Joined by television personality Keith Lemon, who was moderating the event, Arnie discusses working alongside David Ayer (End of Watch) and of his own evolution as an actor, as he dwells upon life post-government. He also offers his thoughts on the importance of contracts in the film business, and of upcoming projects he’s involved in, such as the new Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, and also the eagerly anticipated sequel to Twins, Triplets.
End of Watch was a brilliant movie – how do you rate David Ayer as a director of action movies?
I think he’s a very talented man, when you see Training Day you can see he’s a fantastic writer, and when you see his directing in End of Watch you can see that he likes action, he likes realism. He tries to bring as many real things to the screen as possible. This is a totally different kind of movie that you see in Hollywood. David did a great job, and I also liked his insistence for us to train with the Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team so that we could really act the characters really well, know how to handle the weapons and stuff like that. I’ve handled a lot of weapons in my life in different movies, but DEA and S.W.A.T. handles them in a different way.
What’s it like playing a dark character?
I play a good character, but he alleviates from his missions. His mission is to wipe out the cartel, but he’s looking for revenge, because they tortured and killed his family. He becomes a flawed hero.
How it is playing someone like that, and then going home and adapting to normality again?
The character I play does not go home and turn off. The character is 24 hours a day consumed by the fact that his family was killed by the drug cartel, and he only wants to get his revenge. He blames everybody for it. But I go home and I don’t think about the movie. I work out and go for dinner, and I rehearse for the next day. So it’s all business during the time of shooting.
Recently with The Last Stand and now Sabotage, we’re seeing a different side to you, more vulnerable and aggressive. On your return to acting is that something you’re actively seeking out?
No I don’t have a master programme, you know, ‘here’s what I want to do now – after the governorship I’m going to and get more challenging roles’. I think when you’re of a certain age, especially when coming out of a government job, you see the role as being more complex then maybe it is. Therefore you start getting attracted that are actually more complex, so I try to play those of characters now. Maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t be attracted by the same scripts. Even though I always play a hero, this is a flawed hero, someone that himself deviated from his mission to go for revenge. For me that was very appealing in this particular movie. The next movie, for instance, is Terminator, and for that they bought the rights for future Terminator movies and they came to me and I felt very honoured that they got me back. I love that characters, playing a machine. Then the studio came to me and asked if I want to do Conan and I thought wow, this is really great, to go back to these old, original characters that made my career. But again it’s not a plan. I try to do more Conan movies but the people didn’t own the rights, and I didn’t want to do it that was half-assed, I wanted to do it with a budget behind it, a great script behind it – then it can be a successful movie. Then they’re talking to me about Twins, to do Triplets. So again this is something that I have chased for 20 years, so there you have it, it’s an idea we had since we finished the first movie and they said ‘there is no sequel, there is no sequel’ and all of a sudden they call me and say, ‘remember how we talked about a sequel, we think it’s great…’ and this is the way it happens. So I don’t have a plan, and some of the ideas work, some don’t work, but I believe strongly in those characters.
You’ve got an amazing team in this movie, but who, out of your co-stars, is the most kick ass?
It’s very hard to say because they all work in their own way, and they’re tough guys. David Ayer picked very, very tough guys. They all went to martial arts training, they all put on the head gear, they pounded the weight on and kicked and everything like that. Because he wanted everyone to come to the set and go all out and do all of the different stunts, well as much as is possible, except the ones that are dangerous where you can get injuries, and stunt guys would take over. That usually the rule. If someone says otherwise it’s nonsense because the fact of the matter is, no production would want an actor to do some high jumps where they can twist an ankle or something major that would take them out of the movie. They don’t like you to get injured. I get injured on every movie but they’re usually smaller things, like banging my head on the camera, and getting stitched up in an emergency room and then back shooting. You can do that because the visual effects can wipe out the stitches. But if you break a leg, that’s when they have to shut down the production. So these were all really tough guys. Like Joe Manganiello, he’s a football player, he’s been working out and he does cross martial arts, cross training and all of those things, so he’s the real deal. He lifted a lot of heavy weights and when you see him fight, he can take a lot of punishment, and he can take a lot of punishment. Sam Worthington – he trained like a madman for this. He gets into the character, he’s that kind of a guy, and he was terrific how intense he was and how many hours he was in the gym and doing martial arts, training with weapons and all that. I had a great time working with these guys. It felt like a throwback to the Predator days when I was with an ensemble cast.
How long do you train before a film like this?
In this case, it was three months. You work with a S.W.A.T. team and a martial arts team and all those things, but in Conan I started a year before, doing sword training, horse riding training. It’s one of those things, if you do something casually every day, when the day comes around to film the film, it becomes second nature.
Is that in your contract?
No, who pays attention to a contract anyway? If an actor has a contract to do 40 days of work and then walks off the set for three days, what you gonna do? Just cry. You can’t go and say ‘I’m going to go and punish you’. I’ve got to go to New Orleans to practise, rehearse and do camera tests and wardrobe tests. There’s nothing in my contract for that, but of course I want to go. You want to go because you want the director to have had the ability to make the right choices, and the only way they can make the right choices, is if they see it on film. They know what the clothes look like, what does his jacket look like? What does his shirt look like? How does he look in this t-shirt? How does he look with this haircut? You’ve got to give them the chance to do that, so that’s why I go to hang out with the director, do all the tests. It’s not in the contract, but you do it because common sense tells you that it’s the right thing to do to make a movie successful.
Finally, with Triplets – have you done any pre-production yet? How is Eddie Murphy fitting into the mix?
We’ve not done any rehearsals, but I’ve met with him several times and I admire him as an actor, as a talent. He’s very, very funny and an extraordinary actor and he looks great. He’ll be perfect in Triplets to play one of our brothers.
Sabotage is released nationwide on 9th May.