It’s 1987 and you’ve just sat down in with your popcorn in one hand and your ticket in the other while gingerly cradling a large fizzy drink with a straw that will never reach the bottom. The theatre is still dark, the adverts yet to start playing and you are currently still safe in the knowledge that the most dangerous ‘invisible’ villain you have ever encountered was a character immortalised in a book by H G Wells.
2 hours later and all that will change....
PREDATORThe movie, headlined by top movie superstar and muscle giant ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ burst onto our screens in epic fashion and created a fan base that would continue for 27 years.
Directed by John Mcteirnan, the story follows an elite special forces team as they are sent on a mission to rescue valuable hostages from guerilla territory somewhere in central America. Deep into the jungle, the hunters become the hunted as an unknown alien creature, capable of cloaking itself from the naked eye, stalks them one by one, taking skulls for trophies.The fans love for this ‘Predator’ and its unique Rastafarian theme coupled with its space age advanced helmet, heat seeking vision and an array of killing weapons that would make Rambo quake in his boots, it wouldn't be long before sequels were made and even comic books depicting the predators home world and famous hunts.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm( playing the main hero of the story ‘Dutch’) it was important to find a cast that would not be underwhelmed by his massive presence. The producers wanted to create a strong team, almost like the magnificent seven only heavier and meaner. The casting for Predator met both of these expectations.
Jesse Ventura, an ex navy seal, was cast as the role of Blaine, a 6ft 5, 255lb mountain of tobacco chewing no-nonsense speaking monster. Wielding a 100kg+, 3500 rounds/minute gatling gun that had never before in filming history been fired on anything short of a mounted vehicle, he strode onto the set and held his own, his personality just as big as his frame, and his gun!
Carl weathers was cast in as ‘Dillon’, his character was designed to mirror Arnold's. He was very muscular, slightly lighter than Arnold but certainly more athletic. In the story, ‘Dillon’ had worked with ‘Dutch’ in the past on various missions and regarded himself as bloodied and experienced as the squads leader, and yet ‘Dillon’ had left the field years later to assume a less hands on role, dressing in a suit and tie at the beginning of the movie.
Bill duke was cast as ‘Mack’ a similar role that he played in ‘Commando’ a movie also starring Arnold. Director John Mcteirnan liked his part in Commando so much that he called him up and got him down on set. ‘Mack’s bond with Jesse's character ‘Blaine’ plays a sub story throughout the movie.
Shane black was a successful screen writer and later, director in his own right, having written the script for the 1987 movie ‘lethal weapon’ and then directing ‘Kiss kiss bang bang’ in 2005. Shane was called up to writer an alternative script for the movie, as was common practice in those days. Not keen to take the job, knowing that, as in most cases, the original script is usually taken and used anyway, he turned the job down. The director wanted him there so badly that he offered him the role of ‘Hawkins’ a joke telling, glasses wearing soldier that was, inevitably, the first to die. Shane accepted the job and flew down to Mexico to shoot, the director now happy that he had least had Shane on set for first hand advice if any changes were needed.
And then we get to Sonny landham, a descendant of the Cherokee and Seminole nations. At 6ft 2inches and well muscled, Sonny was a potential liability on set. Known for his out of control antics while drinking, the insurance company refused to cover the set while he was on it unless the director hired a bodyguard to follow him around all of the time. Desperate to get him to play the role of ‘Billy’ a top notch tracker and spiritual soldier, John did as the insurance company asked and hired a 6ft 5 bodyguard who shadowed his every move.
The bonding between the cast was apparent and strong. Arnold getting them all up early to go running in the morning and encouraging them to hit the gym and train up for the role. Each actor, an alpha male in their own right, did what they could to avoid any direct competition. Carl weathers was quoted as saying “Id go down to the gym and see some of the guys training there in the corner, id speak for a few minutes then head out to grab a coffee for an hour or so and come back when the gym was empty-give nothing away! When Id see them on set id be all pumped and try to pretend it was natural, that I didn't need to try to look this good”
And the antics didn't stop there. Arnold reportedly told ‘wardrobe’ to deliberately tell Jesse that his arms were much smaller than they were, setting the ex-navy seal up for a big fall. When finding this information out, Jesse said “I took great pleasure when I heard from wardrobe that I had bigger guns than Mr Olympia”
This of course led onto a measuring session in the gym with all the cast gathered round and Arnold smiling as he proved his arms were 3 inches bigger.