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Arnie’s choice: filmdom or politics

Los Angeles, June 28 (Reuters): Arnold Schwarzenegger is at a crossroads.

Should he continue as filmdom’s handsomely paid Terminator or become a Great Communicator as Ronald Reagan did when he gave up playing opposite chimps to make chumps out of his political opponents'

As the Austrian-born actor flits from interview to interview pushing Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, which opens on July 2, the third in the 20-year-old series of movies about machines out to destroy humankind, he demurely declines to deliver a definitive yes or no to the annual question of whether he will say “I’ll be back” to his film career or start a new one as a Republican politician.

The plot is simple: As he promotes Terminator 3, for which he was reportedly paid a whopping $30 million, Arnold is keeping an eye on a Republican-led movement to remove California’s unpopular Democratic Governor Gray Davis in a recall. If enough signatures are gathered by mid-July, the measure could be on the November ballot along with another question: If you recall Davis, who do want to replace him'

Schwarzenegger, who has eyed a political career on and off for years, could quickly mount a campaign and might even win because only a plurality of votes would be needed. Thanks to his fame, he’ll go into an election with more name recognition than possible opponents.

“I have heard from both Democrats and Republicans who are close to him that he is definitely interested but ‘definitely’ in politics is different from ‘definitely’ in other professions,” says one top-level California political player.

“But I think he will do it. His shelf life would be put to the test in a real 18-month-long gubernatorial campaign while in a 90-day-long recall election, he can ride on his name and hope he doesn’t get asked any hard questions,” the operative added.

Anyway that’s the scenario and that’s the one Arnold is having fun with as he drums up publicity for the latest, loudest Terminator yet, complete with a female villain who tosses Schwarzenegger from pillar to post.

Ever the perfectionist, Schwarzenegger even put up $1.4 million of his own money to pay for a car chase scene that involves his getting hit with a crane and slammed into a fire truck. The film was over budget until he came to the rescue.

Doing that kind of back-breaking work on a regular basis may be the real reason the man is eyeing the soft life of a politician. But it’s not quite like what Ronald Reagan faced as his career dimmed and he wound up playing against a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo.

Plus the puns are good. Schwarzenegger can make jokes like: “My kids are normal kids. They go to the mall and pass out recall petitions.” Or tell Jay Leno on The Tonight Show as he did on Thursday that he’s going to Iraq to show his film to US troops and “There is no money over there. There’s no leadership, pretty much like California.”

But talking seriously with a group of journalists the other day, he insisted he isn’t thinking about running for governor — yet.

“There is no reality there. There is no recall and I will think about it after promoting Terminator around the world ... and that will take me to the end of July. My mind is not there yet.”

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