Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in a small town in Austria, the son of a policeman. He took up weightlifting in Graz, Austria, at age 15, moved to Munich, Germany, at 19 and landed in the United States two years later.
By the age of 23, Schwarzenegger had established himself as the world's top bodybuilder. Between 1970 and his 1975 retirement, he won the Mr. Olympia contest six consecutive times.
His first big movie, "Conan the Barbarian," made $100 million in 1981. One reviewer called his English so stilted that he appeared to be "pronouncing his lines phonetically." It didn't matter. Schwarzenegger had a knack for marketing and self-promotion.
Soon he ran off a string of movie hits: his defining role as the "Terminator" (1984), "Commando" (1985), "Running Man" (1987), "Red Heat" (1988), "Predator" (1987), the comedy "Twins" (1988), "Total Recall" (1990), "Kindergarten Cop" (1990) and "Terminator 2" (1992). While he is responsible by one count for nearly 300 on-screen murders, he also was pregnant and gave birth in one picture.
His political life began to take shape in earnest shortly after he married TV journalist Maria Shriver, niece of former President John F. Kennedy, in 1986. They have four children. In 1988, he campaigned in the Midwest with then-Vice President George H. W. Bush, who later named him chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
In a 2003 recall election he became Governor of California, replacing the embattled Gov. Gray Davis.
[He was reelected to the office in 2006 by a wide margin, and has since struggled to deal with massive budget shortfalls as the state and national economies slid into recession.]