Arnold Schwarzenegger undeniably stands as one of the most iconic action stars of his era. With roles in movies like The Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, and several others that raked in over $100 million in box office earnings, Schwarzenegger left an indelible mark as a legendary action hero during the 1980s and 1990s.
Filmmakers seeking the ideal candidate for the lead role in Conan the Barbarian took notice of Arnold Schwarzenegger during one of the bodybuilding competitions. Interestingly, it was the documentary Pumping Iron, which showcased Schwarzenegger’s captivating on-screen charisma, that unequivocally affirmed his suitability for the role of Conan.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Looks Paid Off
Arnold Schwarzenegger secured the role in Conan the Barbarian primarily due to his striking appearance. Nevertheless, this didn’t imply that the actor had no adjustments to make to embody the character fully. To do so, the former Mr. Olympia had to shift his regimen away from bodybuilding, necessitating a departure from his typical workout and diet routines to truly embrace the essence of a barbarian.
John Milius became the initial director with whom Schwarzenegger collaborated on a significant film project. Consequently, Schwarzenegger held Milius in high regard and wholeheartedly embraced his guidance without hesitation.
Schwarzenegger said (via The Things):
“But it is true that he thought I looked too much like a bodybuilder — I needed to lose some of the cuts because I had just won Mr. Olympia and I was way too ripped to be a barbarian. So he told me to eat normally and not diet at all — I let my body fat get to around 12%.”
Altering his appearance was just one facet of the transformation Arnold Schwarzenegger committed to when assuming the lead role in Conan the Barbarian. To render the character convincingly on the silver screen, he also delved into the grittier and more brutal aspects required for the role.
Conan The Barbarian Kicked Off Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Career
While The Terminator is often acknowledged as the movie that firmly established Arnold Schwarzenegger as a legitimate action icon, it’s important to recognize that Conan the Barbarian played a pivotal role in his career. This film showcased Schwarzenegger’s remarkable physique and his skill in delivering lines convincingly, laying the foundation for the success of The Terminator and the slew of action films that followed.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in Conan the Barbarian came with a distinctively noticeable accent. Yet, instead of considering it a disadvantage, Milius perceived it as a unique characteristic that could distinguish Schwarzenegger and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
The successful blend of box office victory and critical acclaim achieved by Conan the Barbarian showcased Schwarzenegger’s capacity to anchor a film, even though he was relatively unknown at the time. This achievement served as the catalyst for the sequel, Conan the Destroyer.
While the sequel didn’t attain the identical level of triumph as the original, it did pique the curiosity of James Cameron, ultimately resulting in Schwarzenegger’s selection for the role in The Terminator.
Conan The Barbarian is available for streaming on Netflix.
Source: The Things