The first Predator was originally called Hunter until after production was completed. In the DVD commentary, director John McTiernan says Predator was originally pitched as Rocky vs. Alien, ‘though he personally saw it as more like King Kong. In the 2001 short documentary “If It Bleeds We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator“, brothers Jim and John Thomas said they got their script idea from a joke about Rocky IV. The gag was that Rocky had no one left to fight, so he may as well fight an alien.
The original Predator.
The original Predator design was much lankier and insect like. A red suit was created, one that could be turned invisible with the creature’s cloaking device in postproduction. The man in the suit was a young actor who’d just recently arrived in Hollywood from Brussels: Jean Claude Van Damme. As special effects specialist Steve Johnson explained in an interview, Van Damme was angry when he learned his character wouldn’t get to demonstrate his martial arts abilities against Arnold and worse, he’d be invisible.
What happened to JCVD?
There are a number of different accounts throughout the Hollywood Reporter’s Oral History, published to mark the movie’s 30-year anniversary in 2017, when it comes to the Muscles from Brussels leaving Predator and that first suit, which has also been described as looking like a cockroach, a chicken, and a duck. The explanations for Van Damme’s dismissal and/or quitting range from: Van Damme complained too much; he broke the creature head; he was too short to seem intimidating against the heroes; he was tossed out simply because the entire design was tossed out; he passed out in the suit too often; and finally, good old-fashioned “creative differences.”
The new Predator.
The director hated the original suit design anyway and halted production so a new one could be created. Arnold hit up his pal Stan Winston, the legendary effects creator who’d worked on The Terminator. Their pal James Cameron actually suggested the mandibles. Kevin Peter Hall, 7′ 2″ ballet dancer and actor, replaced the 5′ 9″ Van Damme, braving the sweltering heat in the new 200-pound suit. Hall, who had just finished filming the title role of Harry in Harry and the Hendersons, actually had a small cameo outside of the Predator suit, as part of the chopper rescue crew.
Lethal Weapon writer and future The Predatorwriter/director Shane Black plays Rick Hawkins. Producers later admitted they cast him more for his writing skills, hoping he’d be available for on-set script punch-ups. In that 2017 Oral History published by the Hollywood Reporter, producer John Davis said Black refused to do any rewrites. “So he was the first person we killed. He got killed seven minutes into the movie.” Black did work on his script for The Last Boy Scout while he was there.
He isn’t credited, but the actor who provided the voice for the Predator was none other than Peter Cullin, aka Optimus Prime in the Transformerscartoons, movies, games, and theme park rides. He also did the voice of King Kong in the 1976 remake.
A third Predator governor?
Predator famously stars two actors who went on to become governors: Arnold, who governed the great state of California as a Republican, and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who won the Minnesota governor’s race as a Reform Party candidate. The late Sonny Landham, the ex-porn star who played Billy, made a run for the Governor gig in Kentucky, but failed to win the Republican party’s nomination.
Mud doesn’t work.
Warning! Should you ever find yourself tracked by an alien Predator, don’t bother covering yourself in mud. As it turns out, that won’t block an infrared sensor. We have an episode of MythBusters to thank for spoiling this bit of movie magic for us.
We aren’t just talking about the Alien vs. Predatorfilms. The fictional country of Val Verde has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Commando and Die Hard 2. Writer Steven De Souza believes Predator takes place there, as well. We even made a cool little video about it.
Second unit director Craig R. Baxley had worked as a stuntman and stunt coordinator and directed several episodes of The A-Team. He and producer Joel Silver, who had also worked with Arnold and Bill Duke on Commando, got into a conversation about their love of Blaxploitation movies. While on the Predator set, Baxley came up with the basic story and the title Action Jackson. Silver found a writer and it became Baxley’s feature film directorial debut in 1988, with a cast that included Predator soldiers Duke and Landham, and Carl Weathers in the title role.