Next to Terminator 2, True Lies is arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s greatest movie of the 1990s. (It’s most definitely Tom Arnold’s greatest movie.) Based on the French film La Totale!, True Lies was the third and last film to date that director James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up on — though it also featured frequent Cameron collaborator Bill Paxton. The movie really has everything one could want from a Schwarzenegger action movie: plenty of guns and explosions, plenty of cheesy lines, and an easy to follow plot that is barely believable. Plus, it has that amazing scene from the photo above with a bad guy feeling first hand what it’s like to be a missile.
Yesterday, we celebrated the film’s 20th anniversary with a recap of Arnold’s 20 best lines — “It’s not a toomah!” is still tops in my book — and today we’re digging up the facts on how the movie came to be. For starters, the story of how Tom Arnold’s presence nearly derailed the movie from ever being made.
1. James Cameron was the only person in Hollywood who liked Tom Arnold at the time. This has probably been the case for much of Tom Arnold’s career, but in 1994 he wasn’t especially popular in the casting department because of his messy divorce from Rosanne Barr. Twentieth-Century Fox was vehemently against casting Tom Arnold, but James Cameron liked him so much that he threatened to pull out of the movie if they didn’t sign off on Tom Arnold playing Albert Gibson.
2. James Cameron rented three Marine Harriers from the U.S. government for $2,410 per hour. Securing three fighter jets and the pilots to fly them is never a small order, but the U.S. government loaned Cameron three of them for the bargain price of $100,736.
3. One of the movie’s jokes comes from Tom Arnold’s real-life divorce. In the scene where Harry reveals his suspicions that Helen is having an affair to Albert Gibson, Gibson remarks, “What kind of sick bitch takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?” This joke was a gag on the real-life divorce that Tom Arnold was going through at the time after he discovered that his ex, Rosanne had gone so far as to take the ice cube trays from their freezer.
4. Jamie Lee Curtis celebrated her birthday by doing her own helicopter stunt. Curtis celebrated her 36th birthday by performing the harrowing helicopter stunt herself after James Cameron suggested the idea. At first Curtis balked at the idea of dangling from the helicopter and asked James Cameron where he was going to be during all of this. Cameron replied, “Hanging out the door filming you with a hand-held camera.” The actress figured that if he was going to be so daring she might as well, too. The stunt was performed when the limousine and helicopter accelerated together to a speed of 70 mph.
5. 9/11 put the brakes on the potential sequel. After the movie’s success, talks began of reuniting the cast for a sequel and everyone, including James Cameron, was on board. A script was written with a slated release date for sometime in 2002. Following the 9/11 attacks, the project was put on the shelf with James Cameron feeling that a movie with jokes about terrorism would be in poor taste. There had been talks of a possible TV series based on the film a few years ago, but as it stands, the best thing out there is a forgotten Super Nintendo game.
6. Jamie Lee Curtis wore her own lingerie for the striptease. The wardrobe department wasn’t needed for Jame Lee Curtis’ striptease that she gives to her husband in the movie. Curtis brought her own lingerie to the set.
7. James Cameron wrote most of the jokes himself. Cameron had hired several writers to punch-up the script with some good ol’ fashioned terrorism jokes, but wasn’t satisfied with their work and did a rewrite himself. He supposedly only used two jokes from the writers, one of them being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line “You’re fired” when he fires the missile with terrorist Art Malik strapped to it.
8. The movie’s poster contained a nod to a cut scene. Many of the movie’s posters show a hand grenade with a diamond ring in it. This is in reference to a scene that was shot, but later cut from the film. The scene involves Tia Carrere’s character, Juno, putting the grenade between Helen’s legs and telling her all she has to do is keep her legs closed. Helen of course followed this up with the zinger, “Seems like a problem you have.” When Helen escapes, Harry uses one of her diamond earrings to re-pin the grenade for future use.
9. Charlton Heston’s character was based on Nick Fury. Heston seems like an unlikely choice to play a Marvel character, but the mannerisms and features of Spencer Trilby were based on Nick Fury. Most notable are the eye-patch and Trilby’s role as head of a peacekeeping organization similar to S.H.I.E.L.D.
10. The film’s release was met with protest from Arab-Americans. Upon the film’s release, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee staged a protest at a Washington D.C. theater claiming that the movie depicted “Arabs as violent, anti-American zealots.” The group called for a boycott of the movie and its removal from 54 Arab and Muslim countries. Similar protests against the film also took place in Los Angeles, Indianapolis and San Francisco.
11. Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to ride a horse into the Washington Monument’s reflection pool. During the horse racing sequence, James Cameron wanted Schwarzenegger to ride the horse through the Washington Monument’s reflection pool. The National Parks service didn’t see eye-to-eye with Cameron’s creative vision though and denied them the stunt.
12. True Lies is James Cameron’s Oscar sore spot. True Lies is James Cameron’s only film to have been nominated for an Oscar for “Best Visual Effects” and not win. Forrest Gump won that year.