10 Questions for Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former Mr. Olympia, governor and Mr. Freeze Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about action, aging and academia

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Ramona Rosales for TIME

The tagline of your new movie The Last Stand is "Retirement is for sissies." You've made four movies in two years. Can we assume this is your motto too?
You would never see me retire because I have a great time doing what I'm doing. Why would I all of a sudden stop? It doesn't sound normal.

The movie makes fun of your character for getting old. How is age treating you?
You're not as good with the stunts anymore. You make the effort, but you know things are different. Your body hurts. You have to have a sense of humor about it. It doesn't help to complain.

Is it true your children like to measure you to see if you're shrinking?
All of a sudden you see your kids getting better in tennis than you, and they're faster on the ski slopes — they challenge you, including in height. They see themselves going up from 5 ft. 10 in. to 5 ft. 11 in. to 6 ft., and then you are from 6 ft. 2 in. down to 6 ft. 1 in. and then 6 ft. ½ in., and they find great joy in that.

Having worked so hard to earn people's respect, why return to action movies?
Not everything you do has to be serious. It was really a wonderful, challenging experience to be a public servant, to give up the salary you would have made and to get paid nothing to work for the people of California. It cost me just out of my pocket $43 million that I contributed to campaign funds and various issues. At that time, I got $20 million to $30 million per movie, so after seven years ...

Wait, do we have to worry about you? Do you need a loan?
No, I still have a little bit left. And it was worth it. I don't regret a minute of it.

The pioneering cap-and-trade legislation you passed in California took effect this year. Aren't you worried it will just push all the polluting off to Utah?
I think that we will have a great success rate. If the rest of the United States would only do one thing, and that is to be as energy-efficient as California, we could close 75% of our coal-fired plants. That is what states are meant to do, to be the laboratory of the federal government. We have shown the way, so now copy it.

Do you have any mentors at the moment?
Mentors are people I'm inspired by. When it comes to being daring and breaking through walls, Gorbachev became a big idol of mine. Every time I go to Moscow, we have lunch together, talk about policy, about communism vs. the free-market society and all those things.

Your character in The Last Stand has a speech about experience and fear. What has experience made you more afraid of?
That's not my style, to be afraid. The key thing is to get rid of the fear of failure because there's nothing wrong with failure. It's not going to kill you. Movies went in the toilet. Acting was s---ty sometimes. But eventually I improved, and I got the Golden Globe, and I became a big box-office success.

Among your many achievements, you are now Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Institute at USC. Will you give classes?
I will be doing lectures at USC, and there will be a lot of research by people who are much smarter than I am that will deal with environmental issues, economic issues and political-reform issues.

With political and marital scandals, the cover-up is usually more damaging than the act. Would you have liked to have handled your situation with Maria Shriver differently?
No. As soon as it came out, I acknowledged it. There was no cover-up. I was not trying to escape the issue. I faced up to it. It was a mistake of mine, and I had said that. That was the end of the story.