"The Governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger and Other Actors Turned Governors

T-800/Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger) stands tall in his black leather jacket inside what appears to be an airplane cargo hold in Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

With the much-anticipated sixth installment in the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate, opening this week, moviegoers will have the privilege of watching one of the biggest action megastars of all time Arnold Schwarzenegger return to his iconic role as the futuristic T-800, marking his fifth performance as the time traveling cyborg. But between hunting Sarah Conner and saving Sarah Conner, Arnold served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003-2011, earning him the title of “The Governator.” However, Arnold is not the only movie star to also serve as governor of one of our venerable fifty states. Join us as we highlight a few of the more memorable men to hold both a SAG card and the power to veto a bill.



Knute Rockne All American-Ronald Reagan

NOTABLE MOVIES: Knute Rockne All American (1940), Sante Fe Trail (1940), Kings Row (1942), Secret Service of the Air (1939) 

In addition to serving as the 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald Wilson Reagan also served as the 33rd Governor of California from 1967-1975. However, before throwing his hat into the political ring, “The Gipper” cut his teeth in Hollywood. One must only look at the nickname itself, which comes from his portrayal of George “The Gipper” Gipp in Knute Rockne All American (1940), to understand just how deep in tinsel town the President’s roots run. Not only does Reagan have 81 credits to his name, including a starring role in the Oscar®-nominated Kings Row (1942), but it was during his time serving as the 9th President of the Screen Actors Guild that he met his wife Nancy Reagan. That’s right, the 1981 election that put him on Pennsylvania Avenue wasn’t his first time holding the title of president. In fact, just as he would later do in Washington, Reagan served two terms as the guild’s president, becoming the 13th in 1959.

If you thought that was weird, to steal a quote from The Jazz Singer (1927), “you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” Reagan starred as Lt. “Brass” Bancroft in two movies that were adapted from material compiled by ex-chief of U.S. Secret Service W.H. Moran. These movies, Secret Service of the Air (1939) and Code of the Secret Service (1939), saw the young actor face countless perils serving and protecting the United States of America as a member of the very unit that would serve and protect him for the last 23 years of his life, the Secret Service. 



Predator-Jesse Ventura

NOTABLE MOVIES: Predator (1987), The Running Man (1987), Richochet (1991) 

Jesse Ventura “ain’t got time to bleed,” but he had time to serve as Minnesota’s 38th Governor from 1999-2003 after cementing himself in Hollywood action lore with his portrayal of Blain, one of the elite commandos dropped into the Central American jungle in Predator (1987). Ventura already had a well-established career as an entertainer before punching his ticket to Hollywood, making his professional wrestling debut in 1975. It is on the canvas that he developed his persona of a buff, beach bully, going as far as to legally change his last name from Janos to Ventura, a name synonymous with Southern California’s beach culture. It was this persona that Ventura brought to the silver screen, playing it to a T in the aforementioned Predator, before channeling it again as Captain Freedom in The Running Man (1987), marking the second time in the same year he acted alongside fellow governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.



The Scarlet Empress-John Lodge

NOTABLE MOVIES: Little Women (1933), The Scarlet Empress (1934), The Little Colonel (1935), Sarajevo (1940)

Being a member of four prominent U.S. political families and the direct descendant of at least seven U.S. senators, one could say John Davis Lodge was destined to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, and after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1929, he was well on his way; however, Lodge detoured from his fast track to public office when he became an actor in the 1930s, during which time he appeared in four Hollywood films, most notably co-starring as Marlene Dietrich’s love interest, Count Alexei, in The Scarlet Empress (1934) and Shirley Temple’s father, Jack Sherman, in The Little Colonel (1935). He would go on to land roles in several European films, thanks in part to his fluent French, a talent that served him well while portraying Archduke Franz Ferdinand for the legendary Max Ophüls in Sarajevo (1940), a French production.  

Not long after returning to the United States, John Davis Lodge transitioned to politics and was elected the 79th Governor of Connecticut in 1951, an event that left a lasting impression on the state in the form of the Governor John Davis Lodge Turnpike (aka Connecticut Turnpike). His political career continued long after, becoming the United States Ambassador to Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland, the latter of which he served under fellow thespian-turned-politician Ronald Reagan. 


Terminator 2 Judgment Day-Arnold Schwarzenegger

NOTABLE MOVIES: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Predator (1987), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Jingle All the Way (1996) 

What are the odds an eighteen-year-old, bodybuilding, Austrian soldier becomes a Hollywood icon? Unlikely, perhaps, but possible. Then what are the odds that same man successfully transitions to politics and gets elected as Governor of California? Pretty slim. Well, that’s exactly what Arnold Schwarzenegger did, reinventing himself not once, not twice, but three times after returning to the big screen and continuing his box office success following his time in Sacramento as California’s 38th Governor from 2003-2011.

Following his then-record seven Mr. Olympia bodybuilding titles, Schwarzenegger stepped into the Hollywood limelight with his first big break as Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian (1982), a movie that has gained a cult following since its polarizing release. However, it was in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), full of memorable one-liners and thrilling action sequences, that the flash of what was to come truly shined through. The remainder of the decade saw more of the same from the rising star as Arnold furthered his action hero charisma in movies like Commando (1985) and Predator (1987). However, it was the sequel to James Cameron’s 1982 sci-fi thriller that solidified Arnold as a bona fide star when he returned from the future in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the highest grossing movie of 1991 and the first ever to earn more than $300 million globally.

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Schwarzenegger got his foot in the political door early on, becoming the chairman of President George H.W. Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in 1990. Then in 2003, in true Hollywood fashion, Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy for the California gubernatorial recall election on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The rest was history as “The Terminator” became “The Governator,” serving the state of California for two terms. Following his time in office, Schwarzenegger refocused his attention on the silver screen, donning the black leather jacket once again, this time across from his CGI-created younger self, in Terminator Genisys (2015). 


On November 1, Arnold reunites with his 1984 co-star Linda Hamilton as the fight for the fate of humanity continues in Terminator: Dark Fate. Don’t miss the movie that is sure to provide more memorable lines and heart-stopping action from the Austrian actor. 

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