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There is something you need to watch that I don’t think enough people have seen: Arnold on Netflix. This three-part documentary covers living legend Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s success as a bodybuilder, movie star, and politician.
That said, Arnold addresses some of his career and personal lowlights as well. This includes his sexual harassment allegations “across three decades” and Schwarzenegger’s affair with a former housekeeper with whom he had a son.
Albeit briefly. Which, candidly, is something I appreciate. This wouldn’t be a complete Arnold doc without discussing his faults. But, also, Netflix and Schwarzenegger didn’t make this the focal point. It just needed to be mentioned.
However, the easiest way to hype Arnold up is this is Schwarzenegger’s version of Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance. Much like The Last Dance, the timing of Arnold‘s release is perfect aka “not football season”.
Jordan’s documentary dropped during the 2020 COVID pandemic so it filled a bigger entertainment gap. At the time, The Last Dance felt like drinking beers after working on Shawshank State Prison’s roof in the summer.
Arnold doesn’t need to provide the same type of relief but it’s a spectacular watch. The doc is loaded with footage of Schwarzenegger throughout his life and career. There are interviews with Arnold’s childhood friends and fellow bodybuilders and filmmakers.
Netflix started streaming all three episodes of Arnold June 7. This documentary chronicles the life of one of the greatest Americans in the past 50 years in three parts: 1- Athlete, 2- Actor, and 3- American.
Part I: ‘Athlete’
You cannot tell Arnold’s story without starting in his native Austria. His father was a no-nonsense police chief in Austria and World War I veteran. Schwarzenegger’s father instilled a tireless work ethic into his son.
Schwarzenegger day-dreamed about being an American while growing up in Austria. Arnold was inspired to be a bodybuilder after watching the 1960’s Hercules as a kid while on a trip to a nearby city with his brother.
Reg Park starred in the Italian version of Hercules Arnold saw as a child. Schwarzenegger read about Park’s bodybuilding background. Park was noticed by movie talent reps during a Roman bodybuilding contest.
This motivated Arnold to use bodybuilding as his path to America, which was Schwarzenegger’s ultimate goal. Spoiler alert: It worked. Arnold’s 13 world bodybuilding championships helped him establish roots in Southern California.
Part II: ‘Actor’
Since I grew up on Arnold’s movies, this was my favorite part of the documentary. Some of my earliest memories are going to see Kindergarten Cop and Terminator 2 in the movie theater with my parents.
It took time for Schwarzenegger to get his acting career off the ground. Arnold’s Austrian accent and producers trying to pigeonhole him as a character-actor got in his way. But, Schwarzenegger’s movie success made his situation different than most struggling actors.
Arnold became a millionaire through real estate investments based on advice from business mentor, Joe Weirder. This allowed Schwarzenegger to be picky about his movie roles.
Similar to his career as a bodybuilder, Arnold had a vision for his Hollywood career. Iconic director James Cameron discusses a conversation he had with Schwarzenegger in a casting meeting for The Terminator.
When asked about his goals for show business, Arnold tells Cameron: “Jim, I don’t want to be an actor. I want to be a movie star.” Schwarzenegger made good on that prediction. Arnold became one of the biggest box office stars of the mid-80s to mid-90s.
Schwarzenegger pushed himself to do more than just action movies. In fact, 1988’s Twins was Arnold’s 1st movie to gross $100+ million in the box office. Just like his bodybuilding career, doubters fueled Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood aspirations.
Part III: ‘American’
The third part of Arnold centers around his political career. Schwarzenegger compares a lot of the naysayers about his movie career resurfacing during his pursuit to be elected governor of California.
“American” also touches on two of his biggest dark moments. Schwarzenegger’s infidelity with ex-wife Maria Shriver and improper behavior toward women during his bodybuilding and acting career.
Arnold demonstrates grace and introspection when discussing these embarrassing topics with Netflix. Schwarzenegger owns up to his mistakes, handling the subjects with grace and candor.
The most important lesson to learn from Schwarzenegger is humility. Arnold pushes back on the idea of being a “self-made man”. He recognizes his success was made possible by, in part, by all the help he got along the way.
At the end of the day, Arnold is inspirational. Schwarzenegger visualized and actualized his incredible success. He reminds viewers the American Dream is possible for anyone willing to put in the work.
The bottom line is if you appreciate America as much as Arnold then you’ll love this documentary. It’s not a story about a movie star, power lifter or politician. It’s a story about the American Dream.
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