Arnold Schwarzenegger Photograph by Dan Winters
Jeff Jensen
July 03, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If Arnold Schwarzenegger is being coy about whether he’ll run for governor of California, it might be because he’s in the middle of a more pressing campaign. With ”Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” he aims to reclaim his status as the man who once defined the Hollywood action hero. Schwarzenegger’s last three films — Collateral Damage, The 6th Day, and End of Days — grossed an un-muscular $142 million collectively, a sad contrast with the ”Terminator” franchise, created by ”Titanic” auteur James Cameron in 1984. In fact, ”T2” — with its then-groundbreaking digital F/X, then-cool ”Hasta la vista” catchphrase, and $205 million gross — is still the biggest hit the seven-time Mr. Olympia has ever had.

Schwarzenegger, 55, has no delusions about the fact that his career has seen better days. And yeah, it hurts. ”Every time a movie doesn’t go through the roof, you get pissed off,” he says. ”I would be a vegetable if I wouldn’t be. I have an ego.” But he says it wasn’t the need for a comeback vehicle that made him return to the role he calls his favorite. Turns out he likes that killer robot. ”This movie has had the most impact on my career. I owe this character a lot.”

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