Ghostbusters, Ben Hur, Star Wars, every Disney movie ever... Reboots are all the rage right now, and if this trend continues, we may be seeing everyone's favorite '80s war hero back on the big screen. Rambo V: Last Blood has been in development since the release of Rambo (the confusingly-titled fourth entry in the series), but information has been limited to the odd interview with star Sly Stallone, who occasionally talks about revisiting the franchise. Earlier this year, a story was circulated that Stallone had announced an upcoming film with ISIS as the villain at Comic-Con, but that rumor was quickly quashed.
Still, there is definitely interest in seeing the Vietnam vet return to our screens, and anything is possible. In fact, Fox has announced intentions to bring Rambo to the small screen for an upcoming TV series, but it looks like they may leave Stallone behind on this one.
While we wait to find out if John Rambo will be taking on any more villains in future, let's look back at his past with twelve things you (probably) didn't know about Rambo!
Films based on novels are by no means a rarity, but many people don’t realize that First Blood, the first film of the Rambo series, is one of them. Written by David Morrell in 1972, First Blood was generally very well received, and the film rights were sold that same year. The fact that it took ten years to get from page to screen was due to a constant cycle of re-writing and re-selling, and the rights passed through multiple studios and re-writes until it was finally brought to life in 1982.
As is so often the case, the film adaptation ended up very different from the original novel. As well as changing several characters and minor points, the entire focus of the novel shifted by the time it got into production. The book involves a much more depressing ending, as pretty much everybody dies (including Rambo).
Morell had multiple influences for his novel, including the classic novel Rogue Male (by Geoffrey Household), but a major inspiration for the character of Rambo himself was a real-life war hero: Audie Murphy.
Murphy was a decorated hero of World War II, receiving five medals for heroism from France and one from Belgium, as well as thirteen medals of valor from the US Army. Murphy also won the Medal of Honor at the age of nineteen for single handedly holding his position against enemy soldiers before counterattacking while wounded. His incredible skills in war weren’t the only inspiration, though. Sadly (if not surprisingly) Murphy returned home with severe PTSD, and turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
It seems that star Sylvester Stallone was something of a perfectionist when working on First Blood. Not only did he write multiple revisions to the script itself, but when he saw the first rough cut, he was furious. At over three hours long, he was worried that the film would kill his career, and he didn’t want it to make it to theaters. Stallone even made an offer to buy the existing negatives so that he could ensure that they were completely destroyed.
However, the movie was saved when he was shown a preview reel that was only 40 minutes long, and loved it. After that, the film was reduced to its much more manageable 90 minutes (less than half the length of that doomed first cut), and the rest is history.
Colonel Samuel “Sam” Trautman may have been something of a father-figure to Rambo in the movies, but he was actually named after an uncle… Uncle Sam, that is. Naming such a central character after the personification of the American Government may seem like something of a strange choice, given Rambo’s history with the Vietnam War and his general distrust of authority figures.
This makes a lot more sense, however, when considered in the context of the original novel. Here, Sam Trautman isn’t the caring man that we meet in the movies (and later film novelizations), but a far more general authority figure. He and Rambo have a much more complicated relationship – one that suits his relationship with the government and the military, and where the Uncle Sam reference makes much more sense.
The name Rambo has become synonymous with the muscle-bound, bullet-spraying war hero, but the name actually comes from a humble piece of fruit. There are actually two apples named “Rambo”, the Rambo Apple and the Summer Rambo. The story goes that the novelist was unable to think of a suitable name for our hero, when his wife brought home some Rambo apples, and he figured that that might just work.
Given that this isn’t a particularly badass backstory, some people believe that he was named for the Japanese word for "violence." However, the Japanese word rambo more commonly means "lawless," and this is a coincidence discovered when the film was released in Japan, not an intentional choice by the author.
Now, Rambo is synonymous with Sylvester Stallone, but he wasn’t always the first choice for the part. The studio considered a whole range of other actors, including Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro and Chuck Norris. Multiple actors turned down the part because the role was too violent (understandably enough), including Terence Hill, Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta.
However, one star had a very different reason for not taking on the role of the Vietnam vet. Al Pacino was absolutely interested, but would only play it if Rambo was even more of a madman, as he felt that the script lacked the intensity of the novel. His request was denied, and Stallone came on to play the Rambo that Pacino felt wasn’t quite mad enough.
For a franchise known for its extreme violence, it’s surprising to many people that only one character actually dies in First Blood. For the most part, Rambo uses his incredible combat skills to disarm and neutralize his opponents without actually murdering them. Even the one death (omitting the deaths of animals) isn’t at Rambo’s hands, but an accident that is the fault of the victim, Galt, is trying to shoot at Rambo from a helicopter and falls out to his death.
However, the death toll rises exponentially in the following films. In First Blood Part II, it's at eighty five. Rambo III surpassed one hundred, which made it the most violent film ever made (according to the Guinness Book Of World Records at the time). By the time we reach Rambo (aka Rambo IV), the body count averages 2.59 per minute.
While filming First Blood Part II in Acapulco in November 1984, a tragic accident claimed the life of FX specialist Cliff Wenger, Jr.. Winger was working on a stunt explosion when it went horribly wrong, going off before the area was cleared, and killing him instantly. The film was dedicated to him in memoriam.
The franchise as a whole has an impressive history of on-set injuries, especially for stuntmen and Stallone himself. Injuries included broken ribs (when Stallone jumped out of a tree), a broken nose (which occurred when Stallone accidentally elbowed a stuntman in the face), and a broken back (when a car chase scene went wrong, and the stuntman driving after Rambo was flipped and suffered a lumbar fracture).
Stunt horses do as much cross-film work as stunt humans, so it’s no surprise to see a familiar four-legged cast member in multiple action films. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Harrison Ford rides the same horse as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo III.
The character of Rambo has some history with horses (which explains why a US soldier would be quite so capable a rider as he is in Rambo III), as his father owned a ranch. In the final scenes of Rambo III, we see him in Arizona, walking to a horse farm with the name R. Rambo on the mailbox.
As one of the world’s richest actors (with a reported net worth of around four hundred million), it’s no surprise that Stallone has owned more than one private jet over the span of his career. In 1986, his Boeing 727 was vandalized by graffiti artists in Copenhagen, who painted “Ho Chi Minh Air Force” on the side of the plane. The vandals were allegedly ridiculing his Rambo character with this message.
Stallone got the last laugh, though, as part of his fee for the 1988 Rambo III was reputedly a Gulfstream; one of the most expensive and luxurious private jets on the market.
Julie Benz plays Sarah, one of the missionaries that John Rambo is out to save in Rambo. Co-starring in the fourth installment of the Rambo franchise was a huge deal, but it turns out that Benz didn’t go after the role, it came to her.
Sylvester Stallone is a fan of Dexter, the hit drama about a serial killer. Benz had a recurring role in the series as the title character’s girlfriend (and later wife). When working on casting, Stallone asked that Benz be contacted about the role of Sarah, entirely off the back of her work in Dexter, and she leapt at the chance to work with such a movie icon.
The 2008 film installment Rambo is set in Burma/Myanmar as John Rambo has to help rescue a group of missionaries kidnapped by soldiers in a brutal military regime. The portrayal of the military forces in Burma is extremely negative, as Stallone saw the film as a political statement as much as an action movie, and spoke out against the regime in the country at the time of release.
The local government banned the film, with sellers risking seven years in prison for stocking the controversial movie, but it became popular despite this, with an underground trade in copies springing up.
What else do fans need to know about Rambo? Let us know in the comments!