Character: Helen Tasker
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron
Produced by: James Cameron, Stephanie Austin
Cast Members: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Art Malik, Tia Carrere
Released date: July 15, 1994
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Secretly a spy but thought by his family to be a dull salesman, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is tracking down nuclear missiles in the possession of Islamic jihadist Aziz (Art Malik). Harry's mission is complicated when he realizes his neglected wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), is contemplating an affair with Simon (Bill Paxton), a used-car salesman who claims he's a spy. When Aziz kidnaps Harry and Helen, the secret agent must save the world and patch up his marriage at the same time.
Harry Tasker leads a double life: to his legal secretary wife Helen and his rebellious daughter Dana, he is a boring computer salesman often away on business trips, while in actuality he is a secret agent for a U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence agency named Omega Sector. Harry, along with fellow Agents Albert “Gib” Gibson and Faisil, infiltrate a party in Switzerland hosted by billionaire Jamal Khaled, where Harry meets beautiful art dealer Juno Skinner. Eventually they learn that Juno is not only Khaled’s art dealer, but that she is being paid by an Islamic terrorism group called “Crimson Jihad”, led by Salim Abu Aziz. Harry visits her undercover as a potential buyer to learn more, leading Aziz and his men to attempt to kill him. Harry fights them off, but loses Aziz in pursuit. As a result, he misses the birthday party that his wife and daughter had planned for him.
Harry goes to Helen’s office the next day to smooth things over and surprise her for lunch, but overhears her making secret arrangements to meet a man named Simon. Suspecting Helen is having an affair, he uses Omega Sector resources to learn that Simon is a used car salesman who pretends to be a covert agent to flirt with women. In disguise, Harry and other Omega agents kidnap Helen and Simon. After terrifying Simon into keeping away from Helen, Harry and Gib interrogate Helen using a voice masking device and learn that she is desperately seeking adventure because of Harry’s constant absences. Harry thus arranges for Helen to participate in a staged spy mission, where she is to seduce a mysterious figure (who is actually Harry himself) and plant a bug in his hotel room. Aziz’s men suddenly burst in, kidnap the couple, and take them to an island in the Florida Keys.
On the island, Harry’s suspicions about Juno are confirmed: Crimson Jihad paid her to help them smuggle four stolen MIRV nuclear warheads into the country by hiding them in priceless antique statues. Aziz demands that the United States remove all U.S. military forces from the Persian Gulf forever or else he will detonate a warhead each week in a major U.S. city. He also says he will detonate one warhead on the uninhabited island to demonstrate that Crimson Jihad is a nuclear power. Before he and Helen are tortured, Harry is administered a truth serum and confesses his double life to Helen. They escape to watch as one warhead is set to explode in 90 minutes and the others are loaded onto vehicles to be taken into the U.S. via the Overseas Highway, thus bypassing U.S. Customs. Harry and Helen get separated in the ensuing melee where Harry kills most of the terrorists, but Aziz gets away with one of the warheads. Helen is caught by Juno and taken in a limousine following the convoy. Gib and other Omega agents pick up Harry and they use two Marine Harrier Jump Jets to stop the convoy by destroying part of the Seven Mile Bridge. Harry rescues Helen from Juno’s limo before it careens into the ocean below, killing Juno.
The warhead left on the island detonates in front of the public without killing anyone. Gib tells Harry that Aziz and his men are holding Dana hostage in a downtown Miami skyscraper and are threatening to detonate their last warhead. Harry commandeers one of the Harriers to rescue his daughter. Faisil gets into the building by posing as part of a news team requested by Aziz. When he kills several of Aziz’s men, Dana steals the missile control key and flees to the building’s roof, eventually climbing a tower crane and threatening to drop the key to the street. Aziz pursues and nearly catches her before Harry arrives. Harry rescues a shocked Dana and after a tense struggle with Aziz, he eventually has him ensnared on the end of one of the plane’s missiles, which Harry fires at a terrorist helicopter, killing Aziz and the remnants of Crimson Jihad. Harry, Helen, and Dana are then safely reunited.
A year later, Harry and Helen are working together as Omega agents. While on a mission at a formal party, they encounter Simon, working as a waiter and pretending to be a spy as before. He runs away in fear after they reveal themselves and threaten to kill him. They dance a passionate tango while waiting for their contact and with Gib pleading with them to take their work seriously.
• When he said ‘I Do,’ he never said what he did.
→ Jamie Lee Curtis performed the helicopter rescue scene herself. 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?” He replied, “Hanging out the door filming you with a hand-held camera.” She decided that if he was willing to do that to get the shot, she could stand to do it, too. Notably, Curtis did the helicopter stunt on November 22, 1993 – her 35th birthday.
→ The set of bra and matching panties worn by Helen Tasker during the striptease scene were Jamie Lee Curtis’s own. Curtis rehearsed the scene extensively with director James Cameron, and it was there that the fall she makes in the middle of the dance was conceived (it didn’t happen spontaneously during the actual shooting, as is often claimed). Arnold Schwarzenegger was not told of this beforehand, and this is hinted at when Harry briefly sits up in alarm, realizes that he is breaking character, and then relaxes. They did another take with the same gag, but Harry’s reaction didn’t look as spontaneous.
→ During the press tour for Halloween H20, Jamie Lee Curtis called the film “without question, the greatest experience of my professional life so far” and referred to Helen Tasker as the greatest part she’d done to date.
→ The striptease scene drew some criticism for its perceived misogynistic content. Director James Cameron later said that Jamie Lee Curtis had heavy input in how the scene was played out. The original idea was for Helen to go completely nude, but in the dark so that only her silhouette would be seen. It was actually Curtis’s own suggestion to do it in full light while keeping her underwear on. She demonstrated it to Cameron beforehand, who remarked that he was reminded there what is so cool about his job. He also noted that most of the criticism of the scene came from men, while most of the female reviewers praised it as an empowering and even liberating scene for Helen.
→ Jamie Lee Curtis won a Golden Globe for her performance as Helen Tasker.
→ Jamie Lee Curtis said that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s contract was that he received top billing, so that the film would credit himself, show the movie’s title, and Jamie Lee Curtis’s credit would be next. Once James Cameron finished editing the film and saw that the film was really “a domestic epic, […] a film about a marriage,” he phoned Arnold Schwarzenegger and asked him if it would be okay to put Jamie Lee Curtis’s name before the title as well. Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately agreed. As Jamie Lee Curtis said, “The credit is such a coveted, negotiable, commodity” in the world of show business that for Arnold Schwarzenegger to give her billing before the title “was a real mensch move on his part.”
→ The role of Helen Tasker was written with Jamie Lee Curtis in mind.
→ Jamie Lee Curtis exercised every day to prepare for this role.
→ Though James Cameron is heavily involved with film preservation and home media releases of his filmography, True Lies notably has not received any official domestic releases on Blu-Ray or 4K UHD. The existing Blu-Rays in circulation are merely bootlegs taken from the 2004 D-Theatre (a very short–lived HD format on VHS) release. James Cameron has claimed that a restoration and proper HD release is in the works for years, though he later said he’s uncomfortable with the film’s legacy with regards to its portrayal of middle eastern terrorism.
♦ Fear is not an option.