x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ten things you might not know about Predator

The well-known monster movie turns 25 this week, but its journey to the big screen was arduous.

Arnold Schwarzenegger goes up against an extraterrestrial hunter in Predator.
Arnold Schwarzenegger goes up against an extraterrestrial hunter in Predator.

While Prometheusdoes well at the global box office, another long-running man-versus-space-monster series celebrates its 25th anniversary this week: Predator. It's the story of an elite special forces team, led by Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), whose attempt to rescue hostages in the Guatemalan jungle results in them becoming the prey of a bloodthirsty extraterrestrial hunter.

While the Alien movies explored feminist themes, Predator had a macho intensity that was far more typical of the 1980s. Despite all the blood, bullets and bulging muscles, the film wasn't short on brains.

The story surrounding the movie's arduous journey to the screen is just as fascinating as the world constructed in it. Here are the top 10 things you probably never knew about Predator.

1. Rocky versus Predator

Now considered one of the greatest science fiction action movies of all time, Predator began life as a Hollywood in-joke. After 1985's Rocky IV, in which Sylvester Stallone's character defeated a towering steroid-swilling Russian, industry members quipped that the boxing champ should fight an alien in the next instalment. The screenwriting siblings Jim and John Thomas took the gag seriously and wrote a story that eventually evolved into Predator.

2. The beast from Brussels

Schwarzenegger may finally be squaring off against Jean-Claude Van Damme in this summer's Expendables 2, but the erstwhile Governator and the Muscles from Brussels almost shared screen time 25 years ago. Van Damme was originally cast as the film's eponymous alien but walked off the set after just two days, claiming the prosthetic suit was unbearably hot and unwieldy in the tropical jungle.

3. The political jungle

We all know that Schwarzenegger turned his back on Hollywood during the past decade for a career in politics, but Arnie wasn't the only future governor roaming the jungle in Predator. The professional wrestler-turned actor Jesse Ventura, who played the moustached soldier Blain in the movie, was elected governor of Minnesota in 1999. Just as his character struggles to make it through more than half of the movie, Ventura failed to match Arnie's eight-year stint in office, choosing not to stand for a second term in 2003.

4. An unearthly competition

The film may tell the story of the universe's most-feared hunter facing Earth's greatest soldier, but away from the set another Herculean competition is said to have taken place. Ventura was reportedly overjoyed after learning from a member of the film's wardrobe department that his biceps were one inch larger than Schwarzenegger's. He suggested to the Austrian star that they each measure their arms, with the winner claiming a bottle of champagne. When Ventura lost, he discovered it was because Schwarzenegger had cunningly asked the wardrobe staff to mislead his co-star from the start.

5. Survival of the fittest

Filming Predator in the tropical jungles of southern Mexico was a notoriously arduous challenge, with almost all of the cast and crew falling ill. As well as contending with swarms of venomous insects, the actors were often struck with high fevers, severe stomach ailments and flu-like illnesses during filming. Even the director John McTiernan didn't survive unscathed: he broke his wrist during the shoot by falling from a tree, but chose to conceal the injury from his crew.

6. Under the camouflage

With its reptilian skin, mandible-fronted mouth and dreadlocks, the Predator is one of the most well-known monsters of the late 20th century, but the beast's original design was far less impressive. The rubber suit worn by Van Damme in the early days of the shoot was little better than an Ed Wood creation; it featured an elongated neck and a doglike head with giant yellow eyes.

7. Alien adversaries

With both the Predator and Alien franchises owned by 20th Century Fox, crossovers were a no-brainer for the studio. Unfortunately, 2004's woeful spin-off Alien vs Predator and its 2007 sequel really were no-brainers. The interstellar species first clashed more than a decade earlier, however, in an acclaimed 1989 comic. An Alien skull is also seen displayed like a trophy inside a Predator ship during the climax of the unloved sequel Predator 2.

8. The hunt for a name

Although the very word "predator" has now become synonymous with the movie's death-dealing antagonist, it almost went by another name entirely. The screenplay was called Hunter and for much of the film's production, its clapperboards bore the original title. The name was changed after it was decided that Predator brought a more menacing tone.

9. Re-entry delayed

Upon its release in 2010, the sequel Predators was billed as an attempt at giving the original movie the follow-up it had long deserved. But the story, in which human warriors are transported to a Predator game reserve, had actually been around for 16 years, written by the Desperado filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in 1994. Studio executives had loved the screenplay, but because of the sizeable budget the story required, it languished unproduced for more than a decade.

10. The fight for respectability

Although now seen as both a classic 1980s testosterone flick and an enduring piece of science fiction, Predator was largely disregarded upon its release. The Los Angeles Times called it "arguably one of the emptiest, feeblest, most derivative scripts ever made as a major studio movie". By contrast, in 2007, Entertainment Weekly named it the 22nd greatest action film of all time.