In a summer that saw the most reliable box-office giants — Tom Cruise, Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson — topple like timber, one actor continued to stand head and shoulders — not to mention deltoids, triceps, lats, and pecs — above the rest. This was the year Arnold Schwarzenegger solidified his position as America’s biggest box-office star. Moviegoers love him — as a twin or a terminator, a bad guy or a hero, a comedian or a concept. Last summer, they loved him on Mars in the ultragory, ultrasuccessful sci-fi thriller Total Recall. They applauded his trademark goofy, heavily accented one-liners (”Eff I’m not me, den who de hell am I?”) and whooped it up over his fight scenes. When trailers for his new film hit theaters this fall, moviegoers were instantly sold on an idea that took exactly two words to explain: Kindergarten Cop.
But if Schwarzenegger’s only success were as a Bluto cartoon character whose physique alone could carry a film, his popularity wouldn’t have reached such outsized proportions. His appeal lies in the brains audiences sense beneath the brawn. He’s smart enough to engineer perfect cinematic vehicles and versatile enough to have overcome the wall-of-flesh cliché he was in his early movies.
Schwarzenegger’s persona is just as flexible off-camera; although his marriage to Maria Shriver has made him part of America’s most famous Democratic family, he remains a staunch Republican who was selected by George Bush to become head of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Schwarzenegger, 43, has managed his own production company, Oak Productions, and developed real estate in Colorado and California. When his investments are added to his muscular moviemaking paychecks — he received $10 million for Total Recall, and his new asking price is reportedly higher — his coffers seem as hyperinflated as his physique.
Schwarzenegger’s box-office power has so far justified that eight-figure salary, and nobody is expecting his string of dialogue-light, action-heavy hits to snap. Next summer, he’ll be back in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And with titles like that, who needs sparkling conversation?