Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice is as instantly recognizable as any actor's, whether he's leading a comedy or providing the muscle in an action film. However, the 76-year-old movie star and former governor tried hard to lose his accent as a young actor.
During a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show to promote his new book, Schwarzenegger recalled, "I had an English coach and an acting coach and a speech coach and an accent-removal coach, who has passed away since then, but I should have otherwise gotten my money back."
It was in the '70s, as he began appearing in American films, when Schwarzenegger tried to get rid of his now-famous Austrian accent. "The bottom line is, I worked on it," the Terminator star told Norton. "I remember he'd say, 'You know you always say s-ree. It's three, with a T-H.' So he had me say, 'Three thousand three hundred and thirty-three and one-third,' with the T-H and not with the S."
Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock Arnold Schwarzenegger
Norton complimented how he spoke the sentence, and Schwarzenegger joked, "After 5,000 years, right?"
Despite efforts to ditch his accent, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that it ultimately worked in his favor. "The funny thing was all the stuff that they said, the Hollywood producers and the directors and all the geniuses, they were saying this was an obstacle for me to become a leading man, became an asset," he said.
In particular, he highlighted two of his earliest successes. "When I did Conan the Barbarian, John Milius, the director, said to the press, 'If we wouldn't have had Schwarzenegger, we would have had to build one,' because I was the only one that had the muscles to play that character the way Frank Frazetta painted it and the way Robert E. Howard has written about it," Schwarzenegger said. "Then when I did Terminator, Jim Cameron said, 'What made Terminator work and why it became successful is because Schwarzenegger talks like a machine.'"
Schwarzenegger spent time last week talking about his accent as well. The Kindergarten Cop leading man told Dana Carvey and David Spade on their Fly on the Wall podcast that he was told, "No one in America has ever made it that had an accent."
"Then I realized that I had to make the accent something, not to hide it, but to actually make something of it," he continued. "But then out of nowhere, without me controlling it, [Saturday Night Live's Hans and Franz] came along. And they legitimized it, because now there was someone that took the subject of [an] accent and had a good time with it. Not to make fun of it, but to actually entertain people with it. I always said from that point on, it became much more accepted, the whole thing and really became much easier for me."
Now everyone can cue up Totall Recall and be glad that Schwarzenegger's accent-removal coach didn't live up to the title.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.