Beyond Fest: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Duke Q&A

The centerpiece event of Beyond Fest this week was Arnold Schwarzenegger himself attending a double feature screening of Predator and The Running Man. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger ’80s classics screened on 35mm, Predator a print from the 20th Century Fox Archives.

Bill Duke from Predator was in the audience too so Schwarzenegger called him up to the front to join the Q&A. He even opened by greeting the audience with a slew of his popular catch phrases. Here is a transcript of the Q&A, except for the part where a nine-year-old got to arm wrestle Arnold, because that doesn’t translate into print.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Very nice. Get to the choppah! Do it now! It’s not a tumor. It’s not a tumor at all. Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.

Q: What should we call you? Governor, Governator?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: You can call me Dutch. You can call me Ben Richards. You can call me Schnitzel. You can call me The Governator, Governor, Arnold but don’t call me the Butcher of Bakersfield. The thing I always say when people ask me that question is, “You can call me anything but don’t call me a self-made man because there is no such thing. I’m here today because I got help from a lot of people and remember, you can never become a star without you. You guys, the audience, the fans are the ones that make one a star. You go to see the movies. That’s when I become a star so that’s the bottom line. We can never do anything ourselves. It’s great to have all of you here. You’re so enthusiastic. I was asked like a month ago by a friend of mine who was somehow connected to this. He said to me, “It’s just an idea. They’re going to have a screening of Running Man and Predator. Would you be interested in going there and doing a little Q&A?” I did not think about it for a second. I said of course, because if you guys can sit through two of my movies, then I can at least come from Santa Monica over here. I just came from USC. We just had an environmental conference at USC. The Chinese were there and everybody. It was a very successful conference and then I just drove over here to join you. To me, it is a great, great pleasure to be here today with all of you watching both of these movies.

Q: What was your favorite practical joke you played while filming Predator?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: You had a huge amount of testosterone on that set so you can imagine the amount of jokes and tricks that were pulled on each other the entire time. It was unbelievable but one time I remember specifically, I played so many tricks on those guys that when I happened to get married during the filming of Predator, I was three weeks in and got married to Maria. The production gave us a few days honeymoon and then we flew back and continued on with Predator. So the first night I was there, I remember Maria got up in the middle of the night. She had to go to the bathroom and all of a sudden, I heard a loud scream, just really loud like there was something terribly wrong. So I ran into the bathroom and she just had this curtain open and there were snakes in the bathtub and frogs in the bathtub. The stunt guys pulled a trick on me. They knew it was still part of my honeymoon and they wanted to just totally screw up my honeymoon. Sure enough, my wife left the next day. She was out of there. She said, “I’m not going to stay in this jungle in this misery. I’m out of here.” And she went back to Hollywood. Those are the kinds of things that went on all the time but that was because I pulled tricks on them also, so this is just the way it goes with that many guys around.

Bill Duke: No tricks but it was amazing because Arnold had a gymnasium shipped in from L.A. Every morning he and the cast would run how many miles? I forgot.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: We would run around five miles every morning.

Bill Duke: Around five o’clock in the morning. Then they’d come back and work out for another hour, eat breakfast and then go to the set. I did it twice.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: That reminds me, there was one day when I have to admit I only ran one mile because I got really sick. I got dehydrated and then I got some flu. You know, when you’re in Mexico, if you eat the wrong thing, the shit hits the fan so to speak. I went on an early morning run and all of a sudden I started throwing up. I tried to wipe it off and continue on running, but then all of sudden it came out the other side. So I had to quickly run to the side of the road, pull my pants down so I was in big, big trouble that day. It was not five miles that day. It was much, much less than that. Then later on I had the doctor come in and give me IV and I was dehydrated. I needed a lot of fluid so for four days I was in bed after that, lost around seven pounds/eight pounds or so of body weight. Then a week later I was able to go back to work again.

Bill Duke and Arnold Schwarzenegger at Beyond Fest

Q: Did it stop production?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: No, they continued on shooting because there were a lot of scenes that didn’t have me in them. There was a lot of work they continued doing. There was not one single minute that stopped because of that. Luckily, because it was such an ensemble piece and there were so many guys there and so many great action scenes and different scenes where they continued on working and then I came back in the end.

Q: Can you tell us a story about working with Dino De Laurentiis?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Well, Dino De Laurentiis and I was kind of like the Sylvester Stallone relationship. We started with despise and hatred and then somehow for some miracle reason, something happens and it becomes a good relationship. With Dino De Laurentiis it was exactly the same thing. I went in there to be cast for a film as the villain. It was ’77 or so. I walked into the office, the first thing I saw was this huge desk, ornate, long, massive and there was this short little guy behind it. So the first thing that comes to my mind was to say, “Wow, why does a little guy like you need such a big desk?” Big mistake. He immediately fired back and says, “You have an accent. I cannot use you.” That was the end. They escorted me out. There was this guy Dino Conte, his friend and also a producer, escorted us out, my agent and me. They closed the door and my agent screamed at me. He says, “Why the fuck did you have to open your mouth? How many times did I tell you you shouldn’t open your mouth? Let me do the talking.” He looked at the watch and said, “This was the shortest meeting I’ve ever had with anybody.” It was one minute and 14 seconds. “Thanks a lot, Arnold. Really helpful when you open your mouth.” That’s how the relationship started. Then I was cast to do Conan the Barbarian. Dino De Laurentiis bought the project to produce it for Universal Studios. He tried to get me off the project. He says,” Schwarzenegger. I don’t like Schwarzenegger. He’s a Nazi.” He was trying to tell the head of the studio and John Milius, the director, anything and everything negative about me. Then John Milius basically said, “Look, there’s no one else that can play Conan. I’m going to cast Schwarzenegger and that’s it.” The bottom line is that three days after filming began, Dino De Laurentiis came to the set where we had this banquet where we had the big fight scene. He came up to me and says, “Hey, Arnold, you’re Conan.” That was the biggest compliment Dino De Laurentiis ever gave me, “You are Conan.” That means he bought it and that was fantastic. From then on, the relationship improved. He started treating me like his son. He was a sweetheart of a guy. I learned a lot from him. He was very helpful in my career. As a matter of fact, I did the eulogy at his funeral when he passed away a few years ago. We became great friends and I became a big admirer and he became a big admirer of me. It ended up all perfect.

Q: What was the story you shared at Stan Winston’s memorial about getting a life cast for The Terminator?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I cannot even remember it any more that well, but I just remember that it was a claustrophobic situation. They put this plaster all over your face and head so eventually you can’t see anything, you cannot hear anything. The only thing you can really do is they put some straw in your nose. That’s the way you can breathe, but the mouth is totally closed. You’re just trying to hope that the straws don’t close. This is all you’re thinking about. What if this closes? They cannot get the cast off fast enough for you to get air. All you do is worry you’re going to wipe out with this thing on. Stan was talking to me throughout this entire time. All of a sudden I couldn’t hear his voice because they closed the ears. That was the most frightening feeling you can think of and you’re sitting with that thing for an hour. Then they start cutting it off with a saw. That’s kind of the saws they use in the operating room. All of a sudden you hear [saw sound], you feel the vibration and I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t say, “Be careful, that’s my ear!” I’m supposed to be acting bossy in those situations but I did exactly the opposite. Stan Winston knew and started pulling tricks on me and prolonging the whole process because he knew that I was worried about it. It was not a fun experience. I’ve done it two or three times after that but by that time I got used to it because you know what’s coming and you can prepare yourself. The first time he did it, I was not ready for it at all. I’d like to just ask Bill a question for a second. We were tortured in this movie. Every day was torture. Just being in the jungle was scary. Be careful of the bugs, be careful of those ants, be careful of this snake and we had to crawl around on the ground. No one was checking anything. How did you feel every day when we went into that jungle?

Bill Duke: Two things I would say. Arnold is totally right. We had to crawl in the jungle. I don’t know if you know what a coral snake is but if it bites you, you die right away. We’re crawling one day and a coral snake goes right across in front of us. It was the heat, it was humidity. Driving up every morning, we had to drive 20-30 minutes. One of the funniest things that happened to me and to a lot of the cast was the craft service guy put netting around the craft service because we’re in the middle of the jungle, but every single day there were bugs in the food the first week. At first we said, “We’re not eating this crap. Take it back.” By week two, it was called protein. Am I right?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hallelujah, you’re right.

Q: Were you aware of the battle between your fans, where you had to be a Stallone fan or a Schwarzenegger fan, and if you saw the other’s movies you were disloyal?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I want to just add, because this is not exactly everything that she said. She made very clear that the Schwarzenegger fans were very receptive to accepting the Stallone fans and it was not the other way around. The Stallone fans did not accept the Schwarzenegger fans. That’s where the problem began. I was always very inclusive and so were my fans. The bottom line was that I’m glad we straightened out our mess because it wasn’t pretty. We were attacking each other in the press relentlessly. We called each other names and called out our weak points. It was just so competitive, it became so silly that all of a sudden it was a competition about who has the most muscular body? Who has the most unique killings? Who kills more people on the screen? Who makes more money at the box office? Who has less body fat when he goes into production? All this shit started happening. It wouldn’t stop. It was unbelievable. Finally, after this war continued for a decade, finally came this idea to create Planet Hollywood. I was asked, as the only celebrity to have a contract with them and be the representative of Planet Hollywood. Then my lawyer who also was the lawyer of Stallone and Bruce Willis, asked me, “Look, can you cut those guys in too?” I said to myself here’s a great opportunity to be gracious and just say they’re all welcome, because I knew if they came in, we would have to fly around the world and promote Planet Hollywoods all over the world. That eventually, since we would now have something in common, would create peace. That’s exactly what happened. Stallone was very appreciative that I let him come in.

Q: What scenes in your career were the biggest intellectual challenges?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: When you do action movies, they don’t spend that much time on really doing great [scenes]. Predator is somewhat of an exception here because there were some really great scenes. I think John McTiernan is one of those guys that isn’t just a great action director but he just loves also great dialogue and great scenes. He moved in and the way he worked with us when we did our scenes together, it was fantastic but that’s a rarity in an action movie. I’ll tell you, you set up for 24 hours a big scene and I’m swinging from this side to over there and crashing over there. You rehearse and rehearse and spend hours on this stuff. Then they go off to the side and say, “Let’s now quickly do the dialogue scene” and they give you have an hour. This is why you never really have a chance to develop a character really well or to really get into it and have a challenging scene. I remember on Conan there were some moments because we had Max Von Sydow and we had James Earl Jones as the actors in there. Therefore, because of Milius also requested some very challenging scenes. Later on, when we started doing True Lies with Jim Cameron, when we started Terminator 2 there were some unbelievable scenes that were really challenging, not because there was so much dialogue or anything like that. When you’re playing a machine, so you play the whole machine all the time, machine-like. Then all of a sudden the director comes to you and he says, “I want to now ramp up a little bit the human being coming through because you’re hanging out with this boy and you start understanding human beings a little bit more. You start becoming a little bit more human.” He gives you numbers. He says, “From 1 to 10, I want you to start with a 1. Then do a 2.” Then he takes you up to maybe a 5. You can never act really human but maybe you have some hints of human behaviors when you talk and when you show sadness and stuff like that. Those were really challenging moments because Cameron is a very demanding director. I remember True Lies, especially when I was sitting there and had to watch the dance of Jamie Lee Curtis and not move. Think about that for a second. That was a real challenge. Bill is an actor’s actor. What were the most challenging things from an acting point of view.

Bill Duke: As you said, John McTiernan is a great director. He cares about actors in a scene. After my partner died in the film, the scene when I’m talking to the moon and I promise him that I’m going to get revenge, I had to have the emotion in the moment but also he didn’t want me to be too soft or anything. Finding that balance was interesting. I really miss my partner but at the same time it was the anger, I’m going to get you for killing him. Those two things together were interesting.

Q: Who is your favorite badass persona you’ve played?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: It’s very hard to say. It’s almost like you ask me what is your favorite muscle? How do you answer that? I don’t know. Or ask me what is the worst tweet of Donald Trump? Where do you start? The character obviously in Predator that I played, I think playing Terminator is really a fantastic role to play. I think the character I played in True Lies was a really interesting double kind of a role where your ballsy one day but then you come down and all of a sudden you have to deal with those daily problems just like everyone else and you have to be the family man and you have challenges with your daughter, challenges with your wife, just the things everyone goes through. Then the next day I was killing 15 terrorists. That was, I think, a really, really interesting character. And I thought Aftermath about the two airplanes crashing together that I recently did. That was a very, very interesting character because I played a Russian guy who lost his family in an airplane crash and knows it was their fault. No one came to apologize because of insurance policies so no one wanted to admit it was their fault. This guy gets into this whole thing about finding revenge for my family and going after the air traffic controller. What takes place in this character and how he gets there, I just felt that was also a very interesting character to play. That is why it’s very hard to say there’s just one. It’s never the one. It’s the many different interesting characters I played.

Q: Who is your daddy and what does he do?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Answer it now! If you want a real answer, my dad was a police officer and he gave me the discipline that I had throughout my whole life. He gave me that through sports. I just think that sports is really one of the greatest vehicles to learn about some of the most important lessons in life. This is why I highly recommend for every parent to make sure their kids participate in sports because then you don’t have to sit down and preach all the time and say, “You’ve got to have discipline and you’ve got to stick with it.” It automatically comes. If you want to be a good soccer player, you’ve got to go and play soccer every day, hours and hours and hours. If you want to be a great piano player, I remember I walked up to this girl who was seven years old and played the piano on stage in a huge performance. I said, “Wow, you’re seven years old. How much do you practice?” She said, “Five hours a day.” This is what it takes, the same as in bodybuilding. There is no shortcut. Five hours a day you have to practice posing, you have to eat right, you have to be disciplined, you have to do it every day. There is no way around it. So you learn about hard work, you learn about discipline, you learn about camaraderie, you learn that you are a product of a lot of help and you learn not to listen to the naysayers in all of those kinds of things. All this stuff, you learn from sports. I was happy I had a father who was very much into creating discipline at home with us kids and that got me into sports and that also really always said to me, “Remember one thing, Arnold. Be useful. Be useful.” I always remember that. It’s always sticking ni my mind, to be useful.

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