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CANNES – Up close and personal with Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s clear to see that the former Governor of California has a more than a touch of wistful yearning for the life of the Governator, the animated superhero he unveiled this week in Cannes.
After eight years battling with California’s intractable crime and budget issues, the notion of being able to bypass bureaucratic red tape and the confines of Homeland Security legislation by donning a solar-powered body suit and clambering aboard a motorcycle that turns into a helicopter is clearly a source of great satisfaction.
“The reason these heroic characters are always popular is because we are all somewhat limited in our real world. Even when I was Governor I wished that I could do the things that I wanted to do but I couldn’t because of the system, the way it works. Or because of the way the law works,” says an immaculately-dressed Schwarzenegger, who talked with The Hollywood Reporter from the penthouse suite overlooking the Mediterranean from the Majestic Hotel. PHOTOS: Hollywood’s new superheroes.
“The people have certain rights and those rights have to be protected – and they should be protected – but for some criminals you don’t feel like they ought to be,” he goes on. “In real life you have to first get a search warrant and by that time he’s gone. It drives you kind of crazy!”
Inventing a superhero world for his animated doppelganger has clearly been a source of fun for Schwarzenegger, who worked closely on all parts of the process alongside veteran animation expert Andy Hayward’s A Squared Entertainment, Archie Comics and Stan Lee.
“In a heroic TV show, you can make it happen. We can all live out our fantasies. So the idea is that this Governor, after he retires, says, ‘With all that I have learned in my life about sport and camaraderie and discipline and stunts, now I’m going to do all the things that when I was in office I was not able to do.”
With an array of eco-friendly gadgets and a squadron of teenage technogeeks by his side, the Governator is a is testament to the fact that hard work, solid values and super disguising bubble-gum that can transform you into someone else are tools enough to crush even the most villainous bad guy into a handful of dust.
Not that life is straightforward for the superhero ex-politician: there’s that pesky reporter Larry King following him around, for example, sticking his nose into the retired Governor’s business.
And with a strong sense of family values, the Governator has to combine international crime-fighting with some tricky scheduling challenges, like how to fight diesel-spewing uber-villains but still make it home for lunchtime. Not to mention the constant anxiety that someone in his family will discover the mission control center constructed beneath the manicured lawns of his pillared Brentwood home.
As the first entertainment project since stepping down as Governor of California, the Governator isn’t working on a project Schwarzenegger fans may have been expecting, but it combines the values that the former Governor now holds dear.
“You know how kids are always learning without really being taught? They pick things up if they aren’t given to them in a preachy way,” he tells THR.
Still, the Governator is heavy on not-so-subtle eco-messaging, using his superpowers to combat villains who splurge on fossil fuels and leave a trail of environmental damage in their wake. But to be clear, while he may be singing from the same hymnbook as An Inconvenient Truth, Schwarzenegger believes the message should be delivered in a very different way.
“We’re not doing in a way that says to people ‘You better never do that,'” he says. “That’s the old Al Gore kind of a way to do this, to make you feel guilty. Guilt hasn’t worked. Making people feel bad hasn’t worked. You’ve got to make them feel good and draw them into the positive rather than keep talking about the negative.”
As to his return to the entertainment industry, Schwarzenegger is viewing his options carefully.
“When it comes to being in front of the camera I’m looking at a whole series of very interesting scripts from sequels to great action comedies, but I’m not going to make a decision immediately. We just want to get this off the ground and pay attention to it and do it the right way and they we are going to take the next step,” he says.
So does the former Governor nurse a desire to swap even his own fantastical life journey for the life of a superhero?
“The reality is that I don’t have to spice it up because it has been such a wild ride in itself – you couldn’t dream something like [my life] up. I just hope that I’m not going to find my mother shaking my shoulder and saying ‘Arnold, Arnold – you’ve got to get up now. You’re an hour late for the factory.’ I just don’t want to wake up to find it was all a dream.”
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