Which Film Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Make $15 Million For 700 Words

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Schwarzenegger’s income is estimated to be around $35-40 million dollars per year.

From having his favorite film of all-time banned for traumatizing kids, to being passed over for roles due to his strong accent, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career has not been without its hurdles. However, amidst the disappointments and missed opportunities, the actor has also seen an abundance of serendipitous fortune.

One time the former Mr. Universe really struck gold was when he agreed to reprise his role as the indomitable cyborg assassin, T-800, in the popular science fiction franchise, The Terminator. In one of the most impressive financial feats of his career, only rivaled by his ridiculous $25 million salary in the 1997 flop, Batman and Robin, Schwarzenegger found himself taking home a staggering $15 million for the role, despite having a mere 700 words of dialogue. Here’s how the action superstar managed to secure such a massive paycheck for such limited dialogue.

How Arnold Schwarzenegger Landed The Starring Role In The Terminator Franchise

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been portraying T-800 in The Terminator franchise for decades, having first secured the role in 1983, just a year after his breakthrough in the sword and sorcery epic, Conan the Barbarian. Despite his apparent prowess at embodying the eponymous character, Schwarzenegger all but stumbled into the role.

The now 75-year-old actor was initially angling for the role of human resistance fighter, Kyle Reese. However, after going through the script, Schwarzenegger immediately “got fixated on the Terminator,” and embarked on an intense character study. So intense was the acclaimed action star’s analysis of the character that director James Cameron ended up offering him the role instead.

“He’s a machine. So everything has to be matter-of-fact,” Schwarzenegger recalled telling the director during an October 2019 interview with Men’s Health. “I said there should be no joy, no gratification, no kind of victory lap of any sort. Just the mission, complete. I go through these points. [James Cameron], afterward, says to me, ‘F**k, you analyze it better than the way I have written it. Why don’t you play the Terminator?'”

How Arnold Schwarzenegger Landed A $15 Million Deal For 700 Words Of Dialogue In Terminator 2

What’s even more surprising is that Schwarzenegger initially declined the part, owing to the Terminator’s limited dialogue (27 lines). However, after a bit of persuading, the action star agreed to take the part. For his debut transformation into the Terminator, Schwarzenegger had to make some concession in terms of pay, taking home a measly $75,000 for his performance.

Things would take a rather unexpected turn in the sequel, presumably owing to the success of the first film, which multiplied it’s $6.4 million budget tenfold at the box office, and received widespread critical acclaim. For his second transformation into T-800, Schwarzenegger took home a staggering $15 million, despite only having 700 words of dialogue. To contextualize, the iconic line “Hasta la vista, baby,” earned the now 75-year-old action star an astonishing $85,716.

Luckily, the $15 million paycheck turned out to be money well spent, as the film was an even bigger success than its predecessor, accruing a staggering $519 million at the box office, and going on to become the highest grossing film of 1991.

During his 2019 interview with Men’s Health, Schwarzenegger shared his theory on why the film garnered such a captive audience. “People really admired the character, because he was able to do things they all wanted to do,” he said. “Everyone wants to wipe out a police station when they get mad at the police. We had a test screening. We showed it to 50 cops. They all applauded when I wiped out the police station—because it was not a human being doing it, it was the machine doing it.”

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The film also performed rather well on the critical front, with critics practically fawning over Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of the villainous cyborg, T-800. “Schwarzenegger’s genius as a movie star is to find roles that build on, rather than undermine, his physical and vocal characteristics,” wrote esteemed film critic Roger Ebert. “Here he becomes the straight man in a human drama – and in a human comedy, too, as the kid tells him to lighten up and stop talking like a computer. “

How Much Was Arnold Schwarzenegger Paid For The Terminator Franchise?

Arnold Schwarzenegger continued to reprise his role in subsequent Terminator iterations, except number four, Terminator Salvation, whose production coincided with his second term as California governor. Apart from solidifying his status as an action legend, the adrenaline-packed franchise also went a long way in jacking up Schwarzenegger’s net worth to its current $450 million.

For the third iteration in the franchise, the now 75-year-old took home an impressive $30 million salary, along with an additional $5 million from the film’s box office proceeds. Though his salaries for the most recent iterations are not known, it can safely be assumed that he pocketed a lot more than the initial $75,000.

Though it turned out to be quite the gold mine, Schwarzenegger is not intent on taking part in future iterations of The Terminator. “The franchise is not done. I’m done,”. “I got the message loud and clear that the world wants to move on with a different theme when it comes to The Terminator. Someone has to come up with a great idea. The Terminator was largely responsible for my success, so I always would look at it very fondly. The first three movies were great. Number four [Salvation] I was not in because I was governor. Then five [Genisys] and six [Dark Fate] didn’t close the deal as far as I’m concerned. We knew that ahead of time because they were just not well written.”

Shooting Arnold Schwarzenegger for Netflix’s “Arnold”

When cinematographer Logan Schneider came on board Netflix’s “Arnold,” a three-part documentary series about bodybuilder, movie star, and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first thing he did was take a deep dive into the actor’s filmography. “I watched all of his movies and it was really fun to see that progression,” Schneider told IndieWire, noting that he stopped at “Eraser” when shooting took over his life. Seeing all of Schwarzenegger’s output up through 1996 was enough to give Schneider an appreciation of the actor as an icon, but that was only one side that he and director Lesley Chilcott wanted to convey. “He’s a larger-than-life guy, but we wanted to get past that and connect with his past and his really unique American dream story. We were trying to do something cinematic and iconic but also make sure the important moments felt personal and intimate.”

To that end, Schneider chose to apply techniques he had learned on narrative films to “Arnold,” shooting large format on Arri Mini LF cameras and restricting himself largely to prime lenses rather than the zooms more typically favored in vérité documentaries. “Shooting with primes keeps me from being sloppy,” Schneider said. “If I put on a 40mm wide open and keep it sharp, I can get a shot that’s natural and in the moment but not like I’m chasing it. It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does and at the end of the day I’d rather have four great shots than 10 OK shots.”

The series’ many vérité scenes presenting Schwarzenegger working out, feeding his animals, visiting his hometown in Austria and more were methodically constructed by Schneider and Chilcott to give the editors the kind of coverage they would expect on a fiction feature. “We’re trying to get a wide and medium and overs and shoot through doorways to build a scene like a narrative. It’s less about capturing every moment than getting across the feeling of it.”

75-year-old Schwarzenegger’s still-active lifestyle presented additional challenges for Schneider when it came to capturing the footage he needed with the discipline he desired. “Arnold’s hard to keep up with,” Schneider said. “He’s always doing something, so I had to pick my battles and get enough pieces for the editor to be poetic with. I can’t get every shot because Arnold is not going to stop. He’s just moving through his life.”

For Schneider, the key to getting carefully composed and lit coverage often came down to keeping things simple and stripping away extraneous footage. “It’s about finding the heart of the scene the way you would breaking down a script on a narrative project. When do I need a reaction shot? When do I need to let it breathe and back out through a doorway and give it some isolation so that the editor can build this character in a way that’s relatable?”

Schneider noted that it’s always a struggle to maintain a consistent visual style in documentaries, but he benefited from being on “Arnold” every single day — something that is rarely afforded to cinematographers in the doc world. Still, Schneider found maintaining visual cohesion to be a challenge, even in segments that look simplest to the viewer: The interviews shot with Schwarzenegger in his home office. The crew shot over 30 hours of interview footage spread out over six months, which meant the weather conditions kept shifting. “It became about lighting the foreground so that it could remain consistent through all of those changes, with one light outside to connect the house to the indoors,” Schneider said.

Luckily, Schneider was able to conduct lighting tests in the space with Schwarzenegger ahead of the shoot, which taught him how to connect the background to the foreground in a way that would be minimally impacted by the weather. The tests also helped Schneider strike a balance between “Arnold Schwarzenegger” and the real man that he and Chilcott were seeking. “We ended up with this three-quarter top light that’s both dramatic and flattering,” he said, adding that blending warm and cool tones helped provide the naturalism he was seeking to humanize his subject. “We had a backlight that was very cool, then less cool and then warm, until you get to a super warm eyelight that brought out all of the skin tones the way they would look in real life.”

Those lighting tests are what led Schneider to shoot large format with spherical signature prime lenses as well. “We tested anamorphic lenses, but they felt too immersive, too much like we were in a movie,” Schneider said. “Spherical large format felt very present and focused, so that’s the way we went.”

Ultimately, Schneider hopes the audience isn’t aware of the care and thought that went into each choice behind lighting, lenses, and coverage. “The idea is that when you’re watching it, you’re not distracted by some component of the technical end,” he said. “It looks the way it would if you were just sitting there talking to him. That’s the goal.”

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