Sylvester Stallone’s Genius Idea Saved His $818M Franchise After First Test Screening Put Director’s Life in Danger

Sylvester Stallone is one of the finest actors in Hollywood. From starring as Rocky Balboa in the Rocky franchise to John Rambo in the Rambo franchise, Stallone has been through hell and back just for the sake of his movies.

It was the very same Rambo movies that could have doomed Stallone’s franchise if they had gone with the original ending. First Blood sees Stallone portraying a PTSD-ridden Vietnam soldier in search of his buddy but goes on a full rampage due to the things that he saw and suffered through. Well, in the original ending, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo was going to shoot himself and the franchise would have never been made.

Sylvester Stallone


Sylvester Stallone in First Blood (1982)

The Original Ending of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo Was Too Bleak

The world saw a new side of Stallone when he portrayed the role of John Rambo in the 1982 movie First Blood. Portraying the role of a Vietnam soldier and the horrors that he has been through, the film ended with Rambo surrendering himself and being taken into custody.

Sylvester Stallone as RamboSylvester Stallone as Rambo

This ending left an opening for sequels which the franchise surely delivered upon. In an interview, Stallone talked about the original ending of First Blood which director Ted Kotcheff shot. As per the talk, the original ending was so bleak that the theater was in complete silence. The original ending saw Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo urging Col. Trautman to shoot him. When he fails to do so, Rambo shoots himself and takes his own life!

“Rambo says to his colonel ‘You made me. Now you should kill me.’ The colonel has his gun out and thinks about putting Rambo out of his misery, but he can’t do it. Rambo reaches up and blows himself away.”

Director Ted Kotcheff further stated how Stallone took him aside and tried to explain his point of view on why Rambo should not be killed.


“He took me aside and said, ‘Ted, we’ve put Rambo through so much … the audience has suffered with him through all of this, and now we’re going to kill him? They are going to hate this, I’m telling you.’”

Even though they had already gone over budget, Kotcheff considered Stallone’s idea and shot two endings. The first one was his original ending and the other one was Rambo surrendering himself. Showcasing both the endings for test screenings, Ted Kotcheff immediately realized his mistake.

Ted Kotcheff Felt The Hatred From The Producers For His Ending

Sylvester Stallone Sylvester Stallone

When it came to test screenings, the producers of First Blood sat down to judge and look at both the endings that were shot. Ted Kotcheff revealed that as soon as the original ending was seen, he thought that maybe he should have gone with Stallone’s plan.

“You could have heard a pin drop. A voice in the silence says ‘If the director of this film is here, we should string him up from the nearest lamp post for doing this to Rambo.’”

In the end, the ending where Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo surrenders himself was used for the release of the film. The ending led to the franchise continuing further and earning a total of $819 million at the global box office. The movie that started it all available to stream on DirectTV in the U.S.

Source: Filmmaker Magazine

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