For, Friday, March 19, 2021


EDITOR’S NOTE: A decade ago I was pondering Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to action films despite his being eligible for AARP, and joking that perhaps he would play an elderly ‘Terminator’ robot at some point — which he did in the 2019 film ‘Terminator: Dark Fate,’ released when he was 71. Other aged action stars were also mentioned, so add 10 years to each age listed below as you realize that each is still making action movies, including Harrison Ford in the fifth Indiana Jones picture. Fans may wonder why Liam Neeson is absent, since ‘Taken’ came out in 2009 and he’s still churning out action pictures at age 68. But he didn’t really make that full-throttle turn to action star until after ‘Taken 2,’ which was released in 2012. This column was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 3, 2011.


OK, you’re a big movie star who’s built a career on action pictures. What do you do when you’re ready for your Social Security pension?


That may be the question facing 63-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger as he leaves behind his political career as governor of California and re-enters show biz.


Schwarzenegger is reportedly reading scripts to find the right big-screen return. But can the musclebound star of “The Terminator” franchise, “Predator,” “Total Recall,” “Conan the Barbarian” and myriad others still be an action star in his 60s?


After all, other big-star tough guys of the 1980s and ’90s — Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal and even Chuck Norris (notwithstanding his successful TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger”) — have virtually faded into oblivion. True, they still make movies, but they all go straight to DVD and even their fans can’t remember the titles.


On the other hand, if you’re 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone, you ignore the calendar and keep making successful, big-screen action pictures. And maybe you corral some AARP pals to make one with you, as Stallone did with “The Expendables,” which co-starred the aforementioned Lundgren (53), Mickey Rourke (58), and featured Bruce Willis (55) and Schwarzenegger in cameos. (The rest of the cast was made up of such young pups as Jason Statham, Jet Li and Steve Austin, all in their 40s.)




Willis remains a popular action star, of course, and shows no signs of slowing down. And last year he headed the cast of the comedy action-thriller “Red,” alongside fellow aging actors Morgan Freeman (73), John Malkovich (57) and Helen Mirren (65), with Richard Dreyfuss (63) as the bad guy.


None of these cohorts is known for action, of course, and they all seemed to be spoofing their own images, but “Red” also sent a signal to youth-oriented Hollywood that there is still room for senior citizens on the Screen Actors Guild rolls. (Including Ernest Borgnine, 93, who also had a small but memorable role.)


Jackie Chan, now 56, announced when he was in his 40s that he would be transitioning from an action star famous for doing all his own stunts to acting in other kinds of movies as he got older. But then, after pursing the American market for years, he finally found himself on top with “Rush Hour” — and by the time he made the third film in that franchise, he was in his 50s. True, he now uses wires to supplement his famous stunts, but like Willis he shows no signs of abandoning the kind of movies that made him famous.


Similarly, Jet Li (47) announced in 2006 that “Fearless” would be his last as a “martial-arts star,” but that he would still act in action movies. That has been the case, of course, but I’m not sure it has diminished his status as a martial-arts star. (Tomayto, tomahto.)


Then there’s Denzel Washington (56), who has spent most of his career as a more serious actor in more serious films, with a few genre pictures here and there, but whose last three films in a row have been action-oriented (“The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” “The Book of Eli” and “Unstoppable”). Is he transforming into an action star as he heads toward his sunset years?




Harrison Ford, 68, stars in “Cowboys & Aliens” this year, and it was only a couple of years ago that he did “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” What’s more, Ford is reportedly in talks to do yet another Indiana Jones picture before retiring the hat and whip. (He told several entertainment-news outlets last year that he wants to do one more before he has to do it from a wheelchair.)


The late Charles Bronson (who died at 81) starred in his last action movie when he was 71, and Clint Eastwood (80) starred in action movies well into his 60s, before transitioning into a highly respected director (though he’s been directing many of his own movies since 1971).


And let’s face it, the younger action heroes — Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham? Well, someone needs to show them how it’s done, right?


Which brings us back to the former governor, whose most famous movie line was, “I’ll be back.” Will he?


Was Schwarzenegger’s cameo in “The Expendables” an early salvo in the resurrection of his movie career? And more important to fans, is another “Terminator” in the offing for him?


Hey, Stallone was “Rambo” in his 60s. But should a robot have crow’s feet?