Arnold Schwarzenegger Wanted The 6th Day To Reinvent His Reputation

By the time Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Roger Spottiswoode's 2000 film "The 6th Day," his career as an action hero was officially on the decline. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Schwarzenegger seemed unstoppable, appearing in "Conan the Barbarian," "The Terminator," "Commando," "The Running Man," "Twins," "Total Recall," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and "True Lies." This is a run of mega-hits that few other movie stars topped.

It might have been the release of Ivan Reitman's 1994 comedy "Junior" that saw an official downturn in Schwarzenegger's hot streak, as he seemingly entered a fallow period that included widely derided movies like "Jingle All the Way," and "Batman & Robin." Chuck Russel's 1996 film "Eraser" was perfectly decent, but didn't hit in quite the same way, and no one bothered to see "End of Days." A lot seemed to be riding on "The 6th Day," a 2000 high-profile, big-budget sci-fi actioner about a clone-based conspiracy in the near future. Schwarzenegger was 53 and aging out of action hero roles. He seemingly felt ready to hone his craft, perhaps, and focus on becoming a better actor. 

That's the way Spottiswoode told it in a 2000 interview with Entertainment Weekly. He saw the script change from something more action-heavy to something a bit smarter. Spottiswoode was frank about his movie not being able to match the action highs of James Cameron's movies, allowing both him and his star to stretch their project into more interesting sci-fi territory. Indeed, in making something a skosh more cerebral, Schwarzenegger would be permitted to, even in a small way, reinvent himself. 

In the not too distant future...

"The 6th Day" takes place in a near future where cloning has become common. If a beloved pet dies, for instance, one can swing by the mall and have a new one cloned before the kids get home from school. The cloning of humans, however, is illegal under the so-called Sixth Day laws (in reference to what God did on the sixth day in the Book of Genesis: create humans). Schwarzenegger plays a charter pilot named Adam who, early in the film, thinks he is undergoing a drug test. The drug test, Adam learns much later is actually part of a "memory download" scheme so that a copy of his mind may be shunted in a cloned human body. When Adam finds a clone living with his family, it draws him into a vast political conspiracy of corrupt politicians and anti-clone extremists. 

Spottiswoode, when asked about the film's script, found that Schwarzenegger's eventual involvement had the opposite effect that one might assume: rather than make it into an overblown action piece with another invulnerable hero, it became more human: 

"[It] got a bit more intelligent, I think. It became less science fiction-y and more real. Arnold was ready to do more of an acting part. He really wants to reinvent himself. There's no way this film could ever have the kind of action that 'True Lies' or 'The Terminator' had. But he was prepared to work at it. He knew he'd be playing someone who talked, who had relationships."

The man vs. the movie star

What's more, Schwarzenegger was to act opposite some old pros with varied acting styles. "Michael Rappaport is freewheeling, Robert Duvall is from a whole different acting school," Spottiswoode said. "They weren't going to be holding guns and running around. They were going to be playing people."

Schwarzenegger felt that he would have to bring something to the dynamic of actors who don't headline action pictures. To do this, Spottiswoode wanted to go deeper than his "public persona" of the ultra-macho Schwarzenegger the Movie Star. "I know he has a macho image, but he spends time playing chess — and he's very good at it. Yes, he is The Guy, but he also thinks a lot more than he lets on."

Spottiswoode wanted to bring out that cerebral quality that Schwarzenegger hadn't been given the chance to show before. The director told that "The 6th Day" was about an honest-to-goodness everyman that was certainly not a superhero. This was not going to be a "Total Recall" scenario wherein Schwarzenegger's everyman qualities were a character front for a secret superhuman.

"At its core, 'The 6th Day' is a character piece about an ordinary guy who finds himself in the middle of a terrible dilemma. Adam Gibson has the perfect life: a beautiful and loving wife and daughter, an exciting and rewarding job and values that ground him. He is not some kind of superhero. When faced with the possible destruction of his family, however, he does things of heroic proportions to save himself and his loved ones."

Schwarzenegger's thoughts

Schwarzenegger, like Spottiswoode, felt that Adam was meant to be as plain and ordinary a guy as possible. There is a tendency to cast Schwarzenegger in everyman roles, but said roles either get blown up to match the movie star's outsize persona (as in "Jingle All the Way") or, as mentioned, his everyman role serves as a juxtaposition to a secret action hero persona lurking underneath ("Total Recall," "True Lies"). Schwarzenegger was determined to play, in his words, an ordinary man (via

"[Adam] is not the typical action hero who everyone knows right from the start will kick butt and win. This is really about the struggle of an ordinary man who, in order to save himself and his family, learns to fight back and, in turn, risks becoming as vicious as those pursuing him. Imagine coming home from work one night to what you think is your surprise birthday party, only to find that someone who looks and acts exactly like you is in your house ... Then to be confronted by two people you don't know who tell you that you have been cloned by mistake and if anyone finds out you and your family will be destroyed."

One can see an almost Hitchcockian dimension to the premise, only with a sci-fi twist. Adam is an innocent man on the run. He certainly cannot trust cops or authority figures and all the other mysterious new people in his life are to be viewed with suspicion. 

What's more, "The 6th Day" was topical, coming four years after Dolly the Sheep had been cloned. "The 6th Day" was not a hit but its filmmakers and its star were ambitious in making it. It's certainly worth re-visitation.