Part One : 'The Terminator' (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger's most iconic role of all is arguably that of the killer cyborg, the Terminator. With the first movie released in 1984, 'The Terminator' did the same benefits to Arnold Schwarzenegger's career as 'Conan The Barbarian' had done two years previously, albeit on an even larger scale. Like Conan, the Terminator's large physique was a vital element to turning Arnold's killer character into an iconic and lasting role that has spanned two further sequels to date. Unlike Conan however, after the start of the movie, the Terminator would be covered from head to toe in full clothing. This would mean that Arnold would have to appear as a 'big guy' without direct help from his muscles. Is this something that a 'short man' could do?
From the opening of the Terminator, it becomes apparant that any shot with Arnold in is going to be from a low angle pointing up. This age old camera technique makes Arnold appear bigger and more menacing, and makes our job of determining his height that little bit harder. Unfortunately, the other male star of the movie, Michael Biehn, never appears in the same shot as Schwarznegger in this movie so we will have to rely on comparisons with other the actors featured.
The two actors shown opposite are Bill Paxton (left) and Brian Thompson (right). They are approached by the Terminator near the start of the movie. Bill Paxton, the more well known of the two is believed to be somewhere between 5'11" and 6'0". Brian Thompson, on the other hand is considered by most to be a tall guy and is listed at a pretty tall 6'3". That's one inch taller than Arnold's official height. Many consider Thompson to be closer to 6'2", but even with the low camera angle it's fairly obvious that he is taller than Paxton in this shot.
Add one Arnold Schwarzenegger to the equation and things become interesting. Although the low camera angle makes our it harder to work out precisely who's taller than who, it does appear that Brian Thompson and Arnold appear not too disimilar in height. One could say with reasonable confidence that they appear to be within two inches of each other, and that's not even considering their footwear (or lack of it). Certainly Brian Thompson is not 'looking down' on Arnold, whereas the 5'11"-6'0" Paxton does seem like he may be 'looking up' depending on how you judge the camera angle.
In other shots in this scene Arnold is shown to be barefoot, while the others are shown to be wearing boots with significant heel. Whether or not this was the case for the exact shots above, cannot be proved or disproved. With that said, if the footwear is being altered between shots then the movie's editors are incredibly skilled in masking this.
Rick Rossovich, perhaps better known for his roles in 'Navy Seals' and 'Top Gun' plays 'Matt' in the movie. He becomes another unlucky victim of the Terminator in a scene which has him beaten to a bloody pulp despite him telling the terminator, "Don't make me bust you up man!". What's interesting about Rick's role in the movie to Arnold Height seekers, is that Mr. Rossovich is listed at a very tall 6'4". Yet in the above images, it's clear that, although Rick is barefoot, a boot-clad Mr. Schwarzengger appears very close in height to him. The question is, could a 5'9" or even a 6'0" man in 2 inch boots appear so close in height to a pretty tall guy?
The boots Arnold wears for the majority of the Terminator movie are big and probably wouldn't be too out of place
on the gallery section of this website, or perhaps even Stallone's wardrobe!
There seems to be a minimum of a 2 inch boost from these, which is quite considerable considering most shoes give around 1 inch of additional height. It makes us wonder if Arnold could stand up by himself after the shot (shown opposite) was made.
Most of the extras in the movie appear to be noticably shorter than Mr. Schwarzenegger, although as already noted, he is wearing reasonanbly sized boots. It can be common practice for casting directors to ask for short extras if required. For example, Gene Wilder used this technique to appear 7 foot tall in a movie about chocolate.
In another shot, Arnold is seen walking from his car to a phone booth which he is definately taller than. He's still wearing those big ol' boots, but at least the shot is seamless to rule out the possibility of him using a box (or perhaps a phone book) to stand on to make him appear taller.
The question this raises is, if Arnold is 'only' average height (5'9"-5'11") then what kind of place would have phone booths that could only be used comfortably by midgets?
William Wisher, co-writer of Terminator 2 who had a cameo appearance in the first Terminator once said in a documentary:
"The way 'The Terminator' was initially written, y'know, 5-10, 6 feet tall, nondescript. And the whole idea was that he was supposed be to invisible in plain sight. It can be argued that a six foot three inch, 220 pound, ripped Austrian guy is not the best under the radar infiltration unit."Although Wisher's description of a 6'3" Arnold Schwarzenegger does seem somewhat of an exaggeration, the fact that he clearly believes Arnold to be a taller than average guy is evident here. Let's not forget that Wisher has probably spent many hours in Arnold's company, including their scene in 'The Terminator'.
One could be forgiven for saying that Arnold appears everyone of his (official) six feet and two inches in 'The Terminator'. But was this only due to low camera angles and boots? Perhaps in one of the sequels Arnold would let his guard down and appear short? Stay tuned Arnold Height fans, as next time we will examine 'Terminator 2' to further ponder the eternal question of Arnold Schwarzenegger's height.
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