“Cry Macho” is the working title of the first film Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to make, for the sum of US$12 million, since resigning as governor of California earlier this year. It is also a highly apt description of his current state of wellbeing.
The Austrian-born actor-turned-politician has been forced to admit that his womanizing, once an integral and shamelessly celebrated part of his public image as a bodybuilder, has returned to haunt him. He told the Los Angeles Times that he fathered a child more than 10 years ago by a member of his domestic staff.
The revelation, which he said he had confessed to his wife, Maria Shriver, after he stepped down as governor, now makes sense of their separation after 25 years of marriage. The couple announced the split on May 9, without giving any explanation. It now transpires that for at least a decade, unbeknownst to his wife, Schwarzenegger was paying maintenance to his child’s mother, who continued to work in their Los Angeles mansion until a few weeks ago.
The child has not been named, nor has the staff member, though she is known to have worked for the Schwarzenegger-Shriver family for 20 years.
“I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family,” Schwarzenegger said. “There are no excuses, and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”
Shriver released her own statement.
“This is a painful and heartbreaking time,” she said. “As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal.”
The couple’s son, Patrick Schwarzenegger, 17, responded on Twitter: “Some days you feel like shit, some days you want to quit and just be normal for a bit, yet i love my family till death do us apart [sic].”
The latest disclosures merely confirm one of Schwarzenegger’s most striking qualities: that in real life he has managed to lead an existence every bit as improbable as those of the characters he has played. In the 1977 bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron he gave an insight into his megalomaniacal tendencies.
“When I was 10 years old, I always dreamed of coming to America and being the greatest and being different from everybody else,” he said. “I was always dreaming about very powerful people: dictators and things like that. I was always impressed by people who could be remembered for hundreds of years — or Jesus, for thousands of years.”
It sounded like a pipe dream, but to no small extent he made it happen. He became so popular in the US that at one point a movement was started calling for constitutional change to allow him to stand for president.
“Never underestimate Arnold,” said Ian Halperin, Schwarzenegger’s unauthorized biographer. “He’s the only person I have come across who has succeeded at the highest level in three different fields: bodybuilding, acting and politics.”