Long before he was governor, the biggest action star in the world, or even named Mr. Universe for the first time Arnold Schwarzenegger served a year in the Austrian army. Part of a mandatory one-year commitment that all 18-year-old Austrian men have to serve, the future movie star served in a platoon with an M47 Patton tank. But the giant green monster was more than just a just a war machine and a transport. They would fry steak and eggs on the hot plates above the engine, they’d dig trenches and sleep beneath it for protection at night from wild boar, and Schwarzenegger, a workout buff even then, dumped out the department containing the tool case so that he would have a place to store all of his dumbbells and weightlifting equipment. There was a bond there.

So it only makes sense that years later, once he became the biggest action star in the world, he shipped over the exact same kind of tank to have as his own and drive around. And last week at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall, California a group of my esteemed colleagues and me were given the ridiculous and amazing opportunity to ride in that personal tank.

But even before getting near the machine it was a special experience simply because of where we were. First established in 1915, Melody Ranch is one of the most legendary western shooting locations in Los Angeles and in years past had legends like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers filming scenes roaming its sets. And it certainly didn’t hurt that it had most recently been used for the filming of the saloon scene at the beginning of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (which we actually ended up eating lunch in).

The day began with Schwarzenegger coming down to greet the group and introduce himself to everyone before going into an explanation about his history of the tank and how it ended up in America (he was at one time planning a Planet Hollywood-type restaurant with a military vehicles theme) He also took a few minutes to talk about The Last Stand - the reason why we had been invited for the fun press day – and what it was like to go back to starring in a movie again after nearly a decade and working with Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon.

“It’s the first movie that I’m starring in again since I’m back from politics. This is the first starring role and it’s with Kim Jee-woon, who has been a terrific director who has his own style of filming. And he’s a big action director, a big star in Asia. And even though he spoke very little English we had extraordinary communication. He had two interpreters there at all times but after a week of directing I didn’t even need the interpreters anymore because I knew exactly what he was talking about…Now the trick is, as always with everything, the people need to know about it. And that’s where you come in!”

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