REAL HOLLYWOOD MUSCLE : No Star Makes More Money, Wields More Power or Has More Fun

<i> Paul Ciotti is a staff writer for this magazine. His last story was "The Scud That Hit Greensburg." </i>


“Right here, Arnold. Right here.”

“Oh, that’s perfect, perfect, perfect.”

An impeccably tuxedoed Arnold Schwarzenegger is standing tall and handsome in the main banquet room of the Century Plaza Hotel while photographers crowd around, muttering their photo mantras and firing flash cameras in his face. But, far from looking annoyed, Schwarzenegger--here to receive the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Leadership Award --looks as comfortable as if he were standing in the shower waiting for the steam to rise.

Whatever else can be said about Schwarzenegger, no one can claim that he doesn’t love being a movie star. He revels in the TV interviews, the guest appearances and, a new favorite, the frenzied adulation of the masses. The instant he steps off the movie set, he is engulfed in a sea of people: friends, executives, agents, lawyers, a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “He is always happy, up, alive, energetic,” says “Terminator 2” co-producer B. J. Rack. “I can just visualize him in one of his big Hawaiian shirts, having had four hours sleep, smoking a cigar, laughing, cutting a swath through the crowd.”

One would think all the fuss would irreparably inflate his already substantial self-esteem, but “he’s incredibly not stuck on himself,” says Heather Richardson, an executive with an East Coast charitable trust, who has worked with Schwarzenegger. “He has a lot of warmth and radiance.” He’s forever putting his arms around people, joking with the women about their boyfriends and love lives. “He is tactile, physical, elemental and raw,” Richardson says. “He is a very male animal.”


He’s also such a busy animal that it’s impossible to see him without a longstanding appointment. Even old friends, with whom he goes out of his way to maintain relationships, sometimes have to wait a week to see him. For low-priority, loose-cannon magazine writers, arranging an interview can take several months. Although I first called his publicist/ doorkeeper in mid-February (and called back every few weeks), it wasn’t until late one June afternoon that she suddenly called to say I could “have” Arnold for 45 minutes the following day.

I was delighted and unsettled. His friends had described him as this charismatic, larger-than-life, elemental force of nature that could electrify a room just by walking in the door. At the same time, his detractors had been saying he was a shrewdly manipulative control freak with the soul of corn dog.

SCHWARZENEGGER’S OFFICES ARE IN THE OLD Venice gas company building across the parking lot from the Rose Cafe. It’s an old warehouse of a place with high ceilings, Persian rugs and so many movie posters, trophies and film artifacts that it looks like it’s a one-man museum. Shortly after 9:15, Schwarzenegger shows up from an early-morning workout at the Venice World Gym, wearing battered loafers (he is not only loyal to his friends, he’s also loyal to his shoes), blue jeans with a silver belt buckle and a cheerfully gaudy shirt patterned with black and white sheep dogs.

Because Schwarzenegger is always photographed in his movies from a low angle, standing tall against a pale blue sky (or an exploding fireball), you expect him to be far bigger than he really is--6 foot 2, 215 pounds. In person, he looks almost normal, a bit larger and more muscular than average, but otherwise a regular guy: low key and comfortable, delighted with the world and his place in it.

As he should be. He’s married to television journalist Maria Shriver, who is charismatic and ambitious herself. They have a 1 1/2-year-old old daughter, Katherine, and another child on the way. He lives in a sprawling Spanish-style mansion in Pacific Palisades. He appears on the covers of as many as five magazines a month. And he jets around the world in his own $12.5-million Gulfstream III, meeting with prime ministers, presidents and beautiful people everywhere.

As a movie star, Schwarzenegger could hardly be bigger. During the past decade, his films earned more than a billion dollars, and his latest movie, “Terminator 2,” looks to be the biggest of all, earning $53 million over its first weekend; the gross could hit $400 million. Premiere magazine, in a recent survey of agents and executives, ranked Schwarzenegger the No. 1 international star, ahead of Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Jack Nicholson--remarkable for someone who has been regularly attacked by critics for making movies that are gratuitously violent, shallow, one-dimensional and politically incorrect.

Not that the opinion of critics has ever mattered to Schwarzenegger’s international army of young fans. For them, his semi-mythic characters strum deep psychic chords involving power, courage and the sexual prerogatives of the Alpha male. Despite Schwarzenegger’s sometimes wooden delivery and narrow emotional range, his fans know this: He is one Hollywood actor who could actually walk into a biker bar and come out with every hair in place and his dignity intact.

But even for people who view his movies and muscles with disdain, it’s impossible to completely dismiss Schwarzenegger. Starting from a small mountain town in Austria 44 years ago, he made his way to the pinnacle of an obscure sport--body building--through prodigious effort and enormous discipline, and then used that unlikely achievement to catapult himself to international stardom, entertainment-industry influence and even the front steps of the White House (he spends weekends at Camp David with George Bush). How did someone as unlikely as Arnold Schwarzenegger come so far so fast?

BECAUSE SCHWARZENEGGER attributes part of his success to resolute non-introspection, I get right to the question of goals. “What do you want to do with your life? How do you want your obituary to read?”

“I don’t think about that,” he says, appearing genuinely appalled. “That’s the last thing I should do at this point in my life--think about what it should say on my gravestone.” Besides, he says, he doesn’t have the time, what with his work as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness; his real estate, fitness and restaurant businesses, making movies and promoting numerous films in different countries. “But that’s what I like. I hate just sitting around not doing anything. We are given--what--80 years? Then it’s over. So you try to pile in as much as you can.”

I point out that his career looks like one big success. “What do you consider to be your failures?”

Schwarzenegger laughs so warmly that I feel I’ve told a splendid joke. “I don’t know,” he says, “--not because I don’t have any. My way of dealing with it is that I would never think about it again. It is erased. I very rarely dwell on negative things. Sure, there were movies that were failures.” He waves at a wall covered with framed movie posters. “All you have to do is look up there. ‘Red Sonia’ is hanging up there. Stupid movie. ‘Villains’ is right up there. Crappy movies. ‘Hercules Goes to New York’ (his first film, in 1969).”

Actually, he reflects, despite how bad “Hercules” was, that is one movie he’d gladly do over again. “Imagine getting off the boat. Someone calls and says, ‘I hear you’re Mr. Universe. Do you want to be in a movie?’ I say, ‘Sure.’ And all of a sudden I am running with the chariots through Central Park.

“Of course, no one can expect much of one’s performance (Schwarzenegger didn’t speak much English) but it was on-the-job training.”

His first movie to make it big was the 1981 film “Conan, the Barbarian,” a blood-soaked but richly conceived swords-and-skulls epic directed by John Milius. It stunned the industry by earning $100 million. But some critics savaged Schwarzenegger. He was as “emotive as a tree trunk,” one said. His English was so stilted, observed Michael Medved, co-host of PBS’s “Sneak Previews,” he seemed to be “pronouncing his lines phonetically.” (As Medved heard it, Schwarzenegger’s people called the station: “Get this guy off the air. Arnold wants to put him through the wall.”)

To everyone’s surprise, Schwarzenegger rapidly improved. Not that he became so much more compelling--most of the time, he doesn’t so much play new characters as play himself in new situations--but he got a lot shrewder about picking his films. Rather than risk looking silly in roles beyond his range, he has limited himself to parts in which he could more or less play the same big heroic guy with a take-no-prisoners attitude and an unexpected sense of humor. The result has been one success after another: “Terminator,” “Commando,” “Running Man,” “Red Heat,” “Predator,” “Twins,” “Total Recall,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “Terminator 2.”

People are always giving Schwarzenegger credit for having a great business mind, but the only reason he stands out, he says, is that most actors ignore marketing. “When people come to me with a script or concept,” he says, “I tell them, ‘Before we shoot the first frame, we have to shoot the poster. What is the image? What are we trying to sell here? Say in one sentence what the movie is about. You can’t? Then how are you going to sell the movie? So forget that. Next project.’ ”

From the first, Schwarzenegger had this idea that he would not only star in movies, he would promote them, too. To accommodate TV reporters when his movies come out, his people set up an interview assembly line with two cameras, a tape crew and a new reporter every 10 minutes. “We will be sitting here in Los Angeles,” Schwarzenegger says, “and the interviewer says, ‘Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger is here with us today in Seattle, exclusively for this program. Arnold, we really appreciate that you are here. You obviously love Seattle. You always come back.’

“And I just play along. It is hilarious. We do 50 a day, and that is just domestic TV. The next day is foreign. And the day after that is print. To reach everyone, you have to talk about a certain thing so many times till everyone knows, and that takes a long, long time. Even so, there are still some people who have never heard of me. Some guy from a foreign country--I think it was Holland--said he met someone who didn’t know who I was. I haven’t reached everyone yet!’

“So there you are,” says Schwarzenegger, laughing uproariously at the folly of trying to reach everyone on the planet, even as he tries to figure out a better way to do it. “If you want to sell something and move your philosophy or fitness or movies or anything, you have to be out there and let the world know.”

IN AN ERA IN WHICH SOME STARS pout in their trailers, demand elaborate perks and then disdain to do publicity, Schwarzenegger has a remarkably businesslike attitude toward movie-making. He always knows his lines (they’re usually short), he shows up on time and, when shooting schedules run behind, he waives his contractual right to a full night’s rest. His perk package is very small and specific: Mainly, he wants fresh food, a place to work out, Evian water and a comfortable trailer. “He asks for a lot less than other stars of comparable stature,” says Brian Grazer, co-chairman of Imagine, which produced “Kindergarten Cop.” “That engenders incredible good will with the producers.”

At marketing and production meetings, Schwarzenegger doesn’t waste time. “He sits down and listens for a while,” says Rack. “And if the conversation is not cutting to the bone quickly, he will wrap it up in a sentence and that is it. He will bottom-line it immediately. In that sense, he takes up a lot of room.”

One reason is his sheer energy. After a 12-hour shoot, when others are exhausted, he goes to work out. Whenever he gets a day off, says bodybuilding buddy Franco Columbu, Schwarzengger’s idea of fun is to play sports nonstop: weightlifting at 7, motorcycles at 9, horses at 11 and tennis at 2. On trips, his biggest fear is wasting time. “When we were in Mexico on ‘Total Recall,’ ” Rack says, “he’d have these tapes, practicing his Spanish with his driver.” This year at Cannes, Columbu says, he and Schwarzenegger got up at 6:45 every morning and stayed out until 3 a.m. Schwarzenegger had laid down the law as soon as they arrived: “We’re here only four or five days--no sleeping!”

When Schwarzenegger does a film, he throws himself into the project, but that kind of commitment doesn’t come cheaply. Grazer remembers one creative meeting over “Kindergarten Cop” when Schwarzenegger told him, “This is going to cost you a lot.” At first, Grazer says, it didn’t really register: “Arnold smiles and you feel good about it and he is saying it in a real friendly fashion and all of a sudden the lawyers start working it out, and he means it. He always gets a presidential deal. He got the most amount of money for any movie star in the world for a non-sequel (‘Kindergarten Cop.’)”

I ask Schwarzenegger: “Are you now the highest-paid actor in the world?”

“That I couldn’t tell you,” Schwarzenegger says. “There are so many kinds of deals out there--the official deal, the sealed deal, the vaulted deal, the safe deal, the producer’s deal. So how would you know?” In the end, he says, a star’s salary is far less important than what he takes home once the movie is paid out. Schwarzenegger, for example, didn’t want to burden a small comedy like “Twins” with his big salary, so he didn’t accept any money up front. When it ended up grossing $111 million, Schwarzenegger made more money on it than he did on any previous film. “So what does it mean when you get $10 million or $15 millionor $20 million in advance,” he asks, “when someone else gets $30 million (on the back end) and laughs all the way to the bank?”

“Is that how much you made on ‘Twins,’ ” I ask. “Thirty million?”

He shrugs. What with all the film and foreign rights, the money will be coming in “for years,” he says. Still, he guesses, $30 million is “a safe amount.”

Eventually, he says, he wants not only to act but to direct and produce as well. His next project will be to direct a TV movie; then he will star in a comedy feature and, in the next few years, in an epic about the Crusades directed by Paul Verhoeven for the film production company Carolco, with which he did “Total Recall” and “Terminator 2.”

Although Schwarzenegger has a definite creative vision, Grazer says, he doesn’t talk about it in a didactic way. “He’s very simple and very clear. He knows that certain facial expressions and slight nuances are going to gratify the audience, and he wants to give that to them.” Schwarzenegger has too much common sense to think his brand of films bears any resemblance to high art. He is a businessman, not an artiste. He’s too smart to think he can not only act in a film, but also write the script and co-direct. Besides, it’s easier to hire a good director than to become one. He has a short list of directors with whom he wants to work. And once a director is hired, it’s the director’s show.

“The last couple of years, I was fortunate to work with good people,” Schwarzenegger says. “No one else can do a big monster movie like Jim Cameron (director of ‘Terminator 2’) I never had a headache with him. No second guessing: ‘Is this a good shot? Oh my God! Is he screwing up?’ Never. Never with Paul Verhoeven (‘Total Recall’) or Ivan Reitman (‘Twins’ and ‘Kindergarten Cop’) either. You can do your work as an actor and walk home and never worry about anything.”

But his ace in the hole, Schwarzenegger says, is his wife, Maria, an interviewer for NBC’s “First Person.” “She is extremely smart and feels much more comfortable and happier to help me than to help herself. This Wiesenthal (leadership award banquet), she handled all the seating. The fitness trips: she is out there working: ‘Let me call this governor. My mother knows this guy.’ Reading movie scripts: ‘You should talk to the director about this page. I think you are wasting your time with this (scene).’ Things like that. She is right there. When we have a rough-cut screening, the director will say, ‘What are the things you didn’t like?’ I’ll say, ‘I’m just seeing it the first time.’ But my wife is handing him a two-page written list of comments.”

“WHAT THE F--K IS WRONG WITH you, Paul?” Schwarzenegger is booming at me. “Why didn’t you say you wanted to come to the premiere?”

It’s two weeks after our interview and I’m standing on a black astroturf-like carpet that covers a tightly guarded two-acre parking lot behind the Century Plaza and shaking hands with Arnold. “Terminator 2” has just premiered at the Cineplex Odeon up the hill. And now, at the after-the-movie bash, there are about 2,000 actors, agents, studio executives and friends careening around the buffets and bars, under green flickering lasers while “YMCA” by the Village People blares out of the dance-floor speakers.

Schwarzenegger, whose face is flushed either from champagne or the cumulative effect of just having received about 200 congratulatory hugs, kisses and handshakes, greets me so warmly I feel I’m the one person he most wanted to see at his party tonight. “I heard you hadn’t been invited,” he says. “One phone call, and in five minutes it’s all arranged.”

I had been warned that Schwarzenegger is a media-savvy guy--”He will enchant you,” one reporter had told me. And it’s true. He shakes your hand, tells self-deprecating stories, gives you his full attention, never for a second letting his eyes drift to the next group waiting to see him. And suddenly I realize why Schwarzenegger fits in so well with his in-laws--he’s a politically astute male with the will-to-power of a Winston Churchill and the self-assurance of a Cary Grant.

And I also understand why “Terminator 2” is doing so well, not only at the box office but also with the critics, most of whom tend to get a bit queasy when the body count hits triple digits. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s past films, this one deftly hits all the socially relevant buttons: Lean and sinewy Linda Hamilton (the female lead) is not only ethically straighter and mentally tougher than the men in the movie, she’s faster and stronger, too. She delivers a stunningly angry feminist speech condemning men for building H-bombs and always killing people. The computer genius is a warmhearted, heroic black man. The dream sequence showing a nuclear blast destroying Los Angeles is one of the most chilling and effective anti-war statements ever shown on a screen. If it weren’t for the fact that the real heart and soul of “Terminator 2” so obviously lie with exploding cars, shattering glass and lovingly photographed high-tech weaponry, you might conclude that Schwarzenegger had somehow lost his conservative marbles and starred in a feminist anti-war film.

OVER THE YEARS, A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE accused Schwarzenegger of arrogance. And he’s the first to admit that he has a high opinion of himself. In his 1977 autobiography, “Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder,” he wrote: “I knew I was a winner. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way.”

Certainly, no one ever considered him modest after age 15. That was when he first walked into a gym in Graz, Austria, and discovered his mission in life. He lifted weights six days a week. He lifted weights in rooms so cold his hands froze to the bar. He lifted weights till he fainted, till he threw up, till his legs were so tired he couldn’t bicycle home.

Within four years, Schwarzenegger wrote, he was an arrogant, 240-pound punk. He moved to Munich, drove wildly and started fights to impress girls. When nothing else was happening, he’d go to the train station and pick on Italians or Greeks--either that or go drinking in a beer hall and end up in a brawl. By the time he was 19, he had totally transformed his body. Now it was time to transform his life. As his old friend George Butler relates in “Arnold Schwarzenegger--A Portrait,” he had a Master Plan: He would move to America; get an education; invest in real estate; become an actor, a director, a producer; buy houses; collect art; marry a glamorous and intelligent woman, and be invited to the White House by age 32. Other bodybuilders were stunned by his audacity. Whereas they modestly hoped to one day buy a gym or become an electrical engineer, Schwarzenegger had visions of standing in a stadium and having 50,000 people cheering every word he said. “I was always dreaming about very powerful people,” he told Butler, “dictators and things like that.”

At 21, Schwarzenegger moved to California and within two years had established himself as the world’s pre-eminent bodybuilder. Between 1970 and his retirement in 1975, Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Olympia contest, professional bodybuilding’s highest honor (Mr. Universe is for amateurs), six consecutive times, and helped make bodybuilding a national obsession. “He invented things to do with his muscles that most people could not do with mashed potatoes,” wrote one critic. Schwarzenegger loved having people look at him--he could bench press an additional 60 pounds in front of an audience.

Although Schwarzenegger had starred in a famous documentary, “Pumping Iron,” by George Butler and Charles Gaines, in his weightlifting days, his trying to become an actor came as a shock. Not only wasn’t he the best in the world, he wasn’t even very good. Agents thought his physique was repulsive, his accent impenetrable and his name a terrible handicap. (“F--k them!” he announced one night in acting class. “I’m going to be a superstar.”) Most people might have given up (athletes rarely make it big in show business), but despite what one old girlfriend calls his essentially “good heart,” he was also “incredibly ambitious. There was definitely a terrible ruthlessness.” “Arnold,” says another ex-girlfriend, “is the most goal-oriented person I have ever met.”

In 1984, Cameron’s “Terminator”--about a merciless cyborg sent back from the future to kill the mother of a future freedom fighter--put Schwarzenegger in the American subconscious for good. In 1986, he married Maria Shriver, John F. Kennedy’s niece. Two years after that, “Twins” came out, proving that Schwarzenegger could play comedy as well.

But even more unlikely than Schwarzenegger’s previously unexploited comedic ability was his emergence as a political figure. During the 1988 presidential campaign, Schwarzenegger, a longtime Republican, barnstormed with then Vice President Bush throughout the Midwest. At one point, on Air Force 2, Bush began to talk about the deplorable state of physical fitness in the country, prompting Schwarzenegger to speak up: “If I can be of any help, let me know.” After he was inaugurated, Bush named Schwarzenegger chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. He immediately set about injecting new life into a moribund do-good agency, campaigning for physical fitness the way politicians do for the presidency, flying into two states a day in his private jet, meeting with governors, educators and students (who went wild, jumping to their feet and screaming, “Arnold! Arnold!”)

By the beginning of the 1990s, it was no longer possible to ignore Schwarzenegger. Unlike other politico-celebrities, such as Robert Redford or Warren Beatty, Schwarzenegger made a film a year, sometimes more. And his movies made money. Up to a few years ago, Schwarzenegger hadn’t been taken seriously enough to warrant being attacked for anything other than his accent and acting ability. But after he began to emerge as a major cultural figure and even a potential political candidate, reporters began looking at him more intently. And some of them didn’t always like what they saw.

In a 1985 Esquire profile, Lynn Darling called Schwarzenegger “a hearty Hollywood burgher, impossible not to like, disarming, smart and funny.” But, she said, she also detected another side that was “shrewd,” “calculating,” “warm but soulless as the sun.” A few years later, Playboy’s Joan Goodman called Schwarzenegger “one of the more finely tuned control freaks that I have met in a career of celebrity interviews.” In an article that managed to be simultaneously anti-Arnold and anti-American, the London Times’ Kate Muir called Schwarzenegger an “inarticulate, violent, extreme right-wing icon” who “pandered” to America’s every weakness, giving “America what it wanted, just before it asked for it.”

But the portrait that really burned his blood and turned it black was Wendy Leigh’s 1990 unauthorized biography, “Arnold,” which accused Schwarzenegger of, among other things, persistent bullying, casual racism, rampant womanizing and steroid abuse. She pointed out that Schwarzenegger invited Austrian President Kurt Waldheim to his Hyannis wedding despite evidence of Waldheim’s wartime persecution of Yugoslavs, Greeks and Jews, and accused Schwarzenegger’s father of having joined the Nazi Party in 1938.

Before her book appeared, friends of Schwarzenegger phoned the publisher, Harvey Plotnick, urging him not to publish it and offering to let him publish an authorized biography instead. In the meantime, Leigh received anonymous calls warning her to back off. Schwarzenegger’s friends later dismissed the book as trash. One could hardly blame Schwarzenegger, they said, for anything his father did nine years before Arnold was born. And Schwarzenegger had admitted in his autobiography at least some of what she had charged him with. He had talked about steroids with Barbara Walters in a 1974 interview on national TV: “I take steroids because they help me an extra 5%,” Schwarzenegger said. “Women take the pill. They are somewhat similar. I do it under a doctor’s supervision.” (Schwarzenegger says he stopped taking them when he quit competing. He now speaks out against drugs.) Ultimately, Leigh’s book sold a disappointing 30,000 copies in the United States, a fact that Leigh attributes to an effective Schwarzenegger campaign to suppress reviews and keep her off talk shows. (Schwarzenegger also has a suit pending against her in England for her contributions to a British tabloid article about him.) But, Plotnick says, there was another reason. “People weren’t as interested in a negative picture of Schwarzenegger as we thought they would be.”

In barely a decade, Schwarzenegger had become a beloved part of the national mythology, not only for the semi-heroic characters he plays, but also for his best role of all--the prototypal hard-driving, self-sustaining immigrant enshrined in the American dream. With the possible exception of intellectuals, most people liked Schwarzenegger for what he said about America (he adored it) and what he said about themselves (you can be successful, too).

His appeal went beyond a retelling of the immigrant success tale. His image as the last indomitable man deeply resonated in an America that has become less competent at everything from making cars to educating kids. When Schwarzenegger’s character had a problem, he didn’t let bureaucrats, bank defaults or environmental-impact reports hold him up. He solved it himself, on the spot, with audience-gratifying finality (not to mention gunfire and explosions).

Not surprisingly, plenty of people don’t care for what they see as the cynical way his films capitalize on violence. In 1988, the National Coalition on Television Violence named Schwarzenegger the most violent actor of the year for 146 atrocities per hour in “Running Man.” “All his movies are about massive destruction,” says one Los Angeles producer. “Is this who we want as a role model for our kids?”

Schwarzenegger’s friends, however, can’t think of a better role model. “The thing about him that makes him so different,” says Neil Nordlinger, a childhood friend of Maria Shriver, “is that he is brutally honest with his friends. He’s almost like a psychoanalyst. He knows my motivations, my foibles; he knows me better than I do myself.”

Jim Pinkerton, a White House policy adviser who knows Schwarzenegger through his work on the fitness council, says he finds it reassuring that Schwarzenegger hangs out with the same friends he had 20 years ago, such as Franco Columbu, now a Los Angeles chiropractor, and Jim Lorimer, a vice president of a Columbus, Ohio, insurance company. “If Arnold wanted,” Pinkerton says, “he could have traded (Lorimer) in for some movie-executive type with a sweater around his neck. Most of the times I have seen him, he is with his mother.” A widow, she lives in Austria but visits frequently.

During a time when half the country is afraid to say what it really thinks, Schwarzenegger is refreshingly outspoken--he calls fools “low foreheads” and reportedly tells wicked Ted Kennedy jokes. “He has an outrageous sense of humor, unyielding and continuous,” Rack says. “When he locks on to something, he can be pretty merciless. He says what everyone else is thinking but is too embarrassed to say out loud.”

But there are times when he is not joking. At his wedding, Schwarzenegger took it upon himself to defend Kurt Waldheim as the victim of a bad press, prompting old bodybuilding buddy and writer Rick Wayne to observe in the muscle magazine Flex that Hitler and Idi Amin no doubt had a bad press, too. To Wayne’s astonishment, Schwarzenegger was hurt. “He said, ‘I don’t care what People magazine says. What do you want me to do? Go cursing them out? But you are my friend. I did not expect that crack from you.’ ”

Schwarzenegger has always been skittish about biographers. When Wayne (now newspaper publisher on the West Indian island of St. Lucia) mentioned that he was thinking of writing a book about him, Schwarzenegger told him he would tie him up in court until he gave up. In his 1990 photo-essay book on Schwarzenegger, George Butler described how Schwarzenegger subtly tried to talk him out of publishing a book of early bodybuilding photographs by offering to have Universal produce Butler’s screenplay. Schwarzenegger opposed the book because “Arnold is a control freak,” Butler said at the time. “And I’m out of his direct control.”

Even when The Times tried to photograph Schwarzenegger for this story, he walked out of the shoot, saying that the plan to photograph him holding hidden lights in his palms, as if he were tapped into some universal power source, was a “stupid idea.” Not knowing how the photograph would be captioned made him leery. (He later offered to sit with a more conventional photographer.)

To Wendy Leigh, such things are simply more examples of Schwarzenegger’s obsessive need for control. Growing up the son of an authoritarian-minded village police officer, “he had no control at all,” she says. “He felt humiliated and abused. So what did he do? He (used bodybuilding to create) a body that would give him control over everybody else. Who needs so much control except someone who is out of control?”

Schwarzenegger admits that he has always been “fascinated by people in control of other people.” The only thing that makes him “nervous,” he once told Playboy magazine, was “not getting my own way.” This, along with Schwarzenegger’s obvious interest in politics, has led many people to speculate that he might one day run for public office. If he does, says pollster Pat Caddell, he would make a formidable candidate. “He is a very strong-willed and strong-minded guy. He likes public affairs. He is really down to earth. He relates well to people. He has a love affair with the country. He is smart, articulate. He has a good perspective, drive and sense of self. I just wish he were a Democrat.”

AS FOR ME, I’M STILL MYSTIFIED about Schwarzenegger. Although I found him to be a charming, personable, complex and powerful presence, I also saw a sharp edge just beneath the surface and a near-obsessive insistence on controlling his image (the White House asks for his OK before releasing photos of him with President and Barbara Bush). But even people who find him a less than attractive personality find him impossible to overlook.

“He has an astonishing capacity for success in ways that are not objectionable at all,” says Time magazine correspondent James Willwerth, who once spent months tracking him down for an interview. “There is nothing wrong with being the kind of movie star that he is, but when you take all that and decide he is a wonderful person as well, then you lose me.”

Even allowing for locker room hyperbole, he has expressed some rather astounding opinions. Wayne, who is black, says Schwarzenegger used to argue that if blacks were in charge of South Africa, they’d run it down the tubes. Yet today Schwarzenegger speaks out for tolerance and respect.

On the whole, Wayne says, “there is far more good to be said about Arnold than negative. He did what he had to do to achieve his goals. No American can appreciate what he has done without knowing where he started from in Europe.” And you have to give him credit for this: His climb to the top, as single-minded and sweaty as it might have been, was not really about money. “The joy with this guy is simply making it,” says Wayne. “He would sit in a Jacuzzi, smoking a cigar, teasing about the surroundings--’Not bad, huh?--as if to say, ‘Hey, look where we came from.’ ”