We won’t pretend for a second that Predator 2 is anywhere near as good as its Arnold Schwarzenegger-fronted predecessor, but there’s still a lot to love about the 1990 sequel starring Danny Glover. It moved the distinctive, dreadlocked hunter from a regular jungle to the urban kind, with a tagline that promised the alien was ‘in town with a few days to kill’ – so how could we not bring you the following fascinating facts about Predator 2.
20. The script was written in just three weeks
No one can pretend that Predator 2’s script is deserving of any major awards, but it was at least penned by the same screenwriters behind the original film. The original Predator was written by brothers Jim and John Thomas, and this duo remained the go-to choice of the producers when studio 20th Century Fox decided to make a follow-up film.
Jim Thomas told Starlog back in 1990, “We had five or six sequel approaches all ready for them… One was a fantasy I always had about putting the creature in an urban jungle. And as it turned out, that was the idea that Fox liked.” The Thomas brothers got straight to work, and handed in a first draft of Predator 2 to producer Joel Silver just three weeks later.
19. The film got given the green light after the Predator comic book was so successful
All these years later, 1987’s Predator is widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi action movies ever made, but the film wasn’t actually that big a hit on release. After being met with lukewarm reviews, director John McTiernan’s film made less than $99 million at the global box office – hardly a flop, but not exactly blockbuster money.
For this reason, 20th Century Fox producers were not originally interested in making a Predator sequel, until their minds were changed by the success of a Predator comic book series. Dark Horse’s 1989 limited series Predator: Concrete Jungle was so well received that producer Joel Silver was able to convince the studio to greenlight Predator 2.
18. Patrick Swayze and Steven Seagal were the first actors approached to play Danny Glover’s part
For the lead role of the LAPD’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, the first actor approached was Patrick Swayze, who had not long since worked with producer Joel Silver on action movie Road House. Unfortunately, Swayze had sustained an injury during that physically demanding shoot, and was not ready to take on another action-heavy role.
Next, the filmmakers met with martial arts star Steven Seagal, whose 1988 debut movie Above the Law had been a minor box office success but a big hit on home video. However, Seagal had suggestions for the role which the filmmakers didn’t like (including making the character a martial arts expert, of course), so they decided against casting him and went with Lethal Weapon‘s Danny Glover instead.
17. The crew discovered a dead body while shooting in downtown Los Angeles
Predator 2 presents urban Los Angeles as Hell on Earth, and it seems this wasn’t too far removed from the reality facing the film’s cast and crew. Shooting in downtown LA after sunset threw up a number of challenges for filmmakers, reportedly including resentful residents who threw bags of urine and faeces at the cast and crew. Rats were also commonplace.
As if human waste and rodents weren’t bad enough, the crew were confronted with something particularly unpleasant when clearing out an alleyway in preparation for shooting one scene: lying on the ground was a real dead body. Art department co-ordinator Shane Mahan would later say, “The most horrible places I’ve ever had to film in were the alleys in downtown Los Angeles.”
16. A more extreme version of the film was heavily cut to avoid an NC-17 rating
1987’s original Predator isn’t exactly a family-friendly movie, but sequel Predator 2 pushes the boat out even further. The film features a number of extremely violent sequences, and things could have been even more extreme if producers had stuck to director Stephen Hopkins’ original cut of the film, which US ratings board the MPAA threatened with an NC-17 rating.
The NC-17 had been introduced a mere two months before Predator 2’s November 1990 release, as a replacement for the X rating. However, much like its predecessor this new adults-only rating was considered the kiss of death to any film’s chances at the box office success, so a number of graphic scenes had to be removed from Predator 2 in the editing room. Hopkins has said the film was re-cut “over 20 times” before they secured the desired R rating.
15. The Predator’s redesign was criticised for having “racist undertones”
The towering Kevin Peter Hall took the title role in the original Predator, and the 7-foot 2.5-inch actor would return to play the role a second time in Predator 2. Of course, as the original extra-terrestrial hunter was destroyed at the end of the 1987 film, this time around Hall was portraying a second, slightly different Predator.
This new Predator was given a bit of a design overhaul, with a look that was more ‘urban’ and ‘street’ than his jungle-dwelling predecessor, including tribal markings. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, some objected to the new look, claiming it had “racist undertones.” The late film critic Roger Ebert declared that the film included “subliminal clues [which] encourage us to subconsciously connect the menace with black males.”
14. It was the first film to provide a link between Predators and Xenomorphs
The climactic showdown in the Predator’s spaceship features a fan-pleasing Easter egg which soon got fans excited about a possible crossover between the Predator and Alien franchises. A throwaway suggestion from director Stephen Hopkins to special effects maestro Stan Winston led to a Xenomorph head being added to the Predator’s wall of trophy skulls.
Dark Horse Comics had already published the first Alien Vs. Predator comic book series in 1989. The popularity of this led to further comics, plus video games and tie-in novels. Eventually, studio 20th Century Fox (who owned both franchises) took the concept to the big screen with 2004’s Alien vs. Predator and its 2007 sequel Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.
13. The film gave the Predator higher billing than most of the human actors
Even though he played the title character in the original Predator, Kevin Peter Hall’s name appeared way down at the bottom of the cast list for the 1987 film. Predator 2 seeks to amend this injustice by listing Hall up there with all the big name stars of the show: his name comes up second, right after leading man Danny Glover.
Predator 2 has the largest number of actors of any film in the Alien, Predator and Alien vs. Predator franchises, with a total of 55 cast members. Predator 2’s cast includes one key actor from Aliens, Bill Paxton, whose comic relief character Jerry Lambert is highly reminiscent of his Aliens role of Hudson. Other familiar faces for 80s action fans include Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man) and Robert Davi (Die Hard).
12. There’s a music video featuring Danny Glover dancing alongside Predators
Everybody needs to blow off a little steam every now and then, and after the stress of shooting Predator 2 (need we remind you of the human waste and the corpse?), the cast and crew were clearly in need of a giggle. It was presumably in this spirit that they decided to shoot an impromptu dance sequence on the spaceship set for the movie’s gag reel.
This mock music video features the many Predators from the film’s climax, some of whom are perhaps unexpectedly revealed to have some pretty killer moves on the dance floor. The same can’t necessarily be said of actor Danny Glover, who joins in towards the end. The funny short sequence can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.
11. Gary Busey was cast when Schwarzenegger refused to return as Dutch
While Danny Glover’s Lt. Harrigan was always intended as the lead of Predator 2, originally the plan was for him to be joined by a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch. The idea was that after his close encounter with the malevolent alien, the soldier had become part of a top secret government unit devoted to keeping tabs on the other-worldly threat.
However, Schwarzenegger declined to return for Predator 2, reportedly due to 20th Century Fox refusing to meet his asking price (although the actor was also known for being reluctant to make sequels at the time). As a result, the script was rewritten and Dutch’s role in the movie was transferred over to the character of Special Agent Keyes, ultimately played by Gary Busey.
10. Some of the Predators were members of the Los Angeles Lakers
Predator 2’s arresting conclusion sees Danny Glover’s Harrigan defeat a Predator, only to find himself confronted by numerous more who suddenly de-cloak in front of him. Shooting this sequence required a number of performers of considerable height to don the Predator suits – and where better for the filmmakers to recruit than a basketball team?
Glover is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers in real life, and the actor was able to persuade several members of the team to undergo the Predator make-up procedure to appear in Predator 2’s final sequence. However, for the role of the elder Predator, the filmmakers cast a lot closer to home: this was a second role taken by the original Predator himself, Kevin Peter Hall.
9. A one-armed stuntman doubled for the Predator in the later scenes
As Harrigan does battle with the Predator on the mean streets of Los Angeles, things get rough enough that the unfriendly alien winds up losing an arm above the elbow. This, however, naturally isn’t enough to stop a Predator, so there were still a number of scenes to be shot in which the titular monster had to be seen with just one arm.
For this reason, the filmmakers enlisted R David Smith, a stuntman and actor who has one arm in real life. Smith (who can also be seen in Showdown in Little Tokyo and AI: Artificial Intelligence) donned the Predator make-up and costume and doubled for Kevin Peter Hall on some of the wide shots in the final act, whilst on the closer shots Hall continued in the role with his arm concealed.
8. The premise was lifted directly from the Predator comic book
The 1989 comic book series Predator: Concrete Jungle (originally released as Predator: The Heat) has a lot in common with Predator 2: it’s set in what was then the near future, in a major American city troubled by gang warfare, with a lead character who is a cop. Comic writer Mark Veheiden has confirmed he met with producer Joel Silver and screenwriters John and Jim Thomas, and agreed to let them use the same essential premise for Predator 2.
While the plot of the comic book ultimately goes in a different direction to the film, the set-up is similar, and there are a number of moments in the movie which come directly from the comic. Most notably, Predator: Concrete Jungle features an attack on a subway train which inspired the filmmakers to add a similar sequence to the movie.
7. Original Predator co-star Elpidia Carrillo has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo
With Schwarzenegger declining an offer to return, the only original Predator actor to prominently appear in Predator 2 is Kevin Peter Hall – but if you watch very closely, another star of the original film makes a brief appearance. Elpidia Carrillo, who took Predator’s lone female part of Anna, can also be seen in Predator 2, on the archive videos that Gary Busey’s Keyes shows to Danny Glover’s Harrigan.
Carrillo shot new scenes especially for Predator 2, in which she revisits the site of the original film’s jungle attack and talks government agents through what happened. It is also believed that she shot an interrogation scene in which she relayed the events of the first film directly to the camera. Unfortunately for Carrillo, the bulk of this footage was left on Predator 2’s cutting room floor.
6. Robert Rodriguez wrote a Predator 3 script (which eventually became 2010’s Predators)
Despite the critical and commercial failure of Predator 2, executives at 20th Century Fox were still open to the idea of continuing the franchise, so in 1994 they hired an up-and-coming young filmmaker named Robert Rodriguez to write a Predator 3 script. At the time, Rodriguez was hot from his no-budget debut El Mariachi, and was in pre-production on his first studio movie, Desperado.
Alas, the script that Rodriguez came up with was deemed far too expensive to shoot, and 20th Century Fox shelved the project. It would be another 15 years before Fox execs dusted off Rodriguez’ unused script and decided it was worth filming. This proved the genesis of the 2010 sequel Predators, on which Rodriguez was a producer and co-writer with Nimrod Antal directing.
5. Gary Busey’s deleted death scene was later recreated in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Stephen Hopkins’ original, more gruesome director’s cut of Predator 2 is now considered lost. However, we do know that one among the many moments trimmed to keep the film from getting an NC-17 rating was the original, considerably gorier demise of Gary Busey’s Keyes. In the released cut, we see Keyes hit by the Predator’s flying disc and his legs falling to the floor, but the impact is partially obscured.
As originally shot, the sequence was more graphic and less confusing, as it made it clear what happened to Keyes’ torso: the disc pinned his upper body to an adjacent wall, and his guts were shown spilling out. This was considered far too strong for an R rating back in 1990, but by 2007 an almost identical moment was allowed by the MPAA in R-rated sequel Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.
4. It was originally going to be set in New York
We’ve already listed the key things that Predator 2 has in common with the Dark Horse Comics series Predator: Concrete Jungle, but there was originally another significant similarity. In Jim and John Thomas’ first draft of the Predator 2 screenplay, the action took place not in Los Angeles, but way over on the East Coast of the US in New York City.
As Stephen Hopkins explained to Starburst magazine at the time, “Originally the creature was to inhabit Central Park (New York), but we couldn’t afford to do it properly in New York, and it was winter… Once I saw Downtown (Los Angeles), I thought it was a far more fascinating locale, an extraordinary example of art-deco decay, so we shifted operations. The Predator was supposed to gravitate to hot places and Downtown was ideal. Also it was a far easier picture to make in LA obviously.”
3. The film was a critical and commercial flop on release
Today, Predator 2 enjoys a degree of cult status with fans of the franchise, but it has never enjoyed the same acclaim as its 1987 predecessor. The film received largely negative reviews on its release in November 1990, with The New York Times blasting it as “an unbeatable contender for the most mindless, mean-spirited action film of the holiday season.”
Nor did Predator 2 win over audiences: by the end of its box office run it had earned just $57.1 million, more than $40 million less than the first film. This critical and commercial drubbing stopped the Predator franchise dead in its tracks; the titular monster wouldn’t appear on screen again until Alien vs Predator, a full 14 years later.
2. It has multiple links with the Nightmare on Elm Street and Lethal Weapon movies
Predator director John McTiernan was not available for the sequel as he was busy with The Hunt for Red October. Instead, the Predator 2 director’s chair went to Stephen Hopkins, who had impressed the producers with his work on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5. There’s another link to that horror franchise, as Detective Dvorkin actor Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri) had previously appeared in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.
On top of this, Predator 2 shares multiple cast members with the Lethal Weapon series. As well as giving the lead role to Danny Glover with a supporting turn from Gary Busey (who played the original Lethal Weapon’s villain Mr Joshua), the film also co-stars Steve Kahan as Sgt Reeger. Kahan is best known for playing the Captain in all four Lethal Weapon films.
1. Ice Cube made an album inspired by the film
Even though the film was not on the whole as well received as the original, Predator 2 nonetheless made its impact on popular culture in some perhaps unexpected ways. Rapper Ice Cube, formerly of the ground-breaking hip hop collective NWA, named his third solo album and its title track The Predator in homage to the Predator movies.
The album (released in the wake of the infamous LA riots of 1992) contains a number of audio samples from Predator 2, including dialogue from the Jamaican gang leaders, and Gary Busey’s line: “They indicated that when trapped the creature activated a self destruct device that destroyed enough rainforest to cover 300 city blocks!”