In all the ways that count in Hollywood--money, basically--he's 10 times the star Ronald Reagan ever was, and he's 10 times more handsome than Jesse Ventura, so Arnold Schwarzenegger has to be considered a good bet to be the next governor of California. If he runs, that is--a question that might well have come up when he met with Karl Rove in the White House in April. Schwarzenegger says he won't make up his mind about the race until after the July 2 release of the long-awaited third installment in the "Terminator" series, "Rise of the Machines." "I'm not running," he told NEWSWEEK recently. "On the other hand, you don't want to do the same thing your whole life, either."
If he does run, a great campaign ad will be crucial to overcoming voter resistance to a candidate who kills with his hands. NEWSWEEK recently visited Schwarzenegger's office, spoke with him on the Warner Brothers lot and put together this potential script, based entirely on real scenes and interviews:
--Voice-over: He was born in a small town in Austria...
... but he's as American as an M-16!
He built a career on nothing but willpower and protoplasm.
And when, at 55, he had to make another nude entrance as the Terminator...
Jonathan Mostow, director: He came in with the exact same body dimensions as in "T2," a dozen years ago.
Arnold: Every day I work out for an hour and a half in the morning. It's part of the job. I lift 300 pounds now on the bench press, I don't go all the way to, like, 550. When I was competing I weighed 245, 250 pounds. I made "Terminator" at 225, 226. Now I'm around 220.
I'm doing right now rehabilitation training. I had surgery on my shoulder that I injured on "Terminator," and I couldn't get medical attention during the shooting because it delays the whole movie. I'm used to it: pushing myself, training, discipline. I just see it as part of life. You stay in shape for the stunts, for all the stuff you do.
Voice-over: "T3's" director, Jonathan Mostow, who made the submarine thriller "U-571," knows how to make the trains crash on time, as well as motorcycles, helicopters, construction cranes and fire engines...
Mostow: The bar was high, and we knew we needed a kick-a-- chase scene.
Voice-over: What sort of person would give this up for the chance to appoint the director of the State Board of Acupuncture?
Arnold: I've had, so far, an incredible life--way beyond my dreams. All that I've done, all that I might do in the future, is a tribute to this country, and I'd like to give something back.
Maria Shriver, wife: I don't think he's made his mind up 100 percent. Maybe 98 percent. Like any couple, we'll talk it over because it impacts the entire family. Since I grew up in the political world I have some strong opinions about it, but I would be supportive of whatever he wanted to do. One way or another, though, he's committed to making a difference in the lives of people, especially children.
Voice-over: And you thought Arnold was only committed to making money! Sure, he got nearly $30 million for "T3"--and it's said he could bank as much as $100 million by the time the last hat and jacket are sold. But if he was only in it for the money, would he have made "Jingle All the Way"?
Hollywood Insider No. 1 [face hidden]: Arnold kept himself fresh for 20 years, but --that's hard to sustain. Until the last few years, everything he did was gold. But when you live in his world, it's all about how you're perceived in the industry. If you're not getting the good scripts anymore, what's the point?
Arnold: I'm looking at a sequel to "Westworld." Warner Brothers wants me to do another Conan movie. They came up with a very good script, where Conan is now the ruler and his son thinks it's time for him to step down. So he goes out and joins another army secretly to build himself back up again, because he did get lazy and he did get spoiled, and then he comes back and surprises everybody.
Voice-over: Arnold knows a little something about comebacks.
Theater Owner: Please run for governor! We need you!
Arnold [not responding, pointing someone else out and saying sotto voce]: You see that guy? He controls 6,000 screens.
Voice-over: You think Ben Affleck would know that?
Hollywood Insider No. 1: Being Arnold is a full-time job. He loves the business, the process, being in the mix.
Hollywood Insider No. 2: He was having lunch at The Grill with George Will. Now, you don't have lunch with George Will to talk about doing another Conan sequel.
Hollywood Insider No. 1: And it's not just George Will, or Sherry Lansing or whoever. He has a group of his old weight-lifting buddies from 20 years ago. Guys he bikes with, guys he plays chess with. A lot of people in his position don't want to be seen with anyone who isn't famous.
Voice-over: Opponents tried to smear him with rumors about his personal life. A magazine story claimed he habitually harassed women. But Arnold showed he can take the heat.
Arnold: I wasn't really that hurt. I would say that if I wasn't married and I didn't have to worry about embarrassing my wife, which inevitably it did, it wouldn't make any difference to me whatsoever. I know what's true and what's not true.
Shriver: People have written everything imaginable about the Kennedys, and then some. So I don't orchestrate my life by what's written.
Voice-over: Friends say it's just that he has a "ribald sense of humor, 20 years out of date."
Arnold [to longtime female associate, teasingly]: That guy liked you. He likes big breasts.
Voice-over: OK, 40 years out of date.
Hollywood Insider No. 1: I don't know what he does do or doesn't do. But he's been married to Maria since 1986, they've got four kids--and he can name every one of them. A lot of these guys couldn't.
Arnold: I'm not perfect, but I know that out of millions of women, I found the right one, the one who understands me and my drive.
Voice-over: So there you have it: a man with an almost perfect life, a loving family, a fabulous career, money, looks and fame. Jealous? Of course you are. Secretly want to punish him? Vote Arnold in 2006...
... that'll teach him!