The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Arnold Schwarzenegger

A legendary actor who is now a household name, Arnold Schwarzenegger's life has been extraordinary. Known for being a relentless bodybuilder and a Hollywood legend with movies like Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, and Total Recall behind him, Schwarzenegger has undoubtedly managed to make a name for himself (via Biography). He even had a brush with politics and served as the governor of California from 2003-2011. 

However, his rise to fame and early years have not been straightforward in the least. Many fans may not know that the superstar struggled early in his life and fought against all odds to become successful. For example, in his childhood, Schwarzenegger often sought solace through films and was a huge fan of the bodybuilder, Reg Park. He was a dreamer and was relentless in his pursuit of success. He didn't grow up in a happy household but didn't let his early experiences stop him from relentlessly chasing his idea of success. Plus, he fought anxiety early in his career. 

Here's taking a look at a few powerful stories from the star's life, including some of the tragedies he has lived through to become the man he is today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had strict parents

Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't have an easygoing childhood. Born in July 1947 in Austria, the actor grew up with parents who believed in tough love (via Biography). The actor's dad, Gustav Schwarzenegger, was addicted to alcohol and preferred Schwarzenegger's brother over him. Plus, as highlighted by Cheatsheet, his father who was a police chief and a stern Catholic who was rigid in his ways. He physically hit Schwarzenegger and didn't go easy on him.

According to several accounts, including one by The Guardian, Schwarzenegger's dad played a role in World War II as a member of the Nazi party. The report by Cheatsheet further highlighted that Gustav's Nazi links were not ignored by Arnold, who dug further once he discovered that his father had links to the Nazis. The actor asked Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that supports Jewish rights, to find out more. It was revealed that his father was indeed a Nazi supporter but not a war criminal.

"It's not a proud moment for anyone when you learn your father was a member of the Nazi Party," Hier, the center's founder, said in a statement later. "But Arnold is not his father, and Arnold has to be judged for who he is." Plus, the actor was estranged from his father for several years and didn't make an effort to stay in touch. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was always athletically gifted

As a school kid, Arnold Schwarzenegger was not fascinated by academics. According to the 2003 book, True myths: the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger: from pumping iron to governor of Californiaby Nigel Andrews, the actor didn't excel in academia but was always intrigued by fitness. He was an enthusiastic and cheerful child who was drawn to soccer and eventually found his love for bodybuilding. As per the book, there are several theories around how the actor started lifting weights. But it was undeniable that the sport was fascinating to him.

Schwarzenegger liked it far more than team sports. He once explained this by saying, "I disliked it when we won a game and I didn't get personal recognition." He wanted to stand out from the crowd and wasn't afraid to work hard for it. As he started lifting weights, his parents were puzzled and didn't quite understand their son's obsession. Schwarzenegger's response was simple. He wanted to be well-built and be the best at it. He also expressed a desire to go to the United States and be an actor. His father thought he son was delusional for having those dreams. That didn't stop Schwarzenegger, and he worked hard on his body, training every single day and working with renowned bodybuilder Kurt Marnul.

Arnold Schwarzenegger lost his brother and father in a short period

Arnold Schwarzenegger's family was hit by tragedy in 1971. The actor's older brother, Meinhard, passed away in a sudden car crash. As per Cheatsheet, when his brother passed away in Austria, Schwarzenegger didn't go home because of his strained relationship with his father, and he ended up missing the funeral. Also, according to True myths: the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger: from pumping iron to governor of California, the actor didn't really speak about his brother later in life and avoided mentioning him in interviews. Meinhard was believed to have passed away after a drinking session.

Schwarzenegger's father died just a year after Meinhard's passing. In December 1972, Gustav Schwarzenegger suffered from a stroke in a Graz hospital and passed away. Again, Arnold avoided making an appearance at his dad's funeral. As per certain accounts, Gustav was gutted and heartbroken after the death of his older son and never quite got over the tragedy. Later, the actor said that when his mom asked him whether he would be attending the funeral, he said, "No, it's too late. He's dead and nothing can be done." He also explained in the interview that he'd conditioned himself to be stoic in order to be a champion. He said, "If you want to be a champion, you can't have any kind of outside negative force coming in to affect you." 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was told to spend time in military prison

Interestingly, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was 18 years old, he found himself facing a prison sentence when he failed to finish military training, which was a requirement in his country. The reason? He decided to take the plunge to be a part of the Mr. Europe competition in Germany and sneakily left military camp without letting anyone know what he was up to. His passion for bodybuilding made him feel like it was worth taking this risk (via She Knows).

It did work out in his favor, because he was declared the winner of the contest. But as a result of his actions, he was initially told to spend a few days in jail. According to the actor, he was allowed to walk away because military officials weren't at ease with the sentence. It also helped that senior officials did feel for him and supported his passion for bodybuilding. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Universe title at age 20

Arnold Schwarzenegger was only 20 years old when he found himself getting closer to accomplishing his goals. As per Biography, the actor was supported by Joe Weider, who was responsible for the International Federation of Body Building, a group that worked with contests like Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe. Weider's support helped Schwarzenegger get access to America and fulfill his lifelong dream of living there.

In fact, Schwarzenegger was so popular that he bagged the Mr. Universe award five times and was also crowned Mr. Olympia several times. The latter is believed to be one of the most respected honors a bodybuilder can ever receive. As described in True myths: the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger: from pumping iron to governor of California, he was confident. "Posing is pure theater," he once wrote. "I understand that and I love it." He added that many bodybuilders don't quite know how to pose and pull it off, which is why they ending up losing contests. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger finished his education late in life

Not having had the opportunity to focus on his education earlier, Arnold Schwarzenegger used his time in the U.S. to finish his education. In his 30s, he focused on getting a degree through distance learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As per the university's blog, the actor received a bachelor's degree in international marketing of fitness and business administration.

While Schwarzenegger originally became a part of the university as a guest lecturer, he was given a chance to participate in an "extended degree" program that allowed him to finish his studies. Most of his coursework happened when he was living in Los Angeles, but he would ensure that he would come to campus whenever required, meeting professors and sitting for exams. He was awarded a bachelor's degree in 1979 and even received an honorary doctorate in 1996 for his contribution to sporting events like the Special Olympics.

Arnold Schwarzenegger used steroids

Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted to using steroids in the past in a bid to aid his bodybuilding efforts. As reported by NBC News, the actor and bodybuilder mentioned that he didn't have regrets about turning to the drugs back then. He said, "I have no regrets about it, because at that time, it was something new that came on the market, and we went to the doctor and did it under doctors' supervision."

He also explained that they were legal back then, and it was something he decided to experiment with to see where he could go with them. But he did add that he wouldn't support drug use in general, because it can be misleading to kids and is problematic in that sense. He said that he would rather encourage athletes to turn to nutritional supplements and other legal methods if they are looking for a performance boost.

Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered from anxiety

As a celebrity, Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to mental health troubles. In 2018, the star reached out to a fan with depression. According to the BBC, his fan wrote to him and told Schwarzenegger that depression had left him unmotivated and unable to go to the gym. He requested the actor tell him to stop being lazy and go workout. The actor responded with a kind message and wrote, "We all go through challenges, we all go through failure. Sometimes, life is a workout. But the key thing is you get up." He added that it's good to take one step at a time and not hesitate to reach out and ask for help.

As per Business Insider, Schwarzenegger turned to transcendental meditation himself in the 1970s, when he found himself feeling overwhelmed as he rose to fame and started feeling anxious. He once explained that he knew he needed to get a little help. He said that there was a point when he realized he needed to act on it because even though things were working out for him, he wasn't feeling calm or at ease. He religiously meditated for a year every single day until he felt like he didn't need to do it as often. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused by women of mistreating them

In 2018, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted in an interview with Men's Health that he had "stepped over the line several times" with women before and it was something he recognized later. In 2003, six women alleged that the actor had attempted to either grope them or ridicule them. Back then, Schwarzenegger denied the claims and claimed that they were meant to defame him as he was on his way to being a governor. He labeled the allegations a "political smear" (via Insider).

However, in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and many women coming forward with their harassment stories involving Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein, Schwarzenegger took a step back to think about his own behavior. He said in 2018 that he was sorry about his conduct. "Looking back, I stepped over the line several times, and I was the first one to say sorry," Schwarzenegger stated. "I feel bad about it, and I apologize."

Furthermore, Schwarzenegger said that his opinions on masculinity remained the same. He added that the woman he loved the most was his mom, and he had immense respect for her and other women.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's marriage fell apart

In perhaps what is considered to be one of his biggest scandals, Arnold Schwarzenegger courted controversy after he admitted to cheating on his ex-wife, Maria Shriver, with their housekeeper. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the actor perceived this to be his "biggest failure." In 2011, the star revealed that he had a kid with their housekeeper, Mildred Baena, when he was still with Shriver.

The couple parted ways after being together for 25 years. The actor said in an interview later, "I had personal setbacks, but this was without any doubt the biggest setback and the biggest failure. Without any doubt." He added that he knew he was the one who messed things up. Shriver and Schwarzenegger did try professional counseling to salvage their relationship, but nothing really worked. In fact, as per the actor, the counseling process had the opposite effect and was "counterproductive." He called it "nonsense talk" and "the biggest mistake." 

The actor also revealed that he did say sorry to Shriver and their children. He then focused on self-reflection, trying to figure out the way forward and how to be friends with his former wife and kids. In another interview, he said that knew he terribly hurt Shriver and their children but was still hopeful for the future.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's time in politics hasn't been successful

Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the world of politics as the Governor of California in 2003. He stayed in office until 2011. However, his stint as a politician wasn't exactly a roaring success story. As outlined by the New York Times, the actor wasn't loved by several members of the public. For instance, the state's workers who suffered from pay cuts on account of Schwarzenegger weren't fond of him, and Democrats didn't think much of his opinion on new taxes, while Republicans wanted him to be more aggressive. Plus, many members who weren't fond of cigars didn't like his smoking habit.

Schwarzenegger's tenure was lonely, and he struggled to make others happy. As he once said, "There were people all the way through, people who were disappointed." He added that while some wished to see him be way more conservative, others wanted him to be liberal, and the rest opined that he needed to be dissenting. 

According to the Atlantic, by the time Schwarzenegger was done with his role, his approval rating had fallen to 22%, and he was leaving behind a state budget deficit of $28 million — a definite disappointment and a far cry from the time when he first began his political journey. Back then, he was wildly popular among the public, and some even wondered whether he could perhaps run for president someday.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is uncomfortable with aging

For all his confidence and charisma, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't a fan of aging. In particular, he wishes to stay relevant and keep up with the changing times. As a Guardian piece illustrated, while he's still very much a popular figure, things are a little different these days compared to the kind of stardom he enjoyed back in the day. 

An ex-girlfriend, Barbara Outland Baker, said that she thinks Schwarzenegger wants to keep dominating, no matter what. "He just wants to be number one, in whatever context. He would do anything to sustain it. But the aging process ... it's never welcome," she said, before adding that she reckons that the actor is uncomfortable with being anything but number one. 

Schwarzenegger faced several disappointments over the years as his movies have failed to have a lasting impact on audiences. Stories surrounding his political comeback faded as well when he was unable to make a splash. Plus, the fact that his marriage with Maria Shriver didn't work made things worse for him because of the scandal that followed. Groping accusations haven't helped his image either. As per Michael Blitz (via the Guardian), who co-wrote a biography called Why Arnold Matters: The Rise of a Cultural Icon, the actor simply doesn't give up easily. He opined, "Arnold may not be able to pump much iron anymore but he remains a persistent virtuoso of pumping irony into the bizarre state of American politics. He is the has-been who still is."