Schwarzenegger: An Exit Interview

Arnold_hollywoodsign When California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office on Monday, completing a sometimes triumphant and often turbulent seven years leading the Golden State, he’ll be back where he’s been so many times before in his improbable career: figuring out what to do next.

He professes to have not decided, but books, speaking engagements and even a return to movies are possibilities, as well as continued work on environmental issues and electoral reform efforts.

Just before the holidays, I interviewed him on his tenure — marked by budget crises but also, for Hollywood, the state’s first ever production tax credits — for a story that will run in Variety on Monday and is posted online here.

I wanted to share some excerpts:

On what is next: “The list is a long list of things I can do, but nothing I can concentrate on until I am literally, totally out of office. For me the joy of life is not to know, and you get into it and you kind of figure it out. I love that. I don’t like safety nets. I am not a believer in that. …So you go in there with an open mind and you have to learn very quickly.”

On the state’s huge budget gap, which has contributed to some scathing criticism of his tenure and low approval ratings: “The reality is that if we had not had the financial world economic crisis, the biggest in the last 80 years, we would have paid off all of our economic recovery bond money. We would have paid off the debt that was created by the previous administration on education. We would have paid off all our money to local governments that the previous administration had rung up. We would have literally been out of the woods with our structural deficit.”

On Jerry Brown’s “Echo” ad, which showed Meg Whitman reciting exactly the same words as Schwarzenegger, in what proved to be a blow to the “outsider” campaign: “The ad I found was very humorous, because it was true. She was saying my lines. Like I said, I delivered them better. I thought it was crazy to go out and say exactly the same things and to take my playbook. In all fairness, the campaign manager was the same, Mike Murphy. I think that you know in bodybuilding, if someone trained exactly the same as I did, they made a big mistake because I have a body no one else has. Every body is different, even though we have these billions of bodies around the world, but everyone is different. In my encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding, I wrote specifically that you have got to adjust the training to your body. So you can follow my principles but don’t do exactly the same.”

As he tries to decide what to do, there is one job he is not interested in, that of chief lobbyist for the industry as the head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. “No one has come up to me about that,”  he said. Sources say former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis has been talking to the studios about the job.

A timeline of the highs and lows of his tenure is here.



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