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Untruthful Truths: About the 'GoldenEye' and 'True Lies' script myth

Updated: Nov 24, 2021



One of the many myths regarding the production of GOLDENEYE is tied to the James Cameron spy flick TRUE LIES, released one year earlier than Pierce Brosnan's Bond debut in 1994 and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker, a CIA operative who evades bullets and dangerous terrorists while pretending to be a computer salesman to the eyes of his wife Helen and his daughter Anna.


The immense success of the film, which included Bond alumni Peter Lamont as production designer, prompted many people to compare Tasker to 007 himself, particularly since the very first scene homages the earlier minutes of GOLDFINGER, probably the most popular Bond film ever released. During the premiere after party at Planet Hollywood, Schwarzenegger himself jokingly told 007 MAGAZINE managing editor Graham Rye that he felt Bond was already past his sell-by date and that heroes like Tasker were more appropriate for the 90s, although Rye defended that these new heroes were heavily inspired by the style that Bond popularized (a mix of action, humour, womanizing, and great stunts).


By early 1994 and late 1995, once Pierce Brosnan was announced as James Bond, rumours came that the new James Bond film "GOLDEN EYE" (sic) would suffer many rewrites because it "looked very similar to James Cameron's TRUE LIES". Far from staying behind, these rumours still circulate on many web pages 26 years later and presented as "a trivia fact".

GOLDENEYE's first draft, written by Michael France and dated January 1994, had hardly any similarities with TRUE LIES: much like the final film, it deals with a former British agent (kind of mentor figure to Bond) defecting to the Russians after betraying 007 (and agents 003 and 005) during a failed rescue operation and given diplomatic immunity by the country, running a SMERSH-like operation in the new Russia. His target is the World Trade Center, as he wants to hurt the dollar currency to make a massive financial strike against the West, using a satellite weapon developed by the Russians (in this case, it's called the "Tempest"). Another draft, dated 21 November 1994, credited to Michael France and Jeffrey Caine with revisions by Bruce Feirstein, is much closer to the final film: there are simply more dialogues and the deleted scenes available since they were included as additional material on the Ultimate Edition DVDs from 2006.


None of them featured remotely similar things to TRUE LIES, which deals with Islamic terrorists as the main antagonists plotting to smuggle nuclear warheads into the United States. Other than Switzerland, Arnold's character hardly visits other place than the Florida Keys. Needless to say, Bond is not married, has no kids, and the villain's plan is more grandiloquent and elaborated than what we could call a standard terrorism case. Similarly, GOLDENEYE takes Bond to places like Monaco, Russia and the Caribbean. The France draft included a pre-credits sequence on a train going through the French countryside, omitted Monaco and had Moscow instead of St Petersburg and a fictional island known as "St Latrelle" replacing Cuba. The only really similar thing any of these drafts has with TRUE LIES is that there's a point in the France script where Bond rides on horseback over the Red Square escaping from the Russian militia, yet there's nothing more than that. Hardly a similarity that would have caused a whole script to be rewritten.


Other sources point out that it wasn't the script that had similarities to the Cameron film, but that its success forced the producers to increase the spectacularity of the action scenes to match the ones of this production. So, what about this? We got in touch with Jeff Kleeman, who knew the production of GOLDENEYE from the inside as he was MGM/UA's Vice-president from 1993 to 1999, and he categorically denied both things:


"I saw and loved TRUE LIES when it premiered, but it had zero effect on the development and production of GOLDENEYE. We originally plotted more action sequences than we ultimately shot. You always develop lots of action sequences for Bond movies because memorable action sequences are one of the pleasures of Bond movies, a pleasure that predated TRUE LIES by decades.


However, we had a very limited budget for GOLDENEYE so we ended up shooting fewer action sequences, not more, than we’d originally hoped to shoot. And remember, we had nothing close to TRUE LIES extravagant budget (it cost at least twice as much as GOLDENEYE) – Cameron’s was a different approach to action cinema that we had no interest in competing with.


The only argument one can make that TRUE LIES was even thought about during the production of GOLDENEYE is that some folks at MGM took the stance that it had been many years since there was an impactful Bond film and during that time, Spielberg, Cameron, Donner, The Scott Bros, Woo, Miller etc. had so changed the aesthetics of action cinema that Bond films and their approach had become obsolete. Obviously, Barbara (Broccoli), Michael (G Wilson), Martin (Campbell), Bruce (Feirstein), Pierce (Brosnan) and the rest of us on the Bond team disagreed. Thus, Martin opened GOLDENEYE with a stunt that was the antithesis of what Cameron, The Scotts, Woo, Spielberg & co. were doing, a stunt that clearly stated: this is a movie made in 1995, but most importantly, it’s also classic Bond. That was, of course, the bungee jump, shot without cuts or CGI, our nod to moments like Bond skiing off the cliff in the opening of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bond franchise influenced TRUE LIES, but it certainly wasn’t the other way around."




While TRUE LIES' box office numbers surpassed those of GOLDENEYE, Arnold was certainly wrong with the fact that Tasker could make people forget 007, as the success of the 17th James Bond adventure film convinced MGM/UA that James Bond was their most valuable asset, and they quickly went to work on TOMORROW NEVER DIES, the second Brosnan Bond film. On the other hand, there were rumours regarding a sequel for TRUE LIES between 1999 and 2001, but for different reasons this was not made. Deadline recently reported that a TV series based on the 1994 film, written by BURN NOTICE's Matt Nix. Since the release of GOLDENEYE, there have been eight James Bond productions while Harry Tasker may be part of a TV series. In any case, both films are kindly regarded by 90s action blockbuster fans.

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