"It's a great quintessential American story that you can come here and be what you want to be," A&E's executive producer Delia Fine told The Post yesterday.
"Only he takes it to a level that's almost a force of nature.
"[Schwarzenegger's] determination, his focus and his energy are things that he's exhibited in almost every stage of his life," Fine said.
"And I think that for A&E this is one of the most interesting, contemporary slices of biographical life that we can tackle from a dramatic standpoint."
Network execs describe the unauthorized film, "See Arnold Run," as a cross between the political flick "Primary Colors" and Schwarzenegger's first big movie, "Pumping Iron."
The new movie will juxtapose his drive to become Mr. Olympia in the early 1970s with his campaign to become Governor of California in 2003.
"See Arnold Run" (search) is slated to begin filming next spring and to air sometime next summer.
Fine declined to comment on who might play Schwarzenegger in the film, but sources said producers are approaching actors Willem Dafoe (search) ("Spiderman"), Dennis Quaid (search) ("Cold Creek Manor"), Billy Campbell ("Once and Again"), Christopher Lambert ("Highlander") and Viggo Mortenson (search) ("Lord of the Rings") for the part.
The film is not based on a book, but Fine said the network may option the rights to one of several Schwarzenegger biographies available to help fill in information about the actor's early years in the U.S.
"See Arnold Run" is the latest original biopic that A&E, best known for its "Biography" series, has in production. Other biopics have included films about notable historical figures such as Napoleon and George Washington.
Most recently A&E began development on a film about Hillary Rodham Clinton, based on the best-selling book "Hillary's Choice," by Vanity Fair writer Gail Sheehy (search).
The network hopes to have the film ready to air sometime in 2004, with Sharon Stone playing the role of the former First Lady turned New York Senator.
With the Schrwarzenegger and Clinton films in production, Fine says "it's more fun to be playing in a more contemporary arena."
Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California in Tuesday's controversial recall vote of Democrat Gray Davis.