In our new blog series, we’re delving a little deeper into what makes some of our favourite movie characters and actors so iconic. From coloured frocks to over-sized props, each month we’ll take a deep dive and look at 5 movie props that made our chosen actors’ careers and character what they are today.
And to start it off with a bang, this month we’re looking at the ever-popular Arnold Schwarzenegger. Starting out as a beefy bodybuilder, Arnie’s first movie role came in a lesser-known comedy-fantasy called Hercules in New York (1970). Although not well-received critically, the film opened the gates for Arnie’s budding acting career. However, it still took a whopping 12 years before he landed himself his first iconic screen role as Conan, in the now 1982 cult classic. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Throughout his career, Arnie’s stance as the ultimate action hero has been solidified with his many iconic action film roles. From working on big-hit action series such as Terminator, Predator, and The Expendables, Arnie made himself a household name.
So let’s dive into the movie career of this beloved action hero and see our top five favourite movie props that have made Arnie’s characters so iconic…
5. Dutch’s AR15 with M203 Launcher Attachment
“If it bleeds… we can kill it.”
No one can say “Arnold Schwarzenegger” without immediately thinking of his role in John McTiernan’s Predator (1987). It has everything an action fan looks for in an Arnie film: action, an awesome villain and BIG guns – specifically Arnie’s character Dutch’s AR15. This badass explosive-launching, alien-killing machine gun is based on an AR15. With a faux M203 launcher attached at the grip, it can be seen being used during the Guerilla camp raid scene where Arnie shows those plants who’s boss. Of course, this holy grail of a weapon is beaten by the Predator’s superior technology, but not before we get to see it in action, with Arnie and his team lighting up the jungle.
DID YOU KNOW?
The sound editors working on the film called the Predator’s shoulder cannon the “Parrot Gun”. This is because it reminded them of Peter Sellers as the ‘Salty Swedish Sea Dog’ in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
4. Quaid’s Disguise
TOTAL RECALL (1990)
“Get ready for a surprise!”
Now for something a little stranger – the mechanical disguise worn by Quaid in the Mars terminal from the sci-fi thriller Total Recall (1990). When Quaid goes on a virtual vacation to Mars, a series of harrowing events take place that end up having him travel there in person.
Total Recall is known for is overtly horrifying and unusual special effects, but this one is our favourite – if not weirdest – of Arnie’s list of iconic movie props. With SFX input from Rob Bottin, (who worked on The Thing (1982)) and makeup work by Jeff Dawn (best known for his work on Terminator 2 (1991)), it’s no wonder that such a team were able to pull off this intense and almost hypnotic body morphing shown throughout the film.
For the scene in which Quaid arrives on the Mars mining colony, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually had to wear a “fat suit” for the costume – a first for the actor, we’re sure! Interestingly, there wasn’t just ‘one’ disguise suit but several versions made, each serving as a separate various mechanical malfunction that it suffers from in the film.
DID YOU KNOW?
The actress who played Quaid’s disguise was Pricilla Allen. One of her other films credits was Misty II from the 1992 film The Naked Truth, in which two friends are tracked down by a Terminator-like figure.
3. T-800’s Endoskeleton
THE TERMINATOR (1984)
“Come with me if you want to live.”
Let’s travel back to 1984, to when perhaps Arnie’s most iconic character first appeared – the T-800. Inspired by a nightmare by Director James Cameron, in which a skeletal monster dragged its body through flames holding knives, the endoskeleton – as it’s now universlly known – is a hulking metallic monster that was brought to life by longtime Cameron collaborator prop makers Stan Winston Studios. For the original film, Winston had stop-motion figures and large size stand-ins made for the production, featuring moving parts and glowing red eyes – truly living up to Cameron’s conceptual nightmare!
With the continuation of the films, the T-800 became an iconic 80’s film character and soon began popping up as a pop culture reference in other places, such as the video game Mortal Kombat, to battle against other pop culture fighters.
Early on during the release of the first film in the Terminator series, the creators realised that Arnold made a better hero than a villain, so they had to create something else that could stand up to the beloved T-800’s beefcake physique. Thus, the T-1000 (played by Robert Patrick) was introduced from the second film in the franchise, facing off against a newly ‘turned’ T-800 Arnie. This evolution of the endoskeleton model went on throughout the series, with new villains such as the Terminatrix and the T-3000 delighting fans in later films.
DID YOU KNOW?
Stan Winston and his team built the T-800 skeleton entirely out of metal. An awesome aesthetic choice for sure, but the extra weight made it entirely impractical and very hard to move during filming.
2. T-800’s 10 Gauge Shotgun
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)
“Hasta la vista, baby.”
What again could be more iconic than Arnie’s quintessential anti-hero the T-800 and his shotgun? In Terminator 2 (1991), the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time once again, this time reprogrammed to protect the young John Conner (Robert Patrick).
The shotgun can be first seen as the Terminator searches for John Connor through the arcade, revealing it in epic fashion from a box of roses as a nod to the film’s theme song “You Could Be Mine” by Guns ‘N’ Roses. The gun was altered for the production, removing the stock and giving it an extra-large finger loop in its lever to make it easier to cycle the action with a flourish. Not only that, the sound effect of the gun heard in the film was actually created by two cannons firing. So, it not only looks cool but sounds cool too.
DID YOU KNOW?
It took serious work on Arnie’s part to make the iconic gun-spinning scenes look so good in Terminator 2 (1991). He couldn’t wear a glove while twirling the gun, so his fingers would sometimes get caught in the mechanism and he often accidentally hit his co-star Edward Furlong during filming. He also has said that he struggled with keeping his focus while doing the motorcycle scenes as he had to maintain a consistent eye line as he drove throughout the scene and cocked the gun.
1. Conan’s Atlantean Sword
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)
“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”
And last but not least, let’s take a look at the movie that began Arnie’s career – Conan the Barbarian (1982). The film follows the trials and tribulations of Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as he seeks revenge against the sorcerer Thusla Doom (James Earl Jones) for murdering his parents and tribe. And as Conan grows up to kick ass and take names, he becomes the fearless Atlantean sword-wielding barbarian fighter that we’ve all come to know and love.
Co-created by prop maker Tim Huchthausen and swordsmith Jody Samson, four hero versions of Conan’s Atlantean and Master blades were made for the production of the film, but they were unbalanced and not suited for stage fighting and so were only used for close-shots.
Arnie prepared for this film by taking weapons and martial arts training, and horse riding lessons. He trained with a 4kg broadsword two hours a day for three months so that he could easily handle the $10,000, now iconic hero Atlantean sword. Director John Millius made sure to tape Arnie’s intense workouts, which, according to Schwarzenegger, were just as intense as training for the bodybuilding competitions that he’d once taken part in.
The Atlantean sword’s inscription reads, “Suffer no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Crom.”
Conan as both a film and a character has withstood the test of time, with a sequel Conan the Destroyer in 1984 and even had a remake starring Jason Mamoa in 2011. But as with most iconic movies, nothing compares to the original hit film that started Arnold Schwarzenegger down his path to movie stardom!
DID YOU KNOW?
Whilst he was governor of California, Arnie actually displayed a version of the iconic Conan sword behind his chair in the Reagan Cabinet room.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with our top 5 props that have made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career so iconic? Let us know in the comments below what you thought, or what you would have included, or join in the discussion about this blog
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