'Arnold' doc delves behind the scenes of Arnold Schwarzenegger's life and career

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold

ARNOLD (15, three x 60mins) Documentary. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, Sylvester Stallone, Linda Hamilton, Jamie-Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, David Cameron

Director: Lesley Chilcott

Released: June 7 via Netflix

HOT on the heels of its new Arnold Schwarzenegger series FUBAR, the streaming giant brings us a three-part documentary on the Austrian actor himself.

Directed by Lesley Chilcott, it finds the bodybuilding star turned Hollywood action hero and unlikely political success story sharing his memories to camera, combined with a ton of archival material and occasional contributions from friends and collaborators ranging from his 1980s showbiz nemesis Sly Stallone to former British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Episode one, Athlete, charts Arnie's early years growing up in a strict household in rural Thal, and how a teen fascination with bodybuilding resulted in him becoming hyper-focused on pumping iron, winning competitions across Europe and then America in the 1960s and early 70s.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold

Episode two, Actor, covers the cigar-chomping Austrian oak's initially awkward transition from multi-Mr Olympia-winning beefcake to promising Hollywood newcomer via cult bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron and early movie hits like Stay Hungry, Conan The Barbarian, The Terminator and Commando, before covering his 'blockbuster' era as the star of Predator, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2 and True Lies – success tempered by the loss of his elder brother and his parents.

Final episode, American, covers the 'Governator' years of the late 1990s/early-2000s as Schwarzenegger pivots from showbusiness to politics, taking advantage of his star power and the political cache of being married to JFK's niece, Maria Shriver, to become the Republican candidate for Governor of California on a 'reformer' ticket – despite the stress it places on his young family.

In many ways, the latter instalment is the most interesting and revealing, covering events and incidents that are lesser-known (especially for audiences outside the US) than Arnie's storied movie and bodybuilding exploits.

Indeed, Schwarzenegger's successful 'across the aisle' approach to political deal-making and problem solving makes him seem downright revolutionary by 2023 US standards.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger in Arnold

This episode also covers the accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards women which made headlines at the time and found him issuing a blanket apology to anyone he "offended with playful behaviour on rowdy movie sets" and lots of 'don't believe everything you read' downplay: today, Schwarzenegger accepts he was just making "bulls*** excuses". "It was wrong – all of it," he admits.

We hear about the affair which produced his son, Joseph, whom the star kept "hidden" from his family and the world for 20 years. Ultimately, this ended his 25-year marriage to Shriver.

"I'd had failures in the past, but this was like a whole different dimension of failure," Arnie concedes.

Happily, he and Shriver managed to move past the heartbreak and cooperate in raising their children, and he also now enjoys a close relationship with Joseph.

While Arnold feels too 'officially endorsed' to be truly revelatory, it's still an entertaining watch which offers interesting insight into one of the biggest movie stars of the late 20th century.