Schwarzenegger's philosophy: 'I never saw no as a no'

Here's something I wouldn't have guessed about Arnold Schwarzenegger: He can iron a shirt.

Or so he says.

The Governator Friday closed out the Television Critics Association's summer meetings in Beverly Hills as part of an ESPN presentation on “30 for 30 Shorts,” an online offshoot of the network's popular doc series that's launching in late September on Bill Simmons' and across its own digital platforms.

The first installment of the series: A look at the year a teenaged Schwarzenegger spent doing mandatory military service in his native Austria and the challenges he overcame to pursue bodybuilding in an atmosphere where all the perks apparently went to skiers, soccer players and javelin throwers.

Honest to God.

Because of his struggles with an unfeeling military establishment (that eventually came around and apparently even began to find excuses to put him on KP so he could grab some extra calories while peeling potatoes), the former governor of California said that later in life, “I never saw no as a no. I always heard yes.”

Which may explain more than he actually intended.

The decision to turn Schwarzenegger's story into a short rather than a full-fledged “30 for 30” was made, said co-director Michael Zimbalist, because “we were really excited about giving an anecdotal presentation” and in a longer film, this piece of Schwarzenegger's life might have been given short shrift.

Without having seen the film yet, it's hard to judge whether it's as inspirational as everyone at ESPN seems to think it is, but it did occur to me that the challenges of a year spent serving in a military that was not at war (and didn't completely understand bodybuilding) might be lost on, say, U.S. soldiers who've done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the press conference, I put the question to Schwarzenegger, who used it as an opportunity to extol the value -- at least in retrospect -- of military service.

“It was a difficult time, but it was probably one of the most important times. Because there is nothing that is better for young kids to go into the military and to serve for a year, like we did. We were not involved in a war, but the discipline you learn in the military -- to have to get up at 5 in the morning, you have to clean the floors, you have to learn how to iron your shirts, you have to wash your clothes, you have to cook, you have to fix your tank, you have to fix your truck, you have to fix your motorcycle, you have to help each other at all times, when you struggle, when you have maneuvers. So you learn so many things,” he said.

“It's the first time you get away from home, where you're always babied, where you always have a safety net, and then you go to the military and there's no safety net. Always they want you to fail, so you struggle and you cry and you have breakdowns and everything. And that, I think, is very good for young people. So I'm a big believer in that. Not necessarily that you have to go to war, but just that basic training really does something to people, and you come out of there with tremendous confidence.

“I don't need anyone to iron my shirt. I can iron my shirt. I don't need anyone to cook for me. I don't need to get married because I need someone to do all these things for me, the old traditional way in Austria where people got married just because [they want someone to take care of them],” said Schwarzenegger, who's been separated from wife Maria Shriver since May 2011, the same month he acknowledged having fathered a child with a member of their household staff. She's since filed for divorce.

He was then swept away from us before I could ask if he actually ironed shirts -- I'm guessing not -- but earlier, he'd been happy to talk about his recent work with fellow action star Sylvester Stallone, with whom he's co-starring in “The Tomb,” due out next year, taking us through his two stints on “The Expendables” (the first of which he filmed for four hours on a weekend because he was still serving as governor) and joking, “we're in love with each other.”

“I don't know if there will be another movie that we do together or if there will be 10 more,” he said. “We have no plan, but I'm sure the way it looks right now and the test scores that they show on 'Expendables [2]' it's going to be a big hit and it'll most likely be a bigger hit than the last one and then he will probably be coming back and asking me to be in the next movie.”