20 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Tango & Cash
During the 80s we had many (literally) big stars in the movies. Tango & Cash took two of the biggest – Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell – and put them together in a big budget movie filled with action, adventure and comedy as the main characters escape prison and try to clear their names. It’s now more than 30 years since Tango & Cash was released, so let’s look back at this classic action film with some facts you may not have known.
20. Tango’s specs are Stallone’s own
Sylvester Stallone has to use corrective vision contact lenses, but for some scenes in Tango & Cash, he chose to wear glasses instead.
This meant that the glasses worn were not costume, but his own corrective lenses.
Eye-wear specialists have analysed Stallone’s eyewear and concluded that actor is very near-sighted in one eye.
Whilst his other eye appears to be in far better working order, Stallone also has astigmatism.
This is an imperfection in the curvature of the eye’s cornea. The more you know!
19. The original director was fired after three months of filming when it turned out he wanted to make a much darker film
Late on in principal photography of Tango & Cash – around three months – director Andrey Konchalovskiy was replaced.
It was later revealed that this was because he wanted the film to have a much darker tone than the producers were happy with and so was replaced by Albert Magnoli.
According to Konchalvskiy, producer Jon Peters kept pushing for an increasingly ‘goofy and camp’ ending, which he felt ruined the feel of the film.
There were also claims that the director had run over budget, although it would later be stated that this wasn’t actually Konchalovskiy’s fault.
The film was in dire straights by the time the team were halfway through production, before it all came to a head between Konchalovskiy and Peters.
18. Konchalovskiy praised Stallone’s diplomatic approach to filmmaking
After being replaced by Magnoli as director, original director Konchalovskiy gave high praise to Stallone, who he said acted as a real voice of reason during the production.
This was despite the fact that Stallone had been actively involved in the decision to fire the former director.
According to Konchalovskiy, Stallone was the one who ‘held the production together’.
By the end of principal photography, Stallone was reportedly working in an unofficial capacity as producer, director and writer, as well as star.
Konchalovskiy has since stated that he believes that if it weren’t for Stallone, Peters would have fired him months prior.
17. The “I hate Danish” line is a nod to Stallone’s recent divorce
During one scene, Cash asks Tango if he wants to stop for coffee and Danish.
Stallone had just been through a recent divorce with Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen, so his response of “I hate Danish” was an in-joke relating to this.
The pair had been married for just 19 months, in a relationship which was highly publicised in the press.
Recently, the former couple reunited on the set of Creed II, which the actress described as ‘incredibly emotional’.
Nielsen maintained there was no animosity between the two, saying ‘we are both professionals’.
16. Patrick Swayze was supposed to play Kurt Russell’s role
Before Kurt Russell, the role of Cash was offered to, and accepted, by Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze.
However, Swayze ultimately dropped out of the production to star in Road House instead.
His untimely departure caused friction on set, with casting directors frantically searching for a new Cash.
Swayze was not the only big name movie star to have been scouted for the part, with future James Bond Pierce Brosnan’s name being thrown in the ring.
Other contenders for the role included Kevin Costner, Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis, but ultimately Kurt Russell won out.
15. One scene almost set the stars on fire for real
In one scene in Tango & Cash, you might have noticed that the back of an SUV catches fire.
This was the setting of a real on-set catastrophe: after filming ended, the fire actually kept on blazing and became somewhat out of control.
Luckily, it was Stallone and Russell to the rescue as they desperately tried to dampen the flames.
However, despite their best efforts, the actors did not escape unscathed – at least, one of them didn’t.
Stallone got a little too close to the flames, culminating in his famously glorious 80s hair becoming singed.
14. Stallone tried for a Tango & Cash reunion in The Expendables, but Russell said no
When casting The Expendables, Stallone offered the role of Mr Church to Kurt Russell.
This would have seen the stars of Tango & Cash reunited more than 20 years later.
Sadly, Russell turned down the part and the role of Mr Church went to Bruce Willis instead.
Fortunately, however, Russell and Stallone did get the chance to work together one more time only recently.
The actors were both featured in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017), although they did not share any screen time.
13. The film went $20 million over budget
In addition to Patrick Swayze dropping out and director Andrey Konchalovskiy being fired, there were other changes made on the set of Tango & Cash.
Sylvester Stallone also had director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld fired early in production.
After all the abrupt departures, there was additional shooting under new director Magnoli, along with a few weeks of re-shoots once the first two rounds of filming had ended.
All this endless shooting and reshooting meant that the film ultimately went more than $20 million over budget.
Although Konchalovskiy had been heavily involved in blowing through the film’s budget, Stallone has since argued that the original director was not solely to blame.
12. The quarry ‘set’ wasn’t a set
The climactic battle scene in Tango & Cash takes place in a quarry, which wasn’t a set but a real quarry used for shooting.
The excavated, machinery-filled land was located in Irwindale, California, East of Los Angeles.
The shoot was so elaborate that 11 cameras were used for each shot in the sequence, to capture what was a series of quite serious stunts.
Filming in a real quarry was naturally dangerous, so stunt performers were only allowed to do their takes once.
Extremely nerdy fact: When the truck is in the quarry, the sound effect used for the engine is the same as Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder in Star Wars: A New Hope.
11. The film was finished just weeks before it was in cinemas
Due to the multiple delays in production, meeting the deadline for Tango & Cash’s release was tight.
Delays were further compounded by the studio asking expert editor Stuart Baird to completely re-edit the whole movie before it was due to open.
A final cut of the film was approved by the studio just days before it was set to be theatrically released.
The film was finally shipped to theatres a week after the original release date as a number of ‘wet prints’.
‘Wet prints’ is an industry term for a movie shipped into theatres with minimal time before its release date.
10. There are references to other films of the era
Arriving at the tail-end of the decade, there are multiple references to other 80s movies throughout Tango & Cash.
During the chase sequence where there is a fire, Cash utters the line ‘now we’re cooking’.
This is a reference to the opening scene of Lethal Weapon, where Riggs says the same line.
During the same sequence, Tango asks Cash who taught him to drive, to which he replies it was (famously blind singer) Stevie Wonder.
This gag also features in Die Hard, not exactly surprising considering Die Hard and Tango & Cash share a lot of the same writers.
9. Daphne Ashbrook was meant to play Tango’s sister
The part of Tango’s sister, Katherine “Kiki” Tango, was originally meant to be played by Daphne Ashbrook.
Although Stallone and Ashbrook bear no physical resemblance, this was apparently not a problem in the eyes of the director.
Tango’s sister was in the initial plans not meant to be biologically related to him, rather an adopted sister or a child his parents had fostered.
However, when the filmmakers decided that the character should actually be a blood relation of Tango, they had to change tactics.
The casting team then replaced Ashbrook, and instead cast Teri Hatcher, who somewhat resembles Stallone – at least more than Ashbrook – in the role.
8. The trailer features deleted scenes that never made it into the film
Due to production delays, studio Warner Bros used footage from the first cut of Tango & Cash for the trailer.
Unfortunately, with a finished version of the film still a way off, Warners wasn’t then aware that these scenes would never actually make it into the final product.
Deleted scenes include an alternate shower scene, as well as a deleted fight scene between Cash and the Chinese assassin.
The trailer also features a deleted scene in which Tango can be seen reading the newspaper before unleashing mayhem.
Putting down the paper, Tango then pulls out a SPAS-12 shotgun and starts shooting at a car with it.
7. Four different people ended up directing the film
Before he was dramatically fired, Andrey Konchalovskiy was the original director on Tango & Cash, seeing it through weeks of shooting.
After Konchalovskiy was sacked, executive Producer Peter MacDonald stepped in to director temporarily whilst the crew attempted to recruit a new director.
Next up was Albert Magnoli, a more full-time helmsman who was supposed to carry the film through to its end.
However, Magnoli’s decision to reshoot certain scenes set the production back even further.
The fourth and final director of Tango & Cash was Stallone himself, who directed behind the scenes, as he often did on the productions he worked on in the 80s.
6. One of the trucks used is the infamous Bigfoot truck
If you were watching closely, you might just have spotted a rather iconic vehicle in one particular Tango & Cash scene.
One of the monster trucks at the quarry is actually the original Bigfoot truck.
The truck, however, is not its usual blue self, and has been painted a different colour.
It also lacks its iconic Bigfoot decals in an attempt to make its appearance slightly more subtle.
The original monster truck’s owner Bob Chandler has actually confirmed this is the real deal.
5. It was a box office hit, but still struggled to claw back its budget
Tango & Cash was released in theatres on 22nd December 1989, and its opening weekend surpassed all expectations.
The movie grossed $6,628,918 from 1409 theatres, ranking in at no. 2 in the box office.
At the end of its run, the film raked in a total of $63,408,614 in the USA alone, and, once released on VHS, the film only continued its winning streak.
Unfortunately, even though the film ended up being labelled one of the top 25 movies in the box office in 1989, its inflated budget meant it was only just profitable.
With a final budget of $55 million – hardly a common price tag at the time – the film barely clawed back its budget despite being commercially successful.
4. It received mixed reviews
A cult classic of 80s action today, Tango & Cash still has a score of just 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 4.3/10.
The critical consensus at the time of the film’s release was far from glowing, stating that ‘brutally violent and punishingly dull, this cookie-cutter buddy cop thriller isn’t even fun enough to reach ‘so bad it’s good’ status’.
The New York Times was critical of the film’s plot, as well as its screenwriting and acting.
The Los Angeles Times followed suit, calling it ‘a waste of talent and energy on all levels’.
The Chicago Tribune was slightly more glowing in its appraisal, writing that one interpretation is ‘a crafty foreigner’s sly parody of the current state of American culture’.
3. It was nominated for a number of ‘worst film’ awards
Yes, Tango & Cash was nominated for several awards, but they probably weren’t the type of awards the directors were aiming for.
The movie was nominated for a grand total of three Golden Raspberry awards.
These were: Worst Actor (Stallone), Worst Supporting Actress (Kurt Russell in drag) and Worst Screenplay.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – the film failed to win any of these prestigious awards.
Tango & Cash was also the focus of a 2012 episode of The Flop House podcast, where it was praised for being an enjoyably bad movie and the ‘last film before irony was created’.
2. There’s a potential sequel on the way
It may have been 30 years since the movie’s original release, but Stallone is keen to get the old Tango & Cash team back together.
‘I would do Tango & Cash in a second’, Stallone said in a recent interview with Fandango.
There might be just one small problem, though – namely, that Russell is not quite as keen as his former co-star.
And let’s face it, what would the film be without a reunion of the troublesome two?
According to Stallone, Russell needs some convincing, but Tango & Cash 2 is not completely out of the question.
1. Teri Hatcher learned to play the drums for the film
It’s not exactly a film you’d expect an actor to go all-out method for, but one Tango & Cash actor at least put some real effort into building their character.
Teri Hatcher, today best known for playing Lois Lane in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, leaned an instrument for the film.
When Cash heads to the strip club, he is pleasantly surprised to see Tango’s sister up on the stage.
His shock is only heightened when she inexplicably grabs a pair of sticks and breaks out into an impromptu drum solo.
Hatcher actually learned to play the solo specifically for this role, and her efforts clearly paid off.