Attendance at Hollywood Awards spark speculation

The question on California voters’ minds is whom to pick as the next governor, but in Hollywood people are speculating about what will Arnold do next.

A return to acting is not out of the question, as Schwarzenegger made clear last week in a half-hour Q&A on Twitter. He said he will probably write one or two books, continue to work on aspects of his political agenda as a private citizen and, perhaps, return to movies “if people come to me with a great script, a great idea.”

But beyond those broad hints, he said he has made no decisions, adding that he is concentrating on the time remaining in his term.

“After that I can sit down and go, ‘Huh, now let’s think about the next move,’ ” he said. “But you can’t do both at the same time, because it’s like sports. You don’t want to take your eye off the ball.”

A meeting last week with James Cameron — with whom he made”The Terminator” and “True Lies” — triggered even more speculation. Schwarzenegger said they would be announcing plans soon for a project, although he didn’t give any specifics. Both are working to defeat California’s Proposition 23, which would roll back the state’s global warming law, one of Schwarzenegger’s signature accomplishments.

He attended the Hollywood Film Awards on Monday, mingling and posing for pictures with Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, a kind of flashback to the ’90s when they were the industry’s three highest-paid action stars. Schwarzenegger had a cameo appearance in “The Expendables,” the summer pic that brought together past and present action stars.

On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger appeared onstage with his two potential successors, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, for a forum that was one of the key events of the Women’s Conference — the annual gathering in Long Beach organized by his wife, Maria Shriver.

Before he came to the stage, a short, inspirational film outlined his achievements over the past seven years, including environmental and education initiatives and taking on special interests to reform the budget process and state worker pensions.

During a Q&A with “Today” host Matt Lauer, Schwarzenegger called his tenure “the most gratifying thing, the most satisfying thing.” He said: “There were down periods and there were up periods. It was a roller coaster, no doubt about it.

“Besides marrying Maria, I think this was the best decision I have ever made,” he said.

California’s high unemployment and perpetual budget shortfalls have helped depress Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings, which has turned him into something of a punching bag in the governor’s race. He’s not endorsing either candidate, and it is not clear it would help. Last week, the Brown campaign unveiled an ad juxtaposing statements from Whitman and Schwarzenegger to show how similar they are as neophytes at a time when the state needs experience. Whitman’s response was to point out that, by virtue of leading a Silicon Valley company, she was different and not a “Hollywood actor.”

Schwarzenegger is constitutionally precluded from a run for the White House, and the talk of a nationwide effort to pass an amendment to permit non-native citizens from running now seems like a distant memory. At one time there was talk about him running for Senate, even against Boxer, but he declined. And Dianne Feinstein, the most popular political figure in the state, has hinted that she may seek re-election in 2012.

But even if his popularity is down, it’s hard to see Schwarzenegger abandoning politics.

Along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he has been promoting the idea of political centrism. And, with President Obama under pressure to win over independents, there has been speculation Schwarzenegger could be in line for a cabinet post after the midterm election. At the Women’s Conference event, Lauer asked Schwarzenegger to give himself a letter grade, from A to F, on how he has done in bringing sides together and finding middle ground.

“I think I give myself a straight 10,” he said, to some laughter, before finally saying “A.”

That perceived centrism has certainly made him a more popular figure in the entertainment community, which has praised his embrace of environmental initiatives and his opposition to Proposition 8. In 2006, he won the backing of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban, who traditionally support Democrats.

Schwarzenegger’s future also is tied to that of Shriver, who was forced to give up her broadcast journalism career when he pursued the statehouse.

She, too, has been the subject of much speculation. But like her husband, she professed to be undecided.

After a career of needing to jump into action and have the perfect plan, Shriver said she has come to accept that “it is not a disaster, it is not the end of your life.”

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