As Arnold Schwarzenegger makes plans to resurrect his career in Hollywood after seven years in the California governor's mansion, the 63-year-old actor-turned-politician-turned-actor again made the startling revelation that he'd fathered a child with a member of his family's household staff.
In recent weeks, Schwarzenegger's name had cropped up in a number of potential projects, some more realistic than others, from the Brad Furman-directed drama "Cry Macho" and a fifth "Terminator" to a wild rumor about a sequel to the 1988 comedy "Twins." The question now is how, if at all, Arnie's revelation — following news that his wife of 25 years, Maria Shriver, was leaving him — will affect his plans to kick-start a movie career.
"This will, essentially, go away," said David Poland of Movie City News. "He'll be on 'Leno' next week to put this all behind him. Maybe two weeks — depends on how much the kid looks like him and how many weeks the tabloids run the photo on the front page. But eating this privately is not his way."
Disclosures about Schwarzenegger's bad behavior, of course, are nothing new. As Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere put it, "It's been an industry legend for a long time that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a hound." Back in 2003, during his recall election to unseat then-Governor Gray Davis, stories abounded about Schwarzenegger's boorish behavior with women "on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades stories," as the Los Angeles Times wrote at the time.
Those allegations didn't prevent Arnie from winning the election and serving as governor for two terms, and industry insiders suggest this latest development is unlikely to trip up his moviemaking potential. "Philandering has rarely, if ever, hurt anyone's career in Hollywood," said Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "He has already taken the proper steps by admitting his transgressions and facing the press directly. And on his career side, his role as the Governator only stoked his box-office cred, as he is hotter than ever, moving forward with several high-profile film projects. I don't think this comes as a shock to anyone, as people have known for quite some time that Schwarzenegger is something of a lady's man."
The point is that, from politicians to actors and beyond, people tend to be forgiven over time for their sexual misadventures. The public is less merciful when scandals involve matters beyond the bedroom. Just ask perhaps the most toxic man in Hollywood.
"The Mel Gibson controversy hung around because of how shocking it was," said Phil Contrino, editor of BoxOffice.com. "Arnold made a very human mistake here, and I think people can forgive something like this relatively easily."
If anything, the real challenge for Schwarzenegger is not if he can withstand this scandal, but how successfully he can transform his career at age 63. Should he follow the path of someone like Clint Eastwood, who transitioned from gunslinger to Oscar darling? Or perhaps Sylvester Stallone, who continues to churn out action-oriented fare well into his 60s? On this question, Hollywood observers are split.
"He needs to figure out what his onscreen character will be for this, his third act in the movie biz," Poland said. "Young and dumb was first. In control was second act. And now? Figuring out who the audience wants him to be is really his biggest challenge."
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