40 years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then a famous bodybuilder and an aspiring actor (he had already done Bob Rafelson's Stay Hungry, which earned him the best newcomer Golden Globe by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), came to Cannes with a documentary which became a must-see in the world of body building, Pumping Iron, by George Butler. Since then Schwarzenegger, who came back to Cannes with Terminator 2 and True Lies, has become a global movie star, Governor of California, object of a much talked-about divorce from journalist Maria Shriver, and is now back as producer and narrating voice of another documentary, in 3D, Wonders of the Sea, directed by Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jean Jacques) and Jean Jacques Mantello.
“Cannes has always been very generous to me,” says Schwarzenegger, 69, appearing fit as ever, tanned, before taking his socks and shoes off to walk along the beach for the joy of the tons of photographers who have been gathering at Nikki Beach where the members of the HFPA interviewed him alongside the directors of the film. “Cannes celebrates and promotes movies. There are 4500 journalists here, it's paradise!” He acknowledges how the press has not always been kind to him, but also recognizes that his films would not have been as successful as they have throughout the world had it not been for the media attention he has received over the years, good or bad. Which is why it was so important to the Austrian born actor/producer and former politician to bring Wonders of the Sea to Cannes, to spread the word about the importance of the oceans and the need to protect it.
“Our film celebrates what we have instead of pointing fingers against the guilty ones and talk about how much waste and plastic is in the ocean,” he says. “The environmentalist message has not worked for 40 years.” Schwarzenegger compares the message of Wonders of the Sea to that of Pumping Iron at the time: that film was celebrating the body, its strength, longevity; Wonders of the Sea celebrates the ocean and its inhabitants. He and the producer François Mantello note how fish is the "capital" in the sea, and we should only eat its “interest” to maintain the “capital” alive. “In 72 years of scuba diving I have never seen anything so beautiful as the images this film, which took five years to shoot all over the world, shows us,” adds Jean-Michel Cousteau, who grew up in awe of the wonders discovered by his father and recalls how, thanks to his curiosity, modern scuba diving came to existence.
“This is not just a documentary, is an adventure. We are now in a better place scientifically and as knowledge than when my father was alive, but at the same time we need to reduce the population growth and stabilize this planet. We will be soon 9.5 billion people and we need to show this movie everywhere, including India and China, and show how we are all connected. We are the only species which has the possibility and the privilege to choose not to disappear. It is not too late to make a change.” Cousteau adds that the ocean is sick: “and when you are sick you go to the doctor not to hear that you will die, but to get the proper cure to heal. It is what we need to do with the oceans, without which humanity will not survive.”
While Cousteau states how Donald Trump needs to be educated in the field of environment, Schwarzenegger goes a little farther: “I am on foreign territory and you don’t criticize your President when you are on foreign territory,” he says. “But we need to march forward on the environment. When Trump makes a step backwards and says we need to go back to coal I will be the first one to attack him and criticize him. It would be like going back to horses and buggies! We have to take California as an example. The law I passed is the strictest in the world to protect the environment. And it benefits the economy too.”