That’s what my family had in mind for me, but something else burned inside me.
Something burned inside me. I wanted to be different; I was determined to be unique. I was driven to think big and to dream big. Everyone else thought that I was crazy. My friends said, “If you want to be a champion in a sport, why don’t you go and become a bicycle champion or a skiing champion or a soccer champion? Those are the Austrian sports.”
But I didn’t care. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion and use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars.
So, of course, for extra motivation I read books on strongmen and on bodybuilding and looked at magazines. And one of the things I did was, I decorated my bedroom wall.
Right next to my bed there was this big wall that I decorated all with pictures. I hung up pictures of strongmen and bodybuilders and wrestlers and boxers and so on. And I was so excited about this great decoration that I took my mother to the bedroom and I showed her.
And she shook her head. She was absolutely in shock and tears started running down her eyes. And she called the doctor, she called our house doctor and she brought him in and she explained to him, “There’s something wrong here.”
She looked at the wall with the doctor and she said, “Where did I go wrong? I mean, all of Arnold’s friends have pictures on the wall of girls, and Arnold has all these men. But it’s not just men, they’re half naked and they’re oiled up with baby oil. What is going on here? Where did I go wrong?”
So you can imagine, the doctor shook his head and he said, “There’s nothing wrong. At this age you have idols and you go and have those — this is just quite normal.”
So this is rule number one. I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission. So rule number one is, of course, trust yourself, no matter how and what anyone else thinks.
RULE 2: BREAK THE RULES
Rule number two is: Break the rules.
We have so many rules in life about everything. I say break the rules. Not the law, but break the rules.
My wife has a T-shirt that says, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Well, you know, I don’t want to burst her bubble, but the same is true with men.
It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That’s what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?
The only way that I ever got anyplace was by breaking some of the rules.
After all, I remember that after I was finished with my bodybuilding career I wanted to get into acting and I wanted to be a star in films. You can imagine what the agents said when I went to meet all those agents. Everyone had the same line, that it can’t be done, the rules are different here.
They said, “Look at your body. You have this huge monstrous body, overly developed. That doesn’t fit into the movies. You don’t understand. This was 20 years ago, the Hercules movies. Now the little guys are in, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson.” Before he gained weight, of course, that is.
But anyway, those are the guys that were in. And the agents also complained about my accent. They said, “No one ever became a star with an accent like that, especially not with a German accent. And yes, I can imagine with your name, Arnold Schwartzenschnitzel, or whatever the name, is, on a billboard. Yeah, that’s going to draw a lot of tickets and sell a lot of tickets. Yeah, right.”
So this is the kind of negative attitude they had. But I didn’t listen to those rules, even though they were very nice and they said, “Look, we can get you some bit parts. We can get you to be playing a wrestler or a bouncer. Oh, maybe with your German accent we can get you to be a Nazi officer in Hogan’s Heroes or something like that.”
But I didn’t listen to all this. Those were their rules, not my rules. I was convinced I could do it if I worked as hard as I did in bodybuilding, five hours a day. And I started getting to work, I started taking acting classes. I took English classes, took speech classes, dialogue classes. Accent removal classes I even took.
I remember running around saying, “A fine wine grows on the vine.” You see, because Germans have difficulties with the F and the W and V, so, “A fine wine grows on the vine.” I know what some of you are now saying, is I hope that Arnold got his money back.
But let me tell you something, I had a good time doing those things and it really helped me. And finally I broke through. I broke through and I started getting the first parts in TV; Streets of San Francisco, Lucille Ball hired me, I made Pumping Iron, Stay Hungry.
And then I got the big break in Conan the Barbarian.
And there the director said, “If we wouldn’t have Schwarzenegger, we would have to build one.”