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Analysts: Schwarzenegger faces crisis as big as his persona

By Michael Martinez, CNN
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A week of scandal for Schwarzenegger
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for extraordinary accomplishments
  • Yet the revelation of a love child by his housekeeper has set back his latest ambitions
  • Schwarzenegger may need years to repair his political and Hollywood image, analysts say

Los Angeles (CNN) -- There is nothing ordinary about Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Champion bodybuilder. Blockbuster film actor. A married-in (for now) member of the Kennedy family. Recent governor of the most populous state of the most powerful nation on Earth. And an Austrian immigrant, to top it all off.

Now, the extraordinary man known for outsized achievements is perhaps at the biggest crossroads of his life following the revelation that he fathered a child with his family's housekeeper of 20 years, analysts say.

'Shoe leather' leads to Schwarzenegger's secret son

Everything seems on the line: his marriage, his acting career and his post-governorship ambition to become a sort of statesman.

Can the man known for superhuman accomplishments pull himself out of a self-made mess worthy of Hercules' Twelve Labors?

"This is not a positive, extraordinary moment," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development who has closely followed Schwarzenegger's career, especially as governor.

Plans on hold for Arnold Schwarzenegger

"I believe from day one that what he would do with his post-governorship was model it after the post-presidency -- ironically -- of Bill Clinton," who formed a foundation, promoted international causes, served as a diplomat and even negotiated the release of American journalists from North Korea, Jeffe said.

"But Schwarzenegger is radioactive right now," Jeffe continued. "When Bill Clinton began, he was (several) years away from the Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment situation. So there's been a bit of time between when he was able to reshape his image. I don't see Arnold being able to put together that agenda at this time. Can you imagine him being now received by Elizabeth II, or anyone else for that matter?"

"I don't think that's going to work for a while," Jeffe added.

When Schwarzenegger left the governor's office last year because of term limits, his ratings were at a historic low, 22%, matching Democratic predecessor Gray Davis' ratings just before a recall election ejected Davis from office, according to a Field Poll. That rating equaled the lowest ever given to a sitting governor in the more than 50 years that the Field Poll has been surveying the public.

Jeffe said Schwarzenegger's woes grew from the state's staggering deficit, despite his pledge to straighten out the finances.

Meanwhile Schwarzenegger, 63, has been forced to also place his movie comeback on hold.

Plans have also been halted to produce "The Governator," a children's comic book and TV show based on Schwarzenegger's life. The title is a play on his successful "Terminator" films.

Arnold Schwarzenegger puts movie comeback on hold

Hollywood media expert Michael Levine, a publicist who has represented 58 Oscar winners, called the Schwarzenegger love child revelation as "the most outrageous Hollywood scandal since the Woody Allen controversy in 1992," when Allen, then in his mid-50s, declared he was having an affair with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his longtime partner, Mia Farrow. Allen and Previn married in 1997.

"He was a terrible governor. Not mediocre. Terrible," Levine said. "Politics: dead. Over. Forget it."

"Now, Hollywood, he can try over a period of time to redeem his career, but I think that's going to be very difficult because he's an action star and he's aging, and generally Americans like their action stars younger," Levine said.

Female filmgoers are now going to have trouble with Schwarzenegger, Levine added.

"I don't think what's happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger is a crowd pleaser to women," he said.

Yet Levine acknowledged how unpredictable Hollywood can be.

"History hasn't been kind to people who have underestimated Arnold Schwarzenegger," he said. "Prophecy is dubious business."

On the home front in Los Angeles, he and Maria Shriver, 55, have put their marriage of 25 years on ice and have separated.

They have four children together, and one of them has shown signs of distress by changing his last name to Shriver on his Twitter account.

What happens after infidelity

Complicating his family relationships is the love child, a boy who's now 13 and was born less than a week after Shriver gave birth to their youngest child, another son, Christopher.

"This is a man who reinvented himself so many times," said Wendy Walsh, an author and psychology expert who holds a doctorate in the field. "I don't think he will ever have back the family in the way he had them. If he comes out of the other side of this, and if he uses this crisis to grow, he will be a different person."

His relationship with his children -- now five, not four -- will be challenging, Walsh said.

"The question is how trustful will they be and how forgiving they will be -- for all five," including the love child, Walsh said. "Now there is a kid who's traumatized, the youngest one living in suburban Bakersfield (California), living away from his half-siblings."

"For the rest of his life, he's going to watch his half-siblings live in mansions," she said.

Less secretive, better relationships, a more authentic self -- these are some remedies that Schwarzenegger needs to pursue, Walsh said.

"He's got a pile of money on his hands and a lot of time. What's he going to do with it?" Walsh said. "And he basically needs to keep his pants zipped for a couple of decades. And then people will go and pay to see his movies."

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