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True Lies Turns 30: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cameron's Schwarzenegger Classic

True Lies turns 30 this year, so we dug up some fascinating facts about James Cameron's action-comedy. 

By Tara Bennett

It's crazy to process, but James Cameron's True Lies turns 30 this year. Up until this release, Cameron's resume of films was comprised of horror, sci-fi, or action films, each sprinkled with a bit of humor via the characters. However, True Lies was a departure for the writer/director as it mashed together a quasi-rom-com with an action film, which audiences loved. Yes, it's a very muscular rom-com. But the rekindling of the sparks in the marriage of Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a core conceit of the film, which earned it a lot of atypical laughs and charm.

With True Lies now streaming on Peacock, SYFY WIRE dug into the archives to find some fascinating facts about the making of the action classic that you may not know. 

5 things you might not know about James Cameron's True Lies

Arnold admits he could have died on True Lies

Arnold Schwarzenegger Getty

A decade ago, on Arnold Schwarzenegger's official Reddit page, the actor revealed to his fans that True Lies was a film that almost took him out, for good. And in turn, it solidified his appreciation for the work of his stunt doubles. 

"On True Lies, you probably remember the horse scene. There was a shot where the horse had to stop at the edge of a building," Schwarzenegger wrote. "They built a little ramp to give the horse longer to stop. But when they were measuring the new distance from the ramp to the camera, they dropped the arm of the camera on the horse's nose, and it went crazy, spinning and rearing. There was no rail, and the ramp was only 4 feet wide. I realized it was a bad situation and I slid off the horse right away and a stunt man grabbed me. That one was really scary. If the horse stepped a foot the wrong way, we would have fallen 90 feet to a cement floor."

RELATED: True Lies: How James Cameron Pulled Off That Explosive Bridge Scene (Without CGI)

The bridge stunt was a "one and done" shot

One of the most memorable action sequences in all of film is the in-camera stunt of Harry dangling from a helicopter while grabbing Helen from the limo she's in before it flies off a bridge in the Florida Keys. In the recent documentary, “Fear is Not an Option: A Look Back at ‘True Lies," produced for the 4K release, Curtis and Cameron explain how incredibly difficult it was to get the timing right for the stunt. During the wide shot of the scene, Cameron was behind the camera in a helicopter that had difficult sight lines for the moving car carrying stuntwoman Donna Keegan. But at the last second, everything aligned for the shot, "a one and done," according to Cameron. Curtis then got in the rig and shot the reactions post stunt as she too dangled from a helicopter. 

James Cameron threatened to quit to support Tom Arnold

True Lies (1994) PRESS

In the podcast, James Cameron: An Oral History, actor Tom Arnold shared the story of Cameron having to fight to cast him in True Lies as Harry's partner, Albert "Gib" Gibson. "He went in there and said we found the third guy after Arnold and Jamie Lee... And he said, 'It's Tom Arnold.' And they're like, 'That's horrible news!'" Arnold recounted.

The studio argued that Arnold hadn't done enough to earn the spot and that the actor's divorce from Rosanne Barr was full of tabloid drama they didn't want for the film. Arnold said that Cameron did the best thing anyone's ever done for him by fighting for him to be cast. 

"Jim said, 'No, I don't read the tabloids. But I wrote this and he is the guy.'" The studio refused to approve the hire, until Cameron threatened to take the whole production to Paramount. And that's how Arnold got the role that reframed his whole career for the better. 

RELATED: True Lies is James Cameron at His Absolute Wildest

Jamie Lee Curtis improvised her seduction dance 

Jamie Lee Curtis

In the sequence where Helen is tasked with seducing Harry, the dance that resulted was not one that was rehearsed or planned... in the slightest, Curtis told the People in the '90s podcast.

"The thing that nobody knows: There was no rehearsal, there is no choreographer," Curtis said. "Jim [Cameron] said to me, 'What do you want to dance to?' It was when John Hiatt's Bring the Family album was out and I said, 'There's a song called 'Alone in the Dark' that has this really funky rhythm,' And I said, 'I really like that song.' And that's what they played."

True Lies knocked out Speed at the box office

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) drives an aircraft in True Lies (1994)

In 1994, there were two major, R-rated action films battling for the box office crown as the biggest money maker of the year. They were both released by Twentieth Century Fox: Speed and True Lies. Both crowd-pleasing, summer blockbuster entries, Speed came out on June 10, while True Lies dropped July 15. It was a tight competition, but per Box Office MojoSpeed came in second, grossing $121,248,145 domestically, while True Lies inched ahead with $146,282,411 in receipts. 

Revisit the fun of True Lies, or check out other amazing action-adventure titles in the Peacock library now!