20 Things You Never Knew About Lethal Weapon
Us 80s kids may well be getting too old for this sh*t, but Lethal Weapon was the first fresh-faced entry in a franchise that would spawn a further three movies over the next 11 years.
And whilst we definitely enjoyed all of the sequels, it’s the original 1987 movie that holds the most special place in our hearts.
So without further delay, below are 20 things that you probably didn’t know about this truly classic action movie.
20. The original script was much darker and had more elaborate action sequences
According to its writer, Shane Black, the original version of the Lethal Weapon script was much darker than the movie it would become.
Black stated that his intention was to write an ‘urban western’, one partly inspired by a certain Clint Eastwood classic.
Inspired by 1971’s Dirty Harry, the first draft of the Lethal Weapon script was also much longer at over 140 pages.
The action scenes imagined by Black at the initial scripting stage were also on a much larger scale, with a far more elaborate ending.
The early draft consisted of a chase scene with helicopters and a trailer truck full of cocaine exploding over Hollywood Hills and ‘snowing’ over the Hollywood sign.
Unfortunately, Black hated this initial draft and completely discarded it, although he would later return to it and build upon the original script.
19. It very nearly starred Bruce Willis instead of Mel Gibson
Reports have suggested that none other than Bruce Willis was considered for the role of Martin Riggs before Mel Gibson was cast.
This casting fact was even referenced in the 1993 Lethal Weapon spoof Loaded Weapon 1.
We see this when Willis, playing Die Hard’s John McClane, appears after the movie’s villains attack the wrong beach house.
In a strange coincidence, Gibson was also considered for Willis’ role in Die Hard, which was also produced by Joe Silver.
Furthermore, the script for Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) was written as a Lethal Weapon sequel.
18. It was almost directed by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy
After the script was purchased for $250,000 by Warner Bros, former Spock Leonard Nimoy was offered the chance to direct.
However, Nimoy was already working on Three Men and a Baby so had to turn down the offer.
He also claimed he would feel uncomfortable directing an action movie, as genre he lacked experience in.
The job was instead taken up by The Omen, The Goonies and Superman director Richard Donner.
He jumped at the chance with great enthusiasm, as he was a huge fan of the final script.
17. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had instant chemistry
According to director Richard Donner, as soon as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover did their first read-through of the movie’s script, he knew that they had found the right pair to take on the roles of Riggs and Murtaugh.
“It took about two hours and by the time we were done, I was in seventh heaven,” Donner has been quoted as saying.
“They found innuendos, they found laughter where I never saw it, they found tears where they didn’t exist before, and most importantly, they found a relationship, all in just one reading.”
Mel Gibson had been first on board as Donner was keen to work with him after the success of Ladyhawke.
Casting director Marion Dougherty then suggested teaming Gibson up with Glover, a decision which would prove to be a wise move.
16. Gary Busey dropped 60 pounds to play a villain for the first time
Despite having been a star since his Oscar-nominated performance in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story, Gary Busey had not auditioned for any movies for a number of years.
“I had butterflies, I’d never played a bad guy. And no one had seen me since I’d lost 60 pounds and got back into shape.’ Busey has since said.
‘But I decided to take the initiative in order to have the opportunity to work with Dick, Joel, Mel and Danny.’
Busey has claimed he was hired because he was big enough and menacing enough to to be a viable foe for Mel Gibson.
Busey was grateful for the opportunity to star amongst such renowned actors, and credits the film for reviving his failing movie career.
15. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover spent time with real undercover police officers
After landing their roles, the pair flew home to to begin an intensive two month period of physical training and preparation.
As well as the large amount of physical training they had to undergo, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover also spent time working in the field with real-life LAPD officers.
This was so that the pair would be familiar with the special skills required by undercover cops before they started shooting the movie.
Stunt coordinator Bobby Bass used his own military experiences to bring a greater depth of understanding and inside perspective to the characters.
Technical advisers from the L.A.P.D. and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department were also on hand on the set to ensure a sense of authenticity.
14. It was nominated for an Oscar
It may not seem like the kind of movie to be nominated for an Academy Award, but Lethal Weapon was indeed close to winning its very own Oscar during the 60th awards ceremony in 1987.
The movie was nominated in the Best Sound category, alongside Empire of the Sun, RoboCop, The Witches of Eastwick.
However, the eventual winner was the well-deserving The Last Emperor.
The film’s failure to secure this prestigious award did not hold it back by any way or means.
It is widely considered to be one of the best ‘buddy cop’ films of all time.
13. It spawned three sequels and a TV series
We suspect you’re well aware that Lethal Weapon spawned three sequels (Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989, Lethal Weapon 3 in 1992 and Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998).
But did you know there was also a Lethal Weapon TV series?
Running for three series from 2016 to 2019, the TV show starred Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as Riggs and Murtaugh.
Crawford was later fired amidst reports of bad behaviour and his character was killed off by his father’s second son.
He was replaced by Seann William Scott, who played a new character named Wesley Cole for the show’s third and final series.
12. It has inspired a number of movies
Lethal Weapon is now considered to be one of the best buddy cop movies of all time.
It influenced a number of similar movies that have been made in the years that followed.
We’re sure you’ll agree that movies such as Tango & Cash, Bad Boys and Rush Hour all have a debt to pay to Lethal Weapon!
Let’s face it, would 21 Jump Street even had been made if it weren’t for Lethal Weapon?
However, surely no pairing can surpass the chemistry between Gibson and Glover, the original buddy cops.
11. A fifth entry in the franchise is on the way
There has been talk of a fifth entry in the Lethal Weapon franchise for well over a decade.
However, it wasn’t until 2017 that both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover officially signed onto the project.
Called ‘Lethal Weapon Finale’, the movie, which is currently stuck in production limbo, will take place in the present day.
This means that Murtaugh and Riggs will be in their seventies and sixties respectively.
As the title suggests, it will most definitely be the final entry in the 32-year-old franchise!
10. Jackie Swanson performed her own high fall stunt
Jackie Swanson’s impressive high fall stunt was not the work of a stunt double as you might imagine.
The actress performed this move herself, and was trained by legendary stuntman Dar Robinson.
The stunt was coordinated by using an airbag covered in a life sized image of the driveway and cars which visually blends into the real scene.
This means that the editor was able to hold the shot until just before she made contact with the airbag.
This creates a far greater sense of realism, and fully immerses the viewer in the scene.
9. There was an alternate version of the opening and ending scenes
An alternate opening and ending were both filmed and can be found on the Lethal Weapon 4 DVD.
The alternate opening consisted of Martin Riggs drinking alone in a bar when he is accosted by a couple of thugs who want his money.
Riggs claims all his money is in the bank, and in typical Riggs fashion tells the thugs “not to f**k with him”.
Unfortunately, he does not manage to stop the thugs in their tracks, but Riggs subdues them with ease.
Donner, however, felt the movie should open with a more positive portrayal of Riggs and filmed the scene showing Riggs waking up in his trailer instead.
8. The actors were trained in martial arts
From the outlook, Donner wanted the final fight sequences to be as unique and accurate as possible.
Assistant director Willie Simmons also had an interest in in ‘unusual forms’ of martial arts, and he invited several experts to the set to perform for Donner.
Donner was blown away by the demonstration that he decided to hire three technical advisors, each adept in a particular form of martial arts.
One of the technical advisers was an expert in jailhouse rock (a collection of fighting styles that have been practiced within US penal institutions)and incorporated this into the scene.
The filming of the fight sequence was spread over four complete nights and resulted in an edited sequence which lasted several minutes on-screen.
7. In the script’s first draft, the characters had dark back stories
We’ve already addressed how the first draft of the script was darker as a whole, but it seems both Riggs and Murtaugh had a troubled past.
In the first draft of the script, both characters would get flashbacks from their time serving in Vietnam.
This included Murtaugh recalling how he’d accidentally killed a young soldier with his bare hands during intense military training before heading into the war zone.
Riggs also remembered how great at killing he was, and reminisced over how many people he killed working as an assassin for the C.I.A.
The script also expanded on a backstory for Joshua, who, like Riggs, was also working as a C.I.A. assassin in Vietnam.
6. The Murtaughs’ house can be seen in other movies
If the Murtaughs’ house looks familiar to you, there is good reason for this.
The house is well known on the Warner Bros Ranch, which is also home to the fountain from Friends.
The house was originally owned by Columbia Pictures, before they merged with Warner Bros. to form the Burbank Studios.
The house and street itself can be seen on various old Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems TV series.
This includes The Partridge Family among others. The Murtaughs’ house is on a street commonly referred to as ‘Blondie Street’.
5. Mel Gibson refers to the movie in the Expendables 3
Gibson is a movie veteran, and has appeared in dozens of films throughout the years.
And who could resist a little name drop every now and again. Certainly not Gibson.
He makes reference to the notorious fight scene in the movie Expendables 3, telling the people he’s fighting to ‘kill him’.
Expendables 3 also featured Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas, both of whom worked with Donner and Silver on Assassins (1995).
Gibson also jokingly suggested that his characters Martin Riggs and Jerry Fletcher from Conspiracy Theory (1997), also directed by Donner, would be good as Expendables.
4. Riggs makes a rookie error
Of course, when making a film, it’s important to get all the little details as accurate as possible.
But let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good movie blunder? And Lethal Weapon has quite a few!
In one scene, Riggs said he thinks about ‘eating a bullet’ and that he had a special ‘hollow point’ bullet ready for the occasion.
However, the bullet he uses earlier in the movie is not a hollow point but actually a full metal jacket round.
Furthermore, no self respecting gunman would even consider using a FMJ to commit suicide.
3. Roger Ebert played a huge part in the film’s success
Roger Ebert, the film critic, was instrumental in helping the film achieve the success it would later go on to enjoy.
When reviewing it for his TV show, Ebert was enthusiastic in his appraisal.
‘It thrilled me from beginning to end,’ he stated, explaining that it was both a great action film and a well-written drama.
In his written review, he awarded the film four stars. Many of his fans had not been aware of the film until this point due to a limited advertisement campaign.
His appraisal encouraged others to seek out the movie, widely agreeing with him on the film’s quality.
2. TV trailers showed deleted scenes from the movie
Trailers which were broadcast on the TV and in theatres show some deleted or extended scenes.
This includes Murtaugh saying ‘New Partner?’ after he gets thrown to the floor by Riggs on their first meeting.
There is also a scene where Riggs and Murtaugh are driving in the car when Murtaugh tells Riggs ‘Don’t kill anybody’.
It also features the aforementioned introduction scene where Riggs is fighting with the thugs in the bar.
There are also several deleted scenes which have never been released, much to our frustration!
1. There was one line that sold Warner Bros. on the script
Shane Black’s final script was completely different from his first draft, and the studio were initially unsure.
However, luckily for Black, there was one line than immediately convinced them they had found the right man for the job.
This was a descriptive line during the sequence where Riggs tries to track down Joshua after killing the torturers.
The scene involved a car crash caused by Joshua, and there was a particular turn of phrase which sold Warner Bros. on the whole project.
This was the line ‘and the cars trade paint’, describing the impact of the car crash.