Rambo V: Last Blood is set to be Sylvester Stallone’s last time playing the iconic action hero, but his original take, titled Rambo V: The Savage Hunt, would have seen Rambo fighting a bloodthirsty monster. While there’s a certain recognizable formula to the Rambo series – the sequels typically feature Rambo on a rescue mission, a finale where he mans a gigantic machine gun to take on an entire army, a one-dimensional villain and his trademark knife getting progressively larger – the first four movies are still pretty distinct from one another. Indeed, First Blood features none of these elements, playing as more of a psychological thriller, while the kinetic action of Rambo: First Blood Part II stands in contrast to the dour, anti-war tone of 2008’s Rambo.
Stallone has been the guiding voice of the series since the beginning, having a hand in the scripts, in addition to directing Rambo and, rumor has it, ghost directing Rambo: First Blood Part II. With both the Rambo and Rocky franchises, he’s proven he has a knack for creating sequels that feel like they have a purpose. The Rocky movies cover important milestones in that character’s life – while often mirroring Stallone’s own career – while the Rambo sequels find the traumatized hero constantly being drawn back to war despite wanting to move away from it.
Rambo V: Last Blood finds him on a rescue mission to Mexico when a friend’s daughter is kidnapped by a cartel. Having returned home at end of Rambo, he’s spent the better part of a decade working on his family farm, but also spending his free time drinking to cope with his PTSD. This mission provides him with one final worthy cause, but age has weathered his once unbeatable combat skills. Stallone has been working on this Mexico-set concept for a number of years, but it wasn’t the only idea he considered. In fact, after 2008’s Rambo he was seeking to shatter the series formula and make something totally different. To that end, he felt the novel Hunter – about a formidable tracker taking on an unkillable monster – would make the perfect concept for part five.
So let’s take a look at Rambo V: The Savage Hunt, and explore just how different Rambo’s final mission could have been had the project moved forward.
- This Page: Previous (Somewhat Sensible) Unmade Rambo Movie Ideas
- Page 2: The (Ridiculous) Rambo V: The Savage Hunt
The Previous Unmade Rambo Ideas
While Rambo V: The Savage Hunt is the most famous abandoned idea in the series, it’s certainly not the only one. James Cameron wrote a draft for Rambo: First Blood Part II that had the basic structure and action sequences found in the final movie, but his script was heavily rewritten. First Blood II: The Mission found Rambo, just like the movie, being recruited by the CIA to take photos of an abandoned POW camp in Vietnam, but when he finds it isn’t empty he sets out to rescue the prisoners. In Cameron’s draft, Rambo is partnered with a cocky soldier named Lieutenant Brewer, who provides tech – and comic – support. Producers were keen on John Travolta for this role, who Stallone had just directed in Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive, but the star felt Rambo should work alone and wrote the character out.
The success of Rambo: First Blood Part II meant a sequel was inevitable, so producers hired David Morrell – the author of First Blood – to pen a draft. His script took place in a Central America country where Rambo’s mentor Colonel Trautman is working as an advisor. His wife and child are kidnapped in an embassy takeover, and upon hearing this, Rambo travels down to help rescue them. In the finale, Rambo and Trautman’s wife would have picked up machine guns and fought side by side. This script was rejected in favor of one set in Afghanistan, as it was felt a desert setting would make a good visual contrast to the jungles of the first two. The original draft was more complex and featured a subplot involving a female doctor looking after Afghan children, and a sequence set during a sandstorm. This sprawling take was dubbed “Rambo Of Arabia” by the crew, but to trim the escalating budget later scripts pared the plot down to its essence and put the focus on action scenes.
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Stallone felt like the character had his day following the underperformance of Rambo III and during the 1990s had no interest in making another. Miramax bought the rights and tried to lure him back with a concept where Rambo rescues the President from a hostage takeover at Camp David, but the star didn’t bite. He later developed a script which adapted Chuck Logan’s novel Homefront as a potential fourth chapter. This take would have seen Rambo with a young child and going back to his old ways when drug dealers threaten them. While this version was rejected, Stallone would retool this draft for a Homefront adaptation which starred Jason Statham and James Franco.
Page 2 of 2: The (Ridiculous) Rambo V: The Savage Hunt
What Rambo V: The Savage Hunt Was About
Stallone has openly wrestled with the idea of a fifth Rambo movie and has gone back and forth on it over the years. He was satisfied that Rambo’s final scene – where the character returns home after decades of self-imposed exile – was a fitting ending and worried another entry would cheapen it. He even briefly quit the project in 2016, when a more soulful, character-driven pitch he conceived with author David Morrell was rejected by producers. Interestingly, however, his initial pitch would have put the series in a new genre entirely.
In 2009, it was revealed James Byron Huggins’ 1999 novel Hunter would form the basis of Rambo V: The Savage Hunt. The book centers on Nathaniel Hunter, the world’s best tracker. When a mysterious beast starts ripping through facilities in the Arctic circle, Hunter is tasked with leading a team of elite soldiers to track and kill it. That plan doesn’t go so well, as their first encounter with the creature reveals it to be impossibly fast and bulletproof. They soon have to make to an extraction point while stalked by a savage, but a surprisingly intelligent beast. Hunter also begins to suspect it might be man-made.
Hunter is a trashy but fun read, full of gory action scenes, larger than life characters, high-tech weaponry and some dubious science. Horror and sci-fi are two genres Stallone has tended to avoid throughout his career, but he had a creative hand in developing the book alongside the author. It seems the part of the story that really appealed to him is the Jekyll & Hyde quality, with a civilized man coming face to face with his inner, rage-filled id. That’s probably why he felt Rambo would be a good fit; inside of dropping the character into yet another war zone, Rambo finds himself confronting his inner beast.
Why Rambo V: The Savage Hunt Didn’t Happen
A plot synopsis appeared for Rambo V: The Savage Hunt, with the plot being virtually identical to Hunter, but with the addition of a new sidekick character named Beau Brady. It appears the concept never made it to actual script form, however, and Stallone quickly dropped the idea following fan reaction to Rambo battling a monster. He’s never dropped the idea of making Hunter, though, and after plans to make a 3D adventure out of it came to nothing back in 2012, it was recently confirmed his production company will tackle the adaptation in the near future.
Would Rambo V: The Savage Hunt have worked? On the face of it, it’s hard to track how a franchise that began will a traumatized veteran declaring war on a small town could evolve into Rambo punching a literal monster. That said, it’s hard to track how it began that way and evolved into him driving a tank into a helicopter in Rambo III either. With the right approach, it could have been kind of fascinating to see the series completely switch gears into a full-on creature feature, but one with a psychological angle. It’s probably for the best it didn’t happen, but fans will get to see Hunter on the big screen regardless, and decide for themselves if Rambo vs Predator could have possibly worked.