Action icon Sylvester Stallone believed in 1988’s Rambo III so much, he turned down a massive payday for the fourth installment.
In an interview with THR, Stallone explained how the Rambo sequel’s epic scale and Cold War backdrop were supposed to make it the biggest entry in the franchise. But when production company Carolco Pictures pushed for Rambo IV to be made immediately after, the star resisted their enticing offer. “We were doing Rambo III. We thought it was going to be the biggest hit – this was before it came out. And I was paid a fortune for it,” Stallone revealed. “Then they go, ‘We want Rambo IV. Here it is: Pay or play, 34.’ I go, ‘Let’s not jump the gun here…'”
Rambo IV’s Missed 1980s Opportunity
Rambo III was produced on a budget reported to be in the range of $58 to $63 million which made it the most expensive movie made at the time. As the highest-paid actor of the ’80s, Stallone received an upfront salary of $16 million and he kicks himself today knowing he could have made twice as much had he agreed to Rambo IV. “Oh boy, what an idiot,” Stallone continued. “Now I think about that and … wow.”
Based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel, 1982’s First Blood introduced audiences to Stallone’s PTSD-ridden John Rambo, who, after the abrupt escalation of a minor misunderstanding, is forced to outrun the law in rural Washington. The film earned the critical and commercial success that proved Stallone could play more than just Rocky Balboa. The sequel, 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, was the biggest hit in the franchise despite negative reviews, spawning video games, action figures and even a controversial animated series.
Rambo III’s Plot Didn’t Age Well
Set against the backdrop of the Soviet-Afghan conflict, Rambo III saw the Vietnam vet travel to Afghanistan and aligns himself with a local band of freedom fighters to save Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) from Soviet forces. By the time the movie was released in the summer of 1988, the real-life crisis had subsided, making Rambo III‘s story irrelevant and it underperformed at the box office. Rambo III saw a resurgence in public interest after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and made audiences question if Rambo actually aligned himself with Osama Bin Laden’s Afghan resistance group.
20 years would pass before Stallone returned to the jungle in the Lionsgate-produced Rambo in 2008. That was followed by 2019’s Rambo: Last Blood which was considered a disappointment by critics and creator Morrell. Regardless, Stallone has expressed interest in a Rambo prequel, which would explore the character’s backstory in Vietnam.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter