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THE LAST STAND

Acceleration: Schwarzenegger on Sheriff Owens
On the heels of seven years as Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger had planned to make a slow transition back into the action movie roles that made him an international hero -- but that transition happened at a breakneck speed when he ran across the screenplay for THE LAST STAND.

"It was a fantastic script," comments Schwarzenegger. "It had intensity, it had drama, it had the action I love and which my fans expect me to deliver, and at the same time it had a lot of comic relief. It was one of those movies where you laugh in the middle of the intense suspense."

Schwarzenegger was equally intrigued by the chance to work with an up and coming director who he felt had the chops to take classic action for a fresh and fun spin. He had already seen many of Jee-woon's Korean films and found them exhilarating. "He's very, very talented and I like to work with talented directors," Schwarzenegger says. "The first movie I saw of his, THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, I loved -- the size of it all and the action was just incredible. Then I watched I SAW THE DEVIL, A BITTERSWEET LIFE and A TALE OF TWO SISTERS; and with each of his movies, I liked him more and more. What a wide range of talent this man has. He is especially good at working with the universal theme of good versus bad. That comes through in each of his movies and in THE LAST STAND."

As the project came together, Schwarzenegger was also excited by the ensemble cast he would be leading. "This cast is unbelievable -- Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Eduardo Noriega, Genesis Rodriguez and the list goes on and on," he says. "Each one of them has great acting talent, both from a comedy point of view but also from an intensity point of view."

Schwarzenegger loved that Noriega plays Cortez as a man as suave as he is bad. "He's such a good-looking guy, he's like a sex symbol," Schwarzenegger comments. "But he also plays a drug kingpin unbelievably well. I saw right away the intensity in his eyes and his face that made him totally believable and a really strong opponent for my character."

Schwarzenegger also had a great time working with Knoxville. "Johnny's hilarious," he says. "If you've seen his Jackass movies, you know he's willing to put everything on the line in order to get a big laugh -- and this character was perfect for him. He ends up being the most supportive of Sheriff Owens' team and courageous in their battles."

Schwarzenegger also felt an affinity with Sheriff Owens, who may have once been an action hero in his own right but has taken up a very different kind of life, keeping the peace in a small town that he had assumed would never see much trouble. "He's had all these experiences as part of a Los Angeles S.W.A.T team, but that time is over," Schwarzenegger observes. "He's kind of looking forward to retirement and he's set in his mind that he's going to live quietly until his town gets hit by criminals. So it becomes an underdog story of how the town finds a way out of this mess."

Like Sheriff Owens, Schwarzenegger had to jump into full-scale, physically demanding action after a considerable break from it -- and like Sheriff Owens, he was more ready for the challenge to body and mind than he had originally expected. "After the governorship, I felt I would have to ease myself back into action, one step at a time," he explains, "but that is not what happened."

He goes on: "I remember visiting a movie set as governor and seeing one of the actors hanging upside down in a harness. A friend of mine asked me 'Don't you miss that?' and I said 'No, I'd rather be in Sacramento, surrounded by legislators who are not always on your side and can make things very difficult, but I'd rather do that than hang upside down on a harness. I just can't see myself ever doing that again.' Well, sure enough, in this movie I hang upside down on a harness. I was back in a harness and back in a movie where from beginning to end I was battling, climbing, running and driving fast cars. And I thought I was going to ease my way back into action! But it was a lot of fun."

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