LOS ANGELES "I'll be back" has been Arnold Schwarzenegger's catch-phrase for more than 25 years.
And next week, when Californians elect a new governor, it will be just two months until the movie action hero turned politician leaves office and is back on the job market.
Schwarzenegger, 63, has been coy so far about his options. But with a resume that includes champion body builder, politician, environmental campaigner and star of movies like "Terminator" and "True Lies", he has the world at his feet, Hollywood insiders and political analysts say.
"People still love Arnold. He can choose whatever he wants. He's got nothing left to prove, all the money in the world and the world of choices available to him," veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman told Reuters.
In his most detailed response to the "what next?" question, Schwarzenegger said in a "Tweetcast" last week that he planned to give speeches, write a book or two (he has never done an autobiography), and continue fighting for the environment.
As for returning to movies; "It depends ... if someone comes with a great script, with a great idea. Will I still have the patience to sit on the set and do a movie for three months or for six months, all of those things? I don't know," he said.
In a tantalizing aside, he said he recently met with "Terminator" and "Avatar" director James Cameron, and would make some sort of an announcement soon.
The self-styled Republican "Governator" is ending his seven years in office with only a 22 percent popularity rating among Californians who are tired of double-digit unemployment and massive budget deficits. But his global appeal -- both politically and as a celebrity -- remains largely intact.
Although his Austrian birth rules out U.S. president, political analyst Allan Hoffenblum sees a possible appointment in the Obama administration, perhaps on environmental issues.
"I think that is a very viable possibility, especially if (U.S. President Barack) Obama does badly in the November congressional elections, he may want to reach out to moderate Republicans," said Hoffenblum.
WASHINGTON VS. HOLLYWOOD
Elective politics is likely not on his horizon, pundits said. The highest Schwarzenegger can go now is the U.S. Senate, but an opening may be two years away, assuming California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein decides to step down.
Besides, says USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, "I don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger as having the temperament that allows him to become one of 100 on the Senate floor.
"It would not surprise me if he models his post governorship after (former U.S. President) Bill Clinton and moves onto the national or international stage with his own foundation, focusing on environmental issues," she said.
Schwarzenegger would have little trouble being hired by Hollywood. He is still fit and resuming action roles would be "like riding a bike", an industry insider told Reuters.
Producers point to the $250 million-plus box-office of "The Expendables" this summer, in which Schwarzenegger had a cameo role alongside old-timers Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.
Unlike Stallone, Schwarzenegger does not write, produce and direct, producer Mike Medavoy said. "But if the right role comes along, I am sure Arnold can fulfill it. He is unique."
Bragman said Schwarzenegger might fare better as a tongue in cheek action man. "He can't pretend he is 35. He has got to wink at the concept, joke about his arthritis or something."
But a TV comedy series could work. "It could be a spoof on himself, with him playing an ex-governor, hanging round the house with nothing to do, and driving his wife crazy. I think it would be hilarious!," Bragman said.
Whatever comes next, one thing seems certain, say people who have followed his career. He will land on his feet.
"He is one of the brightest guys I ever met. He has a history of making nothing but good decisions, and I see no reason why any of that will change," said one Hollywood insider who asked to remain anonymous.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler)