At 63, Arnold Schwarzenegger plans on returning to the screen with "Cry Macho," a drama about an aging horse trainer who, in a fit of desperation, kidnaps his former boss' son.
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?"
Photo: Arnold Schwarznegger in "Commando." Credit: 20th Century Fox