Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rambo 2’ Killed This $57 Million Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic: “Stallone kills a million guys. We have to kill more”

Hollywood, back in the ’80s, saw a period where action movies took overall precedence over the box office, with stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Ford, and some other esteemed figures within the industry enjoying their reign over the genre. The aforementioned decade has been dubbed by many as the Golden Era of action films for a reason.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando (1985)

Commando (1985)

One specific year of the 1980s saw two stalwarts of the uber-popular genre starring in films that became instant hits amongst movie-goers of that time. Even now, these films are hailed in the highest regard. We are specifically talking about 1985’s Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Rambo: First Blood Part II, which saw Sylvester Stallone as the lead.

With the ’80s having marked a period where both the above-mentioned talents were increasingly becoming the faces of the famed genre, a rivalry between the two endeavors was merely inevitable. In a recent interview, Steven E. de Souza, who was the screenwriter for Commando, revealed how Sylvester Stallone may have ruined the ending of the Schwarzenegger-starrer.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando Competed With Rambo II

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando and Sylvester Stallone's Rambo II

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando and Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo II

Steven E. de Souza engaged in a chat with Radio Times prior to the honoring and commemoration of Commando at the London Action Festival, which was done through a special screening held on 25th June. Here, the screenwriter discussed interesting facts and tidbits about the 1985 film and blamed acclaimed star Sylvester Stallone for “screwing up the ending” of the Mark L. Lester-directed endeavor.

The screenwriter recalls leading actor Arnold Schwarzenegger having faith in the film’s post-release reception. According to the esteemed Hollywood icon, Commando was a movie that took itself less seriously, harboring a rather “self-aware” narrative approach. This aspect, as predicted by Schwarzenegger, would lead to his film’s popularity and recognition. To him, Rambo was an initiative that took itself “very seriously.”

Mark L. Lester with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Additionally, what De Souza also commented on was director Mark L. Lester’s intense need to compete with Stallone’s magnum opus.

Following was the statement of the screenwriter on the matter:

“I blame Sylvester Stallone for screwing up the ending. Mark L. Lester had seen a sneak peak of Rambo II and he said Stallone kills a million guys so we have to kill more guys.”

The decision to incorporate more violence, in hopes of increasing the kill count, marked the inclusion of a scene in Commando where a “private army gets wiped out.”

This, unfortunately, led to the project going over the budget as more people were needed for the scene. What happened next was that the original ending that De Souza planned for the movie had to be discarded and a new one had to be accommodated within budget constraints. There was no money left to produce the ending envisioned by De Souza.

This is primarily why the writer blames Sylvester Stallone. If it weren’t for Rambo II’s incessant death count, the production of Commando might have not gone over the budget and the original ending would’ve lived to see another day.

How Commando‘s Ending Was Changed

How the iconic ending sequence of Commando came to be

How the iconic ending sequence of Commando came to be

The revised climax is where we are greeted with the most iconic sequence of the film, which features a popular one-liner that is still quoted by many cinephiles. John Matrix, the protagonist of Commando, is seen in a show-down with Bennett, one of the primary antagonists, who is eliminated with the help of a steam pipe. This specific scene occurred in a basement. The reason behind this is quite interesting.

Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza, due to budget restrictions, had to come up with a new ending within 24 hours. This ending was required to not make use of exotic locations or necessitate traveling to a private island off the Californian coast. That is when the writer decided to accommodate the climax inside a basement, specifically a basement at Fox.

Here’s what De Souza had to say:

“I said let’s do it [the ending] in a basement, so the basement you see in the movie is an actual basement at Fox. We sent one of Joel Silver’s (producer) assistants down there and they were reporting back what was down there, and I was drawing a picture of it on the back of an envelope and dictating what could work and what lines to put in.“

Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza

Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza

The rewrite of the location is what made the iconic sequence possible, where the audiences witness Arnold Schwarzenegger’s monumental one-liner, “Let off some steam, Bennett.” A line that many may have considered to be an ad-lib by the actor was indeed a last-minute inclusion by Steven E. de Souza.

While the Mark L. Lester film, which amassed around $57 million at the box office, could not exactly compete with the numbers that the second installment to the Rambo franchise was able to accumulate, it remains an all-time classic and a must-watch ’80s action flick. The Schwarzenegger charm is just about enough to keep the audience hooked.

Commando is available for streaming on Prime Video.

Source: Radio Times

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