The Time A Billionaire Funded A ‘True Lies’ Sequel for His Son
Further proving that the modern Hollywood development process simply consists of Googling photos of Blockbuster Video aisles from 1996, we’re getting a new TV show this week based on the nearly 30-year-old James Cameron hit movie/racist fantasy True Lies.
The CBS series is seemingly a straight-up remake of the original story — but this time, it’s about a secret agent who isn’t an abnormally-ripped Austrian muscleman conspicuously claiming to be a mild-mannered computer salesman. And despite it not being a continuation of the original movie, the producers still found a role for Tom Arnold, possibly because he just showed up to the set one day like a bear at a picnic.
But this isn’t the first time that Arnold has returned to the True Lies well. Back in 2005, Arnold wrote and starred in a movie called The Kid & I, which is bizarrely about a Tom Arnold-like actor who is played by Tom Arnold, and co-starred in the movie True Lies like Tom Arnold, but is confusingly not named Tom Arnold.
The movie begins with the unemployed, suicidal actor “Bill Williams” being hired by a billionaire to write and produce a follow-up to True Lies (presumably after everyone else involved in the original, from James Cameron to the caterer, turned it down). But the film is really a well-financed vanity project for the billionaire’s son, Aaron (played by Eric Gores), who Bill eventually learns has cerebral palsy. Oh, and Shaq shows up for some reason.
Cementing The Kid & I as the unhinged True Lies reunion no one asked for, at the very end of the movie, at Bill and Aaron’s big premiere for Two Spies, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis show up as themselves and… seemingly take credit for Bill’s good fortune? At which point, in an apparent postmodern twist, Tom Arnold seems to become aware of the artifice of this happy ending, questioning the nature of his own reality, only to be reassured by the God-like gatekeepers of this dimension who, again, are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.
If all this wasn’t mind-bending enough, the story of The Kid & I is just a loose approximation of how the movie was actually made here in the real world — that is, Arnold was hired by his tech billionaire neighbor Alec Gores to write a movie for his son Eric, who really has cerebral palsy. Why? Gores told Arnold at the time that his son “loves the movie True Lies, and he wants to be in a movie like that.”
Gores’ deep pockets allowed for a genuine motion picture production. Wayne’s World’s Penelope Spheeris was hired to direct, and the cast included legit actors like Henry Winkler, Linda Hamilton and Joe Mantegna. And while Arnold had ideas for True Lies 2, he ultimately turned them into a movie within a larger movie that recounted the story of how he got the job in the first place. So weirdly, this vanity project, intended purely to let a rich kid pretend to be a Schwarzenegger-esque superspy, suddenly shifted to focus on the existential ennui of being Tom Arnold in the early 2000s.
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