I'll be back, but first I'll change a nappy

He was the world's greatest bodybuilder; he became the world's highest-paid actor. He married JFK's niece and has been spoken of as a future president. But there is a softer side to Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Nigel Andrews reveals

In the Seventies, everyone agrees, Arnold Schwarzenegger was keen on women. We learnt of his abilities as a charm artist in British bars and nightclubs. We know he picked up women on Venice Beach, California, so they could watch him work out. We are told he would "flex a tricep" at girls in passing cars. And even on the set of Hercules in New York, Arnold's first movie, fellow actor James Karen remembers that Arnold had "an eye for the ladies".

In later years, Arnold would claim that not only did the ladies have an eye for him - rich ladies, poor ladies, young ladies, older ladies - they on occasion almost raped him. There was the woman at a San Francisco party in the early Seventies who wanted to pour hot chocolate over him and lick it off in public. There was the woman who "ripped her clothes off for me during an autographing session and stood there naked. She said, 'Can you train this body for me?' " (She was removed by security guards.) There was the chambermaid who would accost him in the lift of a hotel on the Cote d'Azur: "She became very excited and grabbed me by my pectoralis major. I had a hell of a job getting it back."

There were also the women who offered him $1,000 to spend a "discreet night" with them. Perhaps it was in terror of this escalating demand for him as a toyboy that Arnold vetoed the publication of a set of nude photographs of him taken in 1976 by Francesco Scavullo. They were intended for Cosmopolitan and showed, says Scavullo, the full Schwarzenegger works.

Obviously so much willed and unwilled sexual attention could turn a man into a "male Raquel Welch" (Arnold's words); and the concept of a male Raquel Welch raises the issue of sexual ambivalence that is never far from the world of male body culture. It is not an issue Arnold himself wished to skirt. Indeed it was hard to shut him up about it in the statements he gave to the media just before and just after the release of Pumping Iron, the bodybuilding docu-feature made by George Butler in 1977, which launched him towards stardom.

"When you train and deal with your body, it doesn't mean you are a homosexual. Straight guys can ... look in a mirror and say, 'I look like shit and want to do something about it.' I try to be very careful when I talk about this. I don't want anybody to get the impression that I'm knocking homosexuality."

"I've spent so much time fighting inaccurate stereotypes about bodybuilding," he told Cosmopolitan. "I can see the harm stereotypes do in other areas - and that includes anti-gay stereotypes."

For a famous sportsman and future grandstanding Republican, Arnold in the Seventies seemed relaxed about moving in recherche circles. He was helped perhaps by George Butler acting as pygmalion and mentor, pushing him into the demi-monde of painters, ballet and performance art.

Arthur Seidelman, who directed Arnold in Hercules in New York, recalls an incident four or five years after he made the film. "I was up at Andy Warhol's loft one day, and I was walking across the floor, and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw Arnold posing naked for someone. It didn't seem an appropriate moment to stop and say 'Hi!', so I kept walking. But a moment later behind me I heard 'Seidelman!' and there came Arnold bounding after me without a stitch of clothing on, rather upset that I hadn't stopped for a chat."

Though clearly not gay himself, Arnold at this time seemed startlingly bi-functional as a spiritual and ideological animal: a plutocrat and pot- smoker, a conservative and liberal, an athlete and aesthete, an icon of manliness and an outspoken gay sympathiser.

In later years, movie appearances would push him towards an ever more hyperbolised maleness. But in those same movies - as if this early open- spiritedness demands to be shown the more it is repressed - the opposite keeps coming in like a demon. There is something mesmerically androgynous about Arnold in Pumping Iron: a sly, tousle-haired, bedroom-eyed charmer amid the surrounding cast of dumb pudding-heads delivering Stone Age monosyllables. There will be something both funny and apt about Arnold smuggling himself on to Mars in Total Recall disguised as a large woman who looks as if she's about to create hell in a Christmas sales queue; and something both touching and apt in Arnold playing surrogate hausfrau to Danny DeVito's hellraising petty crook in Twins.

Later still, in his bravest bow to sexual ambidextrousness, Junior, Arnold will become pregnant. Like many female divinities of the screen, who caused most havoc and heart-racing when they dressed up as men (Dietrich in Morocco, Garbo in Queen Christina), part of Arnold's charisma as a male superstar lies in his ability to summon up at will - or despite his will - a dormant other-sex self.

To Arnold and Maria: a Schwarzenshriver

During the early summer of 1989, Arnold's wife, Maria, visited him in Mexico, where he was starting work on his new film, Total Recall. She wanted to discuss the couple's autumn social calendar and nagged away at dates for this birthday party and that anniversary celebration ... Ja ja, sighed Arnold, signing on every dotted line.

"Oh, and it would be good if you have some time on December lst," said Maria.

"What's that?" said Arnold.

"That's when you will become a father."

Arnold reeled back against his exercise bike. A father? It seemed a miracle.

Arnold and Maria had laboured long and hard to produce an infant. The world's gossip columnists, suffering from sympathetic non-pregnancy, had been worried. There were rumours, admittedly in the baser press, that Mr and Mrs S had gone to consult the famous sex therapists Masters and Johnson, after fighting for the thousand days of their marriage over the question of infertility.

On 13 December 1989, after a 15-hour labour, Maria gave birth to a 9lb baby girl, with Arnold cutting the cord.

"It's great to be part of the delivery," he declaimed, after removing the white mask and surgical gloves. "You really respect the woman more. The pain and the hours and hours of pure torture brought us even closer together."

Cut to Casa Arnold. The baby has grown up three months and rejoices in the names Katherine Eunice. Arnold has rejected two film offers, each worth $5m, in order to stay in Los Angeles and tend the tot. Meanwhile, Maria will return to her work hosting the television news show Sunday Today.

"I have my soft side and I help with Katherine in any way I can," says Arnold, the New Age father. "I feed her and hold the bottle and have her lie on my chest in the morning and I burp her." He even enjoys changing her nappies and "getting up in the middle of the night to rock her to sleep".

Asked about parenthood on the Oprah Winfrey show, Arnold was wondrous to behold. The eyes shone, the capped teeth bared themselves in a smile and the accent backpedalled to its most gemutlich Austrian. "Dey come into de bed and lie on yer chest, and den dey smile and play with yer heer or scratch yer face. You jusd melt."

Arnold, even with his millions, rejects the idea of round-the-clock help. "I couldn't do what I hear your English aristocrats do," he told a British reporter. "Which is to leave the kids to nannies, see them for half an hour a day and then send them away to school. Maria and I have a nanny, but Katherine's cot is in our bedroom. We want her to grow up knowing who her parents are."

Blithe with fatherhood, Arnold is not concerned about any Conan the Babysitter backwash. "Although it's wonderful to have a child, it hasn't softened me. I can't afford to be like that. When I walk out on the streets I have to be as tough as ever. In Los Angeles they confuse softness with weakness."

Storming towards the Millennium

In August 1993, Arnold began filming True Lies. The estimated cost was $120m, making it costlier than any film before. By the time it had beaten the previous record-holder, Terminator 2, this ultimate male accessorisation orgy - incorporating political incorrectness and lashings of sexism - had gone months over schedule and called on more expensive hardware than any film in history.

Arnold himself had approached the director James Cameron with the idea after seeing the French comedy La Totale. "I have the picture you want to do next," the actor announced, outlining the plot about an international spy whose double life runs to a mutually suspicious relationship with his wife. The high concept that appealed to Arnold was that here was a superhero influencing world events who could not handle, indeed was totally lost in, the smaller arena of his marriage.

After Last Action Hero, True Lies restored Arnold's credibility as a menace to humanity, or its most dangerously businesslike messiah. Though the hints of misogyny in the plot may not have enhanced the film's appeal to liberals, they helped to repudiate the larky, self-deprecating Mr Nice Guy of the earlier film.

True Lies the movie and True Lies the promo campaign are full of the sound of Arnold backpedalling from PC pieties. Was our hero returning to his gung-ho roots? Certainly in November 1993, with two daughters in the family, Katherine and Christina (born in 1991), Arnold made amends to the god of machismo with a son, Patrick. The boy entered the world at 6.30am - bodybuilder's wake-up time - and weighed 9lbs.

To celebrate, Arnold expanded his domestic empire. With three children and a wife, it was clearly impractical to live in a mere seven-bedroom, 6,500 sq ft house in Pacific Palisades. So Arnold bought the house next door from the Dynasty actor John Forsythe. The price was around $3m. The purchaser would maintain both homes, using Casa Forsythe initially as a guest house. In addition, he installed a $100,000 basketball court for his baby son.

The new, improved, territorial Arnold is also reported to have paid $3,150 to a local lobbyist, Kei Uyeda, to help speed through City Hall an application to regain a 300ft by 40ft plot of land adjoining Casa Arnie. The city had taken over the land to extend a road, but under Arnold pressure they agreed to shelve the plan. "You can't fight city hall," goes the American proverb. Arnold told the proverb to drop dead.

It is bracing, in these early years of the pre-millennial decade, to find Arnold counter-attacking whenever he has a setback. After Last Action Hero, a bigger box-office disaster even than Heaven's Gate, he stormed back, more or less, in True Lies. After two daughters he begat a male heir, destiny assisting patriarchal desire. And after the minor humiliation of seeing his Hollywood Boulevard "star" dug up in April 1994, when his and other performers' paving stones were removed during extension work on the Los Angeles underground system, he had the consolation in July that year of plunging his hands and feet into wet cement in another ritual sacred to the Avenue of the Stars. Arnold, wearing size 12 cowboy boots, signed his trademark line "I'll be back" in front of 3,500 fans.

Arnold was so comfortable now with his own achievements and his own masculinity that he could take the ultimate leap of courage. He could play, in Junior, the role we had unspokenly dared him to. A woman; or rather a man who gets pregnant.

'True Myths: the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger', by Nigel Andrews, is published by Bloomsbury, price pounds 16.99.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"