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Two DVDs That Have a Flip Side

Schwarzenegger discs fuel his movie career but their interviews may be risque for a governor.

November 14, 2003|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — As he completes his transition from movie star to California's next governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is profiting from an unprecedented synergy between his careers: commanding worldwide press attention for his politics while starring in two brand-new DVDs and a video game that hit stores nationwide this week.

The DVDs, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Pumping Iron: the 25th Anniversary Edition," include extensive, not-before-seen interviews that the governor-elect granted earlier this year, shortly before he announced his campaign for office.

Although the DVDs were produced before Schwarzenegger announced his campaign for governor and the release dates were set this summer, they include material that indicates how focused he already was on a political career.

A "video biography" on the "Pumping Iron" DVD emphasizes, not only his immigrant background, but also his work with after-school programs, a favorite theme on the stump. The biography concludes with the same picture later that was used as his official campaign photo.

The release of the DVDs highlights the way Schwarzenegger's dual careers as movie star and politician can mesh to his benefit and, at the same time, create complications.

The DVDs, which have been accompanied by an extensive TV and print advertising campaign, have kept Schwarzenegger's profile high during a week when he has otherwise largely remained out of sight, vacationing in Hawaii with his family, giving no interviews, and announcing appointments to his government by press release.

To that extent, the DVDs feed the celebrity that is at the root of much of Schwarzenegger's political power. At the same time, the massive worldwide publicity about the new governor complements the advertising for his new videos.

"It's just another example of the erasing of lines between politics and entertainment, said Martin Kaplan, director of USC's Norman Lear Center, which studies the intersection of politics and entertainment. Schwarzenegger's election is "good luck for him, and it's good luck for the companies that distribute" the DVDs.

But the interviews included on the DVDs also offer grist for Schwarzenegger's critics. The interviews include frank, sometimes crude discussion of sexuality and his own drug use -- subjects not typically raised by a governor as he takes office.

Schwarzenegger's political and Hollywood aides both emphasized that his two careers are distinct, but described the interaction with notably different emphasis.

Schwarzenegger's political spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty, distanced his political career from his movie life.

"It's just a DVD," she said three times. "We're focused on worker's comp reform, the budget deficit and repealing legislation that would grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants."

Schwarzenegger's Hollywood publicist, Jill Eisenstadt, said politics and movies are "different facets" of his life, but "I don't think it's a distraction."

"When California bought into Arnold as a candidate, they were taking the whole package -- everything," she said.

"A lot of that was who he was in the entertainment business," she said. "There are a lot of people who adore him as a movie star."

Schwarzenegger has owned the rights to the 1977 bodybuilding documentary, "Pumping Iron," and its outtakes since 1991 and benefits directly from sales of the DVD.

Neither Warner Home Video nor Schwarzenegger aides would disclose details of his financial arrangement on the "Terminator 3" DVD, but it is common for Hollywood megastars to negotiate for percentages of DVD sales and other ancillary products. By some industry estimates, the Terminator 3 disc could sell 8 million copies.

"It doesn't hurt that he is being sworn in as governor," said Mitchell Rubinstein, an executive vice president of Creative Domain, an entertainment and marketing company, who worked previously for the firm that maintains Schwarzenegger's Web site. The timing of the releases will "definitely help the business.... 'Pumping Iron' is right now selling pretty well for a film that's old."

Of the two DVDs, the re-release of "Pumping Iron," which was handled closely by Schwarzenegger and his business advisor, Paul Wachter, is the more political.

In addition to the original film, it includes an interview with Schwarzenegger and a documentary on the making of the documentary. Both repeat Schwarzenegger's assertion that "Pumping Iron's" most controversial -- and now most politically embarrassing scenes -- were concocted to create drama.

"Now it is important for people to know what is the reality," Schwarzenegger said in the interview. "The reality is, I made up a lot of this stuff, because I felt that's the way you get attention. I believe that the more sensationalistic you are, the more outrageous things that you say, the more you get quoted, the more you get in the papers, and the more the sport of bodybuilding will benefit."

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