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Schwarzenegger's action-packed life

Austrian native turns from acting to politics

Arnold Schwarzenegger has had great success as an athlete, actor and, now, politician.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had great success as an athlete, actor and, now, politician.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger

(CNN) -- After decades pummeling bad guys on Hollywood sets, bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-GOP politician Arnold Schwarzenegger has become a major player on the political stage with his victorious bid to become California's next governor.

The Austrian native entered the race in August to take over the top job in Sacramento.

The election marked another blockbuster event in the strongman's colorful and at times controversial life.

Born July 30, 1947, in a small town outside Graz, Austria, Schwarzenegger set the stage for many of his future successes when he picked up his first barbell at age 13. A year later, he began an intensive strength-training regimen. He entered his first bodybuilding competition as a 17-year-old.

Aside from a brief stretch in the Austrian armed forces (and an even shorter stint in jail, after he fled his army base to attend a contest), Schwarzenegger spent the next years building up his muscles and titles. In 1967, just 20 years old and a year after being named Mr. Europe, he won Mr. Universe -- the first of 13 major bodybuilding titles.

A year later, Schwarzenegger headed to the United States, settling in California. Between training and competitions, he dabbled in acting -- his first role came in the 1970 movie "Hercules in New York." He played bodybuilders in several films over the next few years.

But Schwarzenegger didn't gain mainstream recognition -- as an athlete and personality -- until the release in 1977 of "Pumping Iron," a feature documentary chronicling a "Mr. Olympia" competition. That year, he also gave an interview to Oui, a now-defunct adult magazine, in which he detailed group sex and widespread drug use among bodybuilders.

In 1982, Schwarzenegger added another title -- box office titan -- as the lead in "Conan the Barbarian," directed by John Milius and co-written by Oliver Stone. His next breakthrough role came in 1984's "The Terminator," the first of three hits in that franchise. He also starred in several comedies, including "Twins" and "Kindergarten Cop."

Through the 1980s and 1990s and into the 21st century, Schwarzenegger's defined body, signature accent and on-screen machismo made him one of Hollywood's most bankable action stars.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger filled out his life off-screen with business deals, charitable activities and marriage.

In 1979, he began his involvement with Special Olympics. He quickly became part of the family -- as international weight-training coach, global ambassador and, in 1986, husband of journalist Maria Shriver, the daughter of Special Olympics founder and sister to President Kennedy, Eunice Shriver. The couple has four children.

Fusing his athletic experience and Republican leanings, Schwarzenegger was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, serving from 1990-1993 as chairman. He took on a similar role under California Gov. Pete Wilson, who governed from 1991-1999.

Schwarzenegger also established and headed up the National Inner-City Games Foundation, which promotes extracurricular activities for youngsters in cities across the United States. He led a successful statewide effort to pass the After School Education and Safety Act of 2002, a measure that pledged grants to California public middle schools for after-school programs.

Schwarzenegger gained mainstream popularity with his appearance in the 1977 documentary 'Pumping Iron.'
Schwarzenegger gained mainstream popularity with his appearance in the 1977 documentary 'Pumping Iron.'

As his political profile grew, his name increasingly surfaced as a GOP hope for California governor. Schwarzenegger hinted about his political plans while promoting "Terminator 3" in summer 2003, before announcing his candidacy August 6 on NBC's "The Tonight Show."

Schwarzenegger vowed a "people's takeover" of Sacramento, and surrounded himself with experienced political aides, many of them veterans of the Wilson administration. He spiced up his campaign rhetoric with allusions to his acting career, calling Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante the "twin terminators" and creating a committee, dubbed Total Recall, to oust Davis.

Yet the actor often found himself on the defensive. He reversed his stated intention not to seek outside donations for the two-month campaign, ultimately racking up more than $50 million. Near the end of the race, Schwarzenegger rebutted published allegations that he once said he admired Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

But Schwarzenegger's most consistent accusations revolved around his treatment of women. Five days before the election and weeks after the candidate appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to defend his past comments, The Los Angeles Times reported allegations from women that Schwarzenegger touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

While saying most of the women's accusations were "not true" and hinting of "dirty politics," Schwarzenegger acknowledged he had "behaved badly" on "rowdy movie sets" and apologized to anyone he offended.

In the end, voters rallied around Schwarzenegger and, with his victory in the recall election, he promised to "rebuild our state together."

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