“I was sitting with [Shriver] in a jacuzzi, and I said, ‘What do you think of me running for Governor?’ She flipped out,” the FUBAR actor, 75, told the cameras in his new three-part Netflix docuseries, Arnold, which premieres Wednesday, June 7. “I almost felt like she was hyperventilating. She felt I have gone through this with my family. She had a very emotional reaction.”
He noted that Shriver, 67, “hated the idea” of him running for office and recalled not wanting to go through with it unless “she was not 100 percent behind it.” Schwarzenegger said he “pulled back” from his ambitions after Shriver — with whom he shares kids Katherine, 33, Christina, 31, Patrick, 29, and Christopher, 25 — feared his campaign would drag their family “through the mud.”
However, Shriver — who is the niece of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy — changed her mind ahead of her then-husband’s appearance on a 2003 episode of The Tonight Show, during which he announced his bid for governor.
“The morning of The Tonight Show, Maria put a note under my door that said, ‘In case you decide to run here’s what I would say and here’s if you decide not to run what I would say,’” the Terminator star shared. “I felt like Maria for the first time was open to the idea.”
Schwarzenegger went on to beat incumbent Governor Gray Davis and was sworn into office in November 2003. The True Lies actor held the position for eight years before leaving office in January 2011.
In the documentary, Schwarzenegger also detailed how his marriage to Shriver was impacted by his affair with their longtime housekeeper, Mildred Baena, with whom he welcomed son Joseph, 25, in 1997. The former couple called it quits in 2011 after 25 years of marriage, finalizing their divorce in 2021.
“I had an affair in ’96,” the Kindergarten Cop star said in the series, adding that he wasn’t certain whether Joseph was his biological child. “I just started feeling the older he got, the more it became clear to me and then it was really just a matter of how do you keep this quiet? How do you keep this a secret?”
Shriver learned the truth during a couples counseling session with her now-ex. “In one of the sessions, the counselor said, ‘I think today Maria wants to be very specific about something. She wants to know if you are the father of Joseph,’” Schwarzenegger recalled. “And … I thought my heart stopped, and then I told the truth.”
The Total Recall author called the affair a “total failure” and stated that Shriver was “crushed” by it. “Everyone had to suffer. Maria had to suffer. The kids had to suffer. Joseph. His mother. Everyone,” he continued. “I am going to have to live with it the rest of my life.”
Despite his regrets about his actions, Schwarzenegger is proud to be Joseph’s father. “It was wrong what I did. But I don’t want to make Joseph feel that he is not welcomed in this world — because he is very much welcomed in this world,” the Expendables star explained. “I love him and he has turned out to be an extraordinary young man.”