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Things You Didn't Know About The Making Of '80s Action Movies

July 6, 2021 217 votes 38 voters 1.2k views15 items

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There's no doubt about it, '80s action movies are the most fun to watch because they looked like the most fun to make. In a time before CGI and motion capture, action movie filmmakers were creating futuristic sci-fi characters like the Terminator and RoboCop without the technology to back it up, and somehow, they made it work.

Every '80s action filmmaker has an impressive (or hilarious) behind-the-scenes story of how they made these films possible and we love to hear it. 

  • During the infamous Well of the Souls scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the crew members had to decide how many snakes were enough to make the well look realistic. At first, they tried 3,000 snakes which didn't look realistic enough so upped the amount to 7,000. Among the snakes used for the Well of the Souls was a python, which ended up biting the hand of the first assistant director, David Tomblin.

    Somehow, Tomblin managed to stay completely calm and instructed a stagehand to grab the python by the tail and whip it. The snap would apparently send a wave through the snake's body and force it to release Tomblin's hand. The stagehand did exactly that and the python released Tomblin's hand. The snake was not injured but David had to seek medical attention for non-serious injuries. No wonder Indiana Jones hates snakes. 

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  • The Empire Strikes Back is regarded as the best Star Wars film for multiple reasons, one of them being that iconic Luke Skywalker scene where he gets caught up in a deadly blizzard. Additionally, the film was directed by a Hollywood veteran director, Irvin Kershner, rather than George Lucas (who admittedly is not the best director). 

    While shooting on location in Norway, a vicious snowstorm hit the hotel where most of the cast and crew were staying for the duration of the shoot. Instead of canceling filming for the day, Kershner decided to use the weather conditions to their advantage and shoot the scene where Luke wanders through the snow after escaping the Wampa cave. The scene was shot by having Mark Hamill wander around in the actual snowstorm while Kershner and a camera operator shot it from inside the hotel lobby. 

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  • Spoiler alert: Lethal Weapon 2 ends with Riggs being shot and Murtaugh cradling his body until the police arrive. The ending is sappy but fitting for the Lethal Weapon franchise. Little did you know, Riggs was originally supposed to die from his wound and that's actually how they shot the scene. According to director Richard Donner on the DVD commentary, Riggs is mortally wounded in Shane Black's original draft of the script.

    While the producers disagreed with it, they shot the scene like that anyways, with the option to re-edit it later to have Riggs survive the gunshot. The ending with the camera panning up to the sunrise after the final fight was supposed to be the ending where Riggs is dead, which is why neither he nor Murtaugh are moving in that final shot. Test audiences reacted more positively to the ending where Riggs survives so they swapped out the melancholic "Knocking on Heaven's Door" cover by Eric Clapton and replaced it with George Harrison's "Cheer down" as the final song. 

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  • RoboCop came amidst the influx of futuristic, sci-fi action films in the mid-late '80s. It was a fun addition to the genre, with Peter Weller playing a police officer who's part man, part machine. The RoboCop costume has since become iconic and instantly recognizable, but it was actually a complete nightmare to shoot with for the cast and crew. 

    The RoboCop outfit was so big and bulky that simple scenes such as RoboCop catching a set of car keys took almost the entire day to film (they kept bouncing off the foam hands). Peter Weller actually lost almost 3 lbs a day due to his constant sweating in the outfit that they had to install a fan inside the suit. Furthermore, Peter Weller couldn't fit inside his squad car with the full costume on so whenever RoboCop is seen driving, he's only wearing bits and pieces of the costume. It wasn't all bad though, as Weller got to listen to music inside the helmet during action sequences. 

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