Arnold Schwarzenegger: "When I finally got to America, I was alone. I’d left my family, my country, my whole life behind. So when I asked Joe Weider to bring you to train with me, it was because I knew I wasn’t the same without my best friend. I could thrive without money, without my parents, but I couldn’t thrive without you."

By Ian Horswill


Posted on September 3, 2019

There was rarely a time over many, many years when Arnold Schwarzenegger was not with his best mate Franco Columbu.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was an out-and-out Hollywood star. An actor, who can forget Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a filmmaker, former professional bodybuilder (he won the Mr Universe title at age 20 and went on to win the Mr Olympia contest seven times) and latterly the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

Franco Columbu was a star too. A former Mr Olympia, Mr Universe, Mr World, Mr International, Mr Europe and Mr Italy. In 2009, Columbu was awarded the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award. Columbu was also in the Guinness Book of Records in 1978 for his ability to burst a hot water bottle by blowing into it in 55 seconds. Columbu was inducted into the International Federation of Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2001. The world records set by Columbu, according to his website, are bench press 525 lbs, squat 655 lbs, and dead lift 750 lbs.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu

Columbu appeared in Schwarzenegger movies The Terminator, Conan the Barbarian and The Running Man. Perhaps his most famous movie moment was in Schwarzenegger’s movie Pumping Iron where he lifted up a taxi cab in order to help another motorist park his car. He was featured on the cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s 1974 album All the Girls in the World Beware!!!. Columbu trained Sylvester Stallone for the 1985 movie Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu went everywhere together in the bodybuilding competitions.

Despite all 10 temptations fame Columbu and Schwarzenegger, who were born a year apart, remained best buddies. Columbu, 73, drowned while swimming at a beach in the town of San Teodoro in Sardinia, Italy, on August 30. It has been reported he suffered a heart attack while in the water.

Schwarzenegger posted the following tribute on his Medium page:

“Franco,

You’ve heard me say that I don’t like when people call me a self-made man.

You’ve even heard me say that you’re part of the reason I could never accept that label.

But I wanted you to know why.

From the minute we met in Munich, you were my partner in crime. We pushed each other, we competed with each other, and we laughed at every moment along the way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu won Mr Olympia and Mr Universe and then appeared in films together.

When I finally got to America, I was alone. I’d left my family, my country, my whole life behind. So when I asked Joe Weider to bring you to train with me, it was because I knew I wasn’t the same without my best friend. I could thrive without money, without my parents, but I couldn’t thrive without you.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu won Mr Olympia and Mr Universe and then appeared in films together.

I am devastated today. But I am also so, so grateful for the 54 years of friendship and joy we shared. The pumps, the chess games, the construction work, the meals, the pranks, the life lessons — we did it all together. We grew and we learned and we loved. My life was more fun, more colourful, and more complete because of you.

I will always miss you. But I’ll also know that a part of you lives on in me, in Debbie, in Maria, and in the millions of people you inspired every day you lived. And I will be there for Maria and Debbie, so you can rest now with no worries.

I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared. You were my best friend.”

Friends until the end.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu.