Dan Cox is an award-winning journalist who has worked for Reuters News Agency, Variety/Daily Variety, New York Post, CBS News, City News of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has directed and produced theater in New York with the company Tyrannosaurus Rep. For about 10 seconds; he was a literary agent for Brode, Kurland, Webb & Uffner where he created an independent film division.
Running With Arnold is a politically-charged documentary that tells the fascinating and humorous story of one of the most famous men of our time. From his childhood in post World War II Austria, through his days as a weightlifting champion and action movie star, the film exposes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life in all of its sordid glory. We watch how Arnold’s ambition for fame and power has led him on a ‘take no prisoners’ political career that resulted in his winning a circus campaign to become the leader of the world’s fifth largest economy as Governor of California.
Cinema Without Borders: What motivated you to make the Running With Arnold?
Dan Cox: I was intrigued by the idea that a bodybuilder/actor? With no political training whatsoever could take it upon him to run for the office of the leader of the fifth largest economy in the world. I guess you could say he has fairly large cojones.
CWB: How challenging was it to get the material you needed for making the film? Did you face any resistance at any time or were you ever denied from getting what you needed?
Dan: The access was all mixed up at the beginning. With camera in tow, we were treated like any of the hundreds of TV crews covering Arnold and his run. Nobody complained too heavily until we started to ask tougher questions. Furthermore, we finally got Arnold’s attention when we went to Austria to interview his childhood friends and schoolmates. He didn’t like that much.
CWB: Did you decide on the look and editing style of Running With Arnold before making the picture or during editing it?
Dan: Our edit came about in the editing room. I would pull clips and cite an area, write up a brief scene and then work with the editors to turn it into something.
CWB: There are several interesting interviews in the film, Are any of them are done by you and are original?
Dan: Most of the interviews were done by me and are by and large all originals. We did buy news footage of numerous talking heads and Schwarzenegger-interested personalities. I still would have loved to get an interview with Arnold, which we tried and tried and tried, but he wasn’t interested. The only time he deigned to address our concern was when we started talking to his childhood friends in Austria.
CWB: What was the production process for the Running With Arnold?
Dan: Like any documentary, we just picked up a camera and jumped on the campaign trail from there. We shot and shot and shot, then started editing. Then we ran out of money, so we had to start pounding that pavement. We ultimately found our current exec producer, who came in for a good chunk of change and got us back on track.
CWB: Do you believe in being objective in making a documentary, or do you strongly think a filmmaker should always express his /her own opinions?
Dan: Ironically enough, I have always been extremely objective as a journalist and was determined to keep that up. I do thoroughly believe in objectivity. However, in doing this documentary I found my views shifting. When I started, I liked Arnold (having interviewed him several times while at Variety), but after watching him duck and cover and avoid journalists like the plague, I reconsidered my opinion.
CWB: Do you believe that making documentaries has become any easier than before?
Dan: With the advent of video cameras, I believe making documentaries is much easier than before. Distributing them is another story.
CWB: What are your expectations from Running With Arnold in the election year? Do you believe it may have an effect on shaping the voters’ minds?
Dan: I would love it to affect people and their political decisions. However, American audiences, like the critics, are an ephemeral lot. The Zurich audience, where we won an award, understood and liked the film as an interesting insight into this homunculus of a candidate.
CWB: Any future projects?
Dan: Yes, I have a project I’m working on right now that is called Hopi and Hillary about a little 11-year-old girl in the San Fernando valley and her desire to see Hillary Clinton become the first woman president in the US. She hopes to do the same thing in 30 years.