Thirty years ago, a movie about a bunch of jacked soldiers battling a monster with dreadlocks hit theaters and became a smash hit. Predator succeeded because it was a breathless action movie drowning in machismo, but it remains relevant for a few different reasons.
For starters, Arnold Schwarzenegger got to play a real character. Unlike the killing machines (literal in The Terminator and figurate in Commando), his character Dutch actually has to use his brain in the battle to outwit the predator. The movie is also visually spectacular, patricianly the predator himself. Without the exquisite design of the beast, this movie might be down there with Red Sonja and Raw Deal in Arnold’s catalog.
Instead, here we are three decades later gawking at some of the most fascinating things about this action classic. Enjoy.
1. Covering one’s self in mud does not, in fact, prevent the detection of body heat, as it does for Dutch. MythBusters found this out the only way you could.
2. The working title for the movie was Hunter.
3. Shane Black, who plays Hawkins, is far better known as a screenwriter than actor. The man behind 1987’s Lethal Weapon is rumored to have been cast in Predator so he could make script changes on the fly. Though he’s had a handful of acting credits over the years, Black has largely stuck to writing. His most recent project? The Predator, set for release in 2018.
4. Shooting in Mexico took quite a toll on the actors, who were tortured by the wild life and the runs. “I will spare you the details, but while I was on a run, the runs hit. I ran to the side of the road and some cars driving by got quite the show,” Arnold recounted in a Reddit AMA from 2014.
5. Jean Claude Van Damme was originally slated to play the predator, but after he arrived on set he had second thoughts. The initial design of the costume was more lobster-like than the alien that eventually made it on screen, and Van Damme was none to pleased about not being about to show off his martial arts skills. So the actor bowed out and the studio had a new suit built.
6. Special effects legend Stan Winston designed the new suit. Inspiration came from a painting of a Rastafarian warrior and a suggestion from director James Cameron to add mandibles. Nice.
7. Given the size of the new suit, a much bigger actor was needed to wear it. Enter Kevin Peter Hall, the 7-foot-2 giant who had just finished playing the title character in Harry and the Henderson’s when he got the call to jump inside the predator suit.
8. In order to give the predator a slimy appearance, the character’s costume was covered in K-Y Jelly and the glowing green goop found inside glow sticks.
9. Peter Cullen, the original voice for Optimus Prime in the 80s animated Transformers series, provided the voice for Predator, though he was uncredited.
10. Sonny Landham, who played Billy, was such a wild card on set that the studio’s insurance company insisted a body guard be hired to prevent him from fighting with other actors. The former porn star would later try to follow in the footsteps of Ventura and Schwarzenegger and run for governor. But his bid was derailed when he referred to Arabs as “camel-dung shovelers.”
Bonus Fact: You wouldn’t know by the skill with which he delivers the iconic line below, but Predator was Jesse Ventura’s very first acting role.