Why was Arnold Schwarzenegger not selected for movies in his early days?

Facing Hollywood's biases, Schwarzenegger recalls early career hurdles

by Zain ul Abedin
Why was Arnold Schwarzenegger not selected for movies in his early days?
© Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Entertainment

In a recent episode of the "Literally! With Rob Lowe" podcast, Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger opened up about the challenges he faced during the initial phase of his acting career. The revelations, which have taken many by surprise, shed light on the industry's perception of what a leading man should look like during the 1970s.

Schwarzenegger, best known for his roles in blockbusters like "The Terminator" and "Commando," reminisced about the skepticism he encountered from movie executives. “When I expressed my desire to break into the film industry in the '70s, I was met with a chorus of naysayers. From producers to agents, everyone believed it was a far-fetched dream,” the 76-year-old actor recounted.

One of the primary reasons for the skepticism was Schwarzenegger's physique. At a time when actors like Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Woody Allen were considered the epitome of on-screen charisma, Schwarzenegger's muscular build was seen as a liability. “I was told that the audience wasn't interested in seeing large muscles. They'd point to the likes of Pacino and De Niro and say, 'Those are the real stars. You're just too heavy for Hollywood,’” he shared.

Accent and Name: Arnold's Barriers

However, it wasn't just his physique that was under scrutiny. Schwarzenegger's distinct Austrian accent was another point of contention. “I was often told that my accent was a barrier. Many believed it evoked memories of the Nazis for American audiences. They'd suggest I could perhaps play a Nazi officer, but leading roles were out of the question,” he said.

To add insult to injury, even his name became a subject of ridicule. “They'd joke, trying to pronounce 'Schwarzenegger' or mockingly call me 'Schnitzel'. It was clear they believed there were multiple reasons I wouldn't succeed,” the actor added.

Despite these early setbacks, Schwarzenegger's determination and talent eventually shone through, making him one of the most recognizable and successful actors in Hollywood. This candid interview serves as a testament to his resilience and a reminder that even the most iconic figures have faced their share of challenges.

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