“If it bleeds, we can kill it.” It was a rumble in the jungle between a muscle-bound paramilitary team and one ugly alien. Predator opened in theaters in 1987 and has been a fan favorite among moviegoers. The film launched a successful franchise that recently had new life breathed into it with 2022’s Prey. The Predator has been featured in comic books and video games and has been a merchandising cash cow that it is hard to believe it all started with a simple movie.
Like all classic films, Predator is filled with some incredible behind-the-scenes stories. Cover yourself in mud, ’cause we’re talking about Predator. Here we’ll take a look at 15 things you never knew about Predator.
Call Me the Hunter.
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 might as well fight an alien.
The Crew Came to be at Arnold’s Request
Do you know how we know Arnold is a good chap? The original film’s script had a single one-on-one chase with the Predator and a single soldier fighting it off to the death in the jungle. Schwarzenegger didn’t like the idea, so he asked for a rewrite so the creature was hunting a crew of soldiers; this led to the rest of the cast members getting their jobs.
Ever notice the great chemistry among the cast? It’s because Arnold also wanted this film to be his own version of “The Magnificent Seven,” so he contributed a lot to promote the cast’s camaraderie by creating workout routines and doing things together during the shooting.
The Cigar Chomping Crew
In the film, we see Arnold smoking a cigar before being briefed about the mission. Jesse Venture also indulges in tobacco in the film, although he chews it. In real life, Schwarzenegger kept offering co-star Carl Weathers cigars which he kept refusing as he avoided smoking since his NFL days. Weathers would eventually cave in, making Arnold gift him a very expensive box of fine Cuban cigars. Weathers would jokingly tell the anecdote years later, shaming Schwarzenegger for hooking him on such a costly vice.
The Fantastic Weapons of Dutch Crew
Although the Predator is using a lot of out-of-this-world technology to fight the military rescue team that came looking for survivors, these hardened soldiers are using a lot of gear that is not practical at all in the real world. The M134 Mini Gun used by Jesse Venture in this film is not a real weapon any soldier can use, as this gun is only meant to be used in a tripod attached to the side of a chopper or in a mobile unit.
The weapon alone weighs well over a hundred pounds and can fire up to 6000 rounds a minute, making it impossible for any human to use, as depicted in the film. Also, the big-ass machete used by Dutch? No soldier can carry something that big around without hurting himself. The weapon was designed to be used in the scene where Arnold improvises the line “Stick around” and gets rid of it.
A Third Predator Governor?
Predator famously stars two actors who went on to become governors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, 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, who played Billy, made a run for the Governor gig in Kentucky but failed to win the Republican party’s nomination.
Honestly, it is amazing that this 1980s action sci-fi horror film resulted in two governors. If we had a nickel for every time a cast member became a governor, we’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.
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 post-production. 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.
The original Predator design would later be reused in 2010’s Predators as one of the many aliens that the Predator is hunting on their homeworld.
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’s 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 Predator writer/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 Cullen, aka Optimus Prime, in the Transformers cartoons, movies, games, and theme park rides. Cullen’s other voice work includes voicing Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise.
Building Up the Predator Lore
The first film in the IP didn’t tell much about the creature, not even its name. In fact, it is the sequels that do most of the world-building, as the first film leaves a lot up to the audience’s interpretation. However, it served as the basis to establish a few things about his skills and the use of the vision modes in his helmet. We only see the Predator using thermal and infrared visions from the creature’s POV.
Still, it’s easy to tell the character has other vision modes since he can easily detect metal weaponry and avoid tripwires. We would later see he has a vision mode to detect human life within human females in Predator 2 and a view mode that allows him to point and target enemies to fire his shoulder weapon.
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. There is an episode of MythBusters to thank for spoiling this bit of movie magic for us.
Predator Connects to A Larger Cinematic Universe
We aren’t just talking about the Alien vs. Predator films. The fictional country of Val Verde has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Commando and Die Hard 2. Since Predator also connects with Alien, which itself has easter eggs to Blade Runner, that would make an interconnected universe that includes all the Alien films, the Predator movies, all the Die Hard films, Blade Runner and its sequel, and Commando all exist as one giant shared universe.
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 Bill Duke and Sunny Landham, with Carl Weathers in the title role.
Major Inspiration for Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez is one of the most prolific filmmakers from the 1990s independent film scene. His work includes Desperado, Sin City, Spy Kids, Machette, and Alita: Battle Angel, just to name a few. Rodriguez was also a big fan of Predator and said the shift in the movie from a traditional 80’s action movie to a slasher film inspired the genre shift in his film From Dusk Till Dawn.
Rodriguez was also hired to write a Predator movie in the 1990s. The concept would later be reworked and revisited in 2010 as Predators, which Rodriguez produced.