- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

LOS ANGELES — The big guy from Austria likes the sound of "California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger." Pumping political iron will have to wait a while, though, while the actor revisits roles as the world's favorite cyborg from the future and as a family-man-superspy.
Republican booster and organizer for inner-city youth programs, Arnold Schwarzenegger says he considered running for governor this year but put his political career on hold to shoot "Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines." He hopes to follow that with a "True Lies" sequel.
"For the next few years, I will be busy with show business and movies, and then I can rethink the whole thing later on," Mr. Schwarzenegger says in an interview. "I don't like what I see in the leadership. I think I can do better than them in many cases. That's what gives me the enthusiasm to do something like that down the line, and it's a fun thing to shoot for."
Besides film commitments, he also must consider his four children with wife Maria Shriver; Mr. Schwarzenegger says he would rather wait until they are older before seeking office.
The actor, 54, has had to play some politics with "Collateral Damage," fielding questions about the propriety of releasing another of his violent thrillers given the war on terrorism. In "Collateral Damage," Mr. Schwarzenegger plays a Los Angeles firefighter seeking vengeance against the Colombian terrorist whose bomb killed the hero's wife and son.
The movie had been scheduled for release in October, but Warner Bros. postponed it after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Schwarzenegger and the studio agreed the grieving nation did not need to see fictional terrorism so soon after the carnage at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Suitable time has passed to put "Collateral Damage" in theaters, Mr. Schwarzenegger says. He adds that the attacks and America's war against terrorism have not deflated his or the audience's interest in explosive action films.
"I don't see the September 11 situation as, 'OK, now I should pull back on violence,'" Mr. Schwarzenegger says, "because the world is the way it is. Part of the world is violence, and it always will be. There's a certain amount of audience out there that enjoys this type of movie."
If the audience weren't there for that kind of movie, he says, he would be "just as happy making a comedy like 'Twins' or 'Kindergarten Cop.'"
Heroic action roles have been his staple, but the former bodybuilding champ broadened his big-screen appeal with those two comedy hits. His other light films, "Junior" and "Jingle All the Way," failed to click, however. "Batman & Robin," in which he took a villainous turn, was the least successful of the four modern "Batman" flicks.

After beginning his film career in 1970 with the campily awful "Hercules in New York," in which an American voice was dubbed in place of his own, with its thick Austrian accent, Mr. Schwarzenegger gained attention for the 1977 bodybuilding documentary "Pumping Iron."
Along with Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, Mr. Schwarzenegger defined the action hero in the 1980s and early '90s. He followed his role as the merciless machine assassin in "The Terminator" with good-guy turns in "Commando," "Predator" and "Total Recall."
"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" presented him as a benevolent cyborg. "True Lies" with Mr. Schwarzenegger as a spy by day and doting dad by night became his second-biggest hit after the "Terminator" sequel.
The luster of the lone, invincible warrior dulled in the late '90s as moviegoers embraced brooding, idea-driven thrillers such as "The Matrix." Mr. Willis has moved lately to drama and comedy, while Mr. Stallone has been unable to pack theaters for years.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has stuck to his guns, scoring with "Eraser" in 1996 but mustering weak receipts for his two most recent thrillers, "End of Days" and "The 6th Day."
"Collateral Damage" might turn that around. Viewers may be in the mood to see a noble firefighter take down a renegade terrorist in light of the heroics of New York City firefighters on September 11 and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
"The delay has made the film more significant. It won't be treated as a light-action movie," says "Collateral Damage" director Andrew Davis. "The images of Mr. Schwarzenegger as a fireman in a collapsing building, saving lives in the opening, the loss of his family and his journey to find this man who can't be found. The parallels now make it more substantive."
Even the film's title, which refers to civilian casualties, has greater resonance because of the September 11 attacks and unintentional deaths in U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan, Mr. Schwarzenegger says.
The new relevance of "Collateral Damage" aside, reprising his hottest roles promises Mr. Schwarzenegger his biggest audiences since the mid-'90s. A third "Terminator" film is the project fans ask about most often, he says, and following with "True Lies 2" would give him a major one-two box-office punch.
Mr. Schwarzenegger appears fit and ready for more action roles. He says he's almost fully recovered from a December motorcycle accident that broke six of his ribs and put him in the hospital for four days.
Smoking a cigar during the interview, Mr. Schwarzenegger says he also has been in good health after undergoing surgery to replace a heart valve in 1997.
He remains politically active, pushing an initiative he hopes to see on the California ballot this fall to budget $550 million in state money for after-school programs. A run for governor is at least four years away, he says.
"That's the great thing about this country, that as a foreigner 'Mr. Schwarzen-Schnitzel,'" he says with a laugh "I can come here and say, 'Maybe some day I'm going to run this state.' It's a big state. Then we can buy Austria."

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