Something about Miriam Margolyes v Arnold Schwarzenegger smells funny

The 1999 film End of Days has almost zero redeeming features. Slung together out of a cynical desire to cash in on premillennial angst, it is known as the movie in which Arnold Schwarzenegger literally fights Satan. It is dismal, it effectively signalled the decline of Schwarzenegger as an action star and it does not deserve to be remembered by anyone at all.

Except perhaps it does. Because, thanks to an anecdote from one of the film’s actors, End of Days deserves to go down in history for one very important reason. It was, allegedly, the film during the making of which Arnold Schwarzenegger deliberately farted in the face of Miriam Margolyes.

Obviously the anecdote-provider here is Margolyes herself, a woman whose status as a national treasure grows every time she grumpily says anything at all. Recently she appeared on the I’ve Got News for You podcast, and regaled the listeners with a truly disgusting anecdote. “He was actually quite rude,” she said. “He farted in my face. Now, I fart, of course I do – but I don’t fart in people’s faces. He did it deliberately, right in my face. I was playing Satan’s sister and he was killing me, so he had me in a position where I couldn’t escape and was lying on the floor. And he just farted. It wasn’t on film, it was in one of the pauses, but I haven’t forgiven him for it”.

Schwarzenegger in End of Days.
Schwarzenegger in End of Days. Photograph: Alamy

The story, as brilliantly horrible as it is, looks set to reignite a one-sided feud that has rolled along for more than two decades. Margolyes has been quick to express her dislike of Schwarzenegger thanks to their experiences on End of Days. Back in 2016 she told the Guardian that he is a “pig of a man”, and claimed that “although he was relatively professional with me – because he didn’t fancy me – he was awfully gropey with women”. And she has referenced the farting incident before, telling Reader’s Digest that “I had my throat sliced by a glass table at the end [of the film], and I remember Schwarzenegger farted right in my face when I was down on the floor, trying not to move. I shouted, ‘Fuck you, Arnie!’ I was really cross”.

But this time, the story has really started to pick up traction. The fart has been covered by publications as esteemed as Variety, who reached out to Schwarzenegger for a reaction (a reaction was not forthcoming). There could be any number of reasons for this new interest. It could be because attitudes towards male-female power dynamics in the movie industry have shifted considerably in the last five years.

Or it could be that Margolyes herself is enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to her habit of saying whatever happens to be on her mind at any given point. Her stories on The Graham Norton Show are legendary, the memoir she published last year cemented her reputation as a world-class storyteller, and she recently went viral on TikTok for saying: “England is fucking shite at the moment, they’re all cuntfaces and I hate it.”

Of course, a cynic might suggest that Margolyes told a story about someone deliberately farting on her for a different reason. Now, the search engines are swamped with news outlets breathlessly reporting the Schwarzenegger fart, so much so that searches for ‘Miriam Margolyes fart’ will throw up an impenetrable wall of Schwarzenegger fart reportage. But it wasn’t always like this. Oh no. If you had performed the same search two days ago, you would have found video after video of Margolyes farting.

There was the time she farted on This Morning during an ad break, prompting a shoulder-shaking fit of laughter from Philip Schofield. There was the 2017 BBC Four sitcom Bucket, in which she farted during a yoga class. There was the time she farted on command during a Cameo message for the reasonable price of £141. Could the Schwarzenegger story be Margolyes’s attempt to quash her own fart videos with an even grabbier fart story about someone she doesn’t like?

Unlikely. Instead, we just need to ask ourselves two questions. First, does Arnold Schwarzenegger look like the sort of person who would deliberately fart on someone’s face? It’s plausible. Second, should we protect Miriam Margolyes with everything we have because she is such a relentlessly wonderful woman? Certainly. So, based on nothing but hearsay and instinct, I choose to believe Margolyes.