JERICHO, N.Y., February 14, 2002 – It was a shoot marked by death and marriage, illness and insolvency. But in the end, two hopeful screenwriters got their big break, and an emerging action hero sealed his superstar status. On Monday, February 18 at 10:00 PM (ET), AMC’s BACKSTORY presents a revealing look at the 1987 film, PREDATOR.
In BACKSTORY: PREDATOR, co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Duke, writers Jim and John Thomas, producer John Davis and effects guru Stan Winston reveal how they overcame the dangers of the jungle and a production crisis that shut down the film and emerged with a hit.
PREDATOR, the action blockbuster about a handpicked commando team battling a faceless alien in a Central American jungle, cleverly combined science fiction, suspense and combat in a story of brawn vs. beast. The screenplay, crafted by Jim and John Thomas, two brothers who had no connections in Hollywood, arose from a bizarre dream that Jim Thomas had about an invisible, yet menacing force.
From the beginning of the shoot, it seemed that a similar invisible, but evil force was at work behind the scenes. Before filming began, a fatal plane crash killed the art director and location scout. On location in the Mexican jungle, the cast of commandos was tormented by predators of a different kind. Actor Richard Chaves was attacked by venomous fire ants. Co-star Bill Duke dodged scorpions and coral snakes, and Schwarzenegger was on intravenous fluids in between takes, suffering from severe dehydration.
Schwarzenegger’s pending wedding to broadcast news journalist and Kennedy cousin Maria Shriver was also on his mind. When he flew from the jungle to the Kennedy estate at Hyannis Port, Mass., for the wedding of the year, “It was a real Hollywood moment,” producer John Davis recalls. Schwarzenegger returned to the shoot after a four-day honeymoon to find the production in crisis. After reviewing the dailies, Davis and director John McTiernan, who had everything riding on his first major studio film, concluded that the alien simply wasn’t scary enough. Neither the costume, nor the martial arts expert who was wearing it (Jean Claude Van Damme) could frighten Schwarzenegger’s character. But the filmmakers had exhausted their tight $15 million budget, and there were no funds for a re-shoot.
20th Century Fox shut down the production, and ordered the cast and crew back to Los Angeles. But, PREDATOR‘s producers convinced Studio production chief Leonard Goldberg to dole out another $2.5 million to finish the film, and they recruited Stan Winston to create a new alien. The new creature helped the film earn box office receipts of over $100 million.
BACKSTORY is AMC’s popular weekly series that captures the moment in time in which a movie was created. Cast members, directors, producers and other Hollywood players provide revealing inside “backstories” about the events that affected each film, its success and its stars.
Executive Producer for BACKSTORY: PREDATOR is Kevin Burns. Supervising Producer is Steven Smith. The episode was produced by Prometheus Entertainment in association with Van Ness Films, Foxstar Productions, Fox Television Studios and AMC. Jessica Falcon is executive producer for AMC.
AMC is the nation’s premier entertainment network, bringing movie favorites to a broad audience by placing them in a fresh and contemporary context. Award-winning original documentaries, series and specials are infused with the energy and excitement of Hollywood past and present. Launched in 1984, AMC is currently available in 81 million homes.
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