Thursday, April 23, 2015

Live from Tribeca 2015: Arnold Schwarzenegger Predicted the Future of the Film Industry

Please note: the following interview has been shared directly with courtesy of our friends at IndieWire.


In Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the downbeat parent of a teenager (Abigail Breslin) bitten by a zombie. Spending most of the movie caring for ailing girl and anticipating her death, Schwarzenegger's character in director Henry Hobson's debut is far different from others he's played in the past. That extends to the movie as well; opening day-and-date in the U.S. on May 9, Maggie marks a much smaller production than anything the actor has done before. But Schwarzenegger said that the movie gels with the way he's worked for years.


In New York for the film's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, he spoke Indiewire Deputy Editor Eric Kohn about his history with independent productions, his thoughts on the state of special effects, how he predicted the globalization of the film industry decades ago, how OJ Simpson was originally slated to be the Terminator and how Oliver Stone's script for Conan was originally budgeted for $78 million - in 1980!


Below, please find select excerpts; for the entire interview, visit:


How do you usually choose your projects?


Most of the jobs I've done, I've gotten them myself, and then agents make the deal. People come up to me in restaurants and say, "Arnold, I've got this great script." They send you stuff. They give you stuff in the gym.  For Eraser, I was hanging out with Lorenzo di Bonaventura.  I was sitting on a chairlift in Sun Valley. It is snowing. The snow is coming down. You can't even see three feet in front of you. And we're taking off in the chairlift to go skiing together. The chairlift takes off and he goes, "By the way, Arnold."  He pulls the script out for Eraser and gives it to me. He says, "Put it in your jacket, read it, I'm here this whole weekend." That's normally the way it happens. There's no agent, no nothing. That's how the Terminator thing happened - Mike Medavoy coming up to me after a movie and going, "Arnold, you have to play Reese. We have OJ Simpson as the Terminator." Of course, it all changed later.


How do you think the film industry has changed since you first hit it big?


To me, the important thing is that my movies can play anywhere and people will understand the drama, the action, or whatever and get entertained....It has to play the same way in all the different continents. That's very important - from the beginning, when I was getting started, I always looked at everything in a global way, whether it was body-building or fitness promotion.  Even though I passed environmental laws in California, I was thinking about how to make it effective all over the world. It's always about the world.


With movies, even though I had big fights in the beginning, I remember that with Universal Studios we were going to do promotion for Conan the Barbarian and I said, "Let's go to 10 countries." They said, "No, no, that's not how we do it. We visit three countries - England, France, and the Cannes Film Festival  " I wanted to go to Italy, Germany, Japan.  I kept at it and eventually they sent me to 10 countries, but they thought it was a little out there.  They said, "This guy just likes to travel around." But it had nothing to do with traveling around. I thought that the world was the marketplace, not just America.


Now look what happened. I was totally on the money. I'm so happy today because I was so right and way ahead of the curve.  Now, in China, The Fast and the Furious made like $400 million and will end up making more over there than in America.  China's right behind America.  So the world is very important for box office and making big movies.  You need to go to China, Japan, African nations. You need to go to these places and make sure they're building theaters all over the world.  It's a world economy.


Special effects have gone through incredible changes since you first started out. But sometimes they overwhelm the story. Does that ever bother you?


It seems to me that visual effects are very welcome. For instance, if the T-1000 and the T-800 have a fight scene, and you want to go beyond just pushing each other around like it's a UFC fight - which we see all the time on television - you can only do that with visual effects. I cannot tell the story without that ability to grab you, throw you by your head up against the ceiling so you land in this wooden floor, and since you weigh 1,000 pounds, each time you hit the wooden floor it goes down to the next room. That's the power you have. Otherwise it becomes a UFC fight where human beings are hitting the floor. People don't want to see that. They want to see a machine do it. What does that look like? For that you need visual effects.


For example, there's one scene [in Terminator: Genisys] where he grabs me and throws me up against the wall, 15 feet up, to show the power these machines have. So it's a different type of fight scene. The only way that's possible is with visual effects. So it shouldn't take anything away. If you use it wisely, I think it's great. 


For instance, on Conan, Oliver Stone wrote a scene with the Tree of Woe. We had to take that scene out because that scene alone cost $20 million. His script was budgeted at $78 million - in 1980!  Only because it was impossible to be done in those days as a visual effects. Today you can do it just like that.  You can create a scene that is so spectacular, to show what this tree does, why everyone is so frightened of it that they couldn't get through. It was a really well-written scene but you couldn't shoot it in those days. That's why I think visual effects are great, but when it's not that kind of a scene, you have to get back down to acting and developing the characters. I've seen it myself firsthand on action movies how directors and producers don't pay as much attention to the development of the characters because they focus so much on the big stuff. James Cameron is the only one I've seen who's really so good in the details of the scene but also with the big things. He doesn't compromise one versus the other.