How Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Get Started in Acting?

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an author, politician, actor, and former professional bodybuilder. He has been a part of more than forty movies and has produced and directed quite a few films. Most of his fans know him for his roles in The Terminator Series and Predator. Here is a little sneak peek into the life and career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Early Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Early Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria on 30th July 1947. Arnold’s father was an Austrian police officer, and his mother was a housemaker. According to Schwarzenegger, his parents were extremely strict, and the life he had in Austria was quite different from his life in California. Arnold wasn’t close to his father because he liked Arnold’s elder brother more. However, his relationship with his mother was good, and he stayed in touch with her until her death.

Schwarzenegger started weight training at the early age of 14 and also studied psychology at the age of 15 to understand the power of the mind over the body.

Arnold was already popular even before starting his acting career. Schwarzenegger being a professional bodybuilder, won the title of Mr. Universe in 1967 while he was still in Austria. 

After becoming the top bodybuilder in the world, Arnold moved to California in 1968 to compete in bigger competitions and won three more Mr. Universe titles. He also won the professional Mr. Olympia title for six consecutive years before he retired from bodybuilding. However, he returned to bodybuilding in 1980 and once again won the title of Mr. Olympia. 

From a Bodybuilding Champion to an Actor 

From a Bodybuilding Champion to an Actor

Being a professional bodybuilder and achieving the titles like Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia, Schwarzenegger was already quite popular. However, to fulfill his dream to become an actor, he wanted to start an acting career as well. However, Arnold had moved to America with the help of Joe Weider to compete in bigger competitions, but coming to America also helped him get into acting. 

When the five times winner of the Mr. Universe title started auditioning for different roles, it wasn’t easy for him to get one. However, the role of Hercules in Hercules in New York opened ways for him to become an actor. Schwarzenegger’s early roles were not so prominent; however, they worked as a narrow alley for him to reach a wide highway. 

Acting Career of Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Early Acting Career

Early Acting Career

Arnold had a dream to become an actor, and he achieved it in 1970 when he got the role of Hercules in Hercules in New York. This was where Arnold’s acting career started and escalated at once; he soon got his second role in The Long Goodbye as a deaf-mute mob hitman. 

After The Long Goodbye, Arnold was offered a more prominent role in the 1976 film Stay Hungry. For his performance in Stay Hungry, Arnold won a Golden Globe Award in the category of New Star of the Year – Actor. 

Arnold has always been open about his struggles as a beginner in the acting industry. In reply to a fan’s email, Arnold mentioned:

“I was told by agents and casting people that my body was ‘too weird,’ that I had a funny accent, and that my name was too long… Basically, everywhere I turned, I was told that I had no chance.”

However, the rude comments about his body and accent never made him leave his acting career. Arnold was offered the lead role in the 1977 bodybuilding film Pumping Iron, after which he drew much spotlight. Arnold bought all the rights to the film, associated still photography, and its outtakes in 1991. 

Arnold also auditioned for the role of Hulk in The Incredible Hulk; however, his height became a hurdle, and he lost the role to Lou Ferrigno. In 1979, Arnold became a part of The Villain, a comedy starring Kirk Douglas and Ann-Margret. He also appeared in the Jayne Mansfield biography film as Mansfield’s husband, Mickey Hargitay. 

Arnold’s Superstar Era 

Arnold's Superstar Era

Schwarzenegger had already appeared in several films as minor, supporting, or significant roles. His breakthrough film was the 1982 S&S epic Conan the Barbarian, which became a box-office hit. The film was followed by a relatively less successful sequel in 1984, named Conan the Destroyer

In 1984, he appeared as – some would say his signature role – a cyborg assassin called terminator in the 1984 film The Terminator

The 1980s were the era of action films that made Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone become real-time rivals. Both were always seen trying to beat each other with larger weapons and on-screen killings. Arnold, however, kept the humorous nature of his characters alive, which made him stand out from the crowd. 

After The Terminator, Arnold appeared in several action films, including Raw Deal (1986), Commando (1985), Predator (1987), Red Heat (1988), and The Running Man (1987). Other than action thrillers, Arnold also appeared in comedies such as Twins

In the 90s, Arnold appeared in several films, including Total Recall (1990), Kindergarten Cop (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), True Lies (1994), Junior (1994), Eraser (1996), Jingle All the Way (1996), Batman & Robin (1997), and End of Days (1999)

In the 2000s, Schwarzenegger appeared in movies like The 6th Day (2000), Collateral Damage (2002), and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Out of these three movies, only Terminator managed to become a box-office hit. 

Schwarzenegger as the Governor of California 

Schwarzenegger as the Governor of California

On 17th November 2003, Schwarzenegger took over the responsibilities as the Governor of California. However, even as a governor, Arnold didn’t give up on his acting career. He made cameo appearances in The Rundown (2004) and Around the World in 80 Days (2004). He also voiced the character of Baron von Steuben in one of Liberty’s Kids’ episodes. He also made a cameo appearance in Sylvester’s The Expendables

Acting Career after the End of Governorship 

In 2011, after the end of the governorship of California, Schwarzenegger announced his comeback in acting. However, in July 2011, Schwarzenegger’s entertainment council announced that all the productions had been delayed because Schwarzenegger was dealing with some personal matters. In 2012, he appeared in The Expendables 2, and later in 2013, he starred in The Last Stand and Escape Plan. In 2015, he reprised his role as Terminator in Terminator Genisys

Today, Arnold is active in both acting and politics; however, his film appearances are way less than they were before. 


From the beginning, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t an actor; he shifted from being a professional bodybuilder to an action film superstar and then a governor. His career is quite diverse, which shows his talent and passion for whatever he did in his life.