Some days you write about Studio Ghibli Zippo lighters and some days you’re invited out to ride along with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his own personal tank; such is the nature of the business. I joined my fellow film journalists in a press event held at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, a locale that is home to such Western-styled projects as Gunsmoke, Deadwood and even Django Unchained. It also happens to be the home of Schwarzenegger’s 50-ton M47 Patton tank, the very machine he drove as a youth in the Austrian Army. We spent the morning being driven around by Schwarzenegger in the tank, learned some amazing anecdotes about his time in the army, watched him crush a car and even talked about The Last Stand, featuring the former Governor’s return to a lead action role, which opens January 18th. Hit the jump for a recap of the event along with a bunch of insane images.
Suffice it to say that Schwarzenegger has been around the block when it comes to promoting movies. This time around, he thought that his return to action in The Last Stand deserved something a little more attention-grabbing than just another press luncheon. Riding on a tank and crushing a car seems to have done the trick. The war machine, which is almost as old as Schwarzenegger himself, is serviced by the owners of Melody Ranch, Renaud and Andre Veluzat. The duo have spent the last few years rebuilding the engine and replacing the treads, along with constant and attentive maintenance to keep the old girl running.
Schwarzenegger shared some anecdotes about his state-required year in the Austrian Army as an eighteen-year-old who was fascinated by tanks, saying:
“I learned how to drive the tank, which was always my fascination, I think, because I grew up after the war, and I saw the British troops that occupied our area. So I always wanted to be a tank driver.”
While on maneuvers, Schwarzenegger and his fellow soldiers would use the hot spots (areas of metal over the tank’s engine) as a makeshift cooking stove, grilling up steaks and frying eggs. The eventual Mr. Universe continued his bodybuilding training even while off base, having stowed his workout equipment (plate weights, barbells, and a collapsible bench) in the tank’s tool storage areas. Schwarzenegger also revealed that the soldiers would dig a hole beneath the tank each night in order to sleep; this protected them from the cold, the weather and “the wild boars roaming the countryside.”
The M47 Patton was originally purchased and shipped over by Schwarzenegger in 1992 as part of a plan to build a Las Vegas-based Planet Hollywood with a theme of military vehicles used in the movies. That never panned out, but Schwarzenegger now uses the tank for a more noble purpose. His foundation, which he’s been involved with for some twenty years, uses incentives like tank rides, movie set visits and even skiing at Mammoth Mountain to encourage inner-city kids to stay in school and stay out of trouble.
Yeah, the tank’s great for the kids, but it’s also a helluva lot of fun to ride on and an absolute blast to watch it crush cars. And when an Aviators-wearing, cigar-smoking Arnold Schwarzenegger is your tank driver? No other experience even comes close! Sadly, I don’t think the M47 Patton will be making an appearance in The Last Stand, but you’ll have to see for yourself when it hits theaters on January 18th. Check out a bunch of images from the press event (with credit to Eric Charbonneau), followed by the trailer, synopsis and poster for The Last Stand below. You can also catch up on the other journalists’ experience by clicking on #ArnoldTankRides.
Click on any image for high-res.
Here’s the trailer for The Last Stand:
Here’s the official synopsis for The Last Stand:
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’ path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever.
At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.