On April 1, 2011, in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that his first major film role after leaving the California governor’s mansion would be the lead in Cry Macho, with production to start in September and Brad Furman ( The Lincoln Lawyer) signed on to direct. About a month and a half later came another, decidedly different announcement: amid the revelation that he had an affair and fathered a child with a former member of his household staff over a decade ago, Schwarzenegger would be putting his professional film career—which also included a return to the Terminator franchise—on hold, reported The New York Times.
The plot of Cry Macho, it just so happens, is strikingly similar to the ex-Governator’s real-life drama. N. Richard Nash’s 1975 novel centers on a burly, washed-up former rodeo star named Mike Milo whose wife, an ex-journalist, left him after he engaged in several affairs—the most notable of which with a woman he wasn’t even sexually attracted to. With nowhere left to turn, Milo accepts an offer from his ex-boss to travel to Mexico and kidnap the businessman’s 11-year-old Mexican son from his ex-wife. As the two lost souls embark on their odyssey back to Texas, however, they soon realize that they may fill the voids in each other’s lives.
Despite the book being out of print, The Daily Beast got our hands on a copy of Cry Macho. So without further ado, here are the nine most bizarre similarities between Schwarzenegger’s real-life relationship drama, and his would-be character’s.
A Way with Words
The protagonist of the novel is Mike Milo, the brawny, middle-aged former rodeo star who now pops pills and suffers injections to cure his arthritis, in order to perform in theatrical rodeo shows. At one point in the novel, he nearly makes a young apprentice lick his extensive trophy case—Schwarzenegger was, of course, an award-winning bodybuilder. And, in his bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger called working out “the pump” and famously said: “It’s as satisfying to me as cumming is—as having sex with a woman and cumming.” According to Milo, the secret to cowboy jargon lies in one word: “cock.” [Pg. 8] “Even if the cowpunchers weren’t talking about women, not even thinking about them, it was the password of their communion,” says Milo. “A bad horse was a dirt-f---er, a good one was a sweetcock even if it was a mare; a bottle of sour mash didn’t go to a man’s head or his stomach, it went to his wangdang; and for a hangover a cup of black coffee was a jockstrap.” He added, “Behind the word was an unspoken pact: they gave one another credit for prowess.”
Schwarzenegger called working out “the pump” and famously said: “It’s as satisfying to me… as having sex with a woman.”
A House Divided
Upon learning that her longtime husband had secretly fathered a child with their maid a decade ago, Maria Shriver reportedly demanded that Schwarzenegger leave the home immediately. He didn’t, and, according to a source, stayed in the family home while she moved into a hotel. In a similar vein, after being fired from his job as a rodeo showman, Cry Macho’s Mike Milo reminisces about his ex-wife, Donna, whom he describes as “slender,” “quietly beautiful,” and a “warm woman with a genuine smile and an open hand available to anyone, especially those in pain.” [Pg. 36] Despite paying her expensive alimony, Mike still loves Donna, and she still loves him, but “it didn’t mean a damn, for their marriage was tainted by the one incurable ailment: they no longer wanted to live together.” [Pg. 37] Strangely enough, Donna is also an ex-journalist who used to do PR for Mike’s shows. Sound familiar?
An Aggressive Lover
On their first date, Mike tries to “lay” Donna, but she smacks his groping hands away, and says that she’s a 28-year-old virgin and will only give it up when the time is right. [Pg. 41] Things get steamier between the couple, with the occasional kissing and rubbing, but Donna always manages to freak out when things get too hot. However, on one summer evening, Mike arrives and Donna is dressed in a bathrobe. “I want you,” she says, but Mike replies, “I have tried… I don’t know how.” And Donna cries, “Make me do it!” The author writes: “There was such terror, such blood in her cry, such anguish, that he pretended he was raping her and she pretended she was fighting him and they both came, at different times, and then she wanted it again.” [Pg. 43] The man formerly known as the Governator has been repeatedly accused of groping women over the years, even allegedly going so far as reportedly pulling a crew member’s breasts out of her bra on the set of Terminator II: Judgment Day, according to Premiere.
After Donna tearfully admits that she hates performing oral sex on Mike and refuses to do it—or any sexual act—with him any more, the couple sleep in separate bedrooms. Mike eventually falls into a string of “petty adulteries” that didn’t bother Donna, but, according to Mike, “The first time he was overtly dishonest about one of his women was when she did matter.” [Pg. 51] Mike eventually begins an affair with the widow of a former bronco-rider friend of his, despite never intending to go to bed with her. “She wasn’t pretty, even seemed a little dowdy, but she was at peace with herself and made him feel that he might get to be,” thought Mike. “He never realized he could fall in love with a woman who didn’t excite him sexually. When he came upon this unexpected discovery in himself it gave him a perplexing but profound joy. Suddenly he felt he loved, not only Rachel, but all women—he absurdly loved all women!—and was rewarded by loving himself.” [Pg. 52] Because of the affair, Mike leaves Donna.
A Mexican Boy, Age 11…
It was recently revealed that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with his longtime Hispanic maid, and that the boy is about 13 years old. In Cry Macho, Mike is approached by his former rodeo boss, a rich businessman named Howard Polk, with an interesting proposition: to kidnap his estranged son that he fathered with a Mexican woman. “His name is Rafael… He’s now about eleven,” says Polk. [Pg. 59] Polk hasn’t seen his son in five years, but wants to ransom him to his ex-wife, since he put numerous business entities under her name in Mexico, and wants a piece of the pie. Rafael is described as “a handsome boy, dark, Latin, with a twinkling face that might be hiding a private deviltry, a nice kid, well dressed, well fed.”
Mike travels to Mexico to kidnap Rafael, the 11-year-old son of Harold Polk. He breaks into the family home, where he is surprised to find that Rafael’s mother, Lexa, is not only unsurprised that he just broke into her home, but insists on having a drink with him. He declines, but later returns and accepts her offer of a drink. Before Mike knows it, they’re in Lexa’s bedroom. “She came out of the dressing room, naked… her breasts were beautiful and as high as a girl’s.” [Pg. 102] When Mike denies her advances, however, Lexa subsequently freaks out and yells at him, before getting two of her henchmen to give him a brutal beating. Later, when Mike gets hold of Rafael, it’s revealed that Rafael hates his mother—whom he regularly calls a ”whore” for all the different men she brings home—and that he wants to go back to his father. In the Schwarzenegger affair, Yahoo! News claimed that his mistress was actually the one pursuing him, and often bragged to her friends that the pair were having unprotected sex.
On their way back to Texas, Mike Milo and Rafael eventually land in the picturesque Mexican town of Janasco. There, Rafael’s rooster, Macho, wins a bloody cockfight, and the two eventually go and give the money to a poor widower in the town who is raising four children—same number as Schwarzenegger and Shriver—on her own. The widow is beautiful, and she and Mike fall in love almost immediately. However, Mike has issues about staying in such an impoverished town, and when he tells Rafael that the two need to leave, the boy protests. “You will be happy here, Mike! I promise you! Please stay—you will be happy—we will both be happy—please!” [Pg. 264] Rafael then cries, and when Mike tells the boy it’s his job to return him to his father, the boy responds, “Why can’t you be my father?”
Home is Whenever I’m With You
Mike and Rafael eventually are arrested by the Mexican police mere kilometers from the Mexico-Texas border. Holed up in a motel room, they plan a daring escape—with Mike using himself as a decoy to let Rafael, with all their money, travel back to Janasco. Mike crosses into Texas, but not before sustaining a gunshot wound to the shoulder. However, perched atop a ravine along the border, he realizes that there isn’t anything there for him in Texas any more. “He had no choice—he had to go there [to Janasco]. To Rafo, to Marta, to the horses, to the mesa, for as long as they could last. To whatever love he could have, if only for a short time. To whatever love he would give, for as long as it was wanted.” [Pg. 301] Mike returns to his Mexican flame, but it is not yet clear if Arnold will return to his Latina lover.
Marlow Stern is the assistant culture editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast and holds a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has served in the editorial department of Blender magazine, and as an editor at both Amplifier Magazine and Manhattan Movie Magazine.