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'The Last Stand' for Schwarzenegger? Yes, and not really

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The last time Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in a feature film was a decade ago, when he played his iconic robot in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Acting took a back seat to politics from 2003-11, when Schwarzenegger served as governor of California.

Now, as far as acting goes, he's back.

Schwarzenegger stars in the new comedy-action film “The Last Stand,” playing an aging sheriff of a small town who's the only thing between a vicious escaped cartel boss and the Mexican border. The mayhem and mirth you've come to expect in a Schwarzenegger movie can be seen beginning Friday.

Though he made a few cameo film appearances during his days as a public servant, Schwarzenegger doesn't see the new movie as a return. It's just a continuation of the job he embraced after his championship weightlifting days.

“As you might remember, when I got into the governorship, I said I would only run the state for the seven years and then I would be back in the movie business,” Schwarzenegger says. “So, it was just like stepping out of the movie business more than going back to the movie business.”

He was ready to get back to work, but he had some hesitations. The actor, whose career was built on playing fearless characters in such films as “Conan the Barbarian” and “Predator,” was concerned that his time had passed. From his offices in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger watched as a new generation of action heroes popped up to fill his place. Trying to take on those newcomers — at the age of 65 — seemed a little daunting.

But his cameos in the two “Expendables” movies gave him a hint that fans would welcome him back. Reaction was generally positive to him resuming his action ways.

Schwarzenegger returns with guns blazing as he doesn't shy away from big-action scenes in “The Last Stand.” He's driving as fast, hitting as hard and shooting as straight as ever. There's even a chance to show he's physically fit enough to take on some hand-to-hand combat.

As far as the acting part, Schwarzenegger says it's like riding a bike: It all came back to him as soon as he stepped on the set.

One reason Schwarzenegger didn't feel like he had left acting was because he never really had time to miss it.

“You get so engrossed in what you are doing, and it's such a huge responsibility to run a state like California with a legislature that's out of control. Bringing Democrats and Republicans together is always a miracle because everyone is so stuck in their ideological corners that they can't free themselves from that,” Schwarzenegger says. “So, it takes a lot of effort to get things done, but because you are so into it and so passionate about serving your state you really don't have time to miss things in the movie business.”

He loved being in politics, but he didn't seek a different office after his term because he never wanted to become a career politician. He's happy to sit back and watch current California Gov. Jerry Brown sweat out the battles that he once had to wage.

Schwarzenegger's return to movies is fast and furious. He's got two other movies ready for release, plus he wants to do a sequel to “Twins” called “Triplets.” He would strap on a sword if the right script came along for another “Conan” movie. And with another “Terminator” movie on the horizon, Schwarzenegger's looking to finish his film career with the same action roles that made him an international star.

His game plan is to keep doing movies that challenge him.

“I'm very open-minded about that. I read a lot of scripts and look at different things, but at the same time I have to be realistic that while I might see something I want to do, it might be something no one will ever see. In the end, this is show business. Movies cost a lot of money and you have to make sure, as an actor, to make sure everyone gets their money back,” Schwarzenegger says. “We always have to ask if the people will really enjoy it.”

Rick Bentley is writer for The Fresno Bee

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