There is so much to love about the first Lethal Weapon sequel. Reuniting director Richard Donner with stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (whilst adding Joe Pesci to the team), Lethal Weapon 2 sees LAPD sergeants Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh taking on a gang of South African drug dealers, and most fans agree that it’s every bit as entertaining as its 1987 predecessor.
Below are 10 things you probably didn’t know about one the best action movie sequels of the era.
10. Shane Black’s original script was rejected for being “too dark and bloody”
Shane Black, who wrote the screenplay for the first Lethal Weapon film, was also asked to put pen to paper on the sequel.
Unfortunately, Black’s script, which he gave the working title Play Dirty, was rejected by director Richard Donner, producer Joel Silver and Warner Bros for being “too dark and bloody.”
9. Martin Riggs was originally going to die at the end of the film
Another aspect of Shane Black’s original script, which he has described as “the best thing I ever wrote,” was the death of Gibson’s Martin Riggs at the end of the film. Studio Warner Bros were very much against this, as they wanted to keep the franchise going.
As a compromise, director Richard Donner shot two versions of the ending: one following Black’s original script, the other showing Riggs’ survival. Test audiences responded better to Riggs surviving, so this ending was used instead.
8. Mel Gibson was drinking five pints of beer for breakfast
Whilst Lethal Weapon 2 was being filmed, Mel Gibson admitted to Richard Donner that his issues with alcohol meant he was drinking five pints of beer for breakfast.
This came as something of a shock to the director, who had been impressed with Gibson’s punctuality and professionalism throughout the shoot.
7. Joe Pesci based his character on Disneyland employees
The role of annoying federal witness Leo Getz was originally offered to Memento and Bad Boys star Joe Pantoliano, but after a scheduling conflict saw him having to pull out, Joe Pesci was brought in instead.
Pesci, who most definitely made the role his own, based his memorable “OK-OK-OK” catchphrase on employees at Disneyland giving directions to their guests.
6. A single scene cost the production half a million dollars
Remember the spectacular sequence in Lethal Weapon 2 which sees Riggs pull down and destroys a mountain top house by attaching cables to its stilts?
Well, that scene alone (shot entirely practically) took a massive $500,000 chunk out of the film’s $30 million budget.
5. It was one of the first films not to feature opening credits
Lethal Weapon 2 was one of the first times that a Hollywood production displayed only the film’s title at the start, without going on to list any further cast and crew credits.
Early exceptions to this rule, which has become the norm for most modern day films, were the original Star Wars trilogy films and 1989’s Ghostbusters II.
4. Patsy Kensit also sings on the film’s soundtrack
English-born actress and model Patsy Kensit stars in the film as South African secretary Rika van den Haas, love interest of Mel Gibson’s Riggs. She also sings on the Lethal Weapon 2 soundtrack.
Back in the 80s Kensit was also the lead singer of a band called Eighth Wonder, and their track I’m Not Scared is featured on the film’s soundtrack.
3. It made more money than the first Lethal Weapon film
The first Lethal Weapon film was a big success, making over $120 million from a budget of just $15 million, but Lethal Weapon 2 brought home the bucks in an even more impressive way, earning $228 million off the back of a $30 million budget.
This made Lethal Weapon 2 the third highest-grossing film of 1989 in the United States (behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Batman). However, both were eclipsed by Lethal Weapon 3, which took just under $300 million at the box office in 1992.
2. It was nominated for an Academy Award
You may be surprised to learn that Lethal Weapon 2 was nominated for an Academy Award at the 62nd annual awards ceremony in 1990.
Robert Henderson and Alan Robert Murray received a nomination in the Sound Effects Editing category, but they lost out to Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns for their work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
1. It was a huge hit in South Africa, despite the South Africans bad guys
Lethal Weapon 2 famously features Riggs and Murtaugh doing battle with corrupt South African diplomats (headed by Joss Ackland), and the film is very critical of the political climate in that country at the time. Despite this, the film was released uncut in South Africa, and proved a big box office success.
Some have even suggested that the action sequel’s success may have impacted popular opinion enough to have contributed to the end of apartheid in the early 1990s.