of having thoughts that can make you cry. That wasn't the most difficult thing. The most challenging thing was to act out the helplessness. Even though I pull myself together as the character and say, 'We're going to find the answers', there was nowhere to go unless I get rid of my hostility and anger and look at faith and inner strength as an option.

ARE YOU A CATHOLIC?

I think of me being Catholic and marrying Maria, who happens to be Catholic. She could have been a Jew or a Moslem, makes no difference to me. I loved Maria for Maria, not because of her religion. Catholicism had nothing to do with me wanting to make this movie. It's interesting to me that my mother-in-law at the same time is coming out with a movie about Jesus and Virgin Mary when I'm coming out with one about the Devil. That shows our difference in backgrounds. I did this movie because I wanted to come back from this absence of two years with a big bang. I was looking for a while at all kinds of scripts and when I read this one, I thought this is the project I'm looking for. It had all of the things that I needed to come back with. It had the supernatural in there, which is very important today. People love the supernatural, like THE SIXTH SENSE or EXORCIST or OMEN. Those kinds of movies are in demand now. I [also] thought the timing was perfect, because it was the only movie that dealt with the Millennium. We are the only one. I wanted to make a big splash when I came back, with an epic sort of thing, and I wanted to show that I'm physically back and this movie had all the crazy stunts. And it's a great story.

ARE YOU AT ALL CONCERNED ABOUT THE MILLENNIUM?

I'm not concerned about the Millennium. People think that it's going to be Armageddon and they're stocking up on food, going to gun stores [and] stocking up on guns so they can defend themselves-I don't know from whom. Time and Newsweek wrote stories about the prophecy about whether God was coming. Basically what we're saying is, being opportunists as we are in Hollywood, let's listen to this scenario. What if the Devil comes back at the end of the year? We just add onto those kinds of fears. We're saying, 'Here's another idea for how the world can come to an end.' I have no problems or fears about it at all. I'll be on the slopes of Sun Valley skiing.

HAVE YOU READ 'STIFFED: THE BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN MAN,' THE BOOK BY FEMINIST AUTHOR SUSAN FALUDI ('BACKLASH: THE UNDECLARED WAR AGAINST AMERICAN WOMEN)?

I think the Faludi book hit the nail on the head. I think I luckily was the beneficiary of all of the things that have happened in the last 20 years. I think when men started feeling confused about their place in society, when they were worried about women taking over, they acted out, like she says, by going to the gym, working out, building their bodies into Mr. Universe kind of bodies. They needed to prove to themselves externally that they still had power. So I benefited from everyone going muscle crazy. The second thing she talked about is that men went running to action movies no matter what it was as long as there was a guy there who was destroying evil and whipped people's butts. That was true in the '80s and early 90s. I benefited from that. I'm glad those things happened. Now, I think it has turned the other way. I think you see that in this movie. Here we are talking about redemption and not brute strength. There's faith and inner strengths.

DID YOUR RECENT HEART SURGERY HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THIS FILM?

The only thing that this movie had to do with my surgery is that I wanted to come back with a very physical role to show my fans that [I was okay]...After the surgery, there was an unbelievable concern from my fans. I got thousands and thousands of letters from all over the world, very sweet letters. It made me feel so good to read those notes. This movie was my way of saying, 'Don't worry about me. I'm back. I have more energy than ever. This was just a hurdle I had to overcome. But I'm back.'

[But] the surgery was a major deal. One should not dismiss it. I actually had two surgeries. The first one didn't work. I made a mistake to get up the next morning and get on the lifecycle. The valve blew out again and they had to open up my chest and put another one in. I learned after that to wait a little bit longer to work out. It had no impact on my vulnerability. I didn't have visions or anything. No near-death experiences. I happen to just remember the doctors being around me and then I fell asleep and the doctors were around me when I woke up, and pulled the pipe out of my mouth. I was very happy that my wife and kids were in the other room waiting for me. My kids brought in signs, 'Daddy, get well soon', and my mom came in with Apple Strudel and whipped cream. Just the smell made other people in the hospital have a heart attack.

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HOW THE PUBLIC WILL RECEIVE YOU IN THIS FILM?

No, this is not really my style to run around and be worried and concerned and vulnerable. We all to some extent are vulnerable and worried about how people think of us. We all want to be accepted and have people like us. The profession I have is so out there, meaning that every time I have a failure billions of people witness it. It makes you even more vulnerable. But I like this profession. I like being on the edge. I like being in the danger zone. That's why I'm in this profession..

WHAT ABOUT THE RUMORS THAT YOU'RE GOING TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA?

I don't have anything planned. I have thought about it. I have been offered that role of playing governor, senator or congressman. But right now I'm too heavily into show business. I enjoy making movies. There are many movies still to come that I want to do. I don't' see myself now jumping ship from this and going onto something else. Will it happen down the line? It's possible.

THERE HAVE BEEN REPORTS OF 'TERMINATOR 3 and 4' going into production. WILL YOU BE INVOVLED?

I have read this story for the last ten years. I have no intention of doing a TERMINATOR sequel except when Jim Cameron does the directing, or the producing, or writing. Jim Cameron has to be involved in one way or another.'

WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE ADAPTATION OF RICHARD MATHESON'S 'I AM LEGEND'?

I was involved with I AM LEGEND, with prepping that movie. We were ready to start shooting that movie only to find out that it was cancelled by Warner Bros. because Warner Bros. had one failure after another. Ted Turner and his guys called in Terry Semel and Bob Daly and said, 'You can't make a movie with a $100 million budget.' This is when WILD, WILD WEST had gone to $170 million. Our movie was a $100 million, so they asked Ridley Scott and myself if could do this movie for $75 or $80 million. The way it was designed, the scope that it had, we said no. We said, 'If you're not willing to do the movie for that price, then let's just wait until things change a little bit. It will be done eventually.'''

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?

I believe in God and therefore believe in the opposite force, the Devil. Is it this thing in the clouds? Probably not. But we as people are better off if we do believe in good and evil. The movie is interesting. I just came from THE VIEW. The women said they could relate to the movie because it happens everyday that you're tempted by evil thoughts. Should you go in this direction and do something immoral or stay on track. We changed the ending so that we could go into the Millennium with the message that you can't wipe out the devil with his creations. Guns, firepower, nuclear weaponry--they're all created by the Devil. So that's why we had to go to inner strength and a higher power. That's what we got from consulting with religious leaders.

There is no offer that the Devil can offer me because I know that everything he has to offer is for temporary pleasure. All things that are easy to come by, that taste good and bring pleasure, could potentially backfire on you. You should never take the easy way out. You should set your goal and go for that and not get sidetracked. I have more faith now than when I was younger. My mother used to take me to church every Sunday, and it was just an obligation so I wouldn't get smacked across the face. Later on, when I was 18 or 19, and I had the chance to rebel and was riding high on being the bodybuilding champion, I never went to church. I thought the whole thing was absurd. Then when you get older and you have children, your faith changes again. The circle comes around again and you start coming back to where you started. When you have a family and kids, you think back to what your parents taught you. And you think back to all the things you rebelled against and think 'This makes sense now.' And you give the same teaching to your kids now. Then they'll rebel and come back. It's a continuous cycle like that.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE AMERICAN DREAM?

A: None of the stuff that has happened, personally or in my career, would have happened without being in this career. America has shown to me that it is the land of opportunities. If you're willing to work hard and if you're willing to educate yourself and learn how the system works, anyone can make it. That's what I preach when I go to the inner cities. We offer them alternatives. I teach them the things that I've learned. We offer them computer programs and sports programs. It's an alternative to the violence and the drugs and gangs that are going on right now. I feel sorry for those kids. They have the potential to make it and they don't get a fair chance. I don't think everyone should finish equally--that's socialism or communism. Maybe some of the democrats believe that. But everyone should be able to start equally. Its funny when I saw that, people say, 'Secretly, he's a Democrat, he's just not admitting it.' That's what my in-laws are saying. Wishful thinking.

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