Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to beat people to a joke. "First of all, it's great to be back," he says with a grin before anyone gets a chance to adapt his famous catchphrase to his return to movies after an extended stint running the state of California. And he is back, he insists, starring in "The Last Stand" a small-town sheriff going up against an army of mercenaries. "As you remember, when I got into the governorship in 2003, I said I only would go and run the state for the seven years that were remaining, then I would be back in the movie business," he says. "So it was just kind of stepping out of the movie business rather than kind of like I'm now going back to the movie business."
During that time, though, the movie business has changed, a harsh lesson for Schwarzenegger, considered a "contract genius" in his heyday for the deals he could broker for films like "Eraser" and "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" regardless of their success or failure. "It's kind of like a scary thing to come back because you don't know if you're accepted or not," he admits. "I have to also be realistic that I may see something that I may like to do, and I will go and take it to [producer] Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] and he will say, 'Oh, this is fantastic, but I don't think anyone is going to see it.' It's show business. It's the show, it's the acting, it's the performing, it's all of this, but you've got to be able to sell it also because movies cost a lot of money."
In "The Last Stand," Schwarzenegger, now 65, is also hoping to get out in front of any wave of jokes about his age. "You don't want to dwell on it, but to just throw it in, and it takes the curse off then," he says of jokes made at the expense of his advancing years in the film. "You can make fun of yourself."
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But the world's most famous action star can still be candid about the pains of getting older, remarking that is "sucks" to age. "I'm no different than you, we all go through the same dramas. We look in the mirror and say, 'What happened?' I once had muscles and slowly they are deteriorating," he says. "I feel good right now, but I've had my share of injuries. I think that when you lift as many tons of weights as I have, inevitably there's wear and tear and you have injuries. I've had a lot of surgeries and a lot of things that needed to be fixed on the body, but the medical technology is really advanced, and I'm sitting here today and can do anything."
Part of Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategy for his return to Hollywood has been to dust off some tried and true franchises that made him a star, like "Conan the Barbarian," "Twins" and the "Terminator" series. But getting such projects going has proved tricky.
"A lot of it is timing, and I think that I would've chosen to do 'Conan' already if it would've been ready, but the Universal studio just bought the rights to 'Conan,' they have an executive over there that happens to be a big believer in bringing back that character," he explains. "That will be ready by sometime this year, and the same is also true with 'Triplets,' a sequel to 'Twins.' I have been trying to get Universal Studios to do that for 10 years, and the studio executives that were there up until recently did not see the value, but now the new leadership sees the value and says, 'This is a brilliant idea, why haven't they done it? We want to do that.' And so they hire the writers and they are full-blast ahead. And that's a movie that we will be doing."