For Carl Weathers, Predator Was A Constant Competition On And Off-Camera

When it comes to John McTiernan's 1987 action classic "Predator," there's no shortage of unforgettable moments or images. There's the design of the titular alien, a camouflaged, green-blooded beast (Kevin Peter Hall in full makeup and prosthetics) on the hunt. There's the military unit's fraught arrival to a Central American jungle set to "Long Tall Sally." There's a shootout that seemingly borrows from Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch."

But it could be argued the most quoted and memorable moment from the whole movie comes from its opening act, where Vietnam War vets Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Dillon (Carl Weathers) are reunited after many years. As Dutch calls his old friend a "son of a b*tch," they clasp hands, each man revealing cartoonishly massive biceps.

Both actors had gotten their start as athletes. Schwarzenegger had found fame as an Austrian bodybuilder before being rejected to play TV's Incredible Hulk and Weathers had played college football, as well as a brief professional stint as a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders. Now, years after achieving movie stardom, they would be sharing the screen with each other, competing not just to steal the scene but to show off who was more ripped.

The filming of "Predator" would end up being significantly difficult anyway, with the temperatures and rough terrain of the production's southern Mexico filming locations proving especially challenging. That didn't stop Weathers from treating the fight to look more ripped as a "competition." As he told GQ, "Nobody wanted to look any weaker than the other guy."

He was lucky that there was a gym on-site, one brought down by Schwarzenegger to maintain his bodybuilding regimen during the three-month shoot.

In the jungle

As Roger Ebert said in his review, "'Predator' begins like 'Rambo' and ends like 'Alien,' and in today's Hollywood, that's creativity." Director John McTiernan was just happy to make what he called "an old-fashioned popcorn movie," according to the making-of movie, "If It Bleeds We Can Kill It."

The setup was classic, primal — a group of extremely manly men set out to rescue a diplomat in a hostile Central American location. As they discretely observe their targets, a group of insurgents, they too are being watched, in infrared vision, by an alien hunter. The so-called "Predator" can't be seen on account of its cloaking device, so it blends into the jungle, making its shocking arrivals and kills even scarier. You have a group of tough guys, you've seen the damage they can unleash, and here they are, getting torn to pieces by a single alien.

In many ways, the movie was an Arnold Schwarzenegger star vehicle in a similar vein to "Commando" a few years earlier. The big difference was that this movie gave his character Dutch a team to work with (or against, as in the case of Carl Weathers' Dillon), and every death is a chip in the classic Schwarzenegger armor. As Dutch is the leader, the team's failure to put down the threat is his failure, and it's repeated over and over again until he learns the solution in time for the movie's climax. It's one of the few times a movie made Arnie out to be an underdog.


But that doesn't mean Arnold Schwarzenegger was an underdog when it came to the real clash behind the scenes of "Predator." One of the many wild things that happened on set was the actors' initial confrontation with military advisor Gary Goldman, who recalled the guys looking like "a bunch of ballerinas," despite most of them being massive. Goldman's feeling on their military might was proven accurate by their inability to run in the jungle heat. "It doesn't matter how many inches your neck is," he recalled.

Regardless of their running abilities in 90-degree Central American jungles, they were big guys. If the risk of getting out-muscled by a co-star was significant, moves had to be made to offset it. Whether it was Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, or wrestler Jesse Ventura, the cast of "Predator" had an image to upkeep that went beyond simply looking strong. The actors had to be the toughest, the hardest, and even the hardest partying.

As Weathers told GQ, "we were all in our own way trying to one-up each other." That manifested in a multitude of ways, whether the guys were withstanding extreme heat or extreme workouts. Weathers recalled in "If It Bleeds We Can Kill It" that the men would get up as early as 3:00 AM to use Schwarzenegger's private gym. Effectively, they were bulking up before their big scenes, so the camera would capture them at their biggest. Weathers claims to have made a point to only work out when the gym was empty — that way, his physique would look God-given.


In the movie, Dutch and Dillon have a complex relationship, as complex as a monster movie on steroids like "Predator" could have. Dutch takes issue with Dillon's changes since the war, particularly his becoming a company man for the CIA. And that thread helps to carry the movie's opening act, when, by all accounts, it's still just a guerilla war movie. When Dillon comes to a sorry end before the climax, his relatively nuanced characterization and Carl Weathers' performance are missed. But the climax had to be Arnold Schwarzenegger versus the Predator, mano a mano.

Naturally, that was where the movie was headed. "Predator" was still a Schwarzenegger vehicle, and he got top billing, and seeing both the man and the creature stripped of weaponry is the most expected climax. But "Predator" as a movie needs the ensemble. It wouldn't work without the group dynamics, whether they're communicating in military jargon or low-key banter. As Carl Weathers told GQ, all of the competition and the rough-housing ended up being key to that. "What do you expect, really?" he asked, reminiscing about the Mexico shoot. 

The competition extended to scene-stealing, working out, going to nightclubs, extreme macho behavior, and Even Schwarzenegger having an accident while working out before filming. "This camaraderie, this sense of fun," Weathers said added to the movie. It wouldn't be a classic without that.