‘Arnold’ series review: A glossy showreel of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s incredible success story 

Despite being a worshipful look at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stupendous successes and pushing his mistakes under smooth, fluffy carpets of repentance and apologies, ‘Arnold’ is a breezy watch thanks to its subject’s charisma 

June 09, 2023 01:53 pm | Updated 04:33 pm IST

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a still from ‘Arnold’

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a still from ‘Arnold’

Lesley Chilcott’s docu-series starts with Arnold Schwarzenegger chilling in a heated pool in his native town of Thal in Austria. Schwarzenegger grew up in the shadow of his police chief father who had his own struggles with alcoholism and PTSD from WWII. Told in a series of interviews, the three-part series looks at the major chapters in Schwarzenegger’s life. The title of each episode is self-explanatory—’Athlete’, ‘Actor’ and ‘American’.

Arnold (English)
Director: Lesley Chilcott
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, Linda Hamilton, Sylvester Stallone, Ivan Reitman, Jay Leno, Charles Gaines, Mike Murphy
Episodes: 3
Run-time: 60 to 65 minutes
Storyline: Telling Arnold Schwarzenegger’s story from growing up in a small village in Austria with big dreams, to becoming the greatest bodybuilder, a global superstar and the governor of California

‘Athlete’ talks of his childhood, his difficult relationship with his family, and his burning desire to go to America. After watching British bodybuilder Reg Park as Hercules in a movie, Schwarzenegger decided that would be his ticket out of Dodge. His focused approach saw him sculpt his body and mind to compete and win competitions around Europe. He met his destiny as he was invited to participate in Mr Universe in America. He was confident of winning as he had all these years and his loss (he came second) was a reality check. He speaks about his parents being worried of him hanging pictures of oiled muscle-men over his bed instead of the usual women’s pictures you would expect to see in a teenage boy’s room.

After retraining to meet American bodybuilding standards and ruling the roost for 10 years, Schwarzenegger looks for the next peak to conquer in ‘Actor’, which is also the most fun section as James Cameron, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, Linda Hamilton, Sylvester Stallone and Ivan Reitman talk of the making of classics. There is also mention of Schwarzenegger the businessman, who was a millionaire in the ‘70s, thanks to his shrewd investments in real estate.

Though he entered acting at the time of the small-built men—Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro—Schwarzenegger waded into acting with the self-belief he is known for. Despite the documentary Pumping Iron becoming a sensation, and Stay Hungry based on Charles Gaines’ book doing well, establishing himself in Hollywood proved to be a tough task for Schwarzenegger. Rubbing producer Dino De Laurentiis the wrong way did not help either. However, eccentric Academy Award-winning director, John Milius, convinced Laurentiis that Schwarzenegger is right for the title role in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian—the loaded .45 Milius he was known to carry about might have played a part.

There is a whole Terminator section with Cameron, who directed Schwarzenegger in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, saying the original casting the studio pitched was Schwarzenegger for Kyle Reese and OJ Simpson for the Terminator! Thankfully it was rejected. The story behind the iconic “I’ll be back” line is also discussed. Hamilton talks of Schwarzenegger’s generosity on set and how proud she was of working on her body for Judgement Day.

Reitman and DeVito discuss Schwarzenegger’s entry into comedy with Twins, Curtis talks of working with Schwarzenegger on True Lies, while Stallone talks of their vaunted rivalry. He says while he was invariably bashed up on screen and had to fight back, Schwarzenegger was always the top dog. “Arnold, you could fight a dragon and come back with a Band-Aid!” Stallone says.

The third episode, ‘American’, deals with Schwarzenegger’s governorship of California, his work in climate change as well as the accusations of groping women, the illegitimate son he had with his housekeeper and the breakdown of his 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver. Though Schwarzenegger’s attitude to mental health might be problematic, “too busy to be depressed,” as is the way he deals with family, which included erasing his brother from his mind, Arnold makes for fun viewing while bringing an earlier time alive as well as selling the American dream of being anything you want if you put your mind to it. And then there is that cute little pony and donkey not to mention the cuddly dogs. Awww...

Arnold currently streams on Netflix

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