Though action star Arnold Schwarzenegger may have been seen in brief roles in The Expendables and The Expendables 2, his return to leading man status will come early next year in The Last Stand (watch the new trailer here). Schwarzenegger stars as retired LAPD officer turned sheriff, Ray Owens, who settles in the peaceful border town of Sommerton Junction. When cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from the FBI and makes a run for the border, Owens and his small-town sheriffs department are the only things standing in his way.
During our set visit to The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger graciously spoke at length during a round-table interview about the film and a return to his career that he put on pause to assume the governorship of California. He also spoke about his relationship with James Cameron, the possibility of a sequel to The Last Stand, his personal favorite characters, how much humor is in the film and if he wants to return to comedy, how it felt to return to the profession and much more. Hit the jump to read our interview.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: I’ll bring it to his attention. [laughs] Jim and I have had, for years, a great relationship. After I got involved with politics, there was one area that he stayed involved with and that was environmental and energy-related issues. He’s a fanatic about that. So we did a lot of things together, during that time and afterwards.
Do you think that The Last Stand begs for a sequel to a certain degree if successful, more adventures with the sheriff? Is that something you could see happening or something you’d be interested in doing?
Schwarzenegger: I don’t know what the story would be. What concept do you take? Am I still back in my town and something else happens? Certain movies are not set up for that, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it. I, myself, could not come up with the concept right now. Another writer could come in. For instance, the FBI agent (Forest Whitaker) says to me at the end, “I was wrong. I was an asshole. You’re a great law enforcement guy. You’re a great cop. If you ever want to join us…” or something like that. There may be something there where the character joins the FBI and takes his next job or they lure him more away, knowing that they have some other case somewhere and they think that this guy is really much better in the trenches than their guys are. At this point, I can’t imagine what that would be.
Do you have a personal favorite of all the characters you’ve played?
Schwarzenegger: No, because there are a few characters, Twins or Kindergarten Cop or True Lies or Predator, those characters are very memorable characters. They’re interesting characters. I could never pick one over the other. How could you pick the Twins character over the True Lies character? Which one is better? I don’t think there’s such a thing. Both are very entertaining in the way they were directed and written and how I tried to play it out. Whatever character it is, you have to always show some humanity and a little twinkle of being able to step back and have fun with it and make fun of yourself a little bit and not to take it too seriously. Some people picked up on that over the years, that my films always have…I’ve always tried to put this extra thing in the movie, some of myself in there. Making fun of the character, even though maybe it was an intense movie, but it’s something they’ll like rather than trying to be too serious all the time.
Schwarzenegger: The story is that he’s a straight man, but even though it’s not written, you get to show something a little extra that people will find endearing.
So the audience knows that you’re joking even if the character isn’t?
Schwarzenegger: Or they don’t think that he’s joking, but they feel that there’s a more human quality than maybe what is written on the page.
Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] said that there’s a decent amount of comedy in the movie. I was wondering if the comedy in this movie, in the same way that The Expendables got you back into action, would maybe get you back into doing straight-up comedies after this?
Schwarzenegger: There are moments like that, the funny moments in there, but remember that this is a very different look and story and feel from The Expendables. The Expendables is like you’re going in for a wild ride, so that there’s a different humor. That particular humor wouldn’t work on this film. I think about the last shot that we did down in Bulgaria, having this huge shootout in the airport: people are flying through the air, off the balconies and everything and then all of a sudden, the terrorists are on us and the only way we can find a way out, Bruce Willis and me, was to get into this Smart Car. I mean, how stupid, right? This is exactly what works in this movie, because here the ballsy guys with the big guns blowing everything up and then the only way…we look around and he says, “I have an idea.” He runs off and he picks this little Smart Car. He comes around, I open up the door and the door falls off right away, because of my unusual strength, right? [laughs] Then he’s looking and I’m saying, “God, this is smaller than my shoes.” So there’s this funny little moment and he’s kind of up in arms, I mean I’m complaining and he’s just saved my life. So we drive off again and we’re shooting, there are some more people falling off and we’re driving around the airport now in this Smart Car. It will make people howl, because of who’s sitting in there and the background.
Schwarzenegger: Yeah, if the story is good, I would love to do another Twins. As a matter of fact, we’ve been talking about doing one and it’s called Triplets. I’d find somebody like Eddie Murphy or someone [laughs] that people would say, “How does that happen, medically speaking?” and, “Physically, there’s no way.” Then somehow we would explain it. That would be hilarious with what we know about someone like him. You’ve got to find people that in, real life, people laugh about them and whatever we know about them that makes you laugh. I can see a poster, a billboard, with us three…”They found another one. Triplets. Only their mother can tell them apart.” I would do that in two seconds, because that’s real entertainment. You come out with that movie for Christmas, like December 5th or something like that, and you’re home free, just like with the other one.
Or True Lies 2, with that we’ll probably have to wait a little bit because it’s more of a family kind of a movie, the family dynamic works. My personal situation doesn’t work so well right now. Until that’s settled, then we can go off and do that again, with family subjects. [laughs] All those things, if it’s True Lies, Terminator, a well-made Terminator…the last one was awful. It tried hard, not that they didn’t try, the acting and everything. It missed the boat.
Schwarzenegger: He’s off doing the sixth Fast and the Furious.
You directed a very light-hearted Christmas movie that my mom watches every year. Any thought of getting back behind the camera?
Schwarzenegger: Yeah, could be. Now, I’m just getting back into it. As you move forward with this, then I will see where it takes me. There’s no master plan of any sort, just to get the experience again of being on a set, making good movies, doing scenes, being directed and all that stuff, then going from there.
Did it come right back when you stepped on set?
Schwarzenegger: Yeah, it felt like riding a bicycle; it comes back. You may be a little concerned when you step on the cues for the first run, but you know that you’re going to do it, but you’re concerned. That’s what I was when I first started. I was concerned with the translation, an Austrian trying to figure out a Korean (Jee-woon Kim), what the guy from Brazil is saying, the guy from Spain…so let’s figure this out. It has been a great experience and it has been surprisingly great to shoot here, because one always has this kind of opinion of, “What are we doing in Albuquerque? This is going to be wild. Working in some studio, who are going to be the lighting people and the crew that really makes the movie happen?” But there are really experienced people here and the atmosphere was good, the catering’s great, the hotel’s great; everyone’s making a real effort. It has been a really terrific experience.
In a lot of your past movies, every time you kill a bad guy there’s a one-liner that comes out. It doesn’t feel like this movie adheres to that, but I’m just curious if anything like that comes up?
Schwarzenegger: We’ll be making up dialogue as we go along or doing little things, but it’s not based on that kind of humor. It’s not that movie. You have to be very careful. As a matter of fact, there’s a line where I say, “I’ll be back,” but we took it out. Someone else was saying a line of mine, but I’m trying to stay away from all of that.
Do you feel any pressure to really make a return to the big screen?
Schwarzenegger: No, quite the opposite; none of it, absolutely none. I think this is a perfect movie because we’re not trying to outdo the other movies. That’s not what this movie says. What this movie says is: I’ve moved forward with my age 8 years since the last one and this is the perfect character, the way it’s written, the way it always was written. This guy left the LAPD, he had gotten shot up and is wounded. We show a scene where he’s going to the bathroom in a tank-top walking through the hall and we see bullet wounds and stuff like that. It’s a guy that has left the LAPD because of his injuries and because of the drama of seeing his buddies shot up and one still being in a coma, and all that. He went back to his hometown and said, “It’s time, at this age, to leave this behind. This is for the younger guys in LA with this pressure and all of that. I’m going to back and take care of the town where I grew up.” It’s that kind of a character. It’s always kind of considered a smaller movie, as a more personal kind of a story. When you have that, you don’t feel that pressure that you have to outperform the other movies. It stands on its own. I think it’s a terrific vehicle to come back with.
I always like looking at smaller projects like that. Cry Macho was originally what we were going to do; it was also a smaller project. It was always something smaller and we can step it up after that. No screaming about the movie, no going out and showing off. Lionsgate has their own campaign; I’m sure they’re working on figuring out how to sell this movie the best way and everyone is going to work on that. In my mind, I like to treat this in a different way than what we used to do with movies. Be a little bit set back, let the other guys…this is an ensemble piece like Predator, there are a lot of different guys, they’re all great performers, wonderful actors and everything like that, let me be part of that and go out and sell the movie. It’s a Kim Jee-woon movie rather than a Schwarzenegger movie. That’s the way I see the whole thing.
There’s something nice, too, about the character going from California to a southwestern town, which is exactly what you’re doing?
Schwarzenegger: That’s right, exactly. It’s a debate: in one way, I fought for keeping movies in California. Finally, after six years of battling between Democrats and Republicans, we finally got the tax credit; $100 million every year for five years. But you can’t compete with that, with New Mexico, Louisiana, places like that. They just give a much better tax credit and you really save a lot. Terminator 3, I remember that we kept that movie in town, but it cost us $8 million and some of it came out of my pocket. But I was happy to do that because everyone wanted to stay in L.A. and we all chipped in. But in this movie, the number now is so big, of what the state’s offering, it makes sense to do the shoot in a place like that, especially since now they have the facilities.
Schwarzenegger: I don’t know if anyone has. I mean, you guys know that better than me, but I have not yet…I think there are several good people: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Jason Statham, all these guys; there’s a handful of guys like that out there. But I don’t know if anyone has really shot through and made the big punch through.
What was it like working with people in this movie that you haven’t worked with before, like Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander?
Schwarzenegger: Hilarious. I mean, those people are really very funny on screen and off screen. It’s fun to hang out with those people. Luis (Guzman), of course, every line is funny with this guy. His acting, he always puts a lot of himself in his roles and I always liked that, because that’s really what you’re doing. I remember we did this scene out at the farmhouse where the farmer got killed. I’m going out to investigate and I’m asking them a question, “Did you do this and that already?” something that is quite common when you deal with homicide. I would look at both of them, him (Luis) and the young guy (Zach Gilford) and say, “Have you done that?” and [Luis] would say, “He was here first, so it would have been him. Did you do it?” Immediately, he didn’t want to be blamed for it. It was so funny and so typical of a character like him and the way he looks when he does that. He has so many great moments like that.
Oh, and with the sword? With the Conan sword? And the morningstar? You know, the thing with the big ball on the chain that you swing? He stuffs it in his belt and of course the ball hangs down just so…it’s a very funny scene. Then he has the sword in his hand and I walk by and I say this little improvisational line, “What, do you think you’re going to the fucking Crusade?” He said, “Well, you never know.” So there are some moments like that.
You’ve made use of Twitter, first in politics and now a transition into Tweets from the set. How is that communication with the fans?
Schwarzenegger: You have to be very careful, because when you do it in politics, if it is not something totally personal, you have to go and figure out if this is good, the whole thing you’re trying to do. If you’re in the middle of negotiating a budget and you tweet something, it could really offend one of the players and then you have tried to get attention and left them behind. It could disrupt the whole negotiation. So, it’s very sensitive and you have to be very careful. That’s why you don’t do much, except if you go somewhere like a conference, you can give a little information. Or if your plane goes down because it’s on fire, you can put something out. But you have to be careful.
Here, you also have to be careful, because it’s not my movie. It’s Lionsgate’s movie. So if you put something out there, then they’re up in arms. They say, “Wait a minute. That’s not exactly the picture that we wanted to release. We wanted to release without that person in there and so-and-so.” It’s nonsense stuff, but it’s still something you have to consider. So you can’t really go around the set and Tweet from the set. It’s not really as free as if you’re just on your own.
Schwarzenegger: Well, he comes from a background of heavy weapons, but the last time he used those was when he had the big battles in Los Angeles, the big shoot-outs with gangs and stuff like that. But now in his little sheriff’s station, he only has shotguns and pistols. That’s why they’re totally outgunned with this gang in town. That’s why they go out to Knoxville’s historic weapon museum and gets some of the weapons out. That’s why it’s good to establish that scene in the beginning of the movie; it was very funny. It kind of opens up the idea that there’s this crazy guy out there who has this weapons museum and he has legitimate papers for it and he has visiting hours, as he explains it to me. [laughs]
Nevertheless, they are using his weapons all the time. At one point, my officers…as I said, two-thirds of my team is out there shooting at a slab of beef with rockets and with everything. So I give the shit in the beginning, but at the end when we say, “How do we go up against those guys?” and I say, “Well, maybe we have to pay a little visit to the historic weapons museum.” And that’s what we do and then we get the big guns. My choice of weapons is those big guns. There’s one great scene where we have a big machine gun from the second World War, kind of like we had in Predator. It fires 400 rounds a minute. You see the effect of it, because they shot over my shoulder as I’m shooting, of what it does. Even the shops in the background, everything comes apart, that’s how powerful it is. It’s to show that it does make sense that we, in the end, win the battle because we get these extra weapons.
We have to deputize Knoxville and that’s not an easy choice to make. He promises, he says to me, “You guys can have all my stuff, but there are two rules,” of course he forgets the second one [laughs], he says, “The first one is I gotta be deputized just like Franky here.” So, I deputize him right away and he gets on his cellphone and calls his father. They must have some odd relationship because he goes in the corner and he says, “Hey Dad, guess what!” It was like four or five in the morning, a really strange hour. He says, “Hey Dad, guess what! I’ve been deputized! No, I’m not in jail…I’ve been deputized!” And the father says, “Do you know what fucking time it is?” [laughs] And he’s all looking around to see if anyone heard that. Then he comes over and says, “All right. Let’s go.” So we take the weapons. It’s a strange relationship there, obviously.
You and Johnny Knoxville got along pretty well. Did he play any pranks on you?
Schwarzenegger: No, but I should tell you that my kids were the most excited when I told them that he was in the movie. I remember when my kids came on the set, they were so excited meeting them. He’s huge, not only with our age but with the young kids. Huge, they love his movies.
So you’ll be appearing in Jackass 4?
Schwarzenegger: That would be funny!
Here’s more coverage from our visit to the set of The Last Stand:
- 20 Things to Know from Our Set Visit to The Last Stand Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks The Last Stand, Director Kim Jee-Woon’s Unique Style and Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in His Return
- Director Kim Jee-Woon Talks The Last Stand, Differences Between Korean and American Filmmaking, His Unique Directing Style, and More
- Eduardo Noriega Talks The Last Stand, Playing the Villain, Fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Working with Director Kim Jee-Woon and Driving the ZR1 Corvette