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How Kirk Douglas Almost Ruined First Blood (1982) – ManlyMovie

How Kirk Douglas Almost Ruined First Blood (1982)

Just like Sylvester Stallone wasn’t the original choice to play John Rambo, Richard Crenna wasn’t the original choice to play Colonel Trautman either.  That role originally went to Kirk Douglas and character posters were even (officially) drawn up.

The day before filming began, at the 11th hour. Douglas, in a bout of extreme chutzpah, showed up with a revised script.  He had the ending completely changed.  Said Sylvester Stallone earlier a couple of years back:

“The plan to include Kirk Douglas snowballed into something I never expected.  He said to me: ‘Here’s what I want.  At the very end of the movie I should kill you.  The audience sees a cop car driving away and as it disappears into the fog a hand reaches up to the rear view mirror.  The camera turns up and we see me.  It turns up a bit higher and I’m wearing your headband'”.

When Douglas was advised in no uncertain terms that his suggestion was not going to happen, he abandoned the shoot, leaving them in the lurch with one day to go.  And with one day to go, Richard Crenna was drafted in.  His first line was “I made him”, but having just come off a TV show playing a gay doctor, he was told to ditch the gay overtures that were still hanging around from all the hours of being in unmanly character at the hospital.

As for who was to play Rambo?  Quite a few, but funnily enough Burt Reynolds was on that list.  And he invited Stallone over to his house to advise him to turn down this horrible movie, just like he did.  As Stallone said once to Total Film:

“I was at Burt Reynolds’ house having dinner and he said to me ‘… even if the movie dies and you’re good in it, it doesn’t matter’.  I said to him, ‘Burt, that’s about the worst piece of advice anyone has ever given me, but thanks anyway'”.

Okay, Burt…

  • Al Pacino was also considered for Rambo. Also I don’t think Douglas nearly ruined First Blood. That is the ending of the novel after all and they did shoot the Trautman scene were he shot Rambo, you see it briefly in Rambo 2008.

    • TheOldMcClane

      Al Pacino as Rambo? That would have been a trip.

      • David Barber

        That would have been good.

  • Kirk Douglas almost made this film great. His “suggested” ending is the actual ending of the much superior book. A book that is so manly in comparison that it makes the film look like a giant pussy.

    • Jacob Phillips

      The book is manlier than the film, but I don’t remember Trautman putting on Rambo’s headband at the end!!

  • jim

    As some have already pointed out, Douglas’ suggested ending is from the book…which is terrific…All manly men should read it.
    Had to laugh at this bit:
    “…… having just come off a TV show playing a gay doctor, Crenna was told to ditch the gay overtures that were still hanging around from all the hours of being in unmanly character at the hospital.”
    LOL!!…Method acting can go too far sometimes…but Crenna turned out great.. no gay vibes there at all.

  • David Barber

    In another era and life, Kirk Douglas would have been a great Rambo himself. No kidding. Watch Lonely And The Brave and you’ll see why. Stallone was born to play Rambo. Forget Burt, his best films were Deliverance, Mean Machine and Sharky’s Machine. I’ll never forget watching First Blood when I was 9. It was the first Rambo film I ever saw and I remember thinking it was going to be like Part II with him fighting a war.