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A: I decided early in my bodybuilding career that the muscle I was gaining would allow me to play heroic characters like Hercules, just as my idol Reg Park had done. Unfortunately, Hollywood didn’t understand my plan as clearly as I did, and it took a lot more effort to break out. I spent many hours working on my English, learning to enunciate on camera. I remember reciting, “The fine wine grows on the vine” as a homework assignment. Of course, I needed to take acting lessons and network in Hollywood, too.
The point is, a muscular body wasn’t enough. In fact, it was an obstacle. Casting directors wanted me to play bouncers or military grunts—not leading roles. I had to show that I could speak, act, and be funny and charming just like other actors. I knew that muscles would get me noticed in Hollywood, but to be the box-office attraction I envisioned, I had to have the total package.
Conan the Barbarian was my first hit action film, but I think The Terminator showed the world that I was here to stay. It was the first role I played where I got to keep my clothes on (except for my first scene, where I arrive in 1984 naked!). For once my body was just an accessory—part of my character, but not defining it. When I did speak, I used my Austrian accent to my advantage: My mechanical voice further reinforced the idea that the Terminator was a machine.
Whether your ambition is to use your body to launch a movie career, as I did, or simply to give you an edge in life, just remember that it won’t get you there alone. Show people that you don’t just work out—you have many wide-ranging interests and abilities that allow you to play a variety of roles—or handle diverse responsibilities.
Building muscle also strengthens character and sharpens the mind, so use those to your advantage as well. That’s the route to success.
Yours in Iron,