Anything that tried to follow Terminator 2: Judgement Day would have a high bar to meet but James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger re-teaming for what is basically a Bond movie is a pretty good start. True Lies came out 20 years ago today and here’s some fun facts and trivia to celebrate.
Arnold brought the script to James Cameron’s attention: Arnold recieved the script for True Lies and he was extremely interested in playing the Harry Tasker character. It was the first time Cameron had heard of that Arnold was picking a movie based on the characters and immediately looked at the script and was on board as well. Cameron hired a team of writers to punch up the comedy of the movie but he was disappointed with their efforts and rewrote the entire script himself, keeping only two of the original comedy lines (one of which was the iconic “You’re Fired” one-liner). Adding to the comedy side, Cameron fought to get Tom Arnold into the movie, threatening to walk if Fox didn’t hire him. Arnold and Roseanne’s public divorce was all over the tabloids at the time and Fox wanted to avoid bad press but caved to Cameron and Arnold was cast as sidekick
Arnold’s biggest challenge was dancing: Arnold had to get dance training in order to be able to perform the tango dancing in the beginning and end of the movie.
Cameron almost made a Spider-Man movie instead of True Lies: Cameron had signed on for a Spider-Man movie starring Michael Biehn, but the technical challenges seemed impossible to overcome, so Cameron moved on to True Lies. Speaking of Marvel, Charlton Heston and Omega Sector, the secret agency Harry works for, are based on Nick Fury and SHIELD from the Marvel comic universe:
Cameron topped himself again with the budget: True Lies was the first film to have a $100+ million budget and featured huge scale stunts to justify the price. The production actually bought unused sections of causeway in the Florida Keys for the finale and rebuilt a bridge on the road to blow it up again in the film. Jamie Lee Curtis actually performed one of the major stunts herself by dangling out of a helicopter. The horse chase was all done practically except for the leap from building to building. The US Air Force actually supplied the production three Harrier Jets for the cost of $2,410 per hour. A full scale Harrier was built for close up scenes of Arnold in the cockpit. The stage where they shot green screen with the model jet was the largest green screen stage ever built. The movie was nominated for an Oscar in Visual Effects.
There was a number of other possible Helen Taskers: Before Jamie Lee Curtis was cast, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Annette Bening, Joan Cusack, Geena Davis, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sharon Stone, Emma Thompson, Lea Thompson and Debra Winger were all considered. Jodie Foster was actually signed on but backed out to make Nell instead.
The villain had previous spy experience: Art Malik, who plays the villainous Salim Abu Aziz, was a Mujahadeen commander in the Bond movie, The Living Daylights. Cameron had seen him in the film City of Joy and cast him without an audition.
The movie made up for Last Action Hero: Arnold’s previous action comedy, Last Action Hero, had come out the previous summer and had been kind of a critical and commercial flop. True Lies got much better reviews and was the third highest grossing movie of 1994, making $378+ million worldwide.
A sequel was planned but never happened: Cameron first worked on a possible True Lies TV show but it never got past the planning stages. Cameron was shooting for a 2002 release of a sequel but, after 9/11, he felt that terrorism could not be taken lightly anymore and cancelled the project. Tom Arnold, meanwhile, made a parody sequel in the movie The Kid & I, where he plays a washed up actor who signs on for a movie that is basically True Lies, called Two Spies that will co-star the son of a billionaire Hollywood agent. Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis actually have cameos in the movie as themselves.