A dramatic pause over a dramatic role
Schwarzenegger's bid for governor creates little comment from Hollywood types, on the right or left.
HOLLYWOOD — Early in the 1951 Looney Tunes classic "Dripalong Daffy," our hero Daffy Duck strides into a saloon.
"Dripalong Daffy's my name. Anybody care to shoot it out?"
No answer. The saloon piano plays on.
"Man to man? Under Western skies? West of the Pecos?"
"Tumbleweeds at 10 paces?..."
"Anyone for tennis?"
That deadpan silence, "High Noon" in Toontown, might as well be the streets of Hollywood as Arnold Schwarzenegger shoulders his way through the swinging doors of California's gubernatorial politics. Entertainment industry people, from location scouts to actors, seem nonplussed by the extent to which the political dreams of a bodybuilder-turned-movie mogul have captured imaginations across the country.
Generally when an entertainment industry figure, from Clint Eastwood to Sonny Bono to Ronald Reagan, starts publicly mulling a run for office, others in the industry hurry to offer support, or at least an opinion. But with Mr. Schwarzenegger, there's been a long pause - and an undercurrent of criticism.
Hollywood is accustomed to fantasy, packaged for export. But it's a practical place, and when it comes to state politics, Schwarzenegger's star power appears to leave many untouched. Among celebrities, there's little to discuss about Schwarzenegger's candidacy, at least publically. "They don't tend to get involved in state politics. It's not glamorous enough for them," says political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. "They're into global issues. You know, hunger or Iraq."
Ms. Jeffe says Schwarzenegger must strike a difficult balance in trying to court celebrity endorsements from a predominantly liberal industry. "If he brings out his liberal friends, the conservatives will get even more angry," she says.
Still, several analysts predict Schwarzenegger's strong contacts in the Hollywood business community will help him gather support and discourage attacks. So far, only one big name, Rob Lowe, has signed on.
Another friend, director Ivan Reitman, is organizing a fundraiser. The director, who cast Schwarzenegger in "Twins," "Kindergarten Cop," and "Junior," says he admires Schwarzenegger's integrity. Mr. Reitman says the actor showed courage when his movie, "The Last Action Hero," bombed. Generally in such circumstances, stars blame others or drop out of sight. "He said, 'You know this is my movie, and if it doesn't work, it's my fault,' " he says.
Other supporters also see a link between Schwarzenegger's entertainment experience and his prospects in government. Pausing outside the looming Directors Guild of America building on Sunset Boulevard, film-location manager Rory Dauson says he'll support the actor for the same reason he voted for President Bush - his advisers. "Because Arnold has had such a huge career, he knows a lot of good people," Mr. Dauson says. "He can bring talented people to the table."
But Dauson's friend, Keith White, a cameraman, sees Schwarzenegger's previous career as a political liability. "Actors are by nature liars, because the nature of acting is to lie," he says. Worse, he sees the actor as a fading movie star. "The worst people are the people who aren't famous any more, which is where Arnold's heading," he says. "Politics is Arnold's second career."
There is one California issue that does stir intense debate in the industry: "runaway productions," the flight overseas of filming and postproduction work. Many here blame that on few tax breaks and a lack of incentives provided by the state.
One cameraman, Pierre Rouget, says Schwarzenegger seems detached from that issue. Crew members, believing they won't get help on the issue they care about most, tune out. "I don't hear anybody talking about Schwarzenegger," Mr. Rouget says. "With the shape that the economy and this industry are in, what people are talking about is, 'Are you working next week?' "
Bryce Nelson, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, says despite Hollywood's reputation as a Democratic power center, the interests of wealth have played a big part in who it supports. Historically, the industry has backed more Republican candidates than Democrats, he says.
For Dorian Harris, an editor for the TV drama "Law & Order," the decision to vote against Schwarzenegger is less rooted in personal antipathy, but equally firm.
Ms. Harris says she'll back Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a career politician, because she's confident he knows what he's doing - and she has no such confidence in Schwarzenegger. As for his advisers, Harris calls them "a bunch of props."
Others don't take much comfort in what Schwarzenegger has done, even in his own industry. "[There are] the pictures that he makes: The mindless violence, the idea that there are super heroes in the world who right all wrongs with violence,"says actor James Cromwell, a self-described leftist who recently was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performances on the television program "Six Feet Under." That's no message, Mr. Cromwell says, for a state that desperately needs bipartisan solutions to its $40 billion budget deficit.
Some too, like free-lance TV researcher John Geertsen, harbor worries that the actor is too far removed from ordinary Californians. Yet even though Mr. Geertsen plans to vote for Mr. Bustamante, he says, Schwarzenegger's experience isn't that different from that of many in Hollywood. "We are blue-collar people, and the dream of Hollywood is that we're blue-collar based on artistry. That's the dream, that your love of making something creative will get you to the next level," he says. "He has often been ridiculed and he kept fighting through. There are admirable things about him. I just wouldn't call him governor."