Dallas has hosted its share of big-name personalities through the years, but Friday was one of the more notable cases in recent memory. Eighties and 90s action movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger paid a visit to screen his new movie The Last Stand (January 18), his first star role in a decade. The former California governor alerted locals of his visit via his Twitter account, and the front walkways of the AmStar 14 Theater began to pack with people leading up to the 6 p.m. arrival time.
The Last Stand is a sort of neo-Western, making it ever so appropriate that Texas be a stop on the promotional tour. Helmed by Korean director Jee-woon Kim (The Good, The Bad, The Weird), this production contains the extreme violence Arnold fans will love, and evokes the sensibilities of classic "tough guy" action movies. It might not be one of Schwarzenegger's best films to date, but it can certainly be called a return to form for the seasoned actor.
Joining the big man on the red carpet was Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, who joins the ranks of many great character actors who have provided comic relief next to Arnie on the big screen. As they exited their black SUV chariots the crowds erupted into a frenzy. The 65-year-old actor still looks in ass-kicking shape, and despite being flanked by professional bodyguards was very friendly and talkative. He and Knoxville worked the line of eager press members, answering questions and even doing a few one-liner quotes when requested.
I asked Schwarzenegger about the movie.
"This movie has a lot of great chase scenes," he said, "and it has great action pieces, and shootouts and everything like that, but it also has a great story, and I play a more vulnerable character in this film than I normally play."
Knoxville was also excited about working with Schwarzenegger, and happy to share that enthusiasm. "He's such a genuine guy, so solid, and just made it fun for everyone to be on the set. He was so happy to be back and doing what he's doing, and it was just a fun shoot, and I think it comes across on screen that we had fun too."
As we headed inside for the show, the crowd quoted their favorite Arnold catch phrases, doing impressions, smiling and laughing together. Some swapped stories of their favorite memories of Arnie's hits, and there were a lot of fathers and sons around - grooming the next generation of action movie fans no doubt.
As I stood outside the theater talking to one of the publicists, Arnold came walking through the back door toward us, and exclaimed in that unmistakable voice, "Who is in charge of the popcorn? Who is getting the popcorn?" Things I never thought I'd hear Arnold Schwarzenegger say. Less than 30 seconds later, a manager anxiously walked behind a curtain where the stars were waiting, holding two bags filled with freshly popped corn. Even The Governator likes his snacks at the movies.
Just before 7, Schwarzenegger and Knoxville headed to the front of the theater and took the microphone. Knoxville spoke first, but quickly handed things over to Schwarzenegger, who noted that when the studios talked about where to do promotions for the film, outside of the typical stops like New York and L.A., Arnie and Johnny wanted to stop in Texas and specifically Dallas. He also made it a point to acknowledge the law enforcement members of the audience, including Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who awarded the two actors a Sheriff's star on the red carpet.
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"My father was a police officer, so my whole life I always admired tremendously law enforcement," Schwarzenegger said. "What we do in the movies, we play action heroes... but we know the difference between the movie action heroes and the real action heroes. You guys and women are the real action heroes."
The movie was starting soon, so Schwarzenegger prepared to duck out.
"Thank you very much," he said. "And I'll be back!"
Mark Walters blogs at bigfanboy.com.