Before the news broke of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's affair with his housekeeper and his illegitimate child, talks of his Hollywood comeback were dominating the headlines.
But it seems his cheating scandal and the demise of his 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver have scuttled that comeback before it even began.
On Thursday, the actor announced that he asked his talent agency to put all of his pending projects on hold to focus on his personal life.
"Governor Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines. This includes Cry Macho, The Terminator franchise and other projects under consideration. We will resume discussions when Governor Schwarzenegger decides." the statement says.
“It’s almost Shakespearean in its tragic capacity,” veteran publicist Michael Levine, who first met the famed “Terminator” star 25 years ago, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I think his Hollywood career will be injured.”
Still, other image experts said Schwarzenegger can rebound, but it will take time.
“Arnold can’t save face in the short-term. He’s now regarded as zipper-challenged, just as Bill Clinton was many years ago,” said crisis management and public relations expert, Jonathan Bernstein. “And like Mr. Clinton, he can rehab his image by getting involved in good works and not engaging in dishonorable behavior. Unless, of course, he wants to have an image of being a ‘bad boy’ from now on.”
Bernstein said that in the long run, Schwarzenegger’s target movie audience probably won’t be deterred by his wandering ways.
“Arnold’s Hollywood genre is action flicks, and action flick fans won’t care what he did. If his movies are good, people will watch them,” he said.
Earlier Thursday, Albert Ruddy, the producer of the upcoming live-action drama “Cry Macho,” Schwarzenegger’s first confirmed film project since parting ways with politics, said he wasn't concerned about the negative publicity now surrounding his star.
“It doesn’t affect this movie. We’re in serious preproduction now, it hasn’t affected our sales,” Ruddy told The Hollywood Reporter. “This is not going to be a black eye for a guy with an astounding career.”
But in light of Schwarzenegger's recent decision, Ruddy will either have to put the entire project on hold or move ahead without the actor.
So what steps does Schwarzenegger need to take to revive his severely damaged reputation?
“Arnold is sending the best message he possibly can at this moment: that there are ‘no excuses’ for his behavior. He's been seen in public counseling with his children, seemingly helping them through a tumultuous time,” said Jason Maloni, Senior Vice President of Levick Strategic Communications. “At present, his public message is clear – that his number one job right now is to help his children understand what he did then that was wrong, and what he's doing now to make it right.”