At some point in ’85 or ’86, producer Joel Silver was asked to come aboard a project developed from a mysterious script about an alien hunter that appeared under an executive’s door one day. Arranged as a vehicle for Austrian body-builder-turned-action-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator was an unexpected genre pastiche that’s widely regarded as one of the best ’80s action movies. Though the cast and crew seemed to have had fun in the jungle together, the making of Predator was tough from start to finish, as evidenced by these Predator movie facts.
Schwarzenegger stars as Dutch, a soldier in charge of leading his elite Special Forces team into a Central American jungle on a rescue mission. The mission is interrupted by an alien presence, and all hell breaks loose. Predator was primarily shot near Palenque, Mexico, and incorporates elements of action, sci fi, and horror. The cast and crew dealt with the extreme heat of the jungle and serious illnesses brought on by eating and drinking contaminated food and water.
But illness was only one of the movie’s obstacles. Director John McTiernan recalls trouble right out of the gate, saying, “The first day of shooting was the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.” Things didn’t get easier. One of the most interesting Predator behind-the-scenes stories centers on the original Predator suit, and the muscle-bound man from Brussels initially hired to play the part. They were both a complete disaster.
Read all about the hokey red suit from hell in the Predator making-of stories below. And don’t forget Arnold’s sage advice, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
Jean-Claude Van Damme Was Originally Cast As The Predator
Makeup effects supervisor Steve Johnson recalls, “I’m like, ‘Jean-Claude, did no one tell you? It’s a cloaking device. You’re invisible for half of the picture. This is not you.’ Which made him even angrier because he thought he could do his martial arts, he could fight Arnold Schwarzenegger. Impossible. Absolutely Impossible.”
There’s some debate surrounding the exact reason why Van Damme was replaced as the Predator. Did he quit? Was he fired? Though the jury is still out, Schwarzenegger described the Belgian as a “relentless complainer.”
As Van Damme complained,
“The costume took about 20 minutes to put on. It was thick rubber and I couldn’t see anything, there was just a small piece to breathe through. I needed cables to move my jaw and head, and it was hard to keep my balance. They wanted me to make a big jump, and I told them, ‘It’s impossible [from that height]. I know my limitations, and I’ll break my legs.’”
As the legend goes, a stuntman was brought in to wear the Predator suit and do the jump the Belgian refused to perform. Lo and behold, Van Damme was correct – the jump was dangerous; the stuntman broke his leg. Still, Van Damme was replaced with Kevin Peter Hall, who stood at 7’2” (a foot taller than Van Damme), and was a very good actor, not just a muscle-bound fighter in a suit. Hall was fresh off playing Harry in Harry and the Hendersons when cast in Predator.
Arnold Got Health-Conscious Carl Weathers Hooked On Cigars
Carl Weathers, formerly of the NFL, was very conscious of what he put in his body during his career as an actor and athlete. As he said in an interview about the making of Predator,
“Being the athlete that I am, and the clean living person that I am, never in a million years would I let tobacco touch my lips. Absolutely not. But I sat there in that chair getting a whiff of this great, great aroma of this stogie. And Arnold eventually said ‘Carly, you want one?’ ‘Sure, why not?’ I was hooked. It was all over… within a few days, Arnold had a box of stogies delivered to me.”
The Cast Endured Arduous Military Training That Was A Cake Walk For Jesse Ventura
The training helped the actors learn how to move through the jungle as a team and communicate with nonverbal tools like hand signals. After it was finished, Ventura joked about the abilities of his cast mates: “I’ll put it this way: I wouldn’t wanna go in real with these guys, but I’ll definitely do a film with them.
The Screenwriters Got The Idea For ‘Predator’ From A Joke About ‘Rocky’
Predator was originally called Hunter. The famous joke going around Hollywood in the mid-80s was about who Rocky Balboa would fight in Rocky V after defeating much larger, much stronger Russian opponent Ivan Drago in Rocky IV? Rocky had beaten just about everyone, so would his next opponent have to be an alien? The Thomas brothers based their script on that joke.
The Film’s Insurance Company Required A Security Guard For Actor Sonny Landham
Bonus fact: Landham got his start in films of a penetrating nature made specifically for audiences 18 years of age or older. A quick Google image search will lead you to various enlightening photos of his lance flopping about in a bed of downy pubes.
Director John McTiernan Sees ‘Predator’ As Fundamentally Akin To ‘King Kong’
Schwarzenegger Pulled An Epic Fast One On Ventura
Tricky Arnold told the wardrobe department to mislead Ventura, so he could win the champagne.
It’s Never Too Early For A Clandestine Pump
As Carl Weathers describes in If It Bleeds We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator, the stars of the film wanted to show up for shooting each day with massive, toned muscles without seeming as though they were putting in any work to get that look. Because of this, they got up as early as 4:00 am and went to the gym to get a pump in. If another actor happened to be in the gym, Weathers would sneak off to get coffee and return when the gym was empty, so no one would see him lifting.
Production Was Shut Down To Work On The Monster, With Accidental Input From None Other Than James Cameron
By showing a rough assembly of about an hour of footage to studio executives, producers secured funding to finish Predator, including money to hire legendary makeup design artist Stan Winston to work on the Predator suit. In a miraculous example of Hollywood kismet, Winston was on a plane to Japan with James Cameron while working on designs for Predator. Cameron said to Winston, “You know, I always wanted to see something with mandibles…”
Screenwriter Shane Black Was Not Hired For His Acting Chops
According to McTiernan, Black wasn’t cast for his acting chops. McTiernan and Silver wanted Black on set in case any last-minute script changes were needed (as Black tells it, he convinced them to cast him because he didn’t want to rewrite what he saw as a perfectly fine script, but wanted to be involved in the movie anyway). McTiernan said of the writer/actor, “And he has a great wise-ass manner.”
John McTiernan Broke His Wrist Falling Out Of A Tree And Arnold Had To Perform One Scene With An IV In
McTiernan refused to eat much local food for fear of getting sick. “I lost 25lbs, the line producer lost almost forty,” he recalls. The film’s star also suffered. McTiernan said Schwarzenegger had to perform one scene with an IV bottle in his arm, and he grows noticeably thinner throughout the movie, because he made an effort to eat less in order to avoid sickness.
McTiernan also broke his wrist after falling out of a tree during production.
Carl Weathers Was Cast Because He’s A Legit Actor
So McTiernan cast Carl Weathers as Dillon. Weathers retired from the NFL in 1974 and set his sights on becoming a real-deal actor. By the time Predator shot in 1986, Weathers had appeared as Apollo Creed in four Rocky films and had a slew of television credits.
Leaves Started Falling Off Trees Two Weeks Into Production, Fundamentally Changing The Look Of Locations
Even still, one astute New York Times reviewer commented that the trees in the movie looked like New Hampshire woods in November. Oops.
The Temperature On Location Was About The Same As Human Body Temp, Making Actors Invisible To Infrared Cameras For Predator POV Shots
“The ambient temperature in Mexico was in the 90s. Consequently, people were the same temperature as the background, and they were perfectly camouflaged,” explained McTiernan.
The crew tried to fix the temperature issue by spraying trees with ice water and making actors stand by a fire before filming. Neither of these ideas worked. In the end, the effect was created by a combination of shots created with multiple types of cameras at once and the use of expensive digital effects. Money for the latter wasn’t in the budget, so McTiernan had to plead his case to producers to get the film finished.
Glow Sticks Were Used To Create Predator’s Blood
Thus was born the glowing neon green alien blood of Predator.
A Monkey Was Hired To Play Invisible Predator Swinging Through Trees, But Was Embarrassed To Perform In Costume
A monkey was brought in, “but once we got the red suit on him… the monkey was so embarrassed by the red suit that he hid! He’d go up in a tree and cower, and he wouldn’t do what monkeys do.”