Arnold Schwarzenegger Earned His Biggest Paycheck From Surprising Film

Arnold Schwarzenegger has eased into his role as the new Donald Trump on the Celebrity Apprentice, and anyone who has seen the launch knows Arnie is well-suited to the role.

If you learn more about his pre-movie career — he was a millionaire before ever breaking out onto the big screen from his time as a powerlifter and a real estate investor — it is especially understandable why he might be playing top dog to a bunch of celebrities yearning to prove their boardroom acumen.

But one of the biggest successes of Arnold Schwarzenegger is for a film role very few would suspect.

In 1988, the star of Predator and The Running Man decided he wanted to prove Hollywood wrong. The industry had pigeonholed him as an action star with a desert-dry sense of humor (at best), and that’s all he would ever be.

He was too big, too scary, and incapable of carrying a comedy on his huge shoulders. Realizing the cards were stacked against him, Arnold Schwarzenegger did something he would never have to again in order to get the part.

He agreed to do it for no money in exchange for a back end percentage of the profits. The film was Twins alongside co-star and established comedian Danny DeVito.

The only way Arnold would make a dime from the film is if it was a tremendous success. The concept was big enough and the talent attached had the name recognition.

It was a good time to be Schwarzenegger and DeVito, too, for that matter. The pint-sized (comparatively) star was fresh off the successful comedy Throw Momma from the Train alongside Billy Crystal.

In Twins, he would be the twin brother of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was absolutely ridiculous in idea, but compelling enough to draw audiences.

Twins was not just a hit for Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was one of the most profitable films of the ’80s.

Putting the financials in perspective, the film grossed $216 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, on a shooting budget of just $15 million (thanks to its two top stars not taking a paycheck on the front end).

What they did take, however, was 20 percent of the box office returns. While it is not clear exactly how much that number turned out to be, doing the math on the domestic take ($112 million) would have put the total at about $22.4 million apiece.

If the final number factored in global, add another $20.9 million. Now adjust that number for inflation, and DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2017 dollars, earned around $126 million each for a buddy comedy that scores 34 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

It is a film that has been called “brain-dead schlock” — see the critic hatred at the link above — yet it paid its top two stars more money than many A-listers get for a film today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has shared this story in past interviews with Nerdist as well as Tim Ferriss, the latter of whom appeared on today’s Adam Carolla Podcast to recount the story.

Arnold also provides the foreword in Ferriss’ latest book Tools of Titans.

In it, Schwarzenegger discusses his past business dealings prior to his film career, noting that much of the money he’s made throughout his now four decades in the public eye came through land and property buys.

As for Twins, what did you think of the comedy? Is it the type of film Arnold Schwarzenegger should have been paid so highly for? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr Creative Commons/Resized and Cropped/CC BY-SA 2.0]