LOS ANGELES—“I have four wonderful kids,” Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed in a recent interview. He caught himself and quickly added with a smile, “Actually five.” The fifth one, of course, is the child he fathered with the family’s housekeeper, Mildred Baena. “They (his children) have been a great joy. Life couldn’t be better.”
“And even though under the circumstances, you know what I mean—living in separation—I have a wonderful relationship with my wife,” Arnold said. Maria Shriver filed for divorce in 2011 after discovering the actor-politician’s infidelity but the divorce has not been finalized. “There are no fights. We talk to each other all the time on the phone. We raise the kids together. We are responsible parents because the only way it works is if both of us work together. Under the circumstances, it’s working really well.”
Arnold continued: “So I have to say that life has been terrific. I am full of energy, enthusiastic and passionate about what I do. I’m very fortunate also that I have wonderful friends and people who have been very supportive.”
The proud dad obliged with a request for an update on his kids with Maria: “Katherine has finished at USC (University of Southern California). Christina is on her last year at Georgetown. Patrick, my oldest son, is studying business at USC. And Christopher is 15—he’s in high school.”
“I try to be a good influence on my kids,” he said. “I always try to let them know that they don’t have to be as ambitious and as goal-oriented as I, or their mother, was. If my daughter decides that she wants to work in a dog grooming place, and if that makes her happy, then I will be happy with that.”
For this dad, who just happens to be California’s former governor, inculcating good values is paramount. “To me, it’s important that they become good people, well-educated, have a world mentality, understand when we talk about Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews or whatever it is, and have an open mind. They have to be inclusive and should not be prejudiced.”
He credited Maria’s role in raising their kids. “My wife, luckily, is an extraordinary mother and is teaching them every day,” he said. “She is terrific with being on top of the situation on every level. So, together, we have done a good job. I think our kids are going to go far.”
But he admitted that his infidelity and the resulting separation from Maria was his “biggest personal failure.” He confessed, “On a personal level, I’ve had bad experiences and failures, including the recent one.”
“I would say that I have had a huge amount of failures,” he stressed. “I think it’s pretty balanced. I have lost many bodybuilding competitions. I remember my first Mr. Universe contest. I placed second.”
Teased with a joking, “What a shame,” Arnold said with an ironic grin, “It was depressing. I didn’t win. I also remember the first Mr. Olympia I entered. I placed second. It was horrible.” With winking humor, he was on a roll now. “I lost weightlifting competitions. I lost powerlifting competitions. I lost bodybuilding competitions. I had movies that went straight to the toilet.”
“But there were more victories and I was always able to get up when I fell,” he said. “And that is what I write about in my book (“Total Recall,” a memoir)—to get up and not dwell on the failure or on the falling but to get up and to get going again. That’s what life is all about.”
Now back in Hollywood after serving as California’s governor, Arnold said he was glad he returned with small roles first. “I was very fortunate that I did ‘The Expendables’ movies because it gave me a bit of taste (of filming again) without really being there, three months on the set, and having the responsibility of leading a movie. They were very gracious, especially (Sylvester) Stallone, who has been a very dear friend and always very supportive, even of my political career. In the early days, Stallone and I fought all the time and tried to outdo each other—who has bigger muscles, less body fat, bigger guns, bigger bullets and all this crazy stuff.”
Arnold volunteered that he and Sylvester “realized finally that it was total nonsense. Why are we always fighting over all this stuff?” With a laugh, he said that he and Sylvester agreed to “just get along. It’s much easier. It has been great to have them be that supportive and to get back to the movie business was terrific. Right after that, I went to New Mexico and started filming ‘The Last Stand.’”
“The Last Stand,” an action-crime-thriller that also stars Johnny Knoxville and Forest Whitaker, recently opened to less-than-stellar box office earnings. Given his guiding principle about stumbling and rising again, Arnold probably considers the film’s weak US box-office earnings as a temporary setback. He has several projects lined up, including “Terminator 5” and “The Legend of Conan.”
In the interview, he expressed relief that no new Schwarzeneggers and Stallones arrived while he was governing California in Sacramento. “We, the more mature action stars, are very lucky that no new breed of action stars came about, especially when I was gone for seven years, doing government work and being a public servant,” he admitted. “The fear in me was that there would be a new breed of action stars coming up; that by the time I was finished with my government work, no one wanted me back because there’s a whole new generation of action heroes. Well, that didn’t happen.”
I’d like to thank the folks behind the Migration Advocacy and Media Awards given by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) under the Office of the President of the Philippines (led by Chairperson Imelda M. Nicolas) for honoring my first book, “My Filipino Connection: The Philippines in Hollywood,” as one of the winners in the print journalism, book category.
Regretfully, I was not able to fly to Manila to accept the award last December due to my commitments here in LA. Acclaimed singer Leo Valdez and comic Mikey Bustos, who is one of the talents that I profiled in the book (the Fil-Canadian is now based in Manila), graciously received the award on my behalf in ceremonies held at the SSS Magsaysay Hall in Quezon City. Mikey, known for his viral videos on the amusing quirks of Filipinos, delivered extemporaneous remarks.
Leo, who was in the midst of his very successful “The King and I” run, read my acceptance speech from his iPhone. (It started, of course, with greetings for CFO Undersecretary Mary Grace Tirona; Cherry Joy Veniles of the Migration Advocacy and Media or MAM Awards of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas or CFO; Emilio S. de Quiros Jr., president and CEO of the Social Security System; and the distinguished judges, fellow honorees, and members of the media, other guests and friends present at the event.)
“When I write about Filipinos shining in the world stage, I am just heeding the call of my brown Filipino heart to spotlight the triumphs of our countrymen making it all over the world. Being honored with this award for my advocacy and passion [was] certainly not expected.
“But maybe I should have taken it as a very, very good omen when Undersecretary Mary Grace Tirona surprised me by showing up at my book launch in Makati last April.
“This advocacy of mine gives me deep joy and fulfillment, more than writing about Hollywood talents. After all, there is, and should be, a rallying cry among Filipino media representatives around the world: Who will write about the achievements of Filipinos with passion and urgency but us? If we do not proclaim the latest feats of our kababayan, who will?
“It is in this spirit that I thank CFO and the judges for this award. I humbly share this honor with the outstanding Filipino talents who are featured in this book, including Mikey Bustos—who is here to also accept the award on my behalf;
“Leo Valdez who is an excellent example of the Filipino talent and who makes us all proud; the good folks at Anvil, who published this book; Emmie G. Velarde, my editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer or PDI, who also edited this book; Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, Inquirer editor-in-chief; and Prosy de la Cruz of Asian Journal for their support and generous blurbs; Roger and Cora Oriel, also of Asian Journal;
“Anna Leah de Leon for her faith in me; Khaasie Gapuzan of CFO for her generous assistance; my friends Ciso Chan, Rudy Tee and Arsi Baltazar who honor me with their presence tonight; and last, but certainly not the least, my beloved wife Janet, daughters Nikki and Ella, and my family. Maraming salamat po!”
(Email the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)