At 64 years old, Arnold Schwarzenegger has rarely been busier. The former California governor announced on Monday that he will star in the drug cartel story “Ten” for director David Ayer, the screenwriter behind the Oscar-winning “Training Day.”
It’s the fourth movie project in recent months for the “Terminator” veteran. Schwarzenegger is in production on the prison drama “The Tomb,” and later this year will star in the action sequel “The Expendables 2.” In early 2013, he will appear in another drug cartel tale, “The Last Stand.”
“I am really excited about this project and the team that's come together," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "David Ayer is incredibly talented and exactly what I want for a story this compelling.”
"Ten" is about a group of drug agents who, after stealing from a cartel, are targeted for murder.
Ayer wrote and directed the police drama “End of Watch,” which is set for release this fall.
Schwarzenegger was governor from 2003 to 2011. Last May, The Times reported that he fathered a child more than a decade ago with a longtime member of his family's household staff; since then, the former bodybuilder and his wife, Maria Shriver, have separated.
There had been rumors for several weeks that Arnold Schwarzenegger was dipping his toe back in the acting pool, after pulling it out when the scandal over his out-of-wedlock son broke in May.
The director Schwarzenegger was said to be meeting was Kim-ji-Woon, helmer of the western "The Last Stand," to which the former governor had been attached before the love-child scandal hit. On Monday his representative confirmed that a deal was completed just a few days ago and that Schwarzenegger would indeed make his return to acting with Kim's film. It will be Schwarzenegger's first significant part since "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" in 2003.
The South Korean director of well-regarded foreign-language films such as revenge-thriller "I Saw the Devil" is making his English-language debut with "Last Stand." The movie, which aims to shoot this year, tells of a standoff between the leader of a drug cartel and an aging border-town sheriff (Schwarzenegger) who must decide how much he wants to risk his life to protect his town from the criminal. Like another movie Schwarzenegger had been pondering, "Cry Macho," the story contains significant comeback overtones, which seem even more resonant -- or eerie -- after the actor's latest hiatus.
In three decades of acting, the actor has never before taken on a dramatic role. But "Macho" director Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer"), who recently ushered Matthew McConaughey back to dramatic turf, says that his meetings with Schwarzenegger have convinced him of how well the former governor could pull it off.
"We all have this perception of a certain kind of person and actor," Furman said. "He's Terminator, he's Commando. He ran for governor. But in person he's so gracious and humble. His humanity is unmatched."
The movie tells of a man and a boy who are each lost in their own way (the boy, the product of divorce, isn't wanted back by the ex-wife from whom Schwarzenegger's character has kidnapped him). "This is a human interest story about people who rediscover themselves," Furman said.
"Cry Macho" has a long history. It had been developed by producer Al Ruddy with Clint Eastwood to direct and Schwarzenegger in the lead back in 2003, before the action star went into politics. (Ruddy and Eastwood went on to collaborate on "Million Dollar Baby.") In that sense, at least, Schwarzenegger is going back not only to an action vehicle he once dominated like "The Termintor" but to projects left unfinished when he left for Sacramento.
Furman's film has a beating-the-odds theme, something Furman said Schwarzenegger could draw from his own life. "He was Mr. Olympia. Who thought he's going to be a movie star, or that he could be governor?" Furman said.
Although the "Cry Macho" filmmaker says that "when we first meet [the protagonist] he's a broken man," the director resists the inevitable comparisons to Mickey Rourke vehicle "The Wrestler," in which another middle-aged actor redeemed himself (on-screen and off-screen) "It's about more of an accidental journey [about how] In life you pick one path and it leads you to a different place," Furman said.
In addition to his iconic action roles, Schwarznegger has of course used hs large frame and occasionally stiff bearing for comedic effect, but rarely for something more subtle or dramatic.
But Furman, never one for holding back, has strong words for anyone who questions the former governor's ability to pull off the part. "Arnold's been doing this his whole life," he said. "Do you really think he can't do this? Who are you kidding?"
So says Vulture, which calls "Cry Macho," a drama from "Lincoln Lawyer" director Brad Furman and "Million Dollar Baby" producer Al Ruddy, Schwarzenegger's next movie. Based on a novel by N. Richard Nash, it centers on an aging horse trainer who tries to get back in with his boss by kidnapping the boss' son from his ex-wife (in a "Ruthless People" turn, his ex-wife doesn't want the son back).
The site calls the film Schwarzenegger's "first post-gubernatorial project." Of course, things frequently don't happen that quickly for projects like this. There's no financing yet for the independent film, which will be seeking funds from foreign sales at the Cannes Film Festival in May, an event ahead of which this news is serendipitously surfacing. And Furman does have a history of getting a bit ahead of himself. (Messages for Ruddy and Furman were not immediately returned Friday morning.)
If "Cry Macho" does get made, is it a good choice for Arnold? In the recent history of actor comebacks, a shift to serious gears has been an effective way to get one going; Mickey Rourke, for one, executed it to perfection in "The Wrestler."
Of course, that presupposes you have the chops to pull it off. And even if you could, sometimes it's still better to take on a big summer blockbuster. No matter how good Robert Downey Jr. would have been in the smallest indie circa 2008, it didn't hurt that he was seen by millions in "Iron Man."
With no script or screenwriter for "Terminator 5" and no money as yet for "Cry Macho," it will still be a little bit before we see Schwarzenegger back on the big screen. And a while before the Governator decides what comeback path to take.
The news Tuesday that Arnold Schwarzenegger will return to the "Terminator" franchise provides a colorful coda to several story lines.
The new film, loosely dubbed "Terminator 5," is being shopped to studios. There is no script or screenwriter, but a person close to what Hollywood terms a film package, who asked not to be identified because of the early nature of the negotiations, confirmed that Creative Artists Agency has begun shopping the rights to make the movie, though with no plotline as yet. Schwarzenegger, the person said, would play a starring role as the title character in the science-fiction film, not a supporting role in which he passed the baton to a new hero. The movie would be directed by "Fast Five" director Justin Lin.
The package represents the latest twist in a tortuous business story. Early last year, Sony and Lionsgate joined forces to bid on the rights held by the Halcyon Co., the bankrupt "Terminator Salvation" producer. But, in a controversial decision, the rights were handed to the Santa Barbara hedge fund Pacificor, which had backed Halcyon.
In May, Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor announced it had been chosen by Pacificor to sell the rights to studios. But no sale materialized, and CAA replaced WME; CAA, which has long represented Schwarzenegger, held an obvious advantage: the clout to convince the actor to come back.
Tuesday's news raises nearly as many creative questions as it answers. The offshoot "Terminator Salvation," directed by McG, was roughed up by critics but pocketed $371 million worldwide. It was supposed to be the start of a new trilogy starring Sam Worthington. But the return of Arnold, and the fact that McG will not have a place on this film, means that the new Skynet saga could pick up the narrative trail of the third picture, 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," or start in yet another new direction. ("Machines" finished with Nick Stahl's John Connor and Claire Danes' Kate Brewster running from Schwarzenegger's Terminator, with all three still alive at movie's end.)
But perhaps the biggest point the news highlights involves Schwarzenegger's career direction. The 63-year-old former governor told The Times recently he's diving back into acting. "I can step very comfortably into the entertainment world and do an action movie with the same violence that I've always done," he said, predicting he'd be on a set by the end of the year.
At the time, some speculated he could star in the drug-themed action film "The Last Stand" or the prison-escape movie "The Tomb," both new properties and potential franchises. Those remain possibilities, especially with a script not yet written for "Terminator."
But it's clear Schwarzenegger also has the past on his mind. He's already signed on for a cartoon called "The Governator," featuring his voice and likeness. Now it looks as though he's intent not only riffing on past glories but reliving them.
It remains to be seen whether Schwarzenegger could take on the required stunts at his age, and whether a population that didn't think much of him as a governor wants to vote for him with their dollars at the box office. It would also be nearly 30 years since he first incarnated the Terminator role in the James Cameron original; there are few examples of an actor holding a lead film role for that long.
Still, the former governor would have precedent in a return to the screen. Both Jesse Ventura and Fred Thompson went back to acting once they said sayonara to their political careers. As Joe Klein said when we wrote last spring about Arnold's possible return to acting, "When politicians leave office, they almost always try to re-ingratiate themselves with the public they've inevitably disappointed. Acting would be a way for Schwarzenegger to restore himself in the eyes of the public."
He’ll be back: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent out a Twitter message Thursday saying he’s ready to start acting again (no jokes about his performance in Sacramento, please). "Exciting news,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “My friends at CAA have been asking me for 7 years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light today.” His camp isn’t saying what roles he might be considering.
But given how obsessed Hollywood is with sequels, remakes and comic-book and board game adaptations, we have to assume some of the following roles might be on the table:
“The King’s Speech II”: The newly elected president of Austria (Schwarzenegger) is forced to appear on television to calm the nation after a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, he’s forgotten how to speak German, and the populace can’t understand his heavily accented English. The president’s wife (Jennifer Aniston) summons an unorthodox speech therapist (comedian Gilbert Gottfried) to perform some Henry Higgins magic.
“The Lifter”: Based on parts of “The Wrestler” and “The Fighter,” an over-the-hill weightlifter (Schwarzenegger) has one more chance at redemption and sets his sights on an Olympic gold medal. He can still manage the snatch, but the clean-and-jerk proves elusive until the lifter’s mother (Melissa Leo, wearing a latex mask to make her look older) and his daughter (Marisa Tomei) travel to London to cheer him on.
“Scrabble”: Adapted from the popular board game, the movie unfolds in a futuristic world in which only contestants who can play all seven tiles from a letter rack that holds STOHREE (there is at least one winning word!) are allowed to live past age 65. One man (Schwarzenegger) approaching that fatal age attempts to change the rules through a ballot initiative only to have the winning proposition overturned by a group of activist judges (secretly controlled by the computers in “The Matrix”).
“The Man With the Dragon Tattoo”: Based on the recently discovered fourth book in novelist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (Quartet?), this crime thriller follows a magazine writer (Daniel Craig), a bisexual computer hacker (Rooney Mara) and a heavily tattooed chess wizard (Schwarzenegger) whose rook might contain miniature negatives of incriminating photographs of a corrupt elected official (Eliot Spitzer). If the trio doesn’t succeed using the Ruy Lopez opening to beat a Russian grandmaster, the rook—and the crooked official—may slip out of their reach.
— John Horn
Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.
He took a gig in "The Expendables" because pal Sylvester Stallone asked him to, but was it also a trial balloon for a return to Hollywood?
Arnold Schwarzenegger went right for the big question, if not the big answer, at the Critics Choice Awards last night (video above) with a joke from the stage about why he had come to the Hollywood ceremony. "I stand before you not as a former governor...I came here for one reason and one reason only -- as an unemployed actor begging for work."
He then stayed on the subject with a series of jokes about the parts he didn't get in 2010, including the best of the bunch, Colin Firth's stuttering royal in "The King's Speech." "If they wanted someone who had trouble speaking English, why pick Colin Firth? I mean, I invented not speaking English properly."
Schwarzenegger has been playing a Brett Favre-like game of will-he-or-won't-he for a while now, most recently telling Variety that he'd like to come back and comparing acting to riding a bike.
The former governor hasn't had anything more than a cameo since his performance in the third "Terminator" film in 2003. But as we reported back in the spring, there are more than a few producers in town who would invite him to star in a movie. And with all the references he's been making to acting lately, the onetime action star may just be waiting for an invitation.
Often the moviegoing public looks at how a studio is marketing a movie and says "We can do better." And then, sometimes, they go out and do just that.
There’s nothing painfully wrong with Lionsgate’s trailer for “The Expendables,” which you can see here. But there’s nothing especially good about it either. There’s far too much wind-up before it gets to the action shots for a movie that mainly appeals to men, and certainly far too much pseudo-patriotic mumbo jumbo. (“They must make the ultimate sacrifice for a chance to change history.")
Not so for the imaginative fan trailer above, which is starting to get some nice traction on the Web. The rave-up Andrew W.K. song, the cut-straight-to-the-testosterone pacing (and the quick cuts when it gets there) and, most of all, the good-natured battle-of-the-sexes, take-back-the-box-office conceit. Moviegoers don't necessarily shell out $10 to make a statement of masculinity. But the play to that sentiment is brilliant -- it's exactly what the movie does, after all -- and far more persuasive than the tepid, hit-all-the-right-focus-group notes.
Studios aren’t about to turn over the marketing keys to fans. But sometimes the fans take it anyway, Stallone-style. And when they do, it can be a beautiful thing.
Like everyone else who poses that question provocatively in a headline, we haven't the faintest idea of the answer. But a couple points did stand out to us as we watched the California governor's much-ballyhooed turn in Sylvester Stallone's upcoming "The Expendables."
First, judging by the line he utters, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't seem to be playing himself here, a departure from other cameos he's done while in office. Second, why in the name of Conan the Barbarian are a bunch of mercenaries hanging out in a church?
Anyway, as you see from the rest of this trailer, in all its thwomping soundtrack and cheap jingoist glory, the Lionsgate release features 80s-era stars like Stallone, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis all grabbing machine guns and fighting for some Cold War-style justice. So it's fitting that Schwarzenegger is here too.
There was, as you may recall, some controversy when the governor took the acting job; it came during the budget crisis -- um, one of the many budget crises -- going on in Sacramento. The fruit of Schwarzenegger's excursion looks like it turned out OK -- well, sort of. While the "He loves playing in the jungle" line is just funny enough when said to the man who once played Rambo (Stallone, who wrote the movie, is doing self-mocking irony now?), his other line, "Give this job to my friend here," may be a quote you don't want memorialized on film while holding the highest elected office in California. "The Daily Show" clip artists are already licking their lips.
At any rate, we wouldn't be surprised if this was the beginning of a new film phase for the man whose most famous line is "I'll be back." Actors who become California governors can go on to big things when they leave Sacramento. And since the Constitution prevents that kind of big thing for Schwarzenegger, he might have to opt for the other big thing, the kind that involves Avi Lerner action movies.