Patrick Schwarzenegger on Arnold, Fame, and Toxic Masculinity
AUSTIN, TexasPatrick Schwarzenegger wants you to know that hes a very normal person. Well, normal-ish. Despite Schwarzeneggers best efforts, he exudes a that guy is probably famous glow, drinking fresh orange juice in a hotel restaurant and actually pulling off a wide brim hat (many at SXSW have tried, and almost all have failed). Schwarzenegger is in Austin to promote his new film, Daniel Isnt Realand to watch it. I literally havent seen anything, Schwarzenegger laughs. Also on the agenda is hanging out with his mom, journalist and author Maria Shriver, who spoke at the festival; theyre planning on getting barbecue in the very near future.
Daniel Isnt Real is a bit of a departure for Schwarzenegger. In the film, he plays the imaginary best friend whos been terrorizing protagonist Luke (Miles Robbins) since he was a child. Luke eventually leaves for college, where he finds that Daniel has grown up too. At first, Daniel is the ideal mentor, encouraging Luke to talk to new people and get out of his comfort zone. But the situation quickly grows sinister, as we come to understand that Daniel is, perhaps literally, the devil on Lukes shoulder. His advice starts to cross the line from flirting tips to naked sexual aggression; when Luke puts his foot down, Daniel tries to take over his body. While Luke seeks out a diagnosis for the voice in his head, viewers are left to wonder if the swaggering, casually cruel Daniel is actually Lukes alter-ego, or perhaps his truest self.
Schwarzenegger describes Daniel as the complete opposite of who I am. But as a young actor who learned to navigate the spotlight years before his first day on set, he knows what its like to have other voices in your head.
Thats the thing with fame, Schwarzenegger, who is the son of two very famous people, continues, having already admitted that that word makes him cringe. There are so many people telling you what to do, or like the yes men around you saying keep doing this or do that, or this is how you should act because youll be perceived better I dont know. Like, I just want to be who I am and if it works, cool, and if not, Im still happy.
That isnt strictly hypotheticalSchwarzenegger knows that he can find work outside of the entertainment industry, because he already has. The 25-year-old is a slightly unconventional multi-hyphenate whose resume ranges from acting and modeling to investing in a fast-casual pizza chain. I have about 13 businesses under my mother company, he explains. I started that in high school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patrick Schwarzenegger doesnt like when people ask him what he does for a living.
I hate that question! I always say Im an actor, Im doing film work, I am a business owner and an entrepreneur and he trails off, before exclaiming, There are so many things that I want to do with my life! But so many people kind of scoff at that, theyre like OK, it sounds like you dont really know what youre doing, youre a little bit all over the place, Patrick. And Im always like, no, not really. I know what I want to do and those are the things that Im doing. I love business, I love film, theres a bunch of things that I loveand thats kind of the American dream. The beauty of America is trying to do what you love to do.
Schwarzenegger also points out that hes adopted his dads template for success. The elder Schwarzenegger always encouraged him to follow his dreams, no matter how seemingly disparate. He was like, thats what I wanted to doeveryone said I was crazy that I wanted to be an actor and a politician and a bodybuilder, like the three polar opposites. But those are the three things that I wanted to focus on, so those are the three things that I did And the same goes for me. Arnold inspired his son at a young age; in 2018, Patrick told Parade, I grew up going to film sets, loving watching my dad act and doing film roles.
Still, Schwarzenegger maintains that his parents did a really good job of kind of keeping me out of the spotlight when I was growing up. He continues: My mom was in the spotlight growing up, with the Kennedys and them being in politics and everything. And my dad is the complete opposite, he grew up on a small farm in Austria with a population of a few hundred people, and he had a very different upbringing. So together they kind of balanced that out.
I think that the one thing I would say is, Ive had friends that have gone from nothing to becoming some of the most famous people in their industries, and they have a harder time understanding the idea of fame and coping with that. And I guess with a little bit of background with my family being in that, I feel more comfortable navigating through it.
Acting is a natural fit for Schwarzeneggers curiosity. It allows him to inhabit lives that are not easily accessible to your average scion. Im growing as a human and as Patrick and as a man and everything, and acting helps a lot with that, Schwarzenegger says. Whether Im in class or trying to put myself in someone elses shoes for roles, just getting to learn what that character goes through. It helps me learn each day about different people. Whether thats a cowboy or something on a ranch in Texas or whether thats a kid in L.A..
Schwarzenegger was specifically drawn to Daniel because the role felt like an opportunity to experiment and expand his range. I had this film come out this last year called Midnight Sun. and that was more of the heartthrob teen thingwhich was really fun! It came out in theaters and it was really awesome for me. But as far as stretching as an actor and getting to really mess with a role and let myself go and play This was something that I really got to play with.
The project also struck Schwarzenegger as a timely one, citing a global conversation about mens health and mens mental health, and what is masculinity? What is it like to be a man, all these different things. Daniel often comes across as a mouthpiece for toxic masculinity, whether hes berating Luke for his perceived frailty or possessing his body to initiate a disturbing sex scene. I found it pretty interesting that this kind of tapped in a little bit to that subject, and then at the same time dealt with mental health, schizophrenia, all that stuff, Patrick explains. It tapped into a teenager that was going through the hardships of having that kind of a voice in his head, and his relationship with it. And I know this movie obviously takes it to a different degree, but I think its something thats a pretty prominent discussion in our society today. Everyone has some sort of voice in their head, whether its telling you to do something or not, or second-guessing yourself or questioning yourself, or if its that side of you thats telling you to keep going, boosting your confidence.
Like Luke, Patrick was bound to Daniel whether he liked it or not. It was really with me for those few weeks that we were filming, he recalls, especially because I would wear the wardrobe out everywhere, and it was hilarious, like Id be in the Starbucks line with my fishnet see-through things on, my see-through pants and glasses and chains and bleached eyebrows and black hair. And everyone in the Starbucks line is staring at me. But its an interesting thing to be like, OK, what does it feel like to be this kind of person? You know, putting yourself into someone elses shoes.
But you know, there are actors who have gone way more method, hes quick to add. I dont want to say that Im like, full method.
On set, director Adam Egypt Mortimerencouraged Schwarzenegger to let go and improvise. [The producers] had done a film with Nicolas Cage prior called Mandy, and they were like, Nic Cage would just come to set, do whatever the fuck he wanted on the screen, would bring 100 percent and would bring his own opinions of the role and everything like that. And thats what we want you to do, Schwarzenegger laughs. The crew probably thought I was fucking odd and weird. I was screaming all the time and yelling and doing weird shit after scenes and messing with people. But it was fun, and it definitely wasnt who I am But that taps into the kind of movie it is as well. He grins. Its like, everyone has another side of themselves.