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Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger Hardcover – May 26, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Fantastic is a biography like no other about a man like no other. The life of Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most extraordinary success stories of our time. An immigrant with a heavy accent from a village in Austria, he became the greatest bodybuilder in history, the number one movie star in the world, the Republican husband of a Kennedy Princess, and the governor of the greatest of American states with a game plan that he hopes may bring him to the White House.

Fantastic is a lesson in how to succeed. It shows how and why this man of willful ambition and limitless drive achieved his unprecedented accomplishments. The book is startlingly intimate, written with a novelist’s panache, and an historian’s rigor.

Laurence Leamer, one of America’s preeminent biographers, has found his most fascinating subject ever. Leamer has extensively interviewed both Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger's closest associates, including his elementary school friends in Austria, his mentors, bodybuilding competitors, lifelong friends, first serious girlfriend, lovers, his longtime publicist and agent, producers, directors, political friends and foes, many of whom have never before been interviewed.

In this groundbreaking biography, Leamer captures the public and private Schwarzenegger, who could change the face of politics in our country. What is most extraordinary is how much the life of this most famous of men was unknown and uncharted until Fantastic. Here is the poignant story of Schwarzenegger’s traumatic relationship with his father and how his first mentor, a Jewish partisan in WW II, helped shape the youth. Here is the intimate story of Schwarzenegger’s first great love and the five years the couple lived together. And here is the passionate account of Schwarzenegger’s decade long affair with Maria Shriver and their marriage.

From the Back Cover

He has been known as the Austrian Oak, Mr. Universe, and the Terminator. Now he answers to "Governor." From humble beginnings in a small Austrian village, Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped himself into the greatest bodybuilder in history, the biggest movie star in the world, and a political force to be reckoned with--all with raw ambition and driving self-confidence. In Fantastic, esteemed biographer Laurence Leamer captures Arnold's amazing story as no one else could. Drawing on unprecedented interviews with Arnold, his wife Maria Shriver, and Arnold's friends, family, lovers, competitors, business partners, and political adversaries, Leamer offers a brilliant, uniquely detailed portrait of this self-made man who married a Kennedy princess and scaled the heights of America's elite. Readers will discover:

· A troubled youth: growing up the son of a strict former Nazi and overcoming adversity by discovering the potential of weight training
· The superhuman: the arrogant showman who revolutionized bodybuilding--and his astounding string of Mr. Olympia titles
· Blockbuster stardom: why a heavy accent and wooden acting style couldn't keep Arnold and his publicist from marketing him into the world's largest grossing film icon
· The unlikeliest Kennedy: his marriage to Maria Shriver and her role in Arnold's rise to governor of the Golden State
...and more!

"Provides rich insights into the conditions that have made Schwarzenegger what he seems to be, material that will no doubt form the basis for any subsequent biographies."
--The Washington Post

"Utterly fascinating, unflinchingly candid, and relentlessly readable, Fantastic will be the standard by which all other works on Arnold Schwarzenegger are judged."
--Nigel Hamilton, author of JFK: Reckless Youth

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition (stated) edition (June 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312333382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312333386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,975,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There have been some really bad Arnold biographies in the past. They've either been written by huge fans of the actor who ignore all his mistakes and "unlikable" traits, or authors who detest Schwarzenegger and smear tabloid reports all over their pages.

"Fantastic" is the best Arnold Schwarzenegger biography out there, and it's a very insightful - and fair - portrait of the man.

Author Laurence Leamer is a huge Kennedy fan (he's written books "The Kennedy Men" and "The Kennedy Women") so it's reasonable to assume he is a Democrat. Arnold, as we all know, is not. Leamer has likely written this book because Arnold is married to Maria Shriver, a Kennedy family member.

As a result he doesn't paint everything picture-perfect. I get the feeling he likes Arnold, but also sees another side of the action star that people don't know about - a vicious, mean-spirited man with an obsession for fame and fortune.

Leamer recalls a story surrounding the release of "Red Heat" in 1988. Schwarzenegger was crying, a newspaper in his hand. One of Arnie's friends asked what is wrong. He pointed to the paper: "Red Heat" had debuted at no. 2 at the box office with only $37 million (back then, that was actually quite a lot, but it still didn't match the gross of his earlier films). "Don't worry, it's number two," his friend told him. And Arnold replied, "But I want to be number one!"

This book covers Arnold's life from childhood to political adulthood. It doesn't skip over the harsh stuff - it details his sexual lust (traced back to his early days of bodybuilding) and quest for fame. It mentions his affairs, and his row with Sylvester Stallone in the late '80s and early '90s.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Leamer had a tremendously difficult task, writing a biography about a subject who reached the pinnacle in three different functional areas whose personal life has been on display for 30+ years.

Mr. Leamer is able to provide considerable perspective in each discipline with the exception of Arnold's business dealings. Having a brother who is a nationally recognized economist appeared to really help bring a fair and compelling perspective of Arnold's politics that is rarely found in the newspapers that cover CA politics. Leamer is also able to get Arnold's closest associates on the record, making this body of work argubly the definitive biography of Arnold that mayever be written for the period of his life that is covered.

Besides being unbiased, I was also impressed with Leamer's writing skills, the book is highly readable without sinking to innuendo and massive amounts of anonymous quotes a la' Kitty Kelly.

While Arnold is quite the character, making it easy in terms of having lots entertaining content to cover, the fact he is visible makes for a challenge to divulge fresh unknown material. I believe Leamer best excels in presenting the nature of Arnold's personality, in fact he does an excellent job of helping us to understand how a gregarious guy like Arnold that loves people could also be so crude and demeaning to not just his foes, but those around him.

Because Arnold is such a likable personality and has excelled in five areas (sports, business, acting, and politics); Leamer's Arnold is presented in a mostly positive light - I would assume that Arnold and his family would be happy with this product.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book hoping to gain some insight on someone who had realized so many goals and dreams. Arnold wanted to greatest bodybuilder in the world, Hollywood's biggest star, and then governor. Through each pursuit, he was mocked and ridiculed but we all know how Arnold laughed at the end.

The book really gives us the reader a candid and personal look at Arnold's upbringing and was refreshingly unbiased. This book awakened me to how much Arnold has risen from Mr. Olympia and Conan ... an almost national joke ... to overcome his detractors to become governor of California and who knows what else he decides to become.
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Format: Hardcover
All about Arnold Schwarzenegger, his friends, his family and his incredible climb to fame and fortune. The author has managed to truly present the life of Schwarzenegger without either a negative or a positive bias. The author has been able to tell the story from the middle position giving the reader the truth, good and bad, about his subject. Schwarzenegger is a very interesting person, but not a god-like person as many of the voters in California hoped he would be.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who has striven to succeed in many different aspects of life: as a bodybuilder, an actor, a businessperson, and a politician. Even if you are not a fan of bodybuilding or his films, it is hard not to admire him a little for the ambition and adventures he has had in life.

Schwarzenegger was born in Austria in 1947 and grew up in the small village of Thal. Even at a young age, he was quite ambitious in life. He became interested in bodybuilding. The book explains the reasons for this such as how he and he alone could take in the glory without having to share it with others. This led him to eventually leave his native Austria and travel to other European countries and eventually the United States to further his bodybuilding career. He competed for many titles and sought recognition in an otherwise very niche sport. This led him to eventually win the highest title in bodybuilding, Mr. Olympia, not once, but multiple times.

Schwarzenegger also got involved in acting and the world of Hollywood. There were some early films, like Hercules in New York, but they barely made a splash. His first real hit was 1977's docudrama Pumping Iron. He transitioned full-time to acting away from bodybuilding in the early 1980s. Many of his films would become modern classics such as The Terminator and Total Recall. Everyone today knows him as the macho-man action star who wields large weapons, kills ruthlessly, and, of course, always gets the bad guy all while spurting one-liners. Like with any acting career, not all of his films would be successes. Last Action Hero bombed at the box office and Batman & Robin is usually considered one of the worst films of all time.
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