True Lies 2 - Will It Ever Happen?

In 1994, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the height of his fame, arguably one of the biggest stars in Hollywood just a few years after the blockbuster success of "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." He returned to theaters that year in "True Lies," a raucous action-comedy that re-teamed him with his "Terminator" director James Cameron, himself in the middle of a run of success that's nearly unparalleled in Hollywood history, and paired him with "Halloween" scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis.

The film introduced audiences to Harry Tasker, a beefy but otherwise seemingly ordinary computer salesman, whose wife and daughter have no idea that he actually moonlights as a highly trained intelligence agent. And when a terrorist plot coincides with some big family problems, it creates a sticky situation for super-spy Tasker, who must find a way to save his marriage and save the world at the same time. An instant classic, "True Lies" was a smash hit too, and fans have been asking for a sequel ever since.

Despite the stars and director all trying to make it happen, repeated delays and problems behind the scenes have left audiences waiting nearly 30 years for a second film. So what happened? Why hasn't a "True Lies" sequel found its way to theaters, and is there a chance it will ever see the light of day? 

Why hasn't True Lies 2 happened yet?

More often than not, when a sequel is put on hold, it's because the first film didn't do well enough at the box office to justify going back to the well another time, but that's definitely not what's stopping "True Lies 2." After all, that film was a huge hit in theaters, more than tripling its budget en route to a nearly $400 million global cume. At the time, that was the second biggest hit for both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, behind only "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," and should have guaranteed it a quick sequel. 

Unfortunately, due to a confluence of problems, "True Lies 2" has wound up stalled for decades. First came Cameron's "Titanic," which took years of intense research on top of a lengthy production, and then real-world tragedy forced the notion of a sequel to the sidelines. "The idea of a 'True Lies' sequel has been around since the early 2000s," Schwarzenegger told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. "But then 9/11 happened, and we didn't do it because it had to do with a terrorist attack."

In 2003, Schwarzenegger was elected the governor of California, making any talk of a "True Lies" sequel moot, but once his two terms in office came to a close, fans got their hopes up that a follow-up might finally be in the works. "Exciting news. My friends at [talent agency] CAA have been asking me for seven years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light," he said in 2011. So what's the delay now?

All those production starts and stops

In 2002, "True Lies 2" felt like it was closing in on a start date, with Arnold Schwarzenegger saying production was ready to begin. "We'll shoot it next year. We have a good script," the star told Cinema Confidential. "There does need to be some changes because it deals with some terrorists act of some sort. But it's pretty much done."

Obviously, that shooting never happened, and in 2005, Schwarzenegger's co-star Tom Arnold spoke with Star Mag (via MovieWeb) and said that production was set to begin yet again, but now the problem was Schwarzenegger's availability. "We're doing it. Definitely doing it. I'm revved. Unlike 'Terminator,' which I think they're doing without Arnold, [James Cameron is] prepared to wait for the big guy. So am I. I've been waiting for 10 years now — I'm sure I can hang on a few more months." Of course, Schwarzenegger's re-election the following year once again delayed the project.

In 2010, though, Tom Arnold gave a radio interview on KISW 99.9 FM Seattle and brought word that a script for "True Lies 2" was finally ready to go once more, and he later told Collider that Schwarzenegger was finally in. Not long after, James Cameron announced that "True Lies 2" was indeed happening, with writing on a new script underway, and Schwarzenegger himself was said to be involved in shaping the story. But since the late '90s, all those rumored start dates came and went with nothing to show for it, while James Cameron's focus shifted to "Avatar" and its sequels.

What has the cast and crew said about True Lies 2?

For whatever it's worth, the cast and crew of "True Lies" always have something to say about the prospects of a sequel. From director James Cameron to members of the cast like Arnolds Tom and Schwarzenegger and even Jamie Lee Curtis, it seems that the biggest concern over a sequel is how real-life terrorism had changed Hollywood. 

"Since September 11, I've never felt comfortable generating laughs with nuke-toting Islamic fundamentalist terrorists," Cameron told Vulture in 2009. "'True Lies,' even though it has a cautionary thread underneath the pratfalls, is in a strange way a product of a more innocent time." Curtis too has also been concerned about how 9/11 would impact a sequel. "I don't think we could ever do another 'True Lies' after 9/11," Curtis said in 2019. "['True Lies'] was pre-9/11 so I wouldn't want to say we could make fun of terrorism, but we could make fun of terrorism because it was so outrageous, and, of course, we can't ever make fun of them ever again."

Within a few years though, Curtis changed her mind, expressing serious interest in reviving talks on a sequel in 2022, telling Entertainment Tonight, "I walked up to [Arnold] and was like, 'Dude, why aren't we doing another movie?" Insisting she was serious about getting the ball rolling on "True Lies 2," Curtis replied to the reporter's excitement over the prospect by telling her, "I'm going to call Jim [Cameron] today."

Who would star in a True Lies sequel?

Despite all the concerns over how to move forward with a "True Lies 2" due to real-world events, talk of a sequel has never really stopped. And from the very beginning, it was clear that if there was to be another movie in the franchise, it would only happen if it saw the return of at least its principal cast members, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold. 

All the way back in 2001, Tom Arnold declared his intention to return to the sequel, though worries about a looming strike complicated the shooting schedule. "When we get this damn strike figured out, we're going to shoot 'True Lies 2,'" he defiantly told Popcorn, while also announcing that the proposed follow-up film would be "better than the first." Jamie Lee Curtis meanwhile has been back and forth but always seems to be game for another effort. Even Eliza Dushku — who played daughter Dana years before she became a star on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" — has talked about wanting to return. 

"For a while, I was never even talking about it. Tom Arnold was always talking about it," Dushku told MTV in 2011. "And all of the sudden I started getting calls from the governor's office in L.A. saying, 'You aren't allowed to talk about 'True Lies', and we hear you're talking about the sequel.'" Regardless, the actress made clear where she stood on a possible return, saying, "Jim [Cameron] should give me a call, we should talk about it. I might consider being into it."

Tom Arnold has been a sequel's biggest champion

While the biggest stars of "True Lies" have spoken of the difficulty in bringing a sequel to life, supporting star Tom Arnold has never stopped trying to make it happen. The most passionate supporter of a follow-up project, Arnold has been banging the drum since day one, and he's been rallying to get things up and running even if it often felt like a Sisyphean task, probably hoping he could single-handedly will it into existence.

All the way back in February 2000, Ain't It Cool News reported that Tom Arnold had been talking up the sequel to "True Lies" with gusto on talk radio, insisting it would be filming that summer. But even the outlet seemed skeptical of Arnold's excitement, pointing out that Schwarzenegger was locked into a different movie that year and that if filming was that close, somebody would have heard about it. But that certainly wasn't the end of Arnold's eagerness.

In 2009, with Schwarzenegger midway through his second and final term as governor of California, Arnold began talking about production on the sequel starting imminently. Speaking with The New York Times, Arnold said, "All I know is Jim Cameron's making it, and Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and I are going to be in it, and it starts shooting in 14 months, the day after Arnold stops being governor of California. It's not going to be called 'True Lies 2', but it might as well be. I can live with that." Obviously, nothing came of all that talk, but the actor did manage to get a kind of sequel produced...

A True Lies sequel has (sort of) already happened

In the same way that Larry David used "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to produce a "Seinfeld" reunion, Tom Arnold starred in a film that brought to life a movie-within-a-movie that could be seen as a sequel to "True Lies." It all came about thanks to one diehard fan, Eric Gores, whose tech tycoon father, Alec Gores, used his wealth to make his son's Hollywood dreams come true. The result was the film "The Kid and I," a major meta story starring Tom Arnold as a beleaguered comic who helps a young neighbor realize his lifelong goal of starring in an action movie.

Gores suffers from cerebral palsy, and in the film, he plays Aaron Roman, a fictionalized version of himself, whose favorite movie is "True Lies." For his 18th birthday, Roman's wealthy father (Joe Mantegna) recruits local actor Bill Williams (Arnold) to help his son star in his very own action movie, which some have likened to a "True Lies" sequel. It's a feel-good movie that's as much about Roman and Gore's love of the action genre as it is about Arnold and his character's sagging career, which is buoyed by his newfound friendship with the upbeat teen. 

Uplifting, family-friendly, and well-made, "The Kid and I" is a delightful hidden gem, and any fan of "True Lies" will find lots to love if they can track it down.

What's stopping a True Lies sequel today?

Hollywood loves a franchise, but for decades, Tinseltown struggled to turn "True Lies" into the next great one as the sequel got mired in delays due to the scheduling of its stars and a seeming lack of interest from its original director. In the end, studio executives decided to take a different path to re-energize "True Lies," and the result was a TV series adaptation that serves as a total reboot of the story. 

In the series, which aired on CBS in 2023, Harry Tasker is played by Steve Howey ("Shameless") while Ginger Gonzaga ("She-Hulk: Attorney at Law") steps into the role of his wife, Helen. Though James Cameron is listed as a producer on the series, along with "Terminator Salvation" director McG, he doesn't seem to have had much input because according to fans and critics, it lacked all the fun, excitement, and charm of the film. The question remains, though, whether this TV series could hold back a sequel to the movie, and the answer is complicated.

Not quite as successful as the studio probably hoped, "True Lies" the series was handed a surprise cancelation after just one season. So while its abrupt ending leaves room for a new movie, the fact that it failed may worry Hollywood executives who fear audiences aren't interested in a return to the franchise.

How a True Lies sequel could still work

Should anyone think that the failure of the "True Lies" TV series is the result of lack of interest in the franchise, they obviously don't understand what fans loved about the original film. It wasn't just the clever story but the combination of Arnold's tough-talking double act as ordinary man turned super-spy Harry Tasker, Jamie Lee Curtis' unassuming but capable and sassy Helen, and James Cameron's impeccable direction, which delivered fun, fast-paced adventure and over-the-top, explosive action.

If there is going to be a "True Lies 2," though, now might actually be the perfect time for it to finally come to life. Arnold Schwarzenegger is still in prime shape, even in his 70s, and fit enough to return as an older Harry Tasker, perhaps forced to come out of retirement for one more mission amid the complicated geopolitical landscape of the 2020s. Likewise, Jamie Lee Curtis proved with the recent "Halloween" trilogy that she can still play an action-oriented, butt-kicking hero. And with Hollywood seeing huge results with legacy sequels, the three decade-wait that's created pent-up demand might actually help a follow-up succeed.

And with "Terminator: Dark Fate" failing at the box office despite the presence of both producer Cameron and star Schwarzenegger, both could use a win to prove they can revive one of their former franchises. It might be a tall ask to get Cameron to delay his "Avatar" sequels to get him in the director's chair, but for it to be done right, he needs to be at the helm.