Arnold: The biggest revelations from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Netflix documentary

The Austrian Oak's incredible life story is the subject of a new three-part docuseries

Arnold Schwarzenegger in documentary Arnold (Netflx)
Arnold Schwarzenegger recounts his tale in the new documentary Arnold. (Netflx)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Hollywood icon, a mainstay of the film industry who has shaped popular culture in incredible ways, but who can say that they really know the Austrian Oak?

Yes, he has long been in the spotlight as a bodybuilder, actor and politician but even if the public think they know him there are many ways in which he might surprise viewers with his new documentary Arnold, which premiered on Netflix on Wednesday, 7 June.

Read more: Arnold Schwarzenegger: From champion bodybuilder to Hollywood icon

The three-part series sees Schwarzenegger reflect on his life from his childhood, to his athletic career, to his move into acting and later political ambitions, and there were several things that were brought to light.

Here are the biggest revelations that were made.

His father was a tyrant

Arnold Schwarzenegger in documentary Arnold (Netflx)
Arnold Schwarzenegger in documentary Arnold (Netflx)

Schwarzenegger begins the documentary by discussing his childhood in Thal, Austria, when his father Gustav encouraged him and his older brother to compete with one another by making them do things like "earn breakfast".

Nothing he did was ever enough, the actor shared, because his sibling was the "perfect" child and he felt that his father often saw him as second best.

Read more: 'Commando' at 35: Director Mark Lester reveals why an interracial love scene was cut

However, Schwarzenegger said he later realised that his father's actions "destroyed" his brother, Meinhard, and drove him to abuse alcohol until his death aged 24 in a car accident.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in documentary Arnold (Netflx)
Arnold Schwarzenegger in documentary Arnold (Netflx)

Though the actor attributes his approach to fitness and driven mindset to how his parents raised him, he admitted that things at home were less than perfect. Schwarzenegger explained that his father -who struggled with PTSD following his experiences in World War II- would beat him and his siblings with a belt.

The Terminator star said of his father: “He was buried underneath buildings, rubble, for three days, and on top of that, they lost the war. They went home so depressed. Austria was a country of broken men. I think there were times where my father really struggled.”

His mother worried he was gay because he began bodybuilding

PUMPING IRON  1977 real  George Butler et Robert Fiore  Arnold Schwarzenegger. COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL  © Rollie Robinson / White Mountain Films
Arnold Schwarzenegger in bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron (White Mountain Films).

He also explained how his passion for bodybuilding impacted his parents, saying that when he decided to decorate his room with pictures of other athletes, like Reg Park, the posters of muscular men were a cause for concern for them.

The actor said that his mother became worried that he might be gay because other boys his age had pictures of scantily-clad women on their walls, not men.

Thinking back on the time, he said in the Netflix documentary: "My mother got freaked out. She said, 'All his friends have girls above their bed. My son doesn’t have one girl up here. Look at that. It’s only naked men, oiled-up. Where did we go wrong?'"

He almost didn't play the Terminator

He’ll be back…eventually. But in 1984, Will Byers and his pals would have just seen ‘The Terminator’ start appearing in cinemas across the country. The hot new sci-fi flick starred a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, and spawned the even-more-awesome ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’. But in ‘Stranger Things’ it’s simply spotted on a theatre marquee in the background.
(Credit: Orion Pictures)
Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. (Credit: Orion Pictures)

In the docu-series' second episode, Schwarzenegger reflected on his acting career and his struggle to be seen as leading man material before portraying Conan the Barbarian and it is during this episode that it is revealed he almost didn't portray his most iconic role: The Terminator.

Schwarzenegger explained that he was concerned about appearing in a "B-list film" and first perceived James Cameron's sci-fi epic as one until he read the script, when he realised the action flick's potential he was keen to be involved but not in the role fans know him as.

Read more: Linda Hamilton knew 'Terminator: Dark Fate' opening would 'upset a lot of people'

The actor explained that he first spoke to Cameron when the team were looking to cast Kyle Reese, a soldier fighting in the resistance against Skynet.

Arnold Schwarzenegger will play the T-800 again in Tim Miller's 'Terminator: Dark Fate'. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)
Arnold Schwarzenegger has portrayed T-800 in multiple Terminator films, including Terminator: Dark Fate. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

O.J. Simpson was originally suggested to play the Terminator, but Cameron wanted to meet Schwarzenegger first and when he did he knew the Austrian would be perfect for the role because of how well he understood the character.

Schwarzenegger said he resisted when Cameron suggested he play the Terminator, adding: "I said 'no, no, no, I don't want to play villains, the character only has 26 lines' and I started fighting him about it."

Cameron suggested he contemplate the idea before outright rejecting it, and after three days Schwarzenegger realised that it was a role he could envision himself playing.

Meeting Maria Shriver

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver attend Vanity Fair Phoenix House Benefit Party on March 22, 1990 in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were married from 1986 to 2021, though they separated ten years earlier. (Getty Images)

Schwarzenegger also reflected on his personal life in the documentary, saying that he met future wife Maria Shriver at a party thrown by Ethel Kennedy, who contacted him to be part of a celebrity tennis tournament.

Read more: Actors who quit movie franchises only to return

During the event he spoke with Shriver's mother Eunice Shriver Kennedy, and when the matriarch told him how her daughter was interested in him he responded by saying she "had a really nice a**" and in the documentary he said: "What a stupid thing to say, I don't even know why I said it."

The couple wed in 1986 and they share four children together, but they separated in 2011 after Schwarzenegger admitted to having an affair. Their divorce was finalised ten years later.

On his affair

Joseph Baena in documentary Arnold (Netflx)
Joseph Baena in documentary Arnold (Netflx)

Schwarzenegger also didn't shy away from speaking about his affair with Mildred Patricia "Patty" Baena, which resulted in him fathering a child: son Joseph.

The actor spoke honestly about what the affair did to his family, sharing: "I am reluctant to speak about it because every time I do it opens up the wounds again, and I think I have caused my family enough pain from my f**k up.

Read more: Joseph Baena emulates his dad Arnold Schwarzenegger in new iron-pumping gym pics

"Because of that everyone had to suffer, Maria had to suffer, the kids had to suffer, Joseph, his mother, everyone. People will remember my successes and also my failures, it was a major failure... this is like a whole different dimension of failure."

The actor was keen to add that he didn't see his son in that way, though, sharing: "He makes me feel proud and I feel really good about him.

"It was wrong what I did but I didn't want to make Joseph feel he's not welcome in this world, he's very much welcome and I love him. He's turned out to be an extraordinary man."

Arnold is out on Netflix now.

Watch the trailer for Arnold.