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FILM AND TELEVISION
At 6’6” and 295 pounds, Ralf Moeller won the IFBB World Championships in 1986. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, his physique paved the way for a career in acting. To date, Moeller has appeared in 40 movies and tv shows, including guy favorites like Universal Soldier and Gladiator. Here, the big German looks back on his career and friendship with the other accented big man he’s so often compared to.
Muscle & Fitness: How challenging was it to win bodybuilding’s World Championships (in 1986) being so tall?
Ralf Moeller: I always looked big from the front, but when I turned to the side there wasn’t enough weight to look huge from that angle. It all took time. Being 6’6”, I was definitely the tallest bodybuilder.
Did Arnold Schwarzenegger give you any tips on how to pose?
We’ve been friends for 30 years, but, no, he didn’t give me any tips. He didn’t want me to win the Mr. Olympia title seven times! He always gives “good advices,” but at the end of the day you have to do it on your own. I was actually the first Mr. Universe who was drug-free; they tested under IOC rules. Arnold and I, together we have 14 bodybuilding titles. He got 13. I got one. [Laughs]
You made Cyborg in 1989. Did you decide to leave bodybuilding then?
No. You don’t want to give something up that you’ve done for 12 years. In Europe, I was very successful in bodybuilding. In the ’80s, I had contracts and appearance fees. I made a fortune traveling around, guest posing and giving seminars. So I hung on a little bit more. Then Joe Weider actually helped me get my green card in 1992 and I moved over here.
Then, the Conan TV series came in the late ’90s.Did Arnold give you his blessing to portray that character?
Arnold didn’t want to go for another Conan. So I got the blessing and I went and did it. We did only one season. There were some complications but we had good numbers. It was a big success in Germany and some other countries. Then, some partner stepped out and it fell apart…A couple of months later, I got a call from Steven Spielberg. He was producing Gladiator and the casting director wanted me. Gladiator is the most memorable movie I was in. People love it. We received 12 nominations and five Oscars.
When you see Gladiator on TV do you stop and watch it?
Most guys do. Absolutely. I mean that film…I still can’t believe sometimes when I watch it. When we grow up as kids, there are certain kinds of films you watch over and over again, even if you’ve seen them. This is also that kind of film. I haven’t seen it for a while, but of course, when I see it, I watch it and suddenly I appear and I say to myself, “You were in that kind of movie.” With Russell Crowe, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, Joaquin Phoenix, there were so many great characters in it, and of course, Ridley Scott, the legendary director.
Arnold sounds like he’s always been there for you. How did you guys meet?
We became friends in 1982 when he came to Germany to promote Conan. He told me he felt comfortable because I wasn’t trying to bother him and asking, “Could you do this and that for me?” I wasn’t trying to become the next Arnold. That’s not possible. But he was always a big inspiration and helped. He helps people. He was always a big supporter, but you have to do it on your own. The only film we did together was Batman & Robin. It wasn’t the most successful Batman. I was the guard and Jesse Ventura was also a guard. Suddenly, the director, Joel Schumacher, said, “OK. Let’s start the scene. Action!” So, I started my line the same time Jesse Ventura started the line and I said, “Jesse, that’s my line, I’m Guard No. 1,” and Jesse says, “No, you’re mistaken. I’m Guard No. 1. That’s my line.” So, we went back and forth. Arnold was looking and said, “Come on, guys, let’s get the scene done.” By the end, we split up the lines…Arnold is an inspiration for many things. After he went to Iraq, I went to Germany and Afghanistan to bring gym equipment to NATO forces. It’s funny, the soldiers didn’t ask about Gladiator. They asked about Beerfest.
What projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m an ambassador for Audi and I have a deal with IWC, a watch company. I have a movie called Wonder Girls coming up next year. I play the coach of the East German swim team in the ’70s. Instead of taking vitamins, the girls didn’t know they were getting a kind of steroid. In the meantime, they were 16 and 17 and their bodies changed because of the kinds of steroids they got. The coach loved the girls. He was like a father figure to them, but he wanted success, also, and allowed them to use steroids. It’s all a true story.