In filmmaker David Ayer’s Sabotage, elite DEA task force agent John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) heads a team that takes on the world’s deadliest drug cartels. But after the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safe house, they mysteriously start to be murdered, one by one, making everyone a suspect, including the team members themselves. The film also stars Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Olivia Williams, Harold Perrineau and Martin Donovan.
At the film’s press day, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about always looking for projects that are unique and different, why he wanted to work with director David Ayer and follow his lead, how impressed he was with his fellow actors, and what he does to make sure that he’s not singled out with any special star treatment. He also talked about returning to the Terminator franchise and how the script for Terminator: Genesis has the feel of Terminator 2, reprising the role of Conan for The Legend of Conan, and the Twins sequel, Triplets. Check out our Arnold Schwarzenegger after the jump.
Collider: Since its inception, this film has been marketed as the movie that’s going to show Arnold Schwarzenegger in a way that’s different from how audiences have seen him before. Was that important to you? Were you looking for something that would stretch you and show you in a way that audiences haven’t seen?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think you always look for something unique and different, but this was a coincidence. The script was brought to me and I read it, and I said to myself, “Wow, this could really look different than previous Schwarzenegger movies.” David Ayer brings a fresh approach to the movie because he has all these little cameras all over the place, and he shoots everything and gets really inside the game, rather than from the outside looking in. His approach of bringing realistic stuff to the screen and being a fanatic about prepping appealed to me. I knew a lot about him. Of course, I saw his movie End of Watch, which I was blown away by. So I said to myself, “I’ve got to take this opportunity and do this movie because I’ll work with a great director and writer.” Also, he had promised me that he was going to put a cast together around me that was going to be really mind-blowing, and I believed him. And that’s exactly what he did. So, it was one of those things that just came at the right time. As an actor, you always look for something like that, that has a different feel to it. It was just a really wonderful opportunity.
How was David Ayer to work with? Did you find him to be pretty open to collaboration?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. Obviously, he grew up watching my movies and admiring my work, so when he came to me, all of the stuff that he said he admired, he wanted to undo. That’s always the odd thing about when people who grow up with your work and you have an impact on them, but he didn’t want to do the movies that he has seen. It’s not that he didn’t like them. He loved them. But, he wanted to make his own mark. He said, “I’m going to make Arnold not be Arnold,” and that was the big challenge. He wanted people to feel like this guy is just the leader of this SWAT team, end of story, and not Arnold. I got that, and that’s what we worked on. I didn’t have any objections to that. He also was very much insistent on specific training and specific moves that I’ve never done before, and I was not opposed to that either. Since I enjoy his movies, I wanted to look like the guys in his movies, so I just worked with him very closely and followed his lead.
SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s very appealing because it really does give you a little bit more insight. People know never know when they miss it in a movie, but when they see it, they say, “Wow, this is really unique.”
Obviously, you’re familiar with this type of physical work, but working with the other actors, who most impressed you, as far as what they were capable of doing?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I was impressed with the very fact that they were willing to really dive in there and do the things that they were doing. There was hard training, with martial arts training, kicking and boxing, and the training with the guns. We were out there sometimes in the heat in the desert, shooting with machine guns. They just did it. Everyone realized that this is a great opportunity to work with this guy. Yes, he’s over the top with his approach, but it was good. He’s a fanatic about law enforcement. It was all good because he does it before the shooting, so that when we shoot, it all goes away and he lets you be. He sees that you’ve prepared and he sees that you are now the character, and he lets you be.
You’re doing an action movie, and you’re something of an action icon. Is there anything you to do make everyone else at ease, and so that they’re comfortable and not treating you differently?
SCHWARZENEGGER: You act like a normal human being and you treat them like a buddy because you’re all working together. It’s no different than being Governor. You put a team together and say, “Guys, we all want to shine here. We all want to show that this administration is going to do things that other administrations have thought was impossible. Let’s kick some ass together. If anyone needs anything, let me know.” Then, it becomes a buddy thing in the office, rather than, “Mister Governor, can I have a word with you?” That’s the approach I always take. That’s the approach I took with this movie. We clicked, the whole team. They admired me, and I admired them. I’ve seen Joe [Manganiello] on True Blood and I know the work he does. It all just fell into place. But, I really never have a problem with that. I never go on a movie set as the star. I always go as the guy who just does his job, like the electrician does his job and the hairdresser does her job. Let’s all work together and make this happen, rather than have the star treatment. I don’t do that.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that it’s just so wild to have a franchise that has been around for that long, and then after 30 years, to get asked again to be the only character in a movie that is the same character is unheard of, in movie history. You always switch out, like with James Bond and Batman. They have new characters there. But, not here. That, to me, is an extraordinary situation and a great opportunity. Of course, I was honored when I was asked to come back and play the character with Sarah Connor. It was the same when Universal called and said, “We want to do the sequel to Twins.” That’s 25 years later, after it came out. And 34 or 35 years later, after doing Conan, they’ve come back and said that they want me to play Conan. Not to be one of the villains in Conan, like the usually do, but to play Conan. It’s great because I’ve stayed in physical shape, and they see me in different movies and on social media and with all the stuff that I do. I’m still on the cover of the muscle magazines. So, they say, “We can still have this guy fight with a sword for 10 hours a day, do horseback riding, and all of these things. We can have him star in Conan.” It’s really unusual. That’s never, ever happened, that I’m aware of, in the history of these kinds of things, where you can lead a franchise like that and be the star, at this age. That just shows you that, if you have the attitude of a young person and you work like a young person and you keep your body in shape, and if you believe that you can do it, then you can actually make other people also believe that you can do it.
Have they told you whether Terminator will be a PG-13 or an R?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No. I don’t know.
Will it actually be called Terminator: Genesis?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don’t know what the final title is going to be. With Sabotage, when I read the script, it was called Ten and now it’s called Sabotage. You never know. Today, studios switch titles because everything has been tested. They felt like people were confused with what Ten meant. They’ll throw out five titles, and then they’ll pick one. But Terminator is going to have the exact same feel. The way it reads, it has the same feel of Terminator 2. It’s big. There’s hardcore action and it has some really great visual effects in there, but not over the top. It’s not a Thor type of movie, even though it’s the same director. It has good special effects, but just enough to make you say, “Wow, where did that come from? How did they do that?”
When do you start shooting?
SCHWARZENEGGER: We start shooting at the end of April in New Orleans. You should come and visit the set.
Are you hoping to do more comedy, too?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, with Triplets. There will be more comedy.
Sabotage will open in theaters on March 28th.