James Cameron is a filmmaking legend, but he's not necessarily known for his sense of humor. His straight-talking style in interviews, where he has a penchant for calling things as he sees them, will always be funny. But that doesn't always translate to on-screen laughs. In fact, it almost never does.

However, when frequent collaborator Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Cameron in the early '90s with a new idea, the director would have to sharpen up his comedy chops pretty quick. The "Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" star brought the director's attention to 1991 French spy comedy "La Totale!" which he was hoping to adapt. At the time, it was somewhat outside the director's wheelhouse but surprisingly, as Cameron told Yahoo! in 2019, he "got it." Arnie's basic premise was: "'What if James Bond had to go home to his wife and family?'" And Cameron was all about it.

While the action element was perfectly aligned with Cameron's speciality as a director, the comedy was going to be a completely different story. He had thus far helmed blockbuster projects such as "Aliens," "The Abyss," and the aforementioned "Terminator" movies, all of which are classics in their own right but not really all that funny. With a $100 million budget to blow on "True Lies," Cameron had the action covered, but he had to really focus to make sure the farcical elements of the French original stayed in-tact.

True Lies Pushed Cameron's Directorial Abilities

James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger's version of James Bond was husband and father Harry Tasker, a U.S. government agent who struggles to maintain his marriage with Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who he suspects is having an affair. Ultimately, his machinations end up entangling Helen in his spy affairs and all manner of dangerous stunts and spy thriller antics ensue. But alongside those stunts, Cameron really pushed himself to inject the comedy element that the remake called for. As he explained in his Yahoo! interview:

"I'd never done a comedy! So I came up with crazy stuff like him doing the tango with this exotic girl he meets at this mansion party. I sent [Arnold] the script, and in the margin I put an arrow next to the tango and wrote, 'This is your most dangerous stunt.' I think he took it to heart, because he did learn how to tango!"

The tango in question involved Schwarzenegger's Harry dancing with Tia Carrere's Juno Skinner, a beautiful but nefarious art dealer who ultimately faces off against Helen in the film's third act. But before any of that happens, Arnie manages to pull off the tango impressively, thanks to Cameron's prodding in the script. It's not exactly laugh out loud hilarious, but seeing the action hero perform an elegant tango certainly adds some levity to the whole thing.

Cameron's Unique Comedy

Prior to "True Lies," Arnold Schwarzenegger had ventured outside his action roots with 1990's "Kindergarten Cop" — a film that required him to strike a similar balance between light-hearted and convincingly imposing. There was also "Last Action Hero" in 1993, which had a similarly parodic take on the action genre to "True Lies." In that sense, the film's star was somewhat in his comfort zone when he and James Cameron decided to remake "La Totale!"

Cameron, on the other hand, had really only shown brief glimpses of his ability to convey comedy. There was the moment in "Terminator 2" where Arnie attempts a smile or where he tries to copy John Connor's teenage slang. But aside from small moments like that, Cameron's earlier movies leaned heavily on the action/thriller elements. And the director has pretty much stuck to that formula since, directing "Titanic" after "True Lies" before going on to make the "Avatar" movies — none of which are well-known for their levity.

Cameron, as a person, also doesn't seem too concerned with exploring the possibilities of humor. In interviews he comes across as someone who takes movie-making seriously, and we kind of like him that way. His no-nonsense answers to questions, such as when he referred to his English production crew on "Aliens" as "slow as s***," convey a serious commitment to directing. But they also have a kind of unintentional humor to them, which, judging by the effectiveness of the comedy in "True Lies," suggests Cameron is aware of his capacity for humor. That and, as the director once told GQ, "Difficult is a f***ing magnet for me. I go straight to difficult." There's nothing more difficult than going from "Terminator 2" to the farce of "True Lies," and for that, Cameron deserves his legendary status.

Read this next: The 12 Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Films, Ranked

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