The idea behind Silicon Valley Comic Con has always been to bring fantasy and science fiction stars together with the kind of scientists and innovators who are making the far-out visions of sci-fi writers and filmmakers a reality. Take Skynet… er… the Internet of Things, for example.
A huge part of this year’s convention is the Terminator reunion. Arnold Schwazenegger, Michael Biehn from the first Terminator (1984), Edward Furlong (the young John Connor, given a massive, motorcycle-riding guardian angel from the future), and the liquid-metal monster Robert Patrick from T2 (1991) are all slated to appear.
T3’s Kristianna Loken and Danny Cooksey are also attending and SVCC guest Jenette Goldstien turns out to have had a role in T2 as John Connor’s foster mom. The Terminator series persists in pathic VR form at Terminator: Salvation at the Oakridge theater, as a TV series, and an upcoming sixth movie by Tim Miller (Deadpool). It also survives more generally in our collective imagination as a worst-case-scenario of AI on a rampage.
And, of course, it provided Schwarzengger his signature role as an android, the only possible explanation for that physique.
In 1993’s The Last Action Hero, there was a joke about him playing Hamlet (“To be or not to be? Not to be!” he exclaims, throwing Yorick’s skull like a hand grenade.) This was an old kind of gag, one they used to make about John Wayne’s drawl. The iron of Schwarzenegger’s accent has survived the melting pot. He probably would have been better as Laertes, anyway.
But he was always a good actor. You could see the star power in Pumping Iron (1977), a documentary about the Mr. Olympia contest, where the two competing favorites were Schwarzenegger and SVCC guest Lou Ferrigno (the first actor to play the Hulk, on television). It was to be Schwarzengger’s last competition as a bodybuilder.
By the time Schwarzenegger left the Avco Center theater in Westwood at the premiereI was there, wearing a bowtie and carrying a flashlightthe industry types there were already trying to figure out how to fit that name on a theater marquee. The film’s success turned a generation into gym rats
He’d done some acting previously, in Bob Rafelson’s neglected Stay Hungry. He’s uncredited in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. But starting with Conan the Barbarian, he played a long train of rock-faced and remorseless heroes, with a grim sense of humor. The tradition of the Bond quip of farewell sounded, in his tree-trunk sized throat, like the low note of an organ.
He went to town on the deserving bad men, robots and monsters: bug hunter (in 1987’s Predator), man of Mars (1990’s Total Recall, one of his best), Batman villain (1997’s Batman and Robin), spy (True Lies, 1994) and an FBI agent on the warpath (1986’s Raw Deal is a likely inspiration for Rainier Wolfcastle’s character of McBain in The Simpsons).
Schwarzenegger enjoyed the comedy of mayhem for years, counterpointing it with outlandishness (Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Junior, as a pregnant man). One of the few fin de siecle apocalypse dramas that’s actually any good is End of Days (1999), where Schwarzenegger’s grieving cop finds religious faith to make sure that the antichrist isn’t fathered by the devil (Gabriel Byrne).
The solemness of the role fits him well, but it didn’t prevent him from getting a laugh. When prophecy reveals that the satanic sprat must be sired exactly at midnight, he asks, “Is that Eastern Standard Time?”
The punchline was that he ascended to the governor’s mansion. It was a bit of a coup. In a (total) recall election, Californians were asked to choose between a glamorous movie star and a man named Gray, and they chose accordingly. Republican as he was, Schwarzenegger was an environmentalist who opposed border walls. He was behind the times with gay marriage, and battled a legislature that was far to his left with veto after veto. His plans for agonizing austerity during the Great Recession made the statewide pain worse. Still, if it hadn’t been for term limits, he might have survived a third election.
As of press time, we have learned that Schwarzenegger is charging several hundred dollars for each autograph, grip and grin he gives. Selling autographs is a plum for actors in their residual years. Often these years last long enough for the actors in question to see their signature sold by dealers for far more money than they sold it for in the first place.
Aug. 18, 3:30pm