Ever since his return to acting back in 2011 Arnold Schwarzenegger has primarily focused on just having fun with his roles. Schwarzenegger’s enjoyment in “The Last Stand,” “Escape Plan,” “Sabotage,” and “Maggie,” as well as his obligatory appearances in the “Terminator” franchise, has been palpable, which is understandable when you consider that the Austrian actor’s reputation has long been secure.
That energy is once again present in “Killing Gunther,” in which he plays the titular hitman that has drawn the ire of his rivals to such an extent that they set out to kill him. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Arnold Schwarzenegger about the film, why singing is more painful than any action scene, the current generation, and his status as an icon. You can take a gander at our conversation below.
First of all, I just wanted to compliment you on your singing voice –
“Oh thank you.”
I reckon that was a career you missed out on –
“I tell you, people always ask me, ‘Is there anything in a movie that is embarrassing to you?’ Like running or walking around naked in ‘Terminator 1,’ ‘2,’ or ‘3’ or whatever number it is. Or any action scenes that you are embarrassed about. I will always say singing. I hate singing because I am so bad, and I am so untalented. I have no sense for music. Even though my father played six instruments.”
All of that talent just passed you by, huh?
“I have no talent in it. The only time I am asked to sing is when they want everyone to leave a party so that people will rush out.”
The passion was there, though.
“Of course you act it out. Because the character is supposed to go into this country and western music thing. Gunther is a little bit full of himself, and he thinks he is going to create a big competition for the other singers. That’s the character. Me Arnold, though, it was painful to do that sh**.”
It seemed like a fun character to play.
“I remember when Taran Killam came to my house and he explained to me the whole movie, reading the lines, I immediately fell in love with the idea, and said, ‘I am in.’ It was just so over the top. I mean, I can be the girl that he hooks up with at the bar? Wait a minute. It established that anything is possible.”
Gunther is the perfect role. Everyone spends the first hour talking about you and then you suddenly appear for the ending. Was that an appeal?
“The movie the way it was written is that they keep talking about Gunther. When I read it what I liked about it is that you are waiting and waiting and waiting, and you’re like, ‘Who is this Gunther?’ And then here I am. So the question was always, ‘Am I not coming in too late in the movie? Should we put it further to the front?’ To me it really works. All of a sudden you see Gunther and you can see why he is number one compared to these guys.”
There’s a line in the film from Gunther where he criticizes the other assassins for being entitled and then insists that he had to work for his success. Did that resonate for you in the script?
“That’s just today. Everyone feels like they’re entitled to certain things. And they don’t really have to put the work into it, which is the old fashioned way. That was my way, I kind of improvised that one. ‘I earned it.’ It actually comes from an old TV commercial. The guy says: ‘We do it the old fashioned way. We earn it.’ In the scene I am telling the guys that they all want to be number one, but they can’t be because I am number one. ‘Look at what I had to do. Look at how passionate I was. Look at how good I was’ … It represents the time of the day. That’s what people really feel. Everyone wants the shortcut.”
How do you feel being regarded as an icon?
“I don’t give it much thought. It’s just one of those things where I know the way people treat me when I go onto the set. It’s kind of odd and different to 20 years ago. I’ve always been treated great. But there’s a different kind of feel now when I am on a set. Or when I travel around the world. Or when I give a speech somewhere. So maybe I have taken on this kind of iconic atmosphere. It’s great when people appreciate what you do and the work that you do. But I don’t give it much thought. I am just a regular guy. I do all this stuff because it feels great to be number 1, and to excel, and to do all these interesting things, and be involved in all these environmental issues and causes that are bigger than me. It all comes around and gets bottled into one thing. Some people see me as a muscular man, others as the ‘Terminator,’ others as the Governor of California, and others as a crusader for the environment. So some people get in awe. But I much prefer to look forward than back.”
Finally, do you have a comment in the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein revelations?
“I’d rather just stay with the subject of the movie.”
“Killing Gunther” is in select theaters and On Demand from October 20th.