Like many other 1980’s classics, Predator is loaded with fun trivia that we at Inside Film can’t get enough of.
For instance, did you know that for the first two weeks of shooting, a completely different costume design was used for the monster, with none other than martial arts god Jean-Claude Van Damme inside the suit? The design later had to be changed for health and safety reasons, as its “fly like” head would wobble around uncontrollably, causing mayhem wherever it went. Van Damme was then relieved of his role for unconfirmed reasons, although the fighting guru was renowned for diva-like antics.
Funny, right? It gets better. An on set bodyguard had to be employed to protect the cast from fellow actor Sonny Landham. Landham’s on-screen character (Billy) exhibited strong physical features, a deep, booming voice and a rather badass, Native American appearance. Probably not the kind of guy you would want to upset. Unfortunately, Landham displayed very similar traits off-screen, leading to the insurance company behind the production to demand protection for the rest of the cast due to his “volatile nature”.
Yet, perhaps the most intriguing piece of trivia regarding Predator is how the original screenplay ever came into existence.
To understand what I mean, we must first go back to November 1985, a few days after the release Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV, the most successful entry in the Rocky franchise. At that time, the intense Stallone/Schwarzenegger rivalry was in full swing. Prior to cash cow that was the Planet Hollywood era, many were fully convinced that there was a real bitterness between Arnie and Sly.
After the box-office success of Rocky IV, many joked that due to the superhuman abilities of Stallone’s most recent opponent, Ivan Drago, the only real challenger left to Rocky would have to be of extra-terrestrial decent, or Rambo, but that would just be illogical.
Not everybody saw the funny side, however. In fact, screenwriters Jim and John Thomas took it very seriously, provoking them to produce a full script using the joke as inspiration. And thus, Predator was born, or Hunter, as it was originally called. After collaborating on Commando, Schwarzenegger and producer Joel Silver were called in to transform the science-fiction pulp storyline into the big budget, action classic we know today.
Jim Thomas later explained that ““The original conceit was ‘What would it be like if human beings were hunted by dilettante hunters the way humans hunt big game in Africa?’ ”
Sometimes these questions need to be answered. Without doing so, the action/sci-fi epic that is Predator would never have existed, whilst Rocky V would still have been released, and that is a world nobody deserves to live in.