With his heavy accent, it’s easy to say that Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger isn’t American. True enough, he is Austrian, born in a small town called Thal near Graz on July 30, 1947.

Though he was supposed to be the biological son, his father, a former Nazi Party member until he was discharged due to malaria, preferred Arnold’s stepbrother Meinhard, which usually created tension among the three. In fact, his childhood was so strained he forgo his attendance to his stepbrother’s and father’s funerals.

Nevertheless, despite the rather painful childhood, Arnold was greatly inspired by his father he took up many sports such as soccer and bodybuilding when he was already a teen. Even with his slim frame, he already worked on barbells when he was 13, visited gyms, and watched bodybuilding-centric movies. It wasn’t much of a surprise therefore that he later on opted for bodybuilding than soccer.

But before he could achieve success in such sport, he first entered the Austrian Army for a one-year mandatory service when he was 18 years old. There, he achieved discipline and rigorous training. Arnold had not forgotten his first love, though, and often left the camp to compete in titles such as Mr. Europe. His winnings often meant harsh punishments including a week’s stay in the prison.

Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia

Perhaps influenced by the movies he had seen, Arnold wanted to immigrate to the United States, and he discovered his ticket: bodybuilding. In 1966, he participated in Mr. Universe and traveled to London. He didn’t win the competition, coming second only to Chester Yorton, but he gained so much more.

One of the judges, Charles Bennett, was greatly impressed by Arnold he offered to let him stay at his home and train him for the next Mr. Universe. His stay in England also trained him how to speak in English, though he wasn’t able to completely drop the accent. In 1967 and at only 20 years old he won Mr. Universe—the youngest ever.

In 1969 he also joined Mr. Olympia, and like in Mr. Universe, his first tray was a failure. He bounced back in 1970 and won; at the age of 23, he’s the youngest to receive such title up to today.

He’s a bodybuilding icon the competition Arnold Classic was named after him.

U.S. Move and Film Career

When he was 21, he was able to realize his dream—that is, to move to America—though some believed that he was then an illegal immigrant because of visa issues. Regardless, hardly speaking any clear English, he made friends with Joe Weider, Ric Drasin, and Billy Graham.

He also crossed over to movies as early as the 1970s, though he was first credited as Arnold Strong, such as in Hercules in New York. His first award was New the Male Star of the Year in the Golden Globe for his portrayal in 1976’s Stay Hungry. In 1977 he was featured in a documentary entitled Pumping Iron.

But it was only in 1982, after years of rejection and struggle, that he landed a pivotal role as Conan in Conan the Barbarian. The film was a success that he obtained a sequel, Conan the Destroyer, two years after. In 1985, he appeared in the first installment of the hallmark series Terminator.

Some of his other box-office-success films are Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, Twins, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Expendables 1 and 2.

Politics and Business

Schwarzenegger is an all-out Republican, supporting Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush in 1988. He worked as the head of Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for three years. In 2003 he ran for governor in California and won after a recall election against Gray Davis. He served the remaining term of Gray.

Besides movies and politics, Schwarzenegger also established multiple businesses including bricklaying, real estate, and restaurant.