By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—If Patrick Schwarzenegger is nervous about attending his first press junket to promote his new movie, the tearjerker “Midnight Sun,” he is managing to hide it well. He steps into a hotel meeting room with a big smile on his face and proceeds to shake each journalist’s hand and introduce himself. The elder son and third child of actor/governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and activist/journalist Maria Shriver, Patrick has spent his life in the public eye along with his famous parents, a factor that is both a blessing a curse. As the blond, blue-eyed 24-year-old puts it, having a famous last name when you’re trying to establish yourself in Hollywood can get you in the door, but you also have to prove your value or you won’t last. Since going pro, he has landed supporting roles in films including “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” “Dear Eleanor” and last year’s coming-of-age thriller “Go North.” He also appeared as soldier in the 2017 National Geographic miniseries “The Long Road Home.”
In his first starring movie role, Schwarzenegger co-stars opposite former Disney star Bella Thorne, who is unable to make the interviews owing to the death of her pet earlier in the day. The young actor is fully up to the task of flying solo and is willing to speak about both his role as Thorne’s love interest in the film and growing up in a famous family. In “Midnight Sun,” he plays a high school senior named Charlie who meets a young woman named Katie (Thorne) busking at a train station in their small Washington state town one night, and it’s pretty much love at first sight. The teens begin a courtship in which the girl can only meet up with him at night. Turns out Katie secretly is afflicted with a rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pegmentosum (XP), which means any exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays could kill her.
Having been cooped up in her house with her widowed father (Rob Riggle, in a rare dramatic turn) for 17 years, Katie is afraid to tell Charlie about her condition fearing she’ll scare him away. That, of course, turns out to be a bad idea, especially when Charlie takes Katie out for a night on the town in bustling Seattle and they don’t get back home until the crack of dawn. Katie winds up in the hospital and the prognosis isn’t good. Will she be able to enjoy just one day in the sun with her soulmate before the inevitable happens? Audiences are cautioned to bring a box of tissues along. The romantic drama is based on a Japanese film called “Song to the Sun” and is written by Eric Kirsten and directed by Scott Speer (“Step Up Revolution”).
The clean-cut actor/entrepreneur—he has a franchise of pizza parlors in Los Angeles—spoke about tackling his first leading role.
Q: How did you get involved in the project and why did you like the character?
Schwarzenegger: I was the last component. Bella was already on the project and I got involved through an audition and then I did a reading with the director, and then I had a chemistry read with Bella. She helped me so much. I texted her because I had known her a little bit prior I was like, “Hey, I have this chemistry read with you today. Any chance you would come and meet me?” and she was like, “One hundred percent. Just print out the (screenplay) and I’ll come and meet you.” I was like, “Really?” She’s like, “Yeah. Just choose a place and I’ll come meet you.”
Her mom dropped her off at the Montage Hotel and we went through all the sides and just hung out for an hour and got so much more comfortable with each other, so that helped me so much.
Why did I got involved with the project? I mean, I love a romance. I love a love story and, obviously, this isn’t your ordinary love story because it deals with a character which is portrayed by Bella Thorne that has a real degenerating disease. It’s following their relationship in how my character pulls her out of this life of isolation and allows her to embark on a journey of love and feel what it feels like to be a “normal” teenager for that period of time.
Q: How was your first experience in a leading role?
Schwarzenegger: It was so much fun. We had such a great time filming. We shot in Vancouver. And again, it’s either you mesh with the person or you don’t. Me and Bella got along. We were in Vancouver for two months and there was no one else really that we hung out with, so it was just me and her. We worked and then when we got back, we hung out. We would go on bike rides and hikes and just do stuff together. The filming process went on, we got closer, and I think that was portrayed onscreen. In the beginning, it’s a little awkward and you don’t know this character, and then as your relationship develops, you get closer, on and off screen, but experience-wise, it was great. We just had so much fun and I can’t wait to do more.
Q: Were you that smooth at 17?
Schwarzenegger: I shot this when I was 22. So yeah, I think I was that smooth. (He laughs.)
Q: Did you realize how much a girl’s best friend is involved at the start of a boy-girl relationships as Katie’s only friend Morgan was?
Schwarzenegger: Yeah, I did because I’ve had girlfriends and I know the whole situation, how you’ve got to win over their friends. It’s the same for guys for girls, by the way. Trust me, all the guy friends have their input too.
Q: What made you want to be an actor in the first place?
Schwarzenegger: Obviously, my dad has done some films. My favorite thing growing up was just going to set. He would come and pick me up early from school, throw me in the Hummer and we’d drive to set. I always wanted to sleep there. I wanted to just stay there all day because I’d watch movies then I’d visit him in the makeup room, watch him go from dad to Mr. Freeze or to the Terminator or someone else. Some of them were shot at Universal Studios, so we had a golf cart that (my brother and sisters) would just drive around and go to all the rides every day. I would go to craft services and have all the candy and everything, so I just loved going to sets. I just fell in love with film.
I always wanted to do film when I was doing theater classes at school. I think my parents always knew I wanted to be an actor, but they also wanted me to get my education. They wanted me to go to college and I’m happy that I did. My dad obviously is someone that has a path in acting but also has the real estate and business side, and then the political side, so he wanted me to learn about the other side of things. Having other things that you love to do during the times when you’re not acting is important as well.
Q: What is your degree in?
Schwarzenegger: I have a business degree and a cinematic arts film degree at USC.
Q: Were the sets more fun than being in Sacramento when your father was governor?
Schwarzenegger: When my dad ran for governor, I was maybe 10. So, when you’re that age, you’re more interested in movie sets. It’s definitely a great experience. I learned a lot. Obviously, being a governor is amazing, but for me as a kid, going to the film sets was more fun for me.
Q: Do you remember specifically what sets you had the most fun on as a kid?
Schwarzenegger: “Terminator 3.” My favorite was just anytime we got to work on the Universal lot because we got to ride the golf cart to the King Kong or Jaws attractions. Everything was just like a dream come true for a kid.
Q: Has having a famous last name helped or hindered you?
Schwarzenegger: People can look at anything, whether it’s the name or anything in life, as a positive or a negative. I definitely like to see it as a positive. I’ve gotten to meet so many people in the film industry through my dad; people that he’s worked with since he was a young actor. For example, Mike Medavoy, the producer who helped him get the role in “Terminator,” also produced “The Long Road Home.” So, those two worlds colliding and getting to work with the same people he did is awesome.
Does it open up some doors for me or help me meet people? Yeah, but again, everything in life, if you’re not going to put the time in, if you’re not going to work, if you’re not dedicated, people can only care so much what your name is. If you’re not going to put all of the work in, they’ll say, “Next.”
Q: You’re a different build than your dad—athletic but slim.
Schwarzenegger: Before this film, I loved weightlifting. I loved eating. I loved just bulking up and stuff. But I lost 15-20 pounds for this role because I play a swimmer, and when you start swimming, you just get these wider shoulders and a slimmer waist. It’s so much cardio and it’s full body. Your upper body is still getting the workout, but you’re just burning so many calories while you’re doing it. I had a coach from the USC swim team train me four days a week at the pool, so that was a great experience and I actually got really good at swimming.
Q: What’s your favorite swimming style?
Schwarzenegger: Freestyle, although you see me doing the breast stroke in the film.
Q: One of the endearing things about this movie is how Bella’s character experiences all these firsts: her first party her first concert, her first train ride. Do you have any first memories of your first concert experience?
Schwarzenegger: Yeah, I do, but it’s almost like when I got to take her on these journeys, how excited she was and happy she was, it made me happy. It’s kind of that thing when you take someone that you love to do things and they love it so much that it makes you feel good or when you do a surprise or take them for dinner and they really appreciate it, it makes you feel good.
Q: Can you talk about the scene where Rob Riggle is prepping you before your date with Katie? It was like he was cross-examining you.
Schwarzenegger: Yes. That was the hardest scene in the film to do because Scott (Speer the director) was like, “Rob, improv that. You’re a comedian. Just do it.” He was like, “All right, Patrick, just riff off of him.” I come in the room and I sit there just kind of twiddling my thumbs, and he just starts throwing these pointed questions at me, and I couldn’t take him serious. I just kept laughing. That’s why the scene was so hard to do because I’m really trying to not laugh and answer the questions. Thankfully, it worked out. Rob’s a really funny guy. I believe he also was in the Navy, which is really awesome, so God bless him for that. I think this role (playing a protective father) is really important for him because a lot of comedians get kind of typecast but he really is a great dramatic actor as well.
Q: What was your reaction the first time you saw the movie?
Schwarzenegger: I watched it with my friends and my mom. It’s always weird to see yourself on screen and hear your own voice. You’re like, “Do I really sound like that?” but it was great. My mom and sisters were tearing up at the end, which made me happy. They really liked it. In the end, I’m just proud that I got to do this, and that this film is coming out. I’m just really blessed to be able to be in this film and to be doing what I like to do.
Q: What does your dad think about you being an actor?
Schwarzenegger: He’s also so proud. He actually shed a tear. I don’t know if it’s from the story or from seeing me on the big screen or what it was, but yeah, it was just really cool to see that. Every kid wants his parents to be proud of him. My parents have both encouraged me to do what I want to do. My dad has always said, “Follow your passion, whatever it is that you love to do and then it’s not really work. It’s something that you’re trying to achieve every day and getting better and better and it’s going to be the best that you can be, so if that’s acting, or whatever it is, just follow what you love. And as long as you do that, we’ll support you guys.