Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito on Life and Death
MONDAY 10:30 PM MAY 1, 2023 LA
A few days after an in-depth conversation with Danny DeVito in his Bel-Air home, Arnold Schwarzenegger finds himself in a Culver City studio, puffing on a Cuban cigar while getting his portrait taken. The occasion is the launch of FUBAR, a family-friendly Netflix spy series that marks the legendary movie star’s first leading role on TV. While he extols the virtues of weightlifting and charms some of the girls on set, the 75-year-old former governor can’t quite shake the conversation with his Twins costar. “Did the interview make sense?” he asks. “There were so many questions about my upbringing, but maybe it’s funny because I don’t think we’ve ever talked about all that kind of stuff.”
DANNY DEVITO: I’m so excited to do this. I don’t really want to talk about movies, although I know we’re going to do more together. Where did you grow up?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I grew up in Thal, 5 to 7 kilometers outside of Graz, which is in the southern part of Austria.
DEVITO: Being from New Jersey, we had the summer and we had the winter. What was your town like in the summer?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I grew up in the middle of all these farms. There was a house that was 200-plus years old, and we lived on the top floor. In the summer it was beautiful and green, flowers everywhere, the cows were out and sheep were roaming and horses were running around. Just really, really beautiful. It’s kind of the ideal look. In the winter, it was extremely cold.
DEVITO: Was it windy?
SCHWARZENEGGER: What was really extraordinary was that the lake that I grew up by froze in the winter with really thick ice, so you could have horse or motorcycle races on it, and ice curling championships. And of course, ice skating.
DEVITO: Did you get tourists?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Very rarely. For us, tourists were the people from the city. On a weekend there would be three to four thousand people around the lake. They would be lying down on the grass with the blankets and all that stuff.
DEVITO: Oh wow.
SCHWARZENEGGER: That’s where I made my first business at the age of ten. I sold ice cream bars. I went to the restaurant in front, got a box, filled it with ice, and then put the ice cream bars in there.
DEVITO: Ice pops.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. I was carrying it around the lake, screaming, “Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!”
DEVITO: So you started work when you were ten?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I didn’t consider it working. It was a way to get the things that I wanted. If I wanted a training suit or training shoes, my parents wouldn’t buy them. They said, “We don’t have the money, so you only get the necessities.” I decided to make my own money.
DEVITO: So you grew up in the upper part of the house. What was in the lower part of the house?
SCHWARZENEGGER: It was the Forstmeister, meaning forest ranger. There was a tradition for 200 years, they always lived in the bottom of the house. On top of it was the police chief, my father.
DEVITO: Your dad was a police chief ?
SCHWARZENEGGER: They called it gendarmerie in those days.
SCHWARZENEGGER:This was the life. We had no running water, electricity was outside the wall. That was the way we grew up.
DEVITO: You had outhouses then?
SCHWARZENEGGER: We had outhouses. There was no running toilet, so across the hallway of our kitchen was the outhouse. It was what they call a plunge toilet.
SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s still there today, because today that house is the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Museum.
DEVITO: That’s your museum.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. All the original dumbbells and barbells are there, the benches I used, the photographs that were hanging on the wall, of my idols Reg Park and Steve Reeves and Sonny Liston.
DEVITO: When I was about 18, I left New Jersey. When did you leave that house?
SCHWARZENEGGER: That’s exactly when I left, to go into the army.
DEVITO: So you were in the service.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. That was my way of getting out of there. I just couldn’t take it any longer. The army was the next best thing, and it got me a passport. Now I was free to leave the country. I said, “I want to come to America, so I’m going to go to the army and use it as a means to eat well and train hard for bodybuilding competitions.” I was on my mission to become a bodybuilding champion.
DEVITO: The idea of the bodybuilding champion started at what age?
DEVITO: How far away did your best friend live?
SCHWARZENEGGER: They were living right around me. There are three or four friends who I still stay in touch with.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I bought some of them iPhones so we could FaceTime, which was very important because I only see them once or twice a year. I said, “Why don’t we try to communicate in between?”
DEVITO: Great! Did you have hobbies? Were you into painting, art, drawing, sculpture?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Twice a week we had painting, drawing, and geometry. That was part of our education. I still paint Christmas cards, Mother’s Day cards, birthday cards for the kids.
DEVITO: But you don’t go crazy.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Not like Stallone, who has the balls to go really, really big, 6 by 7–foot paintings, and he just smashes on the paint. He has the guts. I’m somewhat afraid of going in that direction. I’m not good enough.
DEVITO: Well, you don’t know.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I’m an amateur, but I have a great time.
DEVITO: Back to growing up in the early ’50s. What music were you into?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Rock-n-roll. Listen to this. I walked by this electric shop in Graz, and they had rock-n-roll blaring. I said, “This is really fucking cool. I love this rock-n-roll music.” So I went inside and I asked the shopkeeper, “How can I listen to this music when I’m at home?” And he says, “Look over there. You see that? It’s a transistor radio.” But it was 500 shillings. How can I afford it? And he says, “When are you going to start working?” I said, “Next year. I’m 14.” He says, “Come back when you start working, and I’ll give it to you on credit. As long as you have an income, that’s the most important thing.” Sure enough, I got a job around the corner of that electric shop to be an apprentice for a salesman, and there I got 350 shillings a month, and that was enough to go to him and to say, “Can I give you a hundred shillings each month?” And he says, “Give me whatever you have, as long as you pay it off by the end of the year.” He was very, very kind. This is one of the reasons that I love helping people, because I had people that were generous to me early on.
DEVITO: It’s a testament to the whole idea of the self-made man. People think, “This is a self-made man.” But actually, everybody needs a little help.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I always said you can call me anything you want, but don’t call me a self-made man, because I’m not. Who made me? We can say god, or we can say my mother and my father.
SCHWARZENEGGER: And then it goes on from there with my teachers, my bodybuilding coaches, my training partners.
SCHWARZENEGGER: People that helped me, like this guy with the radio, or in the military, or Joe Weider [the creator of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding award] who brought me to America, or [Charles] “Wag” Bennett in London who let me stay at his house and helped me with the English language and was a judge in a Mr. Universe contest. I’m the last one to say, “I’m a self-made man.” I would say I was born in Austria, made in America.
DEVITO: Born in Austria, made in America. What kind of music do you listen to now?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Fifties and sixties music. And country western. That’s another thing that we are fascinated by as Europeans, because we grow up with the “cowboys and Indian” movies. We love the cowboy stuff.
DEVITO: There’s always stories in that music.
SCHWARZENEGGER:It’s always about some girl, or about losing a job, or Johnny Cash singing, “I shot this guy, looked him in the eye, and watched him die.”
DEVITO: It’s very sad music.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Now I’ve learned how to appreciate classical music, so I listen to that every so often. What about you?
DEVITO: I have eclectic tastes. I play classical, opera, rock-n-roll, Bruce, The Clash. I like a little punk.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you’re always going down to Palm Springs for the music festival.
DEVITO: I go down to the Coachella.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Coachella, exactly. I see you hanging out there and dancing around.
DEVITO: Have you been?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Of course. We saw each other down there. I went with my son, Patrick, and my daughter. You recommended it to me. One year I asked you, “Where did you come from?” You said, “I came from Coachella.” And I said, “What’s going on there?” I thought it’s for young people, and you said, “It’s a lot of young people, but you would enjoy it, too. You should get down with your kids. It’s good bonding.” So I did it with the kids, and they loved it. They thought I was the coolest dad, that I would take them to a music festival.
DEVITO: I take credit for that. Because my whole thing with Coachella was when the kids were in high school, they would want to go, and I was not hip to it at all. So the kids brought me down there, and I used to go every year and spend a couple of days, get a place, and listen to all the crazy music.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah, that’s what I did.
DEVITO: Really nice. I like outdoor music.
SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s chaos. And man, the dust. But it’s fun.
DEVITO: It’s a good bonding experience.
SCHWARZENEGGER: But you know all the people to get the tickets to sit right in the front. You have all the connections.
DEVITO: You do!
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, you do.
DEVITO: You do.
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, you do.
DEVITO: I do?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, of course you do.
DEVITO: Did I get you tickets?
SCHWARZENEGGER: You didn’t get me the tickets. Luckily I found some.
DEVITO: You could call anybody and you could get tickets. Come on.
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, no, but it was very helpful that they got us the tickets.
DEVITO: Did you play an instrument?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, I was asked to play an instrument, but it was impossible. I felt my talent must be somewhere else, I just had to figure out what it is. Luckily I found it through bodybuilding.
DEVITO: And that was when you were 15?
DEVITO: Did you have a movie theater in your town?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Not in Thal, but in Graz.
DEVITO: So you’d go over there.
SCHWARZENEGGER: There were two famous ones. They were where we could see the Hercules movies.
DEVITO: Who were the big movie stars?
SCHWARZENEGGER: John Wayne. Paul Newman was huge. Charles Bronson was huge. Warren Beatty was huge. Charlton Heston was really big. Kirk Douglas was also a big star.
DEVITO: More water. I need to drink some water.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I’m watching you as you finish your glass, and I finish my bottle. Uh-oh. You almost finished.
DEVITO: Well, I’m going to finish, because I’m thirsty.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah, you are thirsty. I cannot get the water down. That’s the problem I have.
DEVITO: I think the bottle is too big. It’s intimidating.
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, this is fine. I just can’t get it down enough.
DEVITO: The whole idea that we have to drink water out of bottles, I worry about what’s going on in the world with water, because we’re running out of it. Look at Lake Mead and what’s happening there. What’s in the future for us? What do you think, in terms of our species? Are we going to last? Tell me, oh great leader.
SCHWARZENEGGER: [Laughs] It reminds me of Howard Stern’s question to me. “Tell me, governor, what happens to us when we die?” I said, “Nothing. You’re 6 feet under. Anyone that tells you something else is a fucking liar.”
DEVITO: You don’t know.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I said, “We don’t know what happens with the soul and all this spiritual stuff that I’m not an expert in, but I know that the body as we see each other now, we will never see each other again like that.”
DEVITO: We deteriorate.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Except in some fantasy. When people talk about, “I will see them again in heaven,” it sounds so good, but the reality is that we won’t see each other again after we’re gone. That’s the sad part. I know people feel comfortable with death, but I don’t.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Because I will fucking miss the shit out of everything. To sit with you here, that will one day be gone?
SCHWARZENEGGER: And to have fun and to go to the gym and to pump up, to ride my bike on the beach, to travel around, to see interesting things all over the world. What the fuck?
DEVITO: Life! It’s the best!
SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. What’s that all about?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I tell you, there’s someone that mixed up this whole thing. Think about it. Who can we blame?
DEVITO: You mean that we don’t live forever?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. That we have to die.
DEVITO: That’s tough, man.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don’t know what the deal is, but in any case, it’s a reality, and it truly pisses me off.
DEVITO: You don’t want to die.
SCHWARZENEGGER: No. What the fuck? What kind of deal is that?
DEVITO: Well, we all know how many people we lose in life, our friends who go, relatives, people we love.
SCHWARZENEGGER: As you get older more and more people around you wipe out.
DEVITO: They start disappearing!
DEVITO: One by one. That’s why you have to treasure every single moment.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Just in bodybuilding alone, I’ve lost 15 friends in the last 20 or so years. I go to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio, a big sports and fitness festival, and the hall is packed. Thousands of people. I look out to these people and I do my speech, and then all of a sudden I see all of the people who died sitting together in the front row.
DEVITO: They’re gone.
SCHWARZENEGGER: But I see them sitting there, Joe Gold, Joe Weider and Ben Weider, Dave Draper. All these guys, just wiped out.
DEVITO: All the people who are dear to us. But you keep them in this spot in your head. To me, heaven is where I put a person who I love dearly, who is kind, who is generous, who made a difference in my life and other people’s lives. I keep them in a spot in my head, like that front row that you have of all of your friends. And you always have a good feeling when you think of them.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Because all of them, by the way, had something to do with helping me.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Joe Gold, who owned Gold’s Gym, said to me, “Arnold, you’re the only guy who comes in the gym and doesn’t have to pay, because you came over here from Europe with nothing.” He made me feel like Gold’s Gym was my home.
DEVITO: He cared about you.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I didn’t know anybody, but all of a sudden he created this family around me. There’s things like that which you can never pay back.
DEVITO: You pay it back with the reverence that you have for him.
DEVITO: I keep going back to your childhood. In the first grade, I had my first crush. Do you remember your first crush? Want to talk about her?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I never closed the deal.
DEVITO: How old were you?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I was like 13.
DEVITO: So that was your girlfriend.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Not really. We were kind of going out, but it was not a serious relationship. I was just stunned by her beauty and her sweetness, but I was not up to par to close the deal or make a relationship out of it. I didn’t even know how to go about it.
DEVITO: Well, boys are usually behind the girls.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. I was definitely way behind. That was clear. But it was a good attempt. Then I started going out with girls that were older than me.
DEVITO: You started going to the gym when you were 15.
SCHWARZENEGGER: But that had nothing to do with the gym.
DEVITO: Nothing to do with it.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Nothing to do with it. But Mr. Austria, who was a bodybuilding champion, had the most gorgeous woman that you can dream of. The best of the best in Graz, without a doubt. He would bring her to the lake and would walk around with this fantastic body. He’s the one that got me into training. And then as time went on, when I was 16 or so, he would say, “I’m going to drive up in the back of the lake there. I’m going to have some wine and a blanket with the girl.” He says, “I can bring another chick if you want. She’s a wonderful girl, a friend of my girlfriend.” And I said, “Oh, thank you.” And he would bring her out and then I would get some action in the front of the car, and he would be in the back of the car.
DEVITO: What a good guy.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. It was really funny. And then there was, at the same time, a guy that was gay, and he was a very, very good training partner of mine, and always invited me over to his home. He had the most sophisticated gymnasium.
DEVITO: Back then what was the whole concept of gay? You knew he had a boyfriend?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, no, no. He said so.
DEVITO: He’d say he’s gay.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. There were certain days where I couldn’t go early enough to the gym before they closed, so I would just go to his house and I would train there and he would have women there. Maybe they were lesbians, who knows? They would watch us work out, and they would be very casual and funny. We’d be laughing.
DEVITO: But there were no sexual things going on?
DEVITO: It was just the men and women bodybuilders.
SCHWARZENEGGER: That’s right. All straightforward stuff.
DEVITO: Okay. Well, that sounds like an interesting part of your life.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yeah. Very interesting. There was a community, and there was harmony.
Grooming: Joannel Clemente
Prop Stylist: Robert Doran at Frank Reps
Production Coordination: Tom Hennes
On-set Production: Anastasia Solovieva
Digital Technician: Nick Barr
Photography Assistants: Jonnie Chambers and Annabel Snoxall
Fashion Assistant: Kristtian Chevere and Chantelle Thach
Production Assistant: Reva DeVito
Post-production: David Turner at MCD Creative
Special Thanks: L’Ermitage Beverly Hills