Column: Here’s why Arnold Schwarzenegger says Kawhi Leonard could have a future in Hollywood

Clippers' Kawhi Leonard, left, and Paul George smile while sitting on the bench during their game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 24 in San Francisco.
Kawhi Leonard, left, and Paul George, were called “very funny and natural” by Arnold Schwarzenegger after a commercial shoot.
(Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard had many reasons for coming to work in Los Angeles; laying the groundwork for a future career as a leading man in Hollywood was probably not one of them. But Arnold Schwarzenegger, his costar in a commercial for the upcoming film “Terminator: Dark Fate,” thinks he could one day make that transition.

“Kawhi is great,” Schwarzenegger said. “He’s very funny and very natural on camera.”

The commercial debuted last week before the NBA season opener between the Lakers and Clippers, and shows Schwarzenegger running into Leonard at Gold’s Gym in Venice. Schwarzenegger and Leonard, who has been nicknamed “The Terminator,” meet Paul George and Linda Hamilton, who makes fun of Leonard’s “crazy robot laugh.” The 60-second spot has been viewed nearly 3 million times on Schwarzenegger’s Twitter page, and but he laughs when he thinks back to the extravagant production behind it.

“I arrived and there were motor homes everywhere,” he recalled, “like we were shooting a movie, and I said, ‘What are we doing here?’ It’s a commercial with three guys and Linda Hamilton and we need 15 trucks and camera equipment and lighting equipment? I said, ‘C’mon, guys, we can shoot this with a handheld.’

“They wanted me to put on makeup and I said, ‘You want me to go to the gym and do makeup? What are we talking about? Since when do athletes have makeup on in the gym?’ It was too much.”

Schwarzenegger didn’t know about Leonard’s nickname until the commercial shoot, but he loved the way Leonard was showcased in the spot.

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“The finished product turned out great,” Schwarzenegger said. “… Both of those guys were very funny and natural.

“I liked that we showed he’s a real Terminator. At the end when he walked away, his eyes lit up. Maybe there’s something else we don’t know about this guy.”

The commercial is another example of how far the Clippers have come the last decade. If a similar commercial would have been shot 10 years ago, Schwarzenegger would have likely shot the spot with Lakers players. When Schwarzenegger moved to Los Angeles in 1968, he became a Lakers fan because of his friendship with Wilt Chamberlain, who joined the Lakers that summer in a trade.

“I was working out at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica and there was Wilt Chamberlain playing volleyball,” Schwarzenegger said. “He was a fantastic volleyball player, but that’s also where he would go to pick up his girls. He was a funny guy and we had a great relationship.

“I would go watch him play when he was on the Lakers and we would work out together at Gold’s Gym. He was the only basketball player in those days I saw working out with weights. He did triceps extensions with 180 pounds, which blew us all away. He was so strong. Our relationship extended into making ‘Conan the Destroyer,’ where we worked out every day on set.”

Schwarzenegger’s support of the Lakers continues, as does his friendship with LeBron James, which began almost a decade ago. They partnered to launch Ladder, a sports nutrition company, and shot a commercial for the product last year.

“I have been friends with LeBron for many, many years with his involvement in after-school programs,” Schwarzenegger said. “He was always very interested in helping kids. When he was playing in Miami, we had an event in Florida and I asked if he could help with this after-school program and he came and he got involved in donating his money and his time. He was always very generous and we became good friends. When LeBron wanted to start his own supplement line, he and I started schmoozing about it and he let me try it and it was great, so I told him we should market this together and we did.”


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Though Schwarzenegger will be rooting for his friend and business partner to win a championship this season with the Lakers, he said he understood why Leonard and George chose the Clippers.

“They’ve created their own little special thing and that’s really important for the identity of the Clippers,” Schwarzenegger said. “LeBron has his own thing with the Lakers and I wish him well. The focus is on the personalities this season. With Kawhi and Paul, the Clippers have two of the best personalities, and they’re fun to watch. I’m going to tune in to watch to see if they can pull it off this season.”

Schwarzenegger, who was the governor of California from 2003 to 2011, is no longer in politics, but he offered a politically correct answer when asked which Los Angeles team he would be pulling for this season.

“I became a big fan of the Lakers because of Wilt, but I was never a fanatic,” he said. “I enjoyed watching them play. I support all the teams in Los Angeles. I support the Lakers and the Clippers. I just love that we have as many teams as possible.

“I hated when we lost the NFL, but now it’s back and we have two teams in every major professional sport. That’s the way it should be. L.A. should have it all.”