Can any actor or film live up to the oversize image of Arnold Schwarzenegger?
The public can soon decide as a new docudrama “See Arnold Run” on the former Mr. Universe, action film superstar and now governor of California premieres Sunday on the A&E Network.
The film jumps back and forth between a young muscular Schwarzenegger, played with cocky gusto by Austrian bodybuilder Roland Kickinger, preparing for a Mr. Olympia contest and an older Schwarzenegger running for governor in 2003.
Juergen Prochnow, who starred as a German World War Two U-boat captain in the 1981 film “Das Boot” and had a role in ”The English Patient”, plays Schwarzenegger today.
“It’s pretty difficult actually,” Prochnow said of the role in an interview Friday from his home in the same Los Angeles neighborhood as Schwarzenegger’s mansion.
“I needed some time to make up my mind about this, whether I should do this or not, because ... he is so well-known all over the world and he is alive and everybody can compare what I was doing with him.”
Prochnow, who said he has met Schwarzenegger only once, in Germany, said he reviewed campaign video and watched some of the Austrian-born governor’s films to prepare for the role.
“I had about four weeks of preparation time. We had camera tests, we had make-up tests, we had wardrobe tests aplenty. That helped of course to get into the character,” he said. ”Then I watched the videos of the campaign again and again and again.”
Mixed reviewsStill, some critics say the Berlin-born Prochnow, six years older than California governor, lacks the charisma of the real ”Terminator” and his German-accented speech falls short of Schwarzenegger’s Austrian sing-song tones.
Critic Andrew Wallenstein said on National Public Radio: ”Prochnow is a total failure who pretty much kills the movie.”
Other reviews on Friday were mixed, with the San Francisco Chronicle giving the film its lowest score. “The laughs are all yours as ’See Arnold Run’ unfolds Sunday as two of the most embarrassing, ridiculous hours of filmed television in some time,” Tim Goodman wrote. “’See Arnold Run’ is terrible.”
Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times was more charitable. “’See Arnold Run’ is a little like the candidate’s stump speech -- glib, compelling and inadequate,” she wrote. She added Prochnow was “good, but not entirely convincing.”
The difficulty of presenting an insightful film on the real Schwarzenegger is evident from “How Arnold Won the West,” an 80-minute documentary from a former BBC producer released on DVD this week.
Whereas “See Arnold Run” portrays the race for governor with intimate views of Schwarzenegger, his wife Maria Shriver played by Mariel Hemingway, and top political aides, the documentary on the 2003 recall election offers an outsider’s perspective.
Although the film captures the tumultuous feeling of the unprecedented recall campaign, in 80 minutes it offers no new insights from Schwarzenegger, his wife or top aides, all of whom declined to grant interviews to the filmmaker.