By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 17, 2011 at 1:54AM
It's only a few weeks since bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger gave up the governorship of California, having done to the state's economy what he did to Gabriel Byrne at the end of "End of Days," and to the English language for over thirty years. With his seven-year day job only allowing for cameos in "Around The World In 80 Days," and in last year's "The Expendables," the last time we saw him in a lead role was "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," and rumors have been flying recently that former-Governor Schwarzenegger was considering a return to what we'll generously call 'acting.'
The rumors reached fever pitch over the weekend, starting with the actor announcing, when presenting at the Critic's Choice Awards on Friday night that "I stand before you not as a former governor... I came here for one reason and one reason only -- as an unemployed actor begging for work." Obviously a joke, but as 24 Frames speculated, there may have been some truth behind it -- he recently told Variety that he's open to returning to movies.
Now, an interview with the star by Austrian news site Krone, via Empire, confirms for the first time that the actor's actively looking at scripts, with three current contenders on his slate, one of which seems to be a project that's long held interest for the actor. Schwarzenegger tells Krone that "One topic/script, which I considered a long time ago before governor, is delighting me particularly. In it, I would play an older soldier, who gets the order at the ending of the war to kill a bunch of kids. But he doesn't do it and get them to safety at the risk of his life and it has all kind of adventure. This script is based on a true story!"
As the Schwarzenegger site The Arnold Fans suggests, this sounds an awful lot like "With Wings As Eagles," a script from "Braveheart" writer and "Secretariat" director Randall Wallace which dates back to the mid-90s. Based on the book "Osterman's War," by Wallace's father-in-law James J. Cullen, at one stage it seemed likely to be the actor's follow-up to "Batman & Robin," with the likes of Richard Attenborough and Wolfgang Petersen being courted to direct.
The project never saw the light of day, but it was always intended as a vehicle for the star, with Wallace claiming at one stage that "Arnold can play the part well into his 60s," and Schwarzenegger agrees, telling Krone that, "In the future I have to adapt my roles to my age. Clint Eastwood also has done it in the same way. Extreme fighting or shooting is not possible anymore. I want to be more encouraged as an actor and I believe that I can manage this challenge."
Something doesn't quite ring true here -- the star refers to his character in the script as being ordered to kill 'a bunch of kids,' which doesn't match the American POWs at risk in the "With Wings As Eagles" script. But having said that, it could be a figure of speech, or indeed a translation error; the similarities seem more significant than the differences. It certainly seems like an appropriate comeback role for the star, probably more so than, say, a fourth go round in the "Terminator" franchise, particularly with Tom Cruise having proven on "Valkyrie" that a tarnished star making a comeback playing a German soldier isn't necessarily box office poison.
Schwarzenegger's not putting a timeline on his return, saying that "I don't have a fixed plan. First of all I have to decide which one of these scripts appeals the most for me, then there have to be the right director and so on. But the movie-making is a part of my future plans. Some day the waiting is over again and I'm looking forward to that." We're sure more news on the project, and on the the other two scripts he's considering (we'd be very surprised if one wasn't a sequel to "The Expendables"), will surface shortly.