Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bodybuilder and Actor, Dead at 56

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the immigrant son of an Austrian police-chief who became one of Hollywood’s biggest box-office stars, died Tuesday night in Los Angeles after a brief, but public illness. He was 56.

Well-known the world-over for his performances as "the Terminator" in three films, Mr. Schwarzenegger began his Golden Globe award-winning career from humble roots in his native Austria. Patterning himself after the bodybuilder Charles Atlas, Mr. Schwarzenegger pursued bodybuilding as a platform for breaking into the movies. Winning several championships while still a young man, including Mr. Olympia and Mr. World, and five times Mr. Universe, Mr. Schwarzenegger went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in business and economics. Later, in 1986, he married Maria Shriver, with whom he had four children. He became a U.S. citizen in 1983.

Arnold Schwarzenegger made his screen debut in the forgettable film Hercules in New York in 1970 under the screen name Arnold Strong, but achieved stardom with the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. With the Conan the Barbarian franchise, Mr. Schwarzenegger established himself as an action film star, and achieved superstar status with his portrayal of a cyborg assassin in the title role in 1984’s The Terminator, which established one of the most identifiable catch phrases in film history, "I’ll be back."

Appearing in some of the hits of the 1980’s, with such films as Commando, The Running Man, Red Heat and Predator, Mr. Schwarzenegger also appeared in comedic roles, such as 1988’s Twins, where he appeared with Danny De Vito, and 1991’s Kindergarten Cop. Also in 1991, Mr. Schwarzenegger reprised his most memorable role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, using his box-office clout to recast his character into the good guy and adding "No problemo" and "Hasta la vista, baby" to the lexicon of "Arnoldism’s." His 1992 follow-up, Last Action Hero was a critical and box-office disappointment, but 1994’s True Lies was the summer blockbuster. Mr. Schwarzenegger returned to comedy with 1995’s Junior, co-starring with Emma Thompson and again with Danny De Vito, where the actor portrayed a pregnant man.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s subsequent films, 1996’s Eraser and Jingle All the Way, 1997’s Batman & Robin, 1999’s End of Days, 2000’s The 6th Day and 2001’s Collateral Damage, which was pre-empted by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, met mixed results.

In 2003, the actor returned to the role which made him a household name, starring again as the Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but soon before the film was released, rumors abounded that the actor was showing symptoms of a debilitating disease, which has been known to affect actors and other celebrities in their later years.

Commentators became concerned for Mr. Schwarzenegger during his media tours promoting Terminator 3, as the actor began to speak in broken clichs and stale bromides, which are unmistakable traits of the disease.

Many commentators noted that early symptoms of the disease were first observed during Mr. Schwarzenegger’s tenure as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. And unmistakable symptoms were again on display in late 2002 during the actor’s public events in support of Proposition 49, the citizen initiative for taxpayer-funded after-school programs in California.

However, since then the disease appeared to be in remission.

Mr. Schwarzenegger shocked everyone last August by appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to announce that his condition had taken a turn for the worse, likely leading to the end of his unique and successful career in Hollywood.

After that, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the following two months, leading many to regret the revelations at this time and preferring to remember him as he was. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed away late Tuesday evening at 8:00PM PT.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is survived by his memorable one-liners and countless amateur impersonators.