Two DVDs That Have a Flip Side

Times Staff Writer

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."

He acknowledged having used steroids (but said they had not been illegal at the time) and confronted the scene in the documentary of his smoking a joint: "I really smoked it, and I also inhaled, unlike some people claim," he said.

And he offered an extensive discussion of his statement in the documentary -- repeated during a campaign appearance on "Oprah" -- that pumping up one's muscles is more pleasurable than an orgasm.

"The reality of course is that no, it has nothing to do, the one with the other," Schwarzenegger said. "It feels great to be a champion, it feels great to train, it feels great to pump up and all those things, but how can you compare one with the other? It's two different things. You better get both."

In his interview for the "Terminator 3" DVD, which was conducted this summer and plays as the movie runs, Schwarzenegger talked with trepidation about the possible public reaction to his nude scene in the film. "People are talking, 'Oh my God, did you see Schwarzenegger naked? He showed his butt. I even saw something in front,' " he said.

On the DVD, he also pitched a video game, the first he says he's sanctioned, based on the movie. "For the first time ever, fight as Arnold Schwarzenegger," says a trailer for the game, which was released this week.

On the DVD, he also spoke excitedly about the filmmakers' decision to make his nemesis in the latest version of the Terminator series a female robot, played by an attractive young actress.

He repeated a comment that he made in publicity interviews -- and that drew criticism in the campaign -- about his excitement at putting together a fight scene with the female Terminator in which he can put her head in a toilet.

"Because we really don't have to deal with it as if it's a woman," he said, "she's a machine -- let me take her with the head first into the toilet bowl. This was the perfect opportunity to do that."

In discussing another scene, in which the female Terminator has her breasts swell to distract a police officer, Schwarzenegger said: "This scene with the enlargement of the breasts was fantastic," he said.

In the audience, he said, "you saw women sitting there, telling each other, 'Now that's a great idea. I've got to check out where you get that done.' So you can deflate and inflate your breasts on command. It's a whole new concept. Because there's some guys that like little breasts and there's some guys who like big breasts. Wouldn't it be nice if you could play both sides, sometimes even simultaneously?' "

The DVDs have been out less than 72 hours, but have drawn some comment from those who criticized Schwarzenegger's statements and conduct during the campaign.

Steve Frank, a conservative who publishes the California Political News & Views in Simi Valley, said Thursday that Schwarzenegger "needs to give a direct statement" on the DVDs that "this is Hollywood, and that's a previous life."

Karen Pomer, founder of a group of rape survivors and a protester at several campaign events, said the DVDs showed again that "this is a man who has the maturity of someone in junior high school. It's pretty scary that he's going to be running the state of California soon."

Retailers around the state have reported a surge of interest in the "Terminator 3" DVD in the first 48 hours of its release. On Thursday, "Terminator 3" already ranked No. 5 in amazon.com's list of the top selling DVDs; "Pumping Iron" was 21st.

At the Target south of the Capitol in Sacramento, employees were busy restocking a display of "Terminator 3" DVDs that had been placed in a prime spot near the entrance.

At the Best Buy store in Burbank, Dino Valenciano, 27, was contemplating buying "Pumping Iron." Robert Hernandez, a Glendale printer, was picking up a copy of "Terminator 3."

"I've been following the whole trilogy," Hernandez said. "Now that the guy is governor, it might make a souvenir kind of thing."

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Times staff writers James Bates, Susan King, and Michael Krikorian contributed to this report.

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