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Story Notes for Predator

Weeknights during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies! Below is the online version of the Story Notes for Predator.

Awards Note
Predator (1987) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

Biographical Notes
This was director John McTiernan’s first big budget movie. He went on to make Die Hard (1988).

I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed is the title of Jesse Ventura’s 2000 autobiography.

Arnold was in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables and The Expendables 2.

Predator‘s sound editing was done by Oscar nominee Richard Shorr (Die Hard).

Jim and John Thomas had never sold a screenplay before writing Predator. They went on to write Executive Decision (1996) and Mission to Mars (2000).

Bill Duke (Mac) also worked with Arnold and Predator producer Joel Silver on Commando (1985).

Peter Cullen (Predator’s voice) also did the roar of King Kong in the 1976 remake.

Bill Duke (Mac) is also a successful director. He made Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993).

Carl Weathers played in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders in 1971, right before he started acting.

This wasn’t Carl Weathers’ first encounter with an alien. He plays a military policeman in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Arnold got married three weeks before filming began. He took his wife to the movie location in Mexico for their honeymoon.

Arnold is nicknamed “The Austrian Oak.”

Casting Notes
Arnold Schwarzenegger was just coming off The Terminator (1984) and Commando (1985).

Carl Weathers (Dillon) is best known for playing Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky movies.

This was wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s first movie role.

Richard Chaves (Witness, 1985) plays Poncho.

Sonny Landham is Billy. He plays another “Billy” in his breakout role in 48 HRS. (1982).

One of the soldiers in green is Arnold’s friend Sven-Ole Thorsen. They’ve been in 16 movies together.

Before this, Mexican actress Elpidia Carrillo (Anna), was in Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986).

The actor playing Predator is 7’2″ actor Kevin Peter Hall. He also played Harry in Harry and the Hendersons that same year.

The pilot is Kevin Peter Hall (Predator) in a cameo. Director McTiernan gave him the brief on-screen role because his “work as Predator was so exhausting.”

Finance Note
Predator went on to make around $100 million and has spawned four more movies… so far.

Health Note
Arnold got so sick during shooting that he did a whole scene with an IV drip in his arm. He gets thinner as the movie progresses because he was afraid to eat the food in Mexico.

Historical Notes
The CIA was involved in a failed assassination plot against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in the 1980s.

The U.S. fought against rebel groups in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s.

Location Notes
Predator was shot in two jungle locations in Mexico: Palenque and Puerto Vallarta. Director McTiernan preferred Palenque because it was more of a real jungle.

Director McTiernan didn’t like Puerto Vallarta because the brown leaves made it look less like a jungle.

Music Notes
The music for Predator was composed by Oscar nominee Alan Silvestri (The Avengers, Forrest Gump).

“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, 1956.

Some of the music is an homage to composer Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The filmmakers called it “Fanfare for the Common Mercenary.”

Plot Note
The spine is Predator’s “trophy.” A scene never shot showed his spaceship with a “trophy display.”

Political Note
Arnold and Jesse Ventura were both governors of their home states. Sonny Landham (Billy) tried to enter politics, too. He ran for the Kentucky Senate in 2008.

Pop-Culture Notes
This “rebel camp” location has become a tourist attraction in Mexico.

The massive military assault scene is meant to be a satire of the typical ’80s action movie.

“Get to the choppa” became such a popular catchphrase, it showed up in a Library of Congress report about helicopters.

Mud and exploding arrows – two more elements in common with Rambo.

Press Note
The Hollywood Reporter says, “You can watch it… year in and year out and never get tired of it.”

Prop Notes
The machete weighed 20 lbs. They came up with the idea to throw it so Arnold wouldn’t have to carry it anymore.

They nicknamed the M134 Minigun “Old Painless.” Normally, they’re mounted to helicopters.

It only takes for seconds to fire 200 rounds from the Minigun.

Quotation Notes
Editor Mark Helfrich says he may have let the helicopter scene run too long…”I had a lot of cool helicopter shots… I wanted to use them. I guess I was influenced by Apocalypse Now.”

Arnold “wanted to do a film like The Magnificent Seven where a team of guys work together.”

Jesse Ventura says firing the Minigun is “like shooting a chainsaw.”

Vietnam vet Richard Chaves (Poncho) said being in the jungle “was an instant déjà vu.”

Director McTiernan on one of the guns: “It takes a man as big as him just to pick it up.” It weighed around 50 lbs.

Screenwriter Jim Thomas: “Mac and Blain were a team within themselves.” He says flasks like that “become like totems” to soldiers.

Director McTiernan was impressed with Elpidia Carrillo: “She knows more about the character than I do.”

Bill Duke (Mac) has had over 50 roles, but people remember him for this one. He says, “It’s a classic. It sets a standard.”

Screenwriter Jim Thomas: “The more of a creature you reveal, the quicker the audience [gets] bored. The mystery is in keeping Jaws underwater.”

The screenwriters’ intent was to “strip away elements of the modern, organized world. Here’s a guy with the most technological weaponry and he’s reduced to making bows and arrows.”

Kevin Peter Hall (Predator): “I’ve always wanted to play a heavy, and this is an excellent heavy.”

Kevin Peter Hall (Predator) said, “Hunting down Arnold is fun.”

Director John McTiernan says he “wanted to do an old fashioned popcorn movie, and that’s what this is.”

Script Notes
The original idea for Predator was Rocky meets Alien.

The screenwriters did a lot of research into U.S. Special Forces operations in South America to make sure how they would really sneak into the jungle.

Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas based Predator on classic mythological stories: “[There have] always been creatures like Predator. The Cyclops, the Minotaur. They represent darkness.”

The movie was originally called “Hunter” before the filmmakers settled on Predator.

The original plan for the movie was to have several predators. Luckily for Arnold, that didn’t pan out.

Set Notes
Arnold and Weathers were competitive off-set, too, especially when it came to working out. Weathers would even get up at 4 AM to go to the gym.

The actors learned how to be a real military unit by performing maneuvers and marches in the jungle.

Real poisonous snakes and scorpions invaded the set during filming.

The crew would chop down leaves and re-plant them in front of the camera for some shots.

When they started shooting in the jungle, 300 Mexican crew members showed up. It was 200 more than they needed.

Arnold posed for photos with the snake around his shoulders.

A crew spent two weeks wiring the jungle with explosives to create the destruction in military assault scene.

The glowing Predator blood is the liquid from a glow stick mixed with K-Y Jelly.

Predator’s scaly flesh is based on koi (carp) and locusts.

The crew had to improvise and use the resources of the jungle to their advantage, too. Stuntmen dug giant holes, and locals made massive nets out of vines.

Bill Duke improvised the shaving. The crew scrambled on set to make a razor that squirts blood.

Carl Weathers really did pick up a bad habit from Arnold. Before the movie, he never smoked, but after Arnold sent him a box of cigars, Weathers was hooked.

The movie’s insurance company hired a bodyguard to be with Sonny Landham (Billy) at all times. Director McTiernan explains: “Not to protect Sonny, but to protect other people from Sonny.”

Arnold and a stuntman went over the 50-foot waterfall in different takes. The stuntman got injured.

Predator’s suit was designed by master creature creator Stan Winston (The Terminator, 1984).

They covered Arnold in mud by shooting it through a hose like they were “stuccoing a house.”

The tree that Predator stands on was made from concrete by a crew of 50.

James Cameron helped design the face. It took at least 8 guys to operate.

Peter Cullen (Predator’s voice) used horseshoe crabs as inspiration for the alien’s vocal style.

The crew didn’t burn any jungle. The explosion location had already been burned to the ground two years prior. They did spray-paint a lot of stumps black, though.

Source Notes
Creature designer Winston was inspired by a painting of a Rastafarian warrior in the producer’s office.

McTiernan got the idea for the nuclear bomb countdown from a dream he had in high school.

Symbolism Notes
Each character has different camo makeup. Dutch wears “strong lines” to show that he’s a leader.

Warriors sometimes wore the symbol of a boar as a sign of protection and ferocity in battle.

Tech Notes
The “Predator-vision” was created using special effects and a heat-vision camera.

To make the fireballs, they would just dump gasoline around and light it up.

Some of the weird Predator sounds were created by squishing a sponge into a jar.

One of the movie’s animators actually “cut” his own name into Predator’s costume.

They created the invisibility effect by putting an actor in a red suit and removing him from the background.

Trivia Notes
Heat-seeking missiles have been around since the late 1950s.

Predator got a 90% approval rating from test audiences.

“This time Schwarzenegger is the prey” was a popular line used to advertise the movie overseas.

Tri-beam sights like the one in the movie really do exist. They allow the eye to locate the center of a target quicker.

Covering yourself in mud like that is a real survival technique. Plus, it keeps the bugs away.

Predator’s blood was originally supposed to be orange.

Predator was almost 7’7″ with all of his gear. Arnold is big, but he’s not that big. He’s around 6’0″.

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