Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t a man to mess with. He’s proved that time and again with his iconic roles in The Terminator, Predator and Total Recall. Now, the 70-year-old former Governor of California’s getting back into full swing on the silver screen with five forthcoming projects, the first of which just hit theaters this weekend. Killing Gunther is a comedy set in the world of professional hitmen with Schwarzenegger playing the eponymous Gunther, the ultimate assassin in the crosshairs of a slew of other, lesser contract killers.
While Schwarzenegger was more than happy to chat with Men’s Health about his role in Taran Killam’s new film, he also weighed in on a number of issues affecting the bodybuilding community, including body image, supplement use and where today’s bodybuilders should find motivation. Schwarzenegger, a 7-time Mr. Olympia winner, even gave advice to the up-and-coming actor who will portray him in a bodybuilding movie Bigger.
Men’s Health: In Killing Gunther, you play a hitman, which begs the question: if you were an assassin, how would you take someone out?
Schwarzenegger: I think Gunther is doing it the right way. He’s an expert in infiltrating and disguising and subterfuge. Having those abilities, he can be in the middle of anywhere, and his enemies and targets would never know it. I’d do it like that.
MH: Most of the movie is a group of hitmen trying to kill you, but you keep outlasting. That seems a bit like a parallel to your real life, you’re always one step ahead, surviving and thriving.
Schwarzenegger: [Killing Gunther] reminds me of my bodybuilding and acting career a lot. I had people chasing me and trying to take me out in bodybuilding all the time. They would want the Mr. Olympia title and I would win it and they’d go home depressed and unsuccessful [laughs] and they’d try again, and I’d win again. They’d wonder ‘what does it take to take this guy out?’ Same thing with my movie career, especially when Sly [Stallone] and I were competing for everything; for the biggest, best-grossing movies, who has the least body fat, who has the biggest muscles, who is shooting the biggest guns, who is using the biggest explosives, all that stuff. You’re competing always and if you’re and you’re ultimately successful, that’s what it’s all about. It’s like that for Gunther, and it’s like that for me. Even in political arena, you’re trying to take each other out. That’s what the elections are about: ‘Who is smart enough to be a step ahead of the the enemies?’ I was always good at that.
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MH: There’s an Australian actor named Calum von Moger who is playing you in upcoming film about bodybuilding, Bigger. Have you guys met?
Schwarzenegger: I met him. He’s a terrific fellow, very talented. He’s talented in bodybuilding, too; he’s got a very symmetrical physique, a good looking face and a good spirit. I think he’s a very good person. I hope that he does well with his acting. I haven’t seen [anything he’s acted in], but that doesn’t mean he won’t be good. I think he’s smart enough to take it seriously and to take acting classes and he will be pulling off a good performance.
MH: Did you give him advice on how to play you?
Schwarzenegger: The hardest thing is to be yourself in acting. The other hardest thing is to not act but to actually get into the character. Those are two very important things because then you’re believable and then you will have a chance to be asked again after the movie comes out to do another one. He could really carve out a nice niche for himself as the younger version of me.
MH: von Moger is also a champion bodybuilder, like you. There seems to be a spate of bodybuilders dying lately. Some, like Rich Piana, have admitted to using insulin in the past, while others were using common supplements, like kratom. Have you heard about any of these deaths?
Schwarzenegger: I’m aware when someone [in the community] passes away, but not so much of what’s causing the deaths. You can say it’s because of the drug usage or being out of control with what they use, or not doing research and using things they don’t know; I cannot tell you what is true and what is not. I think that when anyone [doing a sport] dies, it’s always sad, because this is not their intention and I just hope that we figure out ways of how to guide people through an dangerous, uneducated phase in life where they make these mistakes. We have to make sure this is bodybuilding and not body destroying.
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MH: You’ve never shied away from talking about your own steroid use. While you don’t regret it,you also don’t advocate for it for men of today, correct?
Schwarzenegger: I’m the first person to advocate that we have drug tests in every competition. That’s the only way to get rid of some of [the illicit drug use]. Drug companies feel strongly that for every drug test, they will figure out a way to get around it, to cheat it. But that should not discourage us from testing athletes. If we do, we will get better results and they will be healthier. Now, this does not solve the problem for those who don’t compete. There is still an enormous amount of people taking the wrong stuff but not competing.
MH: How do the drugs of today compare to those from your era?
Schwarzenegger: You cannot compare what we took in the Seventies with what they’re taking now. We were taking 15mg then and they take 1000mg of the same thing now. It’s really outrageous. It’s just huge amounts of dosages. It’s only because of a lack of education that they don’t know that it will kill them. What they need to do is rely more on the work. One of my six principles of success is work your ass off. There is no shortcut. If you think there is, you’re wrong. Everything I’ve ever accomplished in my life was because I worked my butt off, not because I found some shortcut.
MH: Earlier this year, you said you have gotten nauseous when you looked in the mirror. What advice do you have for other men who may feel the same way and have body positivity issues?
Schwarzenegger: Remember that to be critical of yourself is very healthy because it makes you perform better. When I said that quote you’re referring to, it was the day of Mr. Olympia and I was training really hard and I posed in front of the mirror and I said, ‘Man, I still look like shit and I think I can make a lot improvements.’ Criticizing myself is the very thing that made me continue training. I could’ve sat back on my laurels, said, ‘Well, I won Mr. Universe and what a great thing that was,’ and gotten fat. But I didn’t. I always felt like my body wasn’t there and I was critical and that’s makes you hungry and puts fire in your belly to make you perform; to do more. That’s good when people feel like that. What is not helpful is if you stand there in front of the mirror and you say, ‘I see perfection.’ Because then it’s over. You will not be motivated to go and do the work anymore.
MH: Do you think some of the people do stand in front of the mirror and say ‘I look like shit’ and that’s why they turn to these substances, because they want so badly to look like you from the Seventies? Do you think that’s part of the cause?
Schwarzenegger: No, I think it’s deeper than that. Everyone in the world feels like [he or she] is not fully there yet. In politics, you always feel like you can accomplish more, that there’s something more to do. And when there is more work to be done, you don’t reach for drugs to help you reach those goals. The same thing goes for your body. We’ve got to teach people that if you’re dissatisfied with your body, you have to work to get better. You don’t become a better doctor by taking drugs; you won’t become a better bodybuilder that way, either. Yeah, you can get bigger. I see guys getting bigger, but you definitely won’t be better. I don’t see that. [Drugs] aren’t the answer. You have to pose and pose and pose. Work your ass off in training. That’s what makes you better.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health