Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947, in Thal, Styria in Austria. His is a classic story of someone from an unpromising background making good by ambition, talent and determination. He decided at age 14 to become a famous bodybuilder, the best in the world, and went on to do so. While on national service in 1965, he absconded to participate in the Junior Mr Europe competition, and was put into military prison for a week. He won the contest, though, and won the Mr Europe contest a year later, aged 19. He won many more, including five times Mr Universe. He achieved his "world best" ambition in 1969 when we became the youngest ever Mr Olympia at age 23.
He moved to the US in 1968, speaking little English, and that with an impenetrably thick accent. He wrote regularly for Muscle and Fitness magazine, and became a successful bodybuilding entrepreneur, with several business ventures that made him a millionaire by the age of 30. Despite his accent and lack of acting skills, he wanted to transition into a movie actor, and saw his big breakthrough in the 1982 epic, "Conan the Barbarian." He listened to the critics and took acting lessons. Then came his definitive role in James Cameron's 1984 classic sci-fi movie, "The Terminator." Sequels followed, and a succession of blockbuster hits, mostly sci-fi, with titles such as "The Running Man," "Predator," "Total Recall," and "Eraser."
In the US he thought Democrats sounded like the Austrian socialists he had little time for, so became a Republican. I took a bet with William Hill in 2000, long before Schwarzenegger had expressed any political ambitions, that he would be the next elected governor of the state of California. Three and a half years later he was elected after the incumbent Governor Gray Davis was removed in a recall vote. William Hill duly paid me £2,500, which I spent on a party in Trafalgar Square. Governor Schwarzenegger sent a note congratulating me on "knowing my political ambitions before I did." He told us he'd enjoyed his time in London, and promised us, "I'll be back."
He was re-elected in 2006, and governed as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He backed gay rights and domestic partnerships, and he performed a same-sex marriage as Governor. He supported the San Diego Food Bank, (whose outreach and public relations department is run by ex-ASI staffer, Chris Carter), using his fame and charisma to boost donations to it. He declined to accept the Governor's salary of $175,000 a year. He returned to acting when his second term as Governor ended in 2011, and is revisiting the Terminator franchise with "Terminator: Dark Fate," due for release on November 1st this year.
Any aspiration to run for President would be thwarted by the US Constitution that requires its presidents to be American born. Although Schwarzenegger became a US citizen in 1983, he was not born there, and retains dual citizenship with Austria. He is, nonetheless, an American success story, a further example of that country's receptivity to talent and hard work, combined with a self-belief that attempts the impossible and achieves it.
Schwarzenegger joked about his fortune, "Money doesn't make you happy," he remarked. "I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million." Estimates of his current worth put it well over $100m, perhaps $400m.
His determination to apply and improve himself is witnessed by his decision, a decade after his arrival in the US, to enrol in business studies at Wisconsin-Superior University, from where he graduated in 1980 with a degree in business and economics. He is thus an economist as well as an Austrian, and must be among the most exotic of today's Austrian economists.