Arnold Schwarzenegger has come a long way since he emigrated from Austria to follow an unprecedented path that took him from Austrian immigrant to bodybuilding champ to action-movie superstar to California governor. And, over the years, he's made plenty of headlines, both good and bad. To mark his 65th birthday on July 30, we take a look at his biggest and most unbelievable media-making moments.
Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding days. (Getty Images)
He makes bodybuilding history … and later admits to getting a little help
Quick, name a few of the world's top bodybuilders. Exactly. It's pretty hard to make a career out of pumping iron, let alone use it as a vehicle to become world-famous, but Arnold Schwarzenegger was the man who managed to do it. After leaving his native Austria for the United States, a very ripped Schwarzenegger became the world's youngest Mr. Olympia in 1970 at age 23. By 1975, he was going for his sixth shot at the title when he was approached to be the subject of a documentary titled "Pumping Iron," (which also featured future "Incredible Hulk" star Lou Ferrigno). The film would give America a look inside the world of bodybuilding and introduce them to Schwarzenegger, changing his life forever and putting him on a path to fame. He later admitted to using steroids back then (though apparently in smaller doses than is typically used today), but has said he has no regrets. "At that time, it was something new that came on the market, and we went to the doctor and did it under doctors' supervision," Schwarzenegger told ABC News in 2005. "We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing. So you can't roll the clock back and say, 'Now I would change my mind on this.'" Over the years, the actor has sued both a doctor and a tabloid for making claims that his steroid was responsible for heart problems (which he claims he doesn't have) and would lead to an early death.
The actor starring in The Terminator.
He becomes an unlikely mega-star
After starring in a few movies and TV series in the late '70s (in addition to "Pumping Iron"), a 31-year-old Schwarzenegger was cast as the lead in the big budget "Conan the Barbarian," an action film that became a box-office success and would catapult the beefy guy with the funny accent to a wildly successful acting career. When, in 1984's "The Terminator," Schwarzenegger uttered the now-famous line "I'll be back," he meant it. The actor would star in a whopping 20-plus action films over two decades, in addition to some blockbuster comedies like "Kindergarten Cop" and "Twins." The pressure was on when Schwarzenegger returned for "Terminator 2," which was given a then-record-breaking budget of nearly $100 million. The investment was worth it as the sequel grossed a staggering $600 million worldwide, proving Schwarzenegger had a special kind of box-office appeal and establishing the Austrian native as an American action-movie icon.
[Related: Patrick Schwarzenegger makes acting debut]
His wedding to Maria Shriver in 1986. (Getty Images)
He marries a Kennedy
Arnold Schwarzennegger and Maria Shriver's most-recent headlines may have been centered around their split, but back in the '80s, the couple created buzz simply by being together. When the world found out a one-time beefy bodybuilder (not to mention a staunch Republican!) was marrying a Kennedy (Shriver is the daughter of John F. Kennedy's sister Eunice), it seemed a little hard to believe. In true Camelot style, the two wed at a Catholic church near the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachussetts, with JFK's daughter Caroline serving as maid of honor. The couple had four children and remained married for 25 years.
Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California. (Getty Images)
The Terminator becomes The Governator
When the state of California recalled then-governor Grey Davis in 2003, the whole thing quickly turned into a media circus, with a whopping 135 candidates becoming certified to appear on the ballot. The roster included Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flint, "Diff'rent Strokes" actor Gary Coleman, and adult film star Mary Carey. Schwarzenegger threw his hat in the ring by announcing his candidacy on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" where he was supposed to be promoting "Terminator 3." He later revealed his plan was to just make the announcement for laughs, but — what do you know? — people took him seriously, seriously enough that he ran. Seriously enough that he actually won. "I thought about it but decided I wasn't going to do it," he said in a Vanity Fair interview last year. But he decided on the ride over the studio that he'd say he was running, just as a goof. "I just thought, This will freak everyone out. It'll be so funny. I'll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor. What the f*** is that?"
He fathers a child with his housekeeper
Yes, there had been allegations of sexual misconduct before. A gaggle of women came forward shortly before the 2003 recall election, claiming that the "Predator" star had sexually harassed them with groping or inappropriate comments. Schwarzenegger did publicly admit to behaving "badly" at times, but the charismatic actor was able to quickly move on impressively unscathed, until — shortly after he and wife Shriver announced their split in the spring of 2011 — proof emerged that he had indeed been unfaithful during his 25-year marriage. That proof came in the form of a 13-year-old boy, who happened to be Schwarzenegger's illegitimate child with a woman who worked for him. The story seemed to get more and more bizarre, setting off a media firestorm. The woman Schwarzenegger had the affair with, Mildred Patricia Baena, had been employed by the family as a housekeeper and assistant for nearly 20 years. She gave birth to the boy just five days after Shriver also gave birth to a son of Schwarzenegger's. And she had worked in the family's mansion while carrying her boss' baby at the same Shriver was also pregnant.
"After leaving the governor's office, I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago," Schwarzenegger admitted in a statement in May 2011, shortly after the news came out. "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry." The scandal, of course, hasn't slowed him down. The 65-year-old will star in "Expendables 2," in theaters this summer, and was recently inducted into the IGN Action Hero Hall of Fame at San Diego's Comi-Con, where pal Sylvester Stallone introduced him as "a fella who really does it right."
Well, Sly, I guess that depends on who you ask.