The movie roles of Arnold Schwarzenegger: which of these could he reprise?

As Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his return to acting, we go back over his previous roles, and wonder what are the chances of him reprising any of them...

Arnie's films

Having conquered the world of politics and left Sacramento smouldering in his wake, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s making a welcome to acting, no doubt with a triumphant cry of “I’ll be back.”

In an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Schwarzenegger revealed he was “Reading three scripts”, one of which appears to be With Wings As Eagles, an adaptation of a World War II-set novel written by James J Cullen.

The big question is, what are the other two scripts that Schwarzenegger has under consideration? While he appears to have ruled out returning to the action movie genre that made him famous (“Throwing myself around the room and shooting people is no longer in there,” he said, to our extreme disappointment), we’re still hoping that, given enough encouragement, he might return to one or two of his earlier movies for one last adventure.

Schwarzenegger may be heading for his sixty-fourth birthday, but advancing years haven’t stopped Sylvester Stallone from shooting dozens of anonymous bad guys in such films as Rambo and The Expendables, and Clint Eastwood was in his 60s when he saved the president in In The Line Of Fire.

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With this in mind, we take a rather optimistic look back at Arnie’s acting career, and attempt to determine which, if any, of his past roles he’s most likely to reprise…

Hercules – Hercules In New York

Schwarzenegger was just 22 when he made his movie debut (credited as Arnold Strong) in the stunning low-budget fantasy adventure, Hercules In New York. The young Arnold hasn’t quite got his acting chops together yet (his thick Austrian accent was originally dubbed by an American actor, but has since been restored), while much of the film appears to have been shot in a park.

Likelihood of a sequel Given that Schwarzenegger has often expressed his regret at appearing in Hercules In New York, the chances of his reprising the role are, we’d say, minimal. To get an idea of just how bad the film is, take a look at the astonishing moment where the future governor of California punches a bear in the face for what feels like hours…

Joe Santo – Stay Hungry

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Stay Hungry is probably the film Schwarzenegger would prefer to think of as his debut, and his second credited role sees him in far more distinguished company. Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, Scatman Crothers and a pre-Freddy Robert Englund all appear in Bob Rafelson’s comedy drama. Schwarzenegger is perfect in the role of Joe Santo, a bodybuilder who dreams of winning the title of Mr Universe (a competition the actor actually won back in 1967).

Likelihood of a sequel I’m ashamed to say this is the only Schwarzenegger film on this list that I haven’t seen, though I think it’s safe to say that Arnold’s perhaps a little old to be playing a world-class bodybuilder. He could, however, play a world-class bodybuilder’s wise trainer, like a colossal version of Burgess Meredith in the Rocky films.

Handsome Stranger – Cactus Jack

Arnold starred alongside Kirk Douglas and Ann Margaret in this 1979 comedy western, also known under the title The Villain. Shot like a kind of live cartoon by Smokey And The Bandit and Cannonball Run director, Hal Needham, Cactus Jack is a very weird film. There’s a recurring gag involving a polystyrene boulder, and Schwarzenegger looks mildly uncomfortable throughout in his cowboy garb.

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Likelihood of a sequel A quite dreadful film for all concerned, it’s likely that Cactus Jack is a film Schwarzenegger would sooner forget than reprise. Just look at the trailer…

Conan – Conan The Barbarian

Robert E. Howard’s fantasy stories received a robust adaptation courtesy of John Milius in 1982, and Schwarzenegger was the logical choice to star as the monosyllabic Conan. Wearing a furry loincloth and a stadium rock hairdo with an admirably straight face, Schwarzenegger cuts a swathe through Cimmeria as the muscle-bound warrior, avenging his mother’s death and the sacking of his village at the hands of Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones, in what is surely an 80s-era Cher wig), and knocking out two horses and a couple of camels in the process. Just what did Schwarzenegger have against large furry mammals?

Likelihood of a sequelConan The Barbarian was followed by the inferior and less successful Conan The Destroyer in 1984, and both Schwarzenegger and Hollywood appeared to lose interest in the character’s sword-waving exploits. A rebooted Conan, instead, will be released later this year, with Arnie nowhere in sight.

A rebooted Conan The Barbarian, with Jason Momoa in Schwarzenegger’s old role, is set to arrive in cinemas this August, and there’s no sign of the Austrian Oak anywhere. If the movie’s a success, however, there’s perhaps a slim, tiny, outside chance that Arnold might show up as Conan’s uncle Dave, or something, and maybe he’ll punch a couple of camels, just for old time’s sake.

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The Terminator – The Terminator movies

It was The Terminator that inarguably put both director James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger firmly on the Hollywood map, and the latter is ideally cast as the imposing, apparently unstoppable killing machine from the future. Its sequel, Judgment Day, was equally good, though sadly, the same can’t be said for Jonathan Mostow’s tepid third movie, Rise Of The Machines.

Likelihood of a sequel By McG’s dull Terminator Salvation, the franchise appeared to have lost its way, and Arnold Schwarzenegger only appeared as a spooky CGI version of himself. Polish strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski provided the muscular body, while computers took care of the rest.

Assuming the Terminator series can survive the critical reception of Salvation, it’s likely that any appearance of Arnold in a future film will be equally minimal, unless the writers of Hollywood can find a way to explain the existence of a sexagenarian cyborg.

Lord Kalidor – Red Sonja

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Schwarzenegger returned to the fantasy genre with 1985’s Red Sonja, a film that detailed the exploits of the titular heroine, played by Brigitte Nielsen in an awe-inspiring mullet. Schwarzenegger was, therefore, reduced to a supporting role as Lord Kalidor, who appears as Sonja’s hulking love interest.

Likelihood of a sequelRed Sonja failed to earn back its $15 million budget, and the movie marked the end of Schwarzenegger’s interest in playing long haired characters in fantasy movies. A new Red Sonja movie has been in the works for years, with Rose McGowan sporting the ginger mullet, but the production was reportedly shut down in 2010 due to cash flow problems. The chances of Schwarzenegger reappearing as a Lord Kalidor of advancing years are, therefore, looking rather slim.

John Matrix – Commando

Schwarzenegger carries massive logs and kills thousands upon thousands of people in Mark Lester’s out-and-out classic, Commando. As indestructible retired army type John Matrix, Arnold gets to utter such classic lines as “Why don’t they just call him Girl George? It would cut down on the confusion,” and “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry!”

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In a bizarre atonement for his previous bursts of violence against animals, Arnie is shown feeding a deer from the palm of his hand. The moment when he hits the poor thing around the back of the head with a haymaker was presumably removed.

Likelihood of a sequel A belated return to his Commando role isn’t, perhaps, as bizarre as it sounds. After all, Arnold’s more qualified than ever to play a retired man desperate for a quiet life, though he may want to give the log carrying a miss. Australian actor Vernon Wells is still going strong, so perhaps he and Arnie could meet up for a latter-day rematch in Commando 2, though its writers would have to explain how Wells’ character, Bennett, survived his fatal encounter with a steel pipe at the end of the first film.

Mark Kaminsky – Raw Deal

Schwarzenegger really churned out the action movies in the 80s, and Raw Deal followed hot on the heels of Commando. Arnold plays disgraced ex-FBI agent Mark Kaminsky, who takes a break from his quiet life as a small town sheriff to avenge a friend’s death. Kaminsky heads to Chicago and kills every mobster in the city, with a series of automatic firearms. Roll credits.

Likelihood of a sequel Not the finest movie in Arnold’s 80s career, it’s unlikely that anyone, from the suits in Hollywood down to Arnie himself, could summon up the enthusiasm to make a sequel to a generic action flick like Raw Deal. Mind you, we’d dearly love to hear Schwarzenegger utter lines such as “This must be what they mean by poetic justice” or the unforgettable, “You should not drink and bake” one more time.

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Dutch – Predator

Another year, another action picture, and this one’s superb. Schwarzenegger appeared alongside the similarly gargantuan Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura in John McTiernan’s violent, endlessly quotable sci-fi action masterpiece.

Arnold’s presence may undercut some of the tension generated by McTiernan’s direction and Alan Silvestri’s evocative score (if anyone’s going to survive an encounter with an eight-foot-tall, heavily-armed alien, it’s the Oak), but he gets all the best lines as mercenary Dutch (“Stick around”), throws himself off a waterfall, constructs a cunning trap out of logs, and gets to emit this awesome primal scream…

Likelihood of a sequel Nimród Antal’s sequel, Predators, made a healthy profit last year, despite mixed reviews from critics. The film references the original Predator heavily, and there’s even a brief mention of Dutch’s 80s encounter in Guatemala.

Producer Robert Rodriguez and lead actor Adrien Brody have both expressed an interest in making a sequel to Predators, though with the film’s action set on an alien planet, it’s difficult to see how Arnold could be worked in for even a brief cameo role.

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Ben Richards – The Running Man

Schwarzenegger’s second starring role of 1987, The Running Man marked the sophomore directorial effort of former Starsky And Hutch actor, Paul Michael Glaser. A decidedly sketchy adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Running Man depicted a totalitarian future America in thrall to the violent TV game show of the film’s title. Arnold plays Ben Richards, a wrongly convicted criminal who has the chance to win back his freedom if he can defeat the game show’s roster of armoured gladiators.

Likelihood of a sequel As dated as The Running Man often is, its depiction of a needlessly cruel reality-based game show is quiet prophetic. Although we haven’t quite reached the point where we’re watching people fight to the death on primetime TV just yet, programmes such as I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (in which minor celebrities eat live insects and kangaroo genitals for our viewing pleasure) are nevertheless worryingly successful. The Running Man also predicted the rise of absolutely massive televisions, though it wrongly depicted them on every street corner, instead of inside people’s living rooms.

The time may be right, then, for a belated reboot or sequel to The Running Man. And while Schwarzenegger probably won’t be doing quite so much running this time around, we’d be happy to see him return to the role of the wise-cracking hero, Ben Richards. I wonder if Arnold still has the padded jumpsuit hanging in his closet?

Capt. Ivan Danko – Red Heat

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Walter Hill recycled the ‘odd couple’ buddy cop concept of 48 Hrs for 1988’s Red Heat. Schwarzenegger starred as terse Russian law enforcer, Ivan Danko, who forms an awkward partnership with Chicago detective, Art Ridžić (James Belushi) as they pursue vicious criminal, Viktor Rostavili.

Likelihood of a sequel With the cold war now over, it’s hard to imagine a film as cliché-ridden and stereotype-filled as Red Heat getting a green light these days, and it’s hard to imagine Schwarzenegger being particularly interested in pretending to be Russian for a second time.

That said, maybe there’s some comedy mileage to be had in a sequel that sees James Belushi head to the former USSR for a reunion with the now retired (and even grumpier) Ivan Danko. If Arnold gets to pull the prosthetic limb off a one-legged drug dealer again, we’d be more than happy to go and see it. “Cocainum!”

Julius Benedict – Twins

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Apparently tiring of the cycle of violent action movies that marked much of his 80s output, Twins marked Schwarzenegger’s first attempt to broaden his acting horizons in a pure comedy role.

The result of a scientific experiment, the genetically perfect Julius Benedict (Schwarzenegger) discovers that he has a brother, the less than perfect Vincent (Danny DeVito). What follows is a goofy odd-couple comedy in which Julius tries to discover the identity of his mother, while keeping his criminally minded brother in check.

Likelihood of a sequel If Arnold really does feel too old to return to the action genre, maybe he’ll return to comedy instead?

Douglas Quaid – Total Recall

Schwarzenegger’s first film of the 90s, Total Recall was briefly the most expensive movie of all time, before it was eclipsed by the even more lavish Terminator 2 the following year.

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An epic sci-fi vehicle for Arnold’s usual routine of violence and one-liners, Total Recall is one of his best non-Terminator films, with director Paul Verhoeven providing the same appetite for gory violence and sly humour as he had in the classic RoboCop, while Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside turned in great performances as two of the most evil men on Mars.

Likelihood of a sequel Director Len Wiseman’s making his own version of Total Recall, which this time will star Colin Farrell as the hero with an identity crisis. That film is pencilled in for release in 2012. Could there be room for a cameo from the mighty Schwarzenegger?

Detective John Kimble – Kindergarten Cop

His second comedy with director Ivan Reitman, Kindergarten Cop saw Arnold as an undercover cop turned kindergarten teacher. Much hilarity ensues as Arnold pursues villain, Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson), romances the criminal’s ex-wife, Joyce (Penelope Ann Miller), while attempting to keep a class full of unruly ankle-biters under control.

Likelihood of a sequel It’s been more than 16 years since Schwarzenegger teamed up with Reitman, so maybe the time’s right for the duo to make another film together. Following the critical reception of 1994’s Junior, however, such a pairing may never happen…

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Jack Slater – Last Action Hero

Before its release in 1993, Last Action Hero must have sounded like a guaranteed box office success. Directed by John McTiernan, who’d enjoyed huge success with Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October (with the less successful Flight Of The Intruder and Medicine Man nestling quietly in between), and co-written by Shane Black, Last Action Hero married action, comedy and fantasy in a family movie that should have pleased everybody.

Instead, Last Action Hero marked the first major critical and financial misfire of Schwarzenegger’s career. While the film still made a return on its investment, its receipts paled into insignificance next to Jurassic Park, which appeared in cinemas a week before, and Arnold’s film was widely lampooned (“Magic ticket my ass, McBain,” The Simpsons’ Chief Wiggum sneered, in a thinly-veiled reference to the film).

Likelihood of a sequel As is often the case with misfiring Hollywood films, Last Action Hero isn’t nearly as bad as the aggressively negative reviews and Golden Raspberry nominations would have you believe. Nevertheless, we suspect that, should a script entitled Last Action Hero 2 land on Schwarzenegger’s desk (an unlikely scenario, given the original film’s reputation), his inevitable, Predator-like scream of “Nooooooooo!” would be audible all over the world.

Harry Tasker – True Lies

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James Cameron’s remake of the French film, La Totale!, is seldom mentioned these days, which is strange, since it mixes action and comedy to a far more successful degree than Last Action Hero. Schwarzenegger smashes things up on an epic scale as undercover counter-terrorist operative, Harry Tasker, and ultimately saves America from destruction at the hand of Art Malik’s Islamic terrorist. Arnie also, in one of many absurdly over-the-top scenes, jumps from one skyscraper to another on horseback. His steed clearly hadn’t seen Conan The Barbarian, or it’s almost certain he’d have sent the Austrian Oak plummeting to his doom.

Likelihood of a sequel The swivel-eyed extremists of the original film wouldn’t work at all in a post-9/11 film (and it’s not an aspect we were particularly comfortable with in the 90s, if we’re honest), but we’d love to see Cameron return to this oddly underrated pre-Titanic effort. Schwarzenegger probably won’t be up for hanging off the wing of a Harrier Jump Jet, as he did in his prime, but he could, perhaps, appear alongside a younger counter-terrorist operative in time honoured ‘master and his apprentice’ tradition.

Dr. Alex Hesse – Junior

Arnold Schwarzenegger as a gynaecologist who becomes the first male to give birth to a baby. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot. The third and least financially successful of Arnold’s collaborations with Ivan Reitman, the film wasn’t a complete disaster (it more than made back its estimated $60 million investment), but reviews were almost universally negative.

Likelihood of a sequel Roger Ebert was one critic who defended Junior, rightly pointing out that Schwarzenegger was one of the few actors who could “stand in front of a camera and be nine months pregnant, and actually make us care.” It’s unlikely, however, that Arnold will want to return to the film’s premise for a second bout of insemination.

John Kruger – Eraser

Arnie returned to the straight action formula in Eraser, appearing as a US Marshal hired to protect scientist Dr Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) from bad guys with very large guns. Not Schwarzenegger’s best action movie, Eraser nevertheless has a few stand-out moments, including a great shoot-out where he clearly enjoys wielding two huge rail guns, plus a great villainous turn from James Caan.

Arnold’s strange antipathy to animals also unexpectedly resurfaces in this movie. A marauding alligator appears to have been written into the script for no other reason than to allow Arnold (having shot the beast squarely in the face) to utter the line, “You’re luggage!”

Likelihood of a sequel Big experimental firearms aside, Eraser is as generic an action movie as they come, and I suspect the writers of Hollywood would struggle to think of an idea for a sequel, unless it’s about the dead alligator’s offspring seeking revenge, that is. Anyway, here’s that moment of gratuitous reptile homicide in full…

Howard Langston – Jingle All The Way

Probably Arnold’s least convincing comedy performance, this festive family movie was subjected to an even greater critical drubbing than Junior. Schwarzenegger played a harassed father prepared to go to any length to acquire a Turbo Man toy for his son. Any potential comment about the materialism and greed of a typical Christmas was drowned out by lots of pratfalls, signposted laughs and a distracting performance by someone called Sinbad.

Likelihood of a sequel One of Schwarzenegger’s least successful films (it clawed back its $60 million budget, but only just), the mere thought of a sequel to Jingle All The Way would probably make some Hollywood executives shudder.

Mr Freeze – Batman & Robin

Schwarzenegger made the ill-advised decision to appear as the villain Mr Freeze in the ill-advised Batman & Robin. Even Arnie’s one-liners seemed a little off the mark in Joel Schumacher’s camp sequel. “Ice to see you” and “Cool party” were but two examples.

Likelihood of a sequel Christopher Nolan’s in the process of concluding his trilogy of darker Batman movies, and Darren Aronofsky has hinted that he’d like to take up the director’s mantle with a caped crusader movie of his own. Is Schwarzenegger likely to reprise his role as Mr Freeze? Given that the critical reception that greeted Batman & Robin prompted Warner to cancel its proposed fifth instalment, Batman Triumphant, it’s doubtful that either the actor or the studio would want to revisit the character.

Jericho Cane – End Of Days

Schwarzenegger’s first and last foray into the horror genre, End Of Days sees the Oak face off against his biggest opponent yet, the Devil himself, played with oily charm by Gabriel Byrne. Because this is an Arnie film, there’s still a scene where his character, depressed alcoholic retired cop, Jericho Cane, arms himself to the teeth with machine guns and a grenade launcher, even though the Devil is, in theory, immortal.

I think I’m perhaps the only person on the planet who quite liked End Of Days. Critics hated it, but I enjoyed Schwarzenegger’s turn as a booze-sodden, miserable ex-cop, which was at least a bit of a departure from the various versions of the same persona he’d played in almost every film since the early-80s. Plus, there’s something endearingly daft about having Arnie appear in a reiteration of Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen, but with added guns.

Likelihood of a sequel Given the events that occur at the film’s conclusion (which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t yet seen a repeat of End Of Days on ITV4 or Channel 5), the odds are against Schwarzenegger returning to the role of Jericho Cane.

Adam Gibson – The 6th Day

Schwarzenegger’s first film of the new millennium was this futuristic thriller, where he played a family man who returns home one day to discover he’s been cloned (“There’s someone in my house, eating my birthday cake, with my family, and it’s not me!”, Arnold raves). A strong script (“I might be back.”) was let down by tepid direction and generic action scenes, and the film was a flop, earning back less than half of its budget.

Likelihood of a sequel By the new millennium, audiences were engrossed by fast-paced wire-fu, as seen in movies like The Matrix. Once a name guaranteed to garner huge audiences, Schwarzenegger’s box office success began to dwindle. It’s, therefore, unlikely the actor would choose to return to The 6th Day, a film from the latter stages of his acting career.

Gordy Brewer – Collateral Damage

Aside from one or two brief cameo roles, Collateral Damage was Schwarzenegger’s penultimate feature before he began his new job as Governor of California in 2003. A return to the straight action/revenge flicks of his 80s career, Collateral Damage saw Arnie play firefighter Gordy Brewer, whose family is killed in an LA bombing. Enraged, Arnold (sorry, Gordy) heads to northern Columbia and slaughters everyone involved in the attack, and averts another terrorist bombing in the process.

Likelihood of a sequel Another box office disappointment, Collateral Damage was delayed and re-edited following 9/11. The chances of Schwarzenegger averting further terrorist atrocities as an all-American firefighter are, therefore, minimal.

Trench – The Expendables

It’s been a long haul, but we’re finally back up to the present day with The Expendables, Arnold’s most recent big-screen appearance. You can count the number of minutes he appeared in Sly Stallone’s action epic on one hand, but it was a significant moment, nevertheless, and one that elicited wild cheers of excitement in the screening I attended.

Likelihood of a sequel Having written thousands of words about Arnold’s film roles and his likelihood of reprising them, I’ll come out and admit the obvious. There’s little chance that he’ll revisit a single one. That is, apart from the part of Trench, which provoked so many whoops and cheers in cinemas last year.

Arnold hasn’t officially signed up for Expendables 2 yet, but such paperwork is surely a formality. A sequel simply wouldn’t be complete without him. We just hope he gets a more prominent role this time, instead of a brief cameo. Roaming around with a machine gun is what Arnold does best, after all, and it would be a pleasure to see the big man back in action, offing bad guys and muttering witticisms. “Let off some steam, Bennett!”


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