One of the many confirmed myths behind-the-scenes of genre history is that, originally, John McTernan’s 1987 film, PREDATOR, was intended to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger versus Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.
Van Damme wasn’t the martial arts action star we know today at that time. BLOODSPORT didn’t happen until 1988, followed by KICKBOXER in 1989. This is now common knowledge for anyone that’s watched any of the special features on previous home video releases of PREDATOR or done some digging online. However, the now-iconic look for the creature wasn’t what was originally planned. It was actually something much, much different.
According to FX legend Steve Johnson in the video clip embedded below, McTiernan had his production design team had come up with this look for the PREDATOR:
This version of the creature was in fact created and shooting began with Van Damme in the jungles of Mexico, but with one major difference. Because the majority of the Predator stuff took place while he had his cloaking device on, they needed an all red suit (the opposite of green) that they could later remove and make transparent. In fact, a good portion of the invisible Predator shots in the final movie are still Van Damme. However, the actor was unaware that this was not the final suit and really hated it.
Check out this video courtesy of the Stan Winston School with Steve Johnson who explains the whole thing:
Below are a slew of behind-the-scenes photos showing what the original PREDATOR would have looked like had they continued filming with it.
But eventually, Van Damme was replaced. And the creature redesigned. While there’s no concrete reason as to why, my theory is that they needed someone far more physically imposing when filmed up against Arnold Schwarzenegger. Van Damme was 5’10”, where as Arnold was 6’2″.
Enter Kevin Peter Hall, the 7’2″ performer that had already played a similar creature in WITHOUT WARNING and Bigfoot himself in HARRY & THE HENDERSONS. With a new PREDATOR design and a new actor behind the suit, the rest, as they say, is history.
Hall reprised the role of the PREDATOR for the 1990 sequel. Sadly, he passed away one year later after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion at the age of 35. He will, however, always be remembered as one of the greatest cinematic monsters on screen.