The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Stars of the '80s
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Unlikely as it may have seemed to some, this Austrian-born body builder became one of the biggest action film stars of the 1980s. Winner of the Mr. Universe title five times and the Mr. Olympia title six times, Schwarzenegger (b. July 30, 1947) was the son of the police chief of Graz, Austria. His father insisted that he exercise for fifteen minutes before breakfast every morning, endowing Schwarzenegger with a disciplined commitment to fitness that shaped his life. Joining the army at age eighteen, he went AWOL to compete in and win the Mr. Junior Europe contest -- and spent a year in the brig as a consequence.

In 1968, Schwarzenegger came to the United States in order to defend his first Mr. Universe title. He appeared in the 1970 film Hercules Goes To New York and had a small part in The Long Goodbye. At the same time he demonstrated remarkable business acumen; he started a bricklaying business that financed a fitness mail-order concern that in turn provided him with the capital to buy an apartment building -- just the first of numerous real estate ventures that would earn him millions of dollars. In addition, Schwarzenegger received a bachelor's degree in business and economics from the University of Wisconsin.

In 1977 Schwarzenegger appeared in the film Pumping Iron, a feature-length documentary on the Mr. Universe competition.  He also had a supporting role in Stay Hungry, starring Sally Field and Jeff Bridges. That performance garnered him a Golden Globe award as "Best Newcomer in Films."  Having dominated the bodybuilding competition for seven years, Schwarzenegger retired in 1978 to pursue an acting career. Four years later he had his breakthrough with the hit sword-and-sorcery flick Conan the Barbarian, which grossed over $100 million worldwide. In 1984, he became a superstar with the release of the blockbuster The Terminator, one of the year's top ten movies according to Time magazine. Director James Cameron had wanted Schwarzenegger for the role of the film's hero; instead, Schwarzenegger lobbied for, and got, the role of the villain -- a cybernetic assassin.

Though critics regularly lambasted Schwarzenegger and his movies, the muscle-bound action star delivered one hit film after another in the Eighties. He confounded his detractors by displaying a flair for comedy in the 1988 film Twins, co-starring Danny DeVito. Continuing his winning ways into the Nineties, Schwarzenegger would climb to even greater heights with box-office hits like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), and Batman and Robin (1997).

Schwarzenegger met Maria Shriver, President John F. Kennedy's niece, at the 1977 Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament. They dated for eight years before Schwarzenegger popped the question. Married in 1986, the couple produced four children -- two sons, Patrick and Christopher, and two daughters, Katherine and Christina. In 1983, Schwarzenegger became a naturalized American citizen. A staunch conservative, he actively supported Republican candidates, and became chairman of the President's Council on Sports and Fitness during the George Bush administration. Throughout the Eighties he volunteered his services as weight training coach for the Special Olympics. In 1991 he was presented with the Simon Wiesenthal Center's National Leadership Award for his support of Holocaust studies.

1980s Filmography
The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The Terminator (1984)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Red Sonja (1985)
Commando (1985)
Raw Deal (1986)
The Running Man (1987)
Predator (1987)
Twins (1988)
Red Heat (1988)

Critics' Comments
The Terminator (1984)
"The title character of this film speaks English with a terrible accent, never says more than one word at a time, is as expressive as a rhino, and moves as gracefully as an anvil with legs. In other words, he was born to be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger." -- People Weekly

Raw Deal (1986)
"For most of the movie Arnold strains to do the impossible (for him): act.  British director John Irvin...couldn't do much with Schwarzenegger.  The script has more holes in it than the bodies of Arnold's victims, and enough inept dialogue to prompt giggles.  Meanwhile, such tasks as trying to twist his Austrian-accented tongue around a sentence containing the words 'molested,' 'mutilated' and 'murdered' are too much for Arnold." -- People Weekly

Predator (1987)
"Schwarzenegger, considerably slimmed down, has little to do but flex, glare, and shoot.  He manages to be likeable, nonetheless."
-- People Weekly

Twins (1988)
"Schwarzenegger is a delightful surprise in this transitional role to comedy, so strongly does he project the tenderness, nobility, and puppy-dog devotion that makes Julius click."
-- Variety

Red Heat (1988)
"'Red Heat' works because Schwarzenegger and [James] Belushi are both basically comic actors.  Schwarzenegger's whole career is based on his ability to see the humor in apparently hard-boiled situations."
-- Roger Ebert

1984 -- NATO: International Star of the Year
1987 -- NATO: Male Star of the Year
(NATO=National Association of Theater Owners)