Film interview: Arnie is back and this time he is playing a flawed hero

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The actor Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to be in a hurry. A consummate professional, the former politician is polite but firm as he sits bolt upright in a plush hotel room, while his busy entourage fills the corridor, making phone calls and checking the time.

“We’re ready, let’s go!” he barks, evidently keen to get down to the business of promoting his new revenge thriller Sabotage, in which he plays the head of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

He and his team (including Sam Worthington as James ‘Monster’ Murray and Joe Manganiello as Joe ‘Grinder’ Phillips) decide to steal a stack of cash while busting a drugs cartel, but one member betrays the others and the money disappears.

As the cartel begins to hunt the bounty down, one-by-one the list of suspects is whittled down in a trail of gratuitous blood and gore.

“I enjoyed doing the movie because it was not a typical action movie, he’s a flawed hero,” explains Schwarzenegger, dwarfing the room with his vast bulk, his huge hands palm down on his muscle-bound legs. “In most films, I play a hero, the good guy who wipes out the bad guy - it’s very clean cut.

“But this one is a much more complex character. It’s someone who starts out as this heroic guy and is the leader of this DEA SWAT team. But as the cartel look for revenge, they not only whack my own guys but they also wipe out my family.

“That’s when he decides to cross the line himself and get into this dark world.”

Schwarzenegger is not without his own flaws. In 2011 he was exposed as having fathered a son with his family’s housekeeper 14 years earlier, and he and his wife Maria Shriver (the niece of President John F. Kennedy with whom he has four children) separated after 25 years of marriage.

In Sabotage, his character Breacher also has a weakness for the flesh, falling for the tough cop investigating the murders of his squad, played by British actress Olivia Williams.

“The way she portrays the character, she looks really attractive,” says Schwarzenegger.

“Then she becomes flawed. She has an affair with me in the movie, so she can’t do her job the way she wanted to.

While he admits everybody has their weaknesses, physical fitness is not something this star is prepared to compromise on, even at the age of 66. And he’s already hit the gym.

“The first thing I did [when I got here] was workout, and then the second thing I did was to have some good British desserts, so that I gained the weight back after working out,” he adds, chuckling.

Armando Iannucci, who will be at the Kings Hall, Ilkley, on Tuesday.

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