The year AD 2011 brought days as dark as those following a Skynet-sponsored apocalypse for a former Terminator and governor of California.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was out of office but, being only a naturalised US citizen, couldn't run for the White House like fellow former Golden State governor and actor Ronald Reagan.

Film projects on the horizon - among them, sequels to The Expendables - didn't seem like they would set the world on fire (and didn't).

Meanwhile, it was revealed that the Governator had had a secret love child with his maid.

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Now, on an international press tour ahead of the release of Terminator: Genisys, Schwarzenegger, 67, opened up to Howard Stern about the collapse of his marriage - and the counseling that didn't help.

"This was without any doubt the biggest setback and the biggest failure," the former governor said of his split with Maria Shriver. "... You really feel like, 'I'm to blame for it. It was me that screwed up.' You can't point the finger at anyone else."

Stern said that when he was divorced in 2001 - from a wife he paid tribute to in the 1997 film Howard Stern: Private Parts - he saw a psychiatrist. "Did you seek out therapy?" he asked Schwarzenegger.

"Yes," Schwarzenegger said. "... It was the biggest mistake I've ever made because that guy was so full of s***."

Schwarzenegger said Shriver talked him into counseling, but he was met with "nonsense talk" that was "counterproductive to our future relationship".

"Maria talked me into it," Schwarzenegger said. "I went and I felt instinctively maybe I shouldn't go because I know I screwed up. I don't have to go to anyone to have him explain to me anything. I apologised to Maria. I apologised to the kids and then tried to move forward."

Schwarzenegger made it clear that this was not a Tom Cruise-like rant against psychiatry.

"I think people should get help when they need help," he said. "... I'm not against that, but in my particular case it was not helpful."

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Schwarzenegger said his family is in a better place, recounting a story in which he was met with balloons and gifts from his four children by Shriver herself at a premiere of the new Terminator film.

"That is the relationship I was really looking forward to after this complicated bump," he said.

Stern said he was moved "almost to tears" by Schwarzenegger's success in repairing his relationship with his family.

Not all of Stern's far-ranging conversation with Schwarzenegger was so serious. The star also discussed a bit of trivia perhaps unknown to those not versed in 1980s action lore: Schwarzenegger argued with Terminator director James Cameron about the famous line "I'll be back."

"Why don't we say, 'I will be back?'" Schwarzenegger said he suggested to Cameron, saying a machine wouldn't use the contraction.

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Cameron vociferously disagreed, Schwarzenegger said.

"I don't correct your acting, so don't correct my f****** writing," Schwarzenegger said Cameron said.

"What's the matter with you, Arnold?"