Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger can see more of their hero than usual in “Red Heat,” which features an opening sequence of a near-naked brawl in a Soviet sauna.
Is this a change of heart for the muscular star whose contracts give him alone the decision on whether he takes off his shirt--or more?
Not at all, he claims, pointing out that it was important to establish at the outset his character as Moscow’s toughest cop.
“One of the things we decided to do was to have this great sauna scene with naked men and women, where I try to infiltrate into the Soviet crime organization dealing with drugs,” he said. “Like the others, I have nothing on but this little skirt, then this big fight scene begins with breaking a big window and rolling down in the snow.”
Schwarzenegger recalled he had done one other near-naked scene at the beginning of “Terminator.”
“Whenever the scene calls for nudity and it fits into the movie, I don’t mind that,” he said. “But if it is exploiting the whole idea and is thrown in for no reason, then it bothers me and I stay away from it.”
While Sylvester Stallone is fighting the Soviets in “Rambo III,” Schwarzenegger joins them in “Red Heat.” As the Moscow detective, he follows a drug merchant to Chicago and stalks him with the aid of a local cop, James Belushi. In this glasnost era, director Walter Hill was able to film in Red Square.
Schwarzenegger had visited the Soviet Union 10 years ago, and he was surprised when he returned: “Amazing changes have taken place. The people were much more relaxed about their freedom. There are now privately owned restaurants in Moscow. I have seen break dancing, heavy metal rock bands--all kinds of things I did not see 10 years ago.
“The whole idea of an American film company to get permission to shoot in Red Square, that has never happened before,” he said. “We were very fortunate. . . . Walter Hill felt it was very important to create realism in the film, to make the audience feel that they are in Moscow at the beginning.
“Before I went to Russia, I believed that none of my films had been seen there. Maybe some of the kids would know me because of my body-building and weightlifting activities. I was surprised to see thousands of people coming to Red Square to watch us film, and a lot of them had videotapes. They were trading them on the black market, and they were very much aware of ‘Commando’ and ‘Predator’ and ‘Terminator.’ ”
It’s hard to imagine, but Schwarzenegger said that he drew inspiration for his “Red Heat” role from a 1941 Greta Garbo movie.
“‘Ninotchka’ was the most important vehicle for me in preparing for the role,” he said. “She plays the same kind of character I do in ‘Red Heat.’ She is a Russian who comes to Paris very cold. In the course of the movie, she falls in love with a French guy (Melvyn Douglas) and whole new emotions are coming out that she was unaware of. I studied the film very carefully and saw it every day when we were filming ‘Red Heat.’ ”
Schwarzenegger, who will be 41 on July 30, must be the most disciplined of movie stars. Not just the body building and all that. His entire life seems to be minutely calculated and that dates back to his beginnings in Graz, Austria. As a boy he was inspired by seeing American films.
“The movies made a tremendous impact on me, especially the John Wayne war movies,” he remarked. “They made me want to come to America, because he represented America so well.”
Schwarzenegger used his body to achieve his fame, scoring as Mr. Olympia seven times. He came to America at 21 with little knowledge of English. Realizing the need to develop his mind as well as his body, he read voraciously. Confident of his future earnings, he studied for a degree in business and international economics at the University of Wisconsin.
“Business has always been something that I liked very much,” he said, “dating back to when I managed a health club in Munich at 19. I started running body-building competitions in Europe, and I was more of a businessman than a body-builder.
“When I came to this country and studied business administration at college, that was very helpful in learning the American way of doing business. I got into real estate and was very fortunate. All that is very helpful now, especially when you make chunks of money in acting and five years later you may be making nothing.
“Acting careers are not like government jobs that last forever. You’re on top one day, then maybe the next day you’re not.”
With the violence-filled vengeance movie seemingly on the wane, Schwarzenegger is varying his films. Right now he is shooting “Twins” for director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”).
“Danny DeVito and I play twins; obviously it’s a comedy,” he said.
He will follow with a World War II movie based on the comic strip “Sgt. Rock.”