Arnold Schwarzenegger's biggest challenge for the movie was not doing all the physical stunts, but dancing a tango. He had to take dancing lessons to realistically perform the dance. He rehearsed the dance scene for about six months. He wanted to make sure he was as good at the tango as Al Pacino was in Scent of a Woman (1992).
When Harry tells Gib that Helen is having an affair, Gib tells a story about his second wife taking everything when she left him - he says, "What kind of sick bitch takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?" This is a reference to Tom Arnold's divorce from Roseanne Barr - she was reported to have taken his ice cube trays when she left him, too.
Tom Arnold didn't expect to get a role in the movie, and went to the audition mostly for the chance to meet director James Cameron. Cameron liked Arnold, despite 20th Century-Fox's objections (Arnold's reputation at the time wasn't positive, mostly due to his public antics with then-wife Roseanne Barr), and Cameron threatened to not make the movie at all, if Arnold couldn't be cast. When Arnold later learned about this, he was grateful to Cameron for taking a chance on him.
The set of bra and matching panties worn by Helen Tasker during the striptease scene were Jamie Lee Curtis' own. Additionally, the fall that she takes in the middle of the dance was unscripted, and that is hinted at when Harry sits up in alarm, then relaxes.
The appearance and traits of Spencer Trilby (Charlton Heston) is based on Nick Fury, a Marvel Comics character. Like Fury, Trilby has an eye-patch and the same mannerisms as well as heading a peacekeeping organization. At one point, Cameron wanted to be a comic book penciller, and does alot of his own concept art. He even designed the entire T-800 exoskeleton.
James Cameron originally hired a team of writers to help him come up with the film's jokes. However, after being mostly unsatisfied with their work, Cameron let them go and decided to try his own hand at comedy. He rewrote the script from scratch and kept only two jokes from the team of writers (one of which being Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous "You're fired!" line).
In an interview, James Cameron says that the script was brought to him by Arnold Schwarzenegger who said that he wanted to do it because he thought the Tasker character was interesting. Cameron was shocked because he had never seen Scwarzenegger pick a script based solely on his interest in a character and decided that he saw the same thing and made the movie.
A sequel to True Lies (1994) was once in the works, which would've reunited the principal cast as well as been directed by James Cameron, who directed the first movie. A script was even ready for this sequel, and had the movie been made, it would've been released sometime in 2002. The sequel idea was eventually scrapped (or at least indefinitely shelved) due to script problems as well the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Cameron even said in an interview that he dropped his sequel plans because "in this day and age, terrorism just isn't funny anymore".
Many problems plagued the shooting of the opening sequence: the mansion scene was filmed on an extremely cold night and the mansion itself was not heated; all of the women wore dresses with nothing underneath and a costume change room was set up outside in the cold; kerosene lamps were used to heat the tents; one of the extra's blouses caught fire. For their suffering through the harsh cold that night, the extras were paid an additional $50.
At one point in the film, Tasker uses a Mk II hand grenade to kill several terrorists. For those wondering where this grenade came from, it was originally in the script that Juno put a grenade between Helen's legs, saying all she has to do is keep her legs closed, which Helen remarks is a problem Juno seems to have. When the two escape, Harry re-pinned the grenade using Helens diamond earring for use again later. They cut this scene out of the film, causing this grenade's presence to be a continuity error, however the scene remains in the novelization by Dewey Gram and Duane Dell'Amico. This grenade, complete with the earring in place of the pin, is prominently visible on many of the posters for the movie and on the region 2 DVD cover.
Originally, the writers wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger's character during the horse chase sequence to chase after the suspect through the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument. The National Parks Service refused to allow that to happen.
When Harry explains that his code name will be "Boris," Helen responds that hers should be "Natasha," in reference to Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons. Instead, Harry offers "Doris" instead. Fantasy artist and bodybuilder Boris Vallejo, whom Arnold Schwarzenegger admired, was at the time married to a woman named Doris.
Arnold Schwarzenegger came to James Cameron with the idea for the film, when they had breakfast together. Which Schwarzenegger had watched a French film entitled La totale! (1991) about a secret agent, whose wife thinks he is a telecommunications employee and they decided to remake the film as "True Lies" with Arnold in the lead role of secret agent Harry Tasker.
The just after dawn sequence on the bridge, where the truck teeters on the edge and a pelican knocks it in, was actually filmed just before dusk. Therefore instead of the limo fight and trucks falling into the water facing east toward the rising sun, they were all facing the setting sun in the west.
"True Lies" was the first film to be released in the US in 1994 with the new Twentieth Century Fox logo at the front, however other countries did not see the new logo - as the film was distributed by Universal Pictures in most other territories. This is attributed to the fact that the film was financed by James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment - who sold off the non-US rights.
When asked during an interview whether his wife was bothered by him sitting there watching Jamie Lee Curtis strip, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that she asked him about it and he assured her "Honey, I hated every hour of it!"
Harry accuses Simon of being the known terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Bill Paxton, who plays Simon, does bear a passing resemblance to Carlos aka Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who was captured in 1994, the same year this movie came out.
Right after Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leaves the art gallery toward the beginning of the film, Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik) slaps Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere) across the face, saying, "Sharmoota!". This is Arabic for "Bitch!".
When the film was initially released, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee was one of several groups to hold a protest at a Washington, D.C., theater. The groups attacked the film for its "depiction of Middle Easterners as homicidal, religious zealots". A demand for the boycott of the movie was called, as well as a ban of its distribution in fifty-four Arab and Muslim countries.
As Gib and the others approach the Florida Keys in the jet, the pilot Mike Cameron, speaking to Air Traffic Control, uses the callsign "Jetstar 6479 Delta". N6479D was the tail number of a Cessna 172 at the flight school in Bermuda Dunes, CA where Cameron learned to fly.
In an early version of the script, Harry discovers Dana ditching school to sing in her boyfriend's band. While Harry drives Dana back to school, they sing the song she was doing ("Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream) when he walked in on her. Both scenes were cut from the movie. Instead, you can faintly hear the song playing on Dana's Walkman in the scene before her boyfriend picks her up for school.
Theatrical trailer shows two deleted scenes; Harry's boss Spencer talking on phone and saying "Mr. President, one of our best men is inside" and additional scene between Juno and Harry where she tries to seduce him while Gib is talking to him over the radio.
Cinematographer Russell Carpenter says that he became an overnight name after "20 years of swimming upstream in very obscure rivers" when James Cameron decided to hire a relative unknown to shoot True Lies.
During the motorcycle/horse chase scene, the elevators rode at the Marriott hotel in Washington, DC, are actually at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, also used in the climax scene of In the Line of Fire (1993).
In the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Harry Tasker is a secret agent, whose wife and daughter thinks he is a computer salesman. In his earlier Total Recall (1990), his character Douglas Quaid, is a construction worker who discovers he is a secret agent.
James Cameron described his creative process as "what I'm good at is working with actors to create scenes and then editing they're performances to get the absolute best vibrating version of that scene and then share that with the audience. It's an amazing process to go through. Sometimes you think it's not going to work when you get started and then the characters come to life."
James Cameron: [White Frame] When Helen punches Harry in the face, a single solid white frame is spliced in at the moment of impact. This film trick accurately conveys the flash a person sees when they get hit in the head. It was also used in The Abyss (1989) when Cat punches Coffey in the face, and in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) when Sarah clocks Douglas in the face with the mop handle.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Jamie Lee Curtis performed the helicopter rescue scene herself. At her insistence, director James Cameron agreed to let her perform this scary spectacle. According to Jamie Lee Curtis, on the TV special promoting "True Lies", it was Cameron's idea for her to do the helicopter work; she said, "Oh, yeah. And just where are you going to be while I'm dangling way up there in the air, Jim?" And, according to her, he said, "Hanging out the door filming you with a hand-held camera." So she decided that if he was willing to do that to get the shot, she could stand to do it, too. Curtis did the helicopter stunt on her birthday.
During the shoot out at the Marriott Hotel, one of the terrorist killed makes another appearance after that. When Helen starts to shoot and drops the gun, there is a bald terrorist shot and killed, he is the same one killed in the earlier scene at the Marriott, during which he has hair.
The bridge that was blown up was an 80' model of the 7 Mile Bridge. The old bridge (where they did the shot) was already "blown up", when they opened the new bridge. The bridge had sections removed so that taller boats could pass through without the need for a drawbridge.
A full scale model of a Harrier was built for all close shots of Arnold Schwarzenegger flying the plane; it was puppeteered from a crane on a nearby building which was painted out with CGI. (As the Harrier lands in the street, dust and debris stirred up by its jetblast is all done in CGI; the CGI blast swirls up a CGI piece of paper which is sucked into the Harrier's CGI air compressor fan)