Upon its release in 1994, James Cameron’s True Lies was said to be the film to put whatever nails needed putting in the coffin of the James Bond series. It was an easy conclusion to reach at the time, not least because 007 had been in limbo since 1989’s Licence To Kill. Of course 1995’s GoldenEye would, not for the last time, see Bond reinvent itself to cope with more modern threats (as Daniel Craig’s Bond did in the Jason Bourne era and again post-The Dark Knight).
True Lies, however, was all set up to launch a brand new spy series. It gave Arnold Schwarzenegger a slightly different role and Cameron proved that he was the director who could get the most out of him.
I can’t say I was ever a massive fan of True Lies in truth, and tonally it feels a backward step from Cameron’s other big movies. But it was a huge hit, grossing over $370 million at a point when very few films got anywhere near that number.
Unsurprisingly, sequel talk began.
James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both interested in putting another one together, and both independently had spoken about the project. That said, Cameron’s next film would end up taking an inordinate amount of time. He moved from True Lies to his long-cherished Titanic movie, a film that was time-intensive to begin with, before the heavily reported delays to the movie kicked in.
Titanic‘s eventual release at the end of 1997 turned Cameron’s career in a different direction. It became the first film to ever break $600 million at the American box office, won 11 Oscars, and its 3D re-release in 2012 pushed its cinema takings over the $2 billion mark. Only Cameron’s Avatar, made a decade later, has ever beaten that.
That said, there still seemed to be a plan to follow Titanic with True Lies 2, and that was said at one point to be Cameron’s next project. However, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 changed his mind.
Cameron has said several times over the past decade that this was the point where he decided that it’d be wrong to press ahead with True Lies 2.
And that seemed to be that.
However, rumors kept springing up. Back in 2009, ahead of his huge success with Avatar, James Cameron was part of a panel at San Diego Comic-Con. It was to promote the film that would go on to gross over $2.5 billion worldwide, but a member of the audience that day asked him about True Lies 2. Cameron’s answer was that Arnold Schwarzenegger was tied up being Governor of California, but “who knows after that.”
Further fuel was poured on the fire by Tom Arnold. He went on to reveal that once Schwarzenegger’s term of office was up, work was set to begin on True Lies 2.
That said, at the time, Ain’t It Cool News got in touch with James Cameron to find out if Tom Arnold was correct. “I think Tom was joking,” he wrote. “There are no plans for a True Lies 2. I don’t know about the creative direction thing… I’m always down for a good action/comedy (actually we always classified the film as a ‘domestic epic’). But since September 11, I’ve never felt comfortable generating laughs with nuke-toting Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. True Lies, even though it has a cautionary thread underneath the pratfalls, is in a strange way a product of a more innocent time.”
And that’s been the cycle ever since. A rumor springs up, sometimes with Tom Arnold behind it, and it gets shot down for similar reasons.
The closest we seemed to get to more True Lies was when the possibility of a spin-off TV series bubbled up, back in September 2010. As Deadline reported, James Cameron was involved, was adapting the film for TV, and subsequently John Cena was linked with the lead role. But that never came to pass, and talk of the project has quietly fallen away.
James Cameron’s focus, for the next five or six years at least, is going to be something like four more Avatar movies, and he is returning to the Terminator universe, as well. But it’s hard to see True Lies 2 ever happening now.
After all, Bond is happily reinvented and more popular than ever at the box office. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who arguably needs True Lies 2 more than Cameron does, isn’t the guaranteed box office draw that he once was (he has made murmurings that he’d be interested in the film if it ever happened though). And James Cameron, at the points where he may have been tempted to give True Lies 2 a chance, has enjoyed the two biggest movie hits of all time.
That he’s a filmmaker who has the clout to make any film he wants, combined with his political unease over making a sequel, is what’s ultimately stopped True Lies 2 from ever happening. And it sounds like it’s stopped it for good.