Simplyshredded Exclusive Profile: Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Austrian Oak

Rare Video Biography [1997]

Quick Stats:

Born: July 30, 1947
Age: 69
Height: 6’2″ – 188cm
Competition Weight: 235 lbs – 107 kg
Off Season Weight: 255 lbs – 116 kg


Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-born American actor, model, producer, director, activist, businessman, investor, writer, philanthropist, former professional bodybuilder, and politician. Schwarzenegger served two terms as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011.

Schwarzenegger began weight training at the age of 15. He won the Mr. Universe title at age 20 and went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest seven times. Schwarzenegger has remained a prominent presence in bodybuilding and has written many books and articles on the sport. Schwarzenegger gained worldwide fame as a Hollywood action film icon. Schwarzenegger’s breakthrough film was the sword-and-sorcery epic Conan the Barbarian in 1982, which was a box-office hit and resulted in a sequel. In 1984, he appeared in James Cameron’s science-fiction thriller film The Terminator, which was a massive critical and box-office success. Schwarzenegger subsequently reprised the Terminator character in the franchise’s later installments in 1991, 2003, and 2015. He appeared in a number of successful films, such as Commando (1985), The Running Man (1987), Predator (1987), Twins (1988), Total Recall (1990), Kindergarten Cop (1990) and True Lies (1994).

He was nicknamed the “Austrian Oak” and the “Styrian Oak” in his bodybuilding days, “Arnie” during his acting career, and “The Governator” (a portmanteau of “Governor” and “The Terminator” – one of his best-known movie roles) since the start of his political career.


Early life

Schwarzenegger was born in Thal, Austria, a village bordering the Styrian capital Graz, and was christened Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger. His parents were the local police chief, Gustav Schwarzenegger (17 August 1907 – 13 December 1972), and Aurelia (née Jadrny; 29 July 1922 – 2 August 1998). Gustav served in World War II, after he voluntarily applied to join the Nazi Party in 1938. Gustav served with the German Army as a Hauptfeldwebel of the Feldgendarmerie and was discharged in 1943 after contracting malaria. They were married on October 20, 1945 – Gustav was 38, and Aurelia was 23-years-old.

According to Schwarzenegger, both of his parents were very strict: “Back then in Austria it was a very different world, if we did something bad or we disobeyed our parents, the rod was not spared.” He grew up in a Roman Catholic family who attended Mass every Sunday.

Gustav had a preference for his older son, Meinhard (17 July 1946 – 20 May 1971), over Arnold. His favoritism was “strong and blatant,” which stemmed from unfounded suspicion that Arnold was not his biological child. Schwarzenegger has said his father had “no patience for listening or understanding your problems.” Schwarzenegger had a good relationship with his mother and kept in touch with her until her death. In later life, Schwarzenegger commissioned the Simon Wiesenthal Center to research his father’s wartime record, which came up with no evidence of Gustav’s being involved in atrocities, despite Gustav’s membership in the Nazi Party and SA. Schwarzenegger’s father’s background received wide press attention during the 2003 California recall campaign.

At school, Schwarzenegger was apparently in the middle but stood out for his “cheerful, good-humored and exuberant” character. Money was a problem in their household; Schwarzenegger recalled that one of the highlights of his youth was when the family bought a refrigerator.


The beginning

As a boy, Schwarzenegger played several sports, heavily influenced by his father. He picked up his first barbell in 1960, when his soccer coach took his team to a local gym. At the age of 14, he chose bodybuilding over soccer as a career. Schwarzenegger has responded to a question asking if he was 13 when he started weightlifting: “I actually started weight training when I was 15, but I’d been participating in sports, like soccer, for years, so I felt that although I was slim, I was well-developed, at least enough so that I could start going to the gym and start Olympic lifting.”

However, his official website biography claims: “At 14, he started an intensive training program with Dan Farmer, studied psychology at 15 (to learn more about the power of mind over body) and at 17, officially started his competitive career.”


During a speech in 2001, he said, “My own plan formed when I was 14 years old. My father had wanted me to be a police officer like he was. My mother wanted me to go to trade school.” Schwarzenegger took to visiting a gym in Graz, where he also frequented the local movie theaters to see bodybuilding idols such as Reg Park, Steve Reeves, and Johnny Weissmuller on the big screen.

When Reeves died in 2000, Schwarzenegger fondly remembered him: “As a teenager, I grew up with Steve Reeves. His remarkable accomplishments allowed me a sense of what was possible, when others around me didn’t always understand my dreams. Steve Reeves has been part of everything I’ve ever been fortunate enough to achieve.” In 1961, Schwarzenegger met former Mr. Austria Kurt Marnul, who invited him to train at the gym in Graz.

He was so dedicated as a youngster that he broke into the local gym on weekends, when it was usually closed, so that he could train. “It would make me sick to miss a workout… I knew I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it.”


Early adulthood

Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army in 1965 to fulfill the one year of service required at the time of all 18-year-old Austrian males. During his army service, he won the Junior Mr. Europe contest. He went AWOL during basic training so he could take part in the competition and spent a week in military prison: “Participating in the competition meant so much to me that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences.” He won another bodybuilding contest in Graz, at Steirer Hof Hotel (where he had placed second). He was voted best built man of Europe, which made him famous.

“The Mr. Universe title was my ticket to America – the land of opportunity, where I could become a star and get rich.” Schwarzenegger made his first plane trip in 1966, attending the NABBA Mr. Universe competition in London.

He would come in second in the Mr. Universe competition, not having the muscle definition of American winner Chester Yorton. Charles “Wag” Bennett, one of the judges at the 1966 competition, was impressed with Schwarzenegger and he offered to coach him. As Schwarzenegger had little money, Bennett invited him to stay in his crowded family home above one of his two gyms in Forest Gate, London, England. Yorton’s leg definition had been judged superior, and Schwarzenegger, under a training program devised by Bennett, concentrated on improving the muscle definition and power in his legs. Staying in the East End of London helped Schwarzenegger improve his rudimentary grasp of the English language. Also in 1966, Schwarzenegger had the opportunity to meet childhood idol Reg Park, who became his friend and mentor. The training paid off and, in 1967, Schwarzenegger won the title for the first time, becoming the youngest ever Mr. Universe at the age of 20. He would go on to win the title a further three times.

Schwarzenegger then flew back to Munich, training for four to six hours daily, attending business school and working in a health club (Rolf Putzinger’s gym where he worked and trained from 1966–1968), returning in 1968 to London to win his next Mr. Universe title. He frequently told Roger C. Field, his English coach and friend in Munich at that time, “I’m going to become the greatest actor!”


Competitive Record

  • 1963 Steirer Hof Competition in Graz, Austria (runner up).
  • 1965 Junior Mr. Europe in Germany
  • 1966 Best-Built Athlete of Europe in Germany
  • 1966 International Powerlifting Championship in Germany
  • 1966 Mr. Europe – amateur in Germany.
  • 1966 NABBA Mr. Universe – amateur in London, England
  • 1967 NABBA Mr. Universe – amateur in London, England
  • 1968 German Powerlifting Championship in Germany
  • 1968 IFBB Mr. International in Tijuana, Mexico
  • 1968 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
  • 1968 IFBB Mr. Universe in Miami, Florida (tall class winner)
  • 1969 IFBB Mr. Universe in New York
  • 1969 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York (2nd place to Sergio Olivia)
  • 1969 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
  • 1969 IFBB Mr. Europe – professional in Germany
  • 1970 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
  • 1970 AAU Pro Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Paris, France
  • 1972 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany
  • 1973 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
  • 1974 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
  • 1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Pretoria, South Africa
  • 1980 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Sydney, Australia

Move to the U.S.

Schwarzenegger, who dreamed of moving to the U.S. since the age of 10, and saw bodybuilding as the avenue through which to do so, realized his dream by moving to the United States in September 1968 at the age of 21, speaking little English. There he trained at Gold’s Gym in Venice, Los Angeles, California, under Joe Weider. From 1970 to 1974, one of Schwarzenegger’s weight training partners was Ric Drasin, a professional wrestler who designed the original Gold’s Gym logo in 1973.

Schwarzenegger also became good friends with professional wrestler “Superstar” Billy Graham. In 1970, at age 23, he captured his first Mr. Olympia title in New York, and would go on to win the title a total of seven times.

Immigration law firm Siskind & Susser have stated that Schwarzenegger may have been an illegal immigrant at some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s because of violations in the terms of his visa. LA Weekly would later say in 2002 that Schwarzenegger is the most famous immigrant in America, who “overcame a thick Austrian accent and transcended the unlikely background of bodybuilding to become the biggest movie star in the world in the 1990s”. In 1977, Schwarzenegger’s autobiography/weight-training guide Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder was published and became a huge success.

After taking English classes at Santa Monica College in California, he earned a BA by correspondence from the University of Wisconsin–Superior, where he graduated with a degree in international marketing of fitness and business administration in 1979.


Schwarzenegger is considered among the most important figures in the history of bodybuilding, and his legacy is commemorated in the Arnold Classic annual bodybuilding competition.

Schwarzenegger has remained a prominent face in the bodybuilding sport long after his retirement, in part because of his ownership of gyms and fitness magazines. He has presided over numerous contests and awards shows. For many years, he wrote a monthly column for the bodybuilding magazines Muscle & Fitness and Flex. Shortly after being elected Governor, he was appointed executive editor of both magazines, in a largely symbolic capacity. The magazines agreed to donate $250,000 a year to the Governor’s various physical fitness initiatives. When the deal, including the contract that gave Schwarzenegger at least $1 million a year, was made public in 2005, many criticized it as being a conflict of interest since the governor’s office made decisions concerning regulation of dietary supplements in California.

Consequently, Schwarzenegger relinquished the executive editor role in 2005. American Media Inc., which owns Muscle & Fitness and Flex, announced in March 2013 that Schwarzenegger had accepted their renewed offer to be executive editor of the magazines.


The magazine MuscleMag International has a monthly two-page article on him, and refers to him as “The King”.

One of the first competitions he won was the Junior Mr. Europe contest in 1965. He won Mr. Europe the following year, at age 19. He would go on to compete in, and win, many bodybuilding contests. His bodybuilding victories included five Mr. Universe (4 – NABBA [England], 1 – IFBB [USA]) wins, and seven Mr. Olympia wins, a record which would stand until Lee Haney won his eighth consecutive Mr. Olympia title in 1991.

Schwarzenegger continues to work out even today. When asked about his personal training during the 2011 Arnold Classic he said that he was still working out a half an hour with weights every day.



During Arnold’s early years in bodybuilding, he also competed in several Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting contests. Arnold won two weightlifting contests in 1964 and 1965, as well as two powerlifting contests in 1966 and 1968.

In 1967, Schwarzenegger competed in and won the Munich stone-lifting contest, in which a stone weighing 508 German pounds (254 kg/560 lbs.) is lifted between the legs while standing on two foot rests.

Personal records

  • Clean and Press – 264 lb (120 kg)
  • Snatch – 243 lb (110 kg)
  • Clean and Jerk – 298 lb (135 kg)
  • Squat – 545 lb (247 kg)
  • Bench Press – 440 lb (200 kg)
  • Deadlift – 710 lb (320 kg)


Mr. Olympia

Schwarzenegger’s goal was to become the greatest bodybuilder in the world, which meant becoming Mr. Olympia. His first attempt was in 1969, when he lost to three-time champion Sergio Oliva. However, Schwarzenegger came back in 1970 and won the competition, making him the youngest ever Mr. Olympia at the age of 23, a record he still holds to this day.
He continued his winning streak in the 1971–74 competitions. In 1975, Schwarzenegger was once again in top form, and won the title for the sixth consecutive time, beating Franco Columbu. After the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest, Schwarzenegger announced his retirement from professional bodybuilding.

Months before the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest, filmmakers George Butler and Robert Fiore persuaded Schwarzenegger to compete, in order to film his training in the bodybuilding documentary called Pumping Iron.

Schwarzenegger had only three months to prepare for the competition, after losing significant weight to appear in the film Stay Hungry with Jeff Bridges. Lou Ferrigno proved not to be a threat, and a lighter-than-usual Schwarzenegger convincingly won the 1975 Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger came out of retirement, however, to compete in the 1980 Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger was training for his role in Conan, and he got into such good shape because of the running, horseback riding and sword training, that he decided he wanted to win the Mr. Olympia contest one last time. He kept this plan a secret, in the event that a training accident would prevent his entry and cause him to lose face. Schwarzenegger had been hired to provide color commentary for network television, when he announced at the eleventh hour that while he was there: “Why not compete?”

Schwarzenegger ended up winning the event with only seven weeks of preparation. After being declared Mr. Olympia for a seventh time, Schwarzenegger then officially retired from competition.


Acting career

Schwarzenegger wanted to move from bodybuilding into acting, finally achieving it when he was chosen to play the role of Hercules in 1970’s Hercules in New York. Credited under the name “Arnold Strong,” his accent in the film was so thick that his lines were dubbed after production. His second film appearance was as a deaf mute hit-man for the mob in director Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973), which was followed by a much more significant part in the film Stay Hungry (1976), for which he was awarded a Golden Globe for New Male Star of the Year. Schwarzenegger has discussed his early struggles in developing his acting career. “It was very difficult for me in the beginning – I was told by agents and casting people that my body was ‘too weird’, that I had a funny accent, and that my name was too long. You name it, and they told me I had to change it. Basically, everywhere I turned, I was told that I had no chance.”

Schwarzenegger drew attention and boosted his profile in the bodybuilding film Pumping Iron (1977), elements of which were dramatized; in 1991, he purchased the rights to the film, its outtakes, and associated still photography.


Mirror shot from the film Pumping Iron

Action superstar

Schwarzenegger’s breakthrough film was the sword-and-sorcery epic Conan the Barbarian in 1982, which was a box-office hit. This was followed by a sequel, Conan the Destroyer, in 1984, although it was not as successful as its predecessor. In 1983, Schwarzenegger starred in the promotional video, Carnival in Rio. In 1984, he made his first appearance as the eponymous character, and what some would say was his acting career’s signature role, in James Cameron’s science fiction thriller film The Terminator. Following this, Schwarzenegger made Red Sonja in 1985.
During the 1980s, audiences had an appetite for action films, with both Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone becoming international stars. Schwarzenegger’s roles reflected his sense of humor, separating him from more serious action hero films, such as the alternative universe poster for Terminator 2: Judgment Day starring Stallone in the comedy thriller Last Action Hero.

He made a number of successful films, such as Commando (1985), Raw Deal (1986), The Running Man (1987), Predator (1987), and Red Heat (1988). Twins (1988), a comedy with Danny DeVito, also proved successful. Total Recall (1990) netted Schwarzenegger $10 million and 15% of the film’s gross.


  • Captive as Mogul (2015)
  • Terminator 5 (2015)
  • Maggie as Father (2014)
  • The Expendables 3 (2014)
  • King Conan (2014)
  • Sabotage (2014)
  • Escape Plan (2013)
  • The Last Stand (2013)
  • The Expendables 2 (2012)
  • The Expendables (2010)
  • Around The World In 80 Days (2004)
  • The Rundown (2003, cameo)
  • Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)
  • Collateral Damage (2002)
  • End of Days (1999)
  • Batman and Robin (1997)
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)
  • Eraser (1996)
  • Terminator 2: 3-D (1996)
  • Sinatra: 80 Years My Way (1995)
  • Junior (1994)
  • True Lies (1994)
  • Dave (1993)
  • Last Action Hero (1993)
  • The Last Party (1993)
  • Lincoln (1992)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Kindergarten Cop (1990)
  • Total Recall (1990)
  • Red Heat (1988)
  • Twins (1988)
  • Predator (1987)
  • The Running Man (1987)
  • Raw Deal (1986)
  • Commando (1985)
  • Red Sonja (1985)
  • Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Conan the Barbarian (1981)
  • The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)
  • Scavenger Hunt (1979)
  • The Villain (1979)
  • Pumping Iron (1977)
  • Stay Hungry (1976)
  • The Long Goodbye (1973)
  • Hercules in New York (1970)


Peak Performance

Schwarzenegger’s commercial peak was his return as the title character in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which was the highest-grossing film of 1991. In 1993, the National Association of Theatre Owners named him the “International Star of the Decade”. His next film project, the 1993 self-aware action comedy spoof Last Action Hero, was released opposite Jurassic Park, and did not do well at the box office. His next film, the comedy drama True Lies (1994), was a popular spy film, and saw Schwarzenegger reunited with James Cameron.

That same year, the comedy Junior was released, the last of Schwarzenegger’s three collaborations with Ivan Reitman and again co-starring Danny DeVito. This film brought him his second Golden Globe nomination, this time for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy.

It was followed by the action thriller Eraser (1996), the Christmas comedy Jingle All The Way (1996), and the comic book-based Batman & Robin (1997), in which he played the villain Mr. Freeze. This was his final film before taking time to recuperate from a back injury. Following the critical failure of Batman & Robin, his film career and box office prominence went into decline. He returned with the supernatural thriller End of Days (1999), later followed by the action films The 6th Day (2000) and Collateral Damage (2002), both of which failed to do well at the box office. In 2003, he made his third appearance as the title character in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which went on to earn over $150 million domestically.

In tribute to Schwarzenegger in 2002, Forum Stadtpark, a local cultural association, proposed plans to build a 25-meter (82 ft) tall Terminator statue in a park in central Graz. Schwarzenegger reportedly said he was flattered, but thought the money would be better spent on social projects and the Special Olympics.


Business career

Schwarzenegger has had a highly successful business career. Following his move to the United States, Schwarzenegger became a “prolific goal setter” and would write his objectives at the start of the year on index cards, like starting a mail order business or buying a new car – and succeed in doing so. By the age of 30, Schwarzenegger was a millionaire, well before his career in Hollywood.

His financial independence came from his success as a budding entrepreneur with a series of successful business ventures and investments.

Business ventures and investments

Bricklaying business

In 1968, Schwarzenegger and fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu started a bricklaying business. The business flourished thanks to the pair’s marketing savvy and an increased demand following the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. Schwarzenegger and Columbu used profits from their bricklaying venture to start a mail order business, selling bodybuilding and fitness-related equipment and instructional tapes.

Real estate investing

Schwarzenegger rolled profits from the mail order business and his bodybuilding competition winnings into his first real estate investment venture: an apartment building he purchased for $10,000. He would later go on to invest in a number of real estate holding companies.


In 1992, Schwarzenegger and his wife opened a restaurant in Santa Monica called Schatzi On Main. Schatzi literally means “little treasure,” colloquial for “honey” or “darling” in German. In 1998, he sold his restaurant.

Planet Hollywood investment

Schwarzenegger was a founding celebrity investor in the Planet Hollywood chain of international theme restaurants (modeled after the Hard Rock Cafe) along with Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Demi Moore. Schwarzenegger severed his financial ties with the business in early 2000. Schwarzenegger said the company had not had the success he had hoped for, claiming he wanted to focus his attention on “new US global business ventures” and his movie career.

Other ventures and investments

He also invested in a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He has talked about some of those who have helped him over the years in business: “I couldn’t have learned about business without a parade of teachers guiding me… from Milton Friedman to Donald Trump… and now, Les Wexner and Warren Buffett. I even learned a thing or two from Planet Hollywood, such as when to get out! And I did!” He has significant ownership in Dimensional Fund Advisors, an investment firm. Schwarzenegger is also the owner of Arnold’s Sports Festival, which he started in 1989 and is held annually in Columbus, Ohio. It is a festival that hosts thousands of international health and fitness professionals which has also expanded into a three-day expo.

He also owns a movie production company called Oak Productions, Inc. and Fitness Publications, a joint publishing venture with Simon & Schuster.


Net worth

Schwarzenegger’s net worth had been conservatively estimated at $100–$200 million. After separating from his wife, Maria Shriver, in 2011, it has been estimated that his net worth has been approximately $400 million, and even as high as $800 million, based on tax returns he filed in 2006. Over the years as an investor, he invested his bodybuilding and movie earnings in an array of stocks, bonds, privately controlled companies, and real estate holdings worldwide, so a more accurate estimation of his net worth is difficult to calculate, particularly in light of declining real estate values owing to economic recessions in the United States and Europe since 2007. In June 1997, Schwarzenegger spent $38 million of his own money on a private Gulfstream jet.

Schwarzenegger once said of his fortune, “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” He has also stated, “I’ve made many millions as a businessman many times over.”


“You have to remember something: Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger


“The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger


“Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger