Summary (from the publisher): His story is unique, and uniquely entertaining, and he tells it brilliantly in these pages.
He was born in a year of famine, in a small Austrian town, the son of an austere police chief. He dreamed of moving to America to become a bodybuilding champion and a movie star.
By the age of twenty-one, he was living in Los Angeles and had been crowned Mr. Universe.
Within five years, he had learned English and become the greatest bodybuilder in the world.
Within ten years, he had earned his college degree and was a millionaire from his business enterprises in real estate, landscaping, and bodybuilding. He was also the winner of a Golden Globe Award for his debut as a dramatic actor in Stay Hungry.
Within twenty years, he was the world’s biggest movie star, the husband of Maria Shriver, and an emerging Republican leader who was part of the Kennedy family.
Thirty-six years after coming to America, the man once known by fellow bodybuilders as the Austrian Oak was elected governor of California, the seventh largest economy in the world.
He led the state through a budget crisis, natural disasters, and political turmoil, working across party lines for a better environment, election reforms, and bipartisan solutions.
With Maria Shriver, he raised four fantastic children. In the wake of a scandal he brought upon himself, he tried to keep his family together.
Until now, he has never told the full story of his life, in his own voice.
Here is Arnold, with total recall.
I’ve never considered myself an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, despite the fact that I’ve seen most of his movies–and in theaters at that, not just on my 72 inch television. At the same time, I’ve never hated him or found him annoying or anything like that. I was just kind of neutral about him and didn’t give his life much thought. So it was kind of a surprise that I’d end up reading his autobiography.
Okay, I started this book because it was on a friend’s Good Reads list, and I wanted to have something to talk to her about. But I quickly found myself fascinated by Arnold’s classic tale of fulfilling the American dream. Here he was, an Austrian immigrant who game to the U.S. with nothing but the desire to succeed, and he ended up becoming a self-made millionaire, international movie star, and governor of California. Regardless of what you think of the man personally, you have to admit that’s all pretty damn impressive.
Arnold divides the book into three sections and spends approximately the same amount of time on each. First, he talks about bodybuilding and how he got into that sport. He described his training regimens, gave credit to his training partners and promoters, and talked about what it was like to compete in the sport’s early days when no one really understood what it was about. Next, Arnold discusses his movie career and his marriage to Maria Shriver, going into pretty good details about the specifics of various shoots, how he got roles, what it was like to e a Republican in the Kennedy clan, etc. And finally, Arnold recounts his time as governor and discusses the biggest challenges he faced as leader of California.
Several things surprised me about this book. For one thing, I had no idea that Arnold was such a shrewd businessman. Even if he never did a movie in his life, he would have been a multimillionaire just from his real estate deals and business acumen. I have to admit that I was one of the people who thought he was all brawn and no brains — a typical Hollywood meathead. But clearly I was wrong about that.
Another thing that surprised me is how goal-oriented he is. According to this book, he always had very specific goals that he wrote out for himself in longhand. He then focused his energies on achieving those goals, whether they be to learn English, own an apartment building, make a million dollars, or keep doubling his ask for each new movie. Although there was no doubt some luck involved in Arnold’s success, he played a very active role in ensuring that the got what he wanted.
I was also pleasantly surprised by Arnold’s aggressiveness in marketing movies. He learned early on that you can’t be afraid or ashamed to sell yourself/your product, and he pretty much lived by that rule. Of particular note was how Arnold was instrumental in changing the marketing strategy for Total Recall. He pushed for the studio to do things the right way, and could very well have turned the film from potential box office flop to $100 million+ blockbuster.
But this is not to say the book was great. The writing was bland at best, and the story got bogged down several times. In fact, I think I skimmed almost the entire section concerning Arnold’s tenure as governor because none of that stuff interested me in the least. Plus, even though Arnold does admit to some failings along the way, he comes off as fairly egotistical overall. Sure, he has reason to be (after all, he is incredibly successful), but still…it’s not a very attractive quality.
And as for the scandal regarding his housekeeper and illegitimate son: he didn’t go nearly far enough in explaining what that was all about. I didn’t expect TMZ-level details, but something more than lame proclamations like “it was stupid,” “I made a mistake,” etc. would have been appreciated.
I also wish we had gotten more insight into Arnold’s home life with Maria and the kids. He barely discussed that at all — which might have been the result of not wishing to further strain his relationships with them by disclosing personal matters. Understandable, but it left me feeling that my picture of Arnold was incomplete.
I’ve read my fair share of celebrity bios, and found Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger to be one of the better ones. Between the stories, the photos, and the mea culpas (as few and far between as they were), I have a whole new appreciation for someone I once dismissed as “just an actor.” I give this book 4 stars out of 5.