Young Arnold Schwarzenegger: True Stories Of A Musclebound Rebel

By | June 24, 2019

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Left: Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Pumping Iron' (1977). Right: Working out with Sally Field in 1976. Sources: IMDB; Bettman/Contributor via Getty Images

For Arnold Schwarzenegger, the journey from small-town Austria to mega-celebrity has involved numerous stages -- record-breaking bodybuilder, charmer of Pumping Iron, action movie star, and governor of California. Arnie did it thanks to a brash personality, relentless self-promotion, and a nose for business. The man who would be Conan and the Terminator was a cocky and unrepentant hedonist in his younger years, but was also constantly learning from others. You couldn't make this stuff up -- but it's a true story. Schwarzenegger lived it.

It’s almost as crazy that it all began with bodybuilding. Today, there’s a platform for every competition under the sun, from Crossfit to wood chopping. When Schwarzenegger got started in the early ‘60s, bodybuilding did not hold much cachet, certainly not in Austria. He had always been strong -- thanks to a taskmaster father, young Arnie was pushed to physical feats in the small town of Thal, Austria, where he grew up. Per Austrian law, Arnold left at age 18 to serve a year in the Austrian army. In fact, in his first confidence-building win he broke Austrian military rules by boarding a train to Germany in order to enter Junior Mr. Europe. 

Arnold’s Blueprint

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Left: A Folies Bergere girl swoons as Arnie flexes on the scene in Cannes, promoting 'Pumping Iron' in 1977. Right: A still from 'Pumping Iron.' Source: IMDB

Prior to winning Jr. Mr. Europe, everyone around him thought his dreams of bodybuilding glory were delusional. His senior officers, despite wanting to champion Schwarzenegger’s win, made him spend a night in jail for his disobedience. Arnold, however, saw his path clearly thanks to a man named Reg Park. Reg Park won Mr. Universe in 1958 and 1965. Park then parlayed his muscles and modest bodybuilding fame into playing Hercules in five Italian movies. Arnold's first movie role, in 1970, would be in Hercules In New York.