Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Brief summary of Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger are both world competing Bodybuilders. The pair also worked together in movies, and supported each other when the going got tough.

They met each other in 1965, and started a bricklaying company in 1969. Both of them became millionaires before even appearing in movies and competing.

The two biggest years for their competition were 1974 and 75. It was neck and neck for who would take home the title.

Who is Franco Columbu?

Franco Columbo Posing

Franco Columbu is an incredible athlete, and inspirational bodybuilder. He became best friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1965 at a bodybuilding competition in Munich.

He, like Arnold, appeared in a variety of films such as the famous “Pumping Iron”, and the less famous “Conan the Barbarian.”

Obviously, he is much more famous for his bodybuilding career, where he won the IFBB Mr. Europe, and Mr. Universe titles in 1970, and the Mr. World title in 1971.

He would go on to win the entire IFBB competition in 1976. This is no easy feat, so it’s sad to see Columbu has not gotten the praise and recognition he deserves.

He wasn’t done after 1976, as he decided to compete in the world strongest man contest in 1977. He came in 5th place, with all 4 people placing ahead of him weighing at least 100 more pounds than him.

Franco Columbu Refrigerator

During this contest, specifically the refrigerator race, Franco dislocated his left knee (Yikes!). This put him into semi retirement for almost four years.

But Franco was no quitter! He came back and won the Title of Mister Olympia in 1981. After staying in peak physical condition for over 15 years, Franco decided it was time to retire.

Sadly, in 2019, on August 30th, Franco experienced unknown and sudden pain while swimming off the cost of San Teodoro. He passed away on the helicopter ride to the hospital.

How Did Franco Columbu And Arnold Schwarzenegger Meet?

Columbu vs Schwarzenegger

The pair first met in Germany, back in 1965. They became good friends right off the bat, but became really close in 69.

In 1969 they met again in America, and actually started a bricklaying company together. At this point in time, bodybuilding had not quite blown up as a sport, so the pay was much lower than you’d expect today.

Combined from bodybuilding profits, they made under $100 a week. This doesn’t cut it on a bodybuilders diet, so together they hatched a get rich quick scheme.

Bricklaying Company?

Schwarzenegger and Columbu

That’s right! As bizarre as it may seem, Arnold and Franco started a bricklaying business after meeting in America.

They decided to brand themselves as European bricklayers, and the meatheads’ plan worked!

Together, they hired a team of bodybuilders to help them build and rebuild patios, chimneys, fireplaces, and walls.

The timing actually worked out great for the pair, as the Los Angeles earthquake happened a week after getting their ad out in the paper.

Franco Columbu And Arnold Schwarzenegger became self made millionaires even before becoming famous through competitions or movies.

Of course, the pair quickly made a name for themselves after being cast in movies such as the terminator, and winning competitions all over the world.

Acting Days

Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Both Arnold and Franco were actors, and worked together in many movies. Their first movie together was Stay Hungry in 1976.

In Stay Hungry, Arnold was cast in one of the main roles, as a weightlifter. Sadly, Franco was left in the shadow, as part of the uncredited cast.

A year later in 1977, Arnold and Franco were cast again in the hit indie film “pumping iron.” This film was a documentary on bodybuilding, and the extreme lengths of the sport.

Arnold again had a bigger role, but this time Franco wasn’t completely left in the dust. He was seen multiple times throughout the movie, and even had a great scene where he casually moves a car without breaking a sweat.

Pumping Iron is a cultural phenomenon, and quickly brought mass attention to the sport of bodybuilding.

Of course, arguably the most popular movie they were in together was The Terminator in 1984. Arnold again took the spotlight, and Franco was just a terminator in the future.

The rivalry (and friendship) between the two wasn’t just in movies, but in competitions as well.

Franco Columbu vs Arnold Schwarzenegger

Franco Columbo and Arnold Schwarzenegger 1974

Besides competition while training together in the gym, they also notably competed against one another in the Mr. Olympia contest.

The two most neck and neck years were 1974, and 1975. The two were both at or near their peak physical limits, and both wanted the overall title.

In 1974 Franco Columbu weighed around 190 pounds and qualified for the lightweight category. In the same year, Arnold weighed 247 and was a top contender for the heavy weight category.

They both took the title for their respective categories, but only one could take the overall winner.

For the title of Mr. Olympia in 1974, Arnold and Franco were the two major competitors. Nobody knew for sure who would win, but the excitement in the air was electric.

Arnold ended up taking home the title, leaving Franco in second place.

Arnold Vs Franco Olympia

The next year, the same scenario happened again. Once again, the competition was fierce.

To Franco’s dismay, Arnold once again took home the title. After 1975, Arnold decided to retire from competitions.

With Arnold no longer in the running, Franco knew it was his time to shine. He won the contest in 1976.

In 1980, Arnold came back from retirement, and won Mr. Olympia again. This was a huge upset, and many people thought the results were unfair and wrong. Some even called it a conspiracy. Although that’s a different story.

Then, following in Arnold’s Footsteps, Columbu decided to make a comeback in the 1981 Mr Olympia contest. Columbu actually won, despite many thinking he shouldn’t have.

Both of these years were huge for the sport, but not in a good way. Many people were extremely upset at the results, and the 1981 contest even had boycotts by top contenders.

Death Of Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Response

Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger Instagram

Franco Columbu died in 2019, on August 30th. Arnold responded with this post along with the caption:

“Today, 50 years ago at my first competition I met a powerlifter named @francocolumbu. This photograph was taken by Albert Busek, who we also met in Stuttgart that day. The three of us have remained the closest of friends ever since. I’m so proud that our friendship, forged in iron, has stood the test of time.”

You will be missed Franco.

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