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Year
2003
Month Day
November 17

“The Terminator” becomes “The Governator” of California

On November 17, 2003, the actor and former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is sworn in as the 38th governor of California at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger, who became a major Hollywood star in the 1980s with such action movies as Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator, defeated Governor Gray Davis in a special recall election on October 7, 2003. Prior to Schwarzenegger, another famous actor, Ronald Reagan, served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975 before going on to become the nation’s 40th president in 1980.

Schwarzenegger was born July 30, 1947, in Austria. He trained as a bodybuilder and at the age of 20 became the youngest person to win the Mr. Universe title. In 1968, Schwarzenegger, dubbed “The Austrian Oak,” came to the United States, speaking little English, and went on to win a dozen more world bodybuilding titles. In 1977, he gained notice when he was featured in the documentary Pumping Iron, about the Mr. Olympia competition. Schwarzenegger’s acting career took off with the 1982 blockbuster Conan the Barbarian, in which he played a sword-wielding hero avenging his parents’ deaths, and its 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer. He later became an international star with roles in a long list of action films including The Terminator (1984), in which he plays a cyborg assassin who utters the now-famous line “I’ll be back”; the Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller Total Recall (1990), co-starring Sharon Stone; Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), which contains the memorable catchphrase “Hasta la vista, baby”; and True Lies (1994), co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis and directed by James Cameron, who also helmed the Terminator films.

In addition to action films, Schwarzenegger also had box-office success with comedies, including Twins (1988),co-starring the diminutive Danny DeVito, and Kindergarten Cop (1990),in which he played a detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher in order to nab a drug dealer. While continuing to make movies into the 2000s—notably including Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)—Schwarzenegger also built a reputation as a savvy businessman and an advocate of physical fitness and after-school programs for children.

In 1986, Schwarzenegger, a committed Republican, married the broadcast journalist Maria Shriver, a niece of President John F. Kennedy and a member of one of America’s most famous Democratic families. In August 2003, Schwarzenegger, who became a U.S. citizen in 1983 and had never served in public office, announced on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he intended to seek the California governorship in the special recall election that year. After winning the election and serving out the remainder of former governor Gray Davis’s term, “The Governator,” as he was dubbed, was re-elected in November 2006 to serve a full term in office. 

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