Jamie Lee Curtis Reveals How Her Iconic Striptease in 'True Lies' Came to Be: 'No Rehearsal'

Jamie Lee Curtis also explains on the PEOPLE in the '90s podcast why the scene gave her "the single biggest laugh" she "will ever get"

jamie lee curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies (1994). Photo: 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

Jamie Lee Curtis stole the show with her striptease in 1994's True Lies — and even though the stage was hers, she gives all the credit to the film's writer, co-producer and director James Cameron.

In the newest episode of the new PEOPLE in the '90s podcast, out now, the now-62-year-old actress recalls filming the iconic scene (in which she stripped down and danced in front of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played her husband) over the course of three days.

"The thing that nobody knows: There was no rehearsal, there is no choreographer. Jim [Cameron] said to me, 'What do you want to dance to?' " Curtis tells hosts Jason Sheeler and Andrea Lavinthal.

Her tune of choice? "It was when John Hiatt's Bring the Family album was out and I said, 'There's a song called 'Alone in the Dark' that has this really funky rhythm,' " the star explains.

"And I said, 'I really like that song.' And that's what they played," Curtis says.

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jamie lee curtis
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies (1994). 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS
jamie lee curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies (1994). 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

Curtis tapped into her own penchant for dancing at home with "nobody around" to get into character, saying, "I don't think Jim had seen me in my underwear. ... We were doing it over and over and over, and it got quieter and quieter."

"At one point, Jim walked up and he whispered in my ear, 'If I get a pad, will you let go of the pole?' I said, 'Sure.' So they just wheeled in a little thin mat, on the ground, and we did it again, and I let go."

And despite her decades-long career in film, the scene of her character Helen falling during the steamy dance garnered her "the single biggest laugh [she] will ever get in [her] life."

"It's because Jim knew that the dance was too sexy; it was too real," Curtis recalls. "It started to actually be good, and he knew he needed to break the spell of what the husband had put his wife through. I think we did two takes where I let go of the pole."

jamie lee curtis
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies (1994). 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

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The actress saw True Lies alongside dad Tony Curtis, who was "sitting next to me, in Westwood, at the big Fox Theater there," she says.

"Thousands of people — and you know, it gets really quiet during that sequence, because it's a little sexy. Then when [Helen] falls and then gets back up, oh my God," she remembers.

"The place, it was a huge … because you're anxious. Then the laugh, and it's all Jim," Curtis adds. "To his great credit, it's all him. He knew, it's a comedy. It's a comedy."

New episodes of PEOPLE in the '90s drop Thursday mornings on iHeartRadio, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Curtis' new podcast Letters for Camp, Season 2, which she produced and performs on, is now available exclusively on Audible.

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