No, Mr. Schwarzenegger... we expect you to dance. Twenty-eight years ago, Hollywood's biggest action star got his tango on in the James Bond-inspired action hit True Lies, which premiered in theaters on July 15, 1994. And the movie's director, James Cameron, knew that cutting a rug would really test his leading man's mettle. "I sent him the script and in the margins, I put an arrow to the tango scene that said, 'This is your most dangerous stunt,'" the director told Yahoo Entertainment in 2019. "I think he took that to heart, because he did learn how to tango!"
Schwarzenegger's dancing partner in that scene was none other than breakout Wayne's World star Tia Carrere, and the Hawaiian actress cracks up when informed that she holds the honor of being the former Terminator's most dangerous stunt. "I was the most dangerous stunt Arnold Schwarzenegger had to do in True Lies?" Carrere says, laughing. "That's hilarious!" (Watch our video interview above.)
But Carrere — who will next be seen in the comedy Easter Sunday, due in theaters Aug. 5 — does admit that there was definitely some danger involved in their pas de deux, which gets the film off to a killer start. "He did step on my toes," she reveals now. Fortunately, no lasting damage was done by her co-star, who rocketed to fame as a heavyweight-class bodybuilder and maintained that super-sized physique throughout his Hollywood career. "It would have been dangerous if I had broken my toes, I suppose, because that would have put us back 30 days in the production."
Despite being caught flat-footed by his occasional toe-steps, Carrere gives Schwarzenegger high overall marks as a dancing companion. "I think Arnold did an amazing job in the tango," she says, disagreeing with Cameron that the tango was the one stunt Schwarzenegger couldn't pull off. "He has great posture, and that's all you really need."
As for Carrere's most dangerous True Lies stunt, she points to a scene towards the end of the film where her alter ego — terrorist affiliated art dealer Juno Skinner — tangles with Jamie Lee Curtis's Helen Tasker, the previously demure wife of Schwarzenegger's secret agent, Harry Tasker. Fed up with her life's lack of adventure, and angry about her husband's unexplained absences, Helen inadvertently gets caught up in Harry's latest spy game, which pits the couple against an Islamic terrorist group called the Crimson Jihad. In the movie's grandly orchestrated climax, the Taskers have to survive an all-out assault in the Florida Keys that involves cars, helicopters and a Harrier jet.
"I throw [Helen] into a limousine to take her hostage in the final sequence," Carrere says of Juno's role in that firepower-heavy finale. "We're supposed to peel out in the limo, and the helicopter is supposed to land exactly where we are. Well, we're in the car, and the driver goes to start the car, but it doesn't start! The helicopter's coming down and explosions are going on outside. Jamie was like, 'Where's the walkie-talkie? Stop, stop — the limo can't start!' Then the helicopter goes back up. That was real-life terrifying."
Not unlike the James Bond franchise, True Lies has been criticized over the years for a portrayal of female characters that some consider misogynistic. Helen is famously forced to perform a striptease sequence in the film while Harry watches — a sequence that at least one critic described as "embarrassing" — while Juno herself is slapped and insulted by the movie's male villain. Marvel's female-fronted 2019 blockbuster Captain Marvel took a knowing shot at True Lies with a visual gag that implicitly called the film out for its treatment of women.
But Carrere, at least, disputes the idea that True Lies indulges in misogyny. "Oh, I don't think so," she says when asked if she feels her character was objectified. "I think Juno's a badass killer, and you should cross her and see what happens when you get a high-heeled shoe in your eye!"
"Jim Cameron draws incredible female characters," Carrere continues, pointing to Sarah Connor in The Terminator among others. "Jamie Lee and I are very strong female characters." She also disagrees with the idea that Helen's striptease was an embarrassing scene for Curtis to have to perform. "I thought that was a cute thing with a wife doing that for a husband and the subterfuge between them as secret agents. I don't think there was anything misogynistic about the roles in True Lies whatsoever."
For the record, Curtis feels the same way. Speaking with In Style earlier this year, the Everything Everywhere All At Once scene-stealer said that shooting the striptease was "the most badass I ever felt" on a movie set. "It was a powerful experience that nobody else could take credit for — it was just me, the music, three cameras, and approximately 100 dudes," Curtis noted. "At one point I was hanging on to the bedpost and it got a little too sexy for the director [James Cameron]. He came up to me and whispered in my ear, "Will you let go of the pole?" He understood that Helen stumbling in her seductive dance would remind everybody that it was a comedy, after all. It will always be the single greatest laugh I'll ever get in my life."
And, once again, no toes were harmed in the making of that scene.
Easter Sunday opens Aug. 5 in theaters. True Lies is not currently available to stream, but can be purchased on DVD on Amazon.