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Arnold Schwarzenegger Needed 40 Stitches Filming ‘Conan,’ And That Wasn’t The Worst

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Conan the Barbarian ended up cementing itself as a definitive sword and sorcery film. It was also a huge milestone in the career of its leading man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose physique made him perfect for Conan, but also set him up for some severe injuries while filming, including one that required 40 stitches – but the damage ran even deeper than that.

By the time 1982’s Conan the Barbarian charged onto the big screen, Schwarzenegger was not yet a household name in cinema, sticking primarily to the bodybuilding scene. But the success of Conan was followed by 1984’s Terminator, Commando (1985), Predator (1987), and more. But first, the Governator had to perform stunts that drastically put his hard-earned health on the line.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger was injured filming ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and needed dozens of stitches

Arnold Schwarzenegger needed stitches, faced injury, and more filming Conan the Barbarian / ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

More than a few of the stunts seen in Conan were performed as hands-on as possible by Schwarzenegger himself. His book, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life, outlines the grueling experience he had filming the action fantasy. Schwarzenegger was familiar with intense training regimens, but director John Milius really put him through his paces.

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“I learned to ride horses and camels and elephants,” Arnold recalled. “I learned how to jump from large rocks, how to climb and swing from long ropes, how to fall from a height. I basically went to another vocational school, this one for aspiring action heroes.”

There were some things couldn’t quite protect against.

“On one of the first days of filming, I tore a gash on my back that required forty stitches,” he shared. But the situation became even more ghastly at times.

Conditions were not always happy, supportive, or safe, and there were no other options for the two leads

Things were dangerous for him and Sandahl because nobody could replace them / Everett Collection

“Then on top of that, Milius had me doing all kinds of terrible shit,” Schwarzenegger went on to reveal. “I crawled through rocks, take after take, until my forearms bled. I ran from wild dogs that managed to catch me and pull me into a thorn bush. I bit a real, dead vulture that required I wash my mouth out with alcohol after each take. (PETA would have a field day with that one.).”

Schwarzenegger was tasked with performing some grueling stunts / © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

The situation was just as dangerous for his on-screen love interest, Sandahl Bergman, who played the fierce warrior Valeria. Both of them were of such an impressive physique, the Conan crew could not find believable stunt people to stand in for them, so they were left to perform their own scenes, no matter how dangerous. At one point, Bergman’s finger was severely cut while playing out a sword fight with an inexperienced scene partner. She nearly lost the digit and when director Milius found out, he reportedly yelled at her, saying that such a thing would never happen to Valeria.

Despite this series of nightmares, Schwarzenegger still came back for the 1984 sequel, Conan the Destroyer.

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