The Terminator always said he'd be back.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is sifting through a stack of corporate, Hollywood and real estate offers as the celebrity politician nears an inevitable career crossroad: On Monday, he's out of a job.
His next act? After seven years as governor in Sacramento, the former body builder and film star will by his own account hit the speech circuit, keep a hand in political activism and possibly write the autobiography that publishers have wanted him to do for years.
The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger says he even might get back into acting if the right script comes along — presumably one appropriate for a 63-year-old father of four with political baggage, advancing age lines and a tinge of gray.
"Will I still have the patience to sit on the set and to do a movie for three months or for six months, all of those things? I don't know," the Republican governor tweeted in October in a rare exchange about his future plans.
Spokesman Aaron McLear says Schwarzenegger is sorting out "an absolute flood of every conceivable offer" from the corporate world, real estate ventures and the entertainment industry, but the governor insists he won't make any decisions until after he surrenders the office to his successor, Democrat Jerry Brown.
"I don't have a plan," Schwarzenegger told hundreds of supporters and staffers at a private farewell party in Sacramento last month.
He was less guarded in October when, along with plans for speeches and a book or two, he hinted broadly at a continuing role with the environment and political reform, issues that have become part of his mixed legacy at the statehouse.
In the absence of a global climate-change treaty, Schwarzenegger has urged state and regional governments around the world to address greenhouse gases. This month California regulators approved the nation's most extensive system giving major polluters financial incentives to discharge fewer greenhouse gases, a key piece of a 2006 climate law championed by the governor.
"There are a lot of important things that I want to say," Schwarzenegger tweeted. "My struggle for reform will continue, my belief in environmental issues and in protecting the environment will continue."
One thing is certain: The multimillionaire Schwarzenegger will start earning money, after passing up his $174,000 salary throughout his two terms. His time in office left the governor with plenty of political welts, but the biggest hit was on his own wallet.
State records show Schwarzenegger dumped at least $25 million in direct and indirect payments into two campaigns for governor and other political ventures since 2001, no small sum even for an actor who once commanded $30 million a movie.
That doesn't include travel costs. He often commuted from Los Angeles to Sacramento several times a week in a private jet at his own expense. He, wife Maria Shriver and his children never moved to Sacramento, preferring their secluded canyon estate a few miles (kilometers) from the Pacific Ocean.
His assets have been held in a private trust since he took office in 2003, but he can return to managing his portfolio, deep in real estate holdings, after stepping down.
His Hollywood future will be the subject of endless speculation. Hollywood insiders say he could take a role as producer or director, but don't look for him to reappear as a hulking screen hero swinging an automatic weapon.
"He's a wealthy and clever man. Wealthy and clever men have lots of possibilities," said longtime Hollywood publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Academy Award winners such as Charlton Heston and Jon Voight.
But the messy work of politics "tarnished his superhero persona," Levine says. "He can get into anything that doesn't involve politics or acting."
One way to understand the governor's future is to look at his past.
Schwarzenegger rarely leaves anything behind. He might have spent years bickering over budget deficits and public pensions in Sacramento, but he maintained strong ties in the sports world and entertainment industry.
He has staged sports and fitness events in Ohio since 1989, and even while in office he made cameo appearances in films, most recently in friend Sylvester Stallone's action flick, "The Expendables."
Some of his Hollywood friends were on hand at his exit party, giving a peek into the private life to which he returns in January — Stallone, Tom Arnold, Jay Leno and Danny DeVito.
Schwarzenegger long ago tamped down the showy lifestyle of his glory days in Hollywood — his gas-swilling Hummers now run on clean fuels. Wild nights? In his spare time he likes to work out and dote on his kids.
He says a fun night can be watching a movie at home or going out to dinner with the family, although he gets out for an occasional motorcycle ride around Los Angeles.
The seven-time Mr. Olympia appears robust despite a string of medical problems: He had a heart valve replaced in 1997, a 2001 motorcycle crash left him with several broken ribs, he had rotator cuff surgery in 2003, went to a hospital complaining of a rapid heartbeat in 2005, and broke an upper thigh bone while skiing in 2006.
He's acknowledged using steroids in his bodybuilding days, before they became illegal without a prescription, but it's unknown whether the drugs that can cause heart problems have had anything to do with any of his health issues.
Schwarzenegger and his wife are known for charitable work, which is expected to continue, and he also founded a committee with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to encourage road, bridge and other infrastructure development.
Another run for political office appears unlikely. The moderate Republican will leave Sacramento unpopular with state voters, and he has often noted how his wife never wanted him to enter politics. He often sounds dismayed at the dysfunction within the state Legislature.
In a way, he doesn't need to. If he chooses, Schwarzenegger and his circle of wealthy friends can finance ballot proposals that can reshape state politics.