Why Arnold Schwarzenegger Never Did a Predator Sequel

Despite iconic lines like “Get to the choppa!” Schwarzenegger has kept his distance from the Predator franchise. It’s complicated.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator (1987)
Photo: 20th Century Studios

Picture the scene: A camera pans over the charred remains of what was once a large section of dense rainforest in the Central American banana republic of Val Verde. Suddenly, the cloaked feet of a Predator come into view. The alien hunter plunges a barely visibly claw down into the ashen ground where flora and fauna once flourished. A second later, the severed arm of a Predator is pulled from the shattered earth. The semi-visible Predator makes a bee-line for his fallen comrade’s wrist-based computer.

A read-out appears on its screen, detailing everything that led to this point. The replay stops on the image of a human face: it’s a face audiences know all too well from a decade of action movies. Right here and right now though, they know him as Maj. Alan “Dutch” Schaefer. Without saying a word, the Predator knows this is its next target. 

As ideas for opening scenes go. The one dreamed up by writers Jim and John Thomas for their follow-up to the original Predator was an enticing one, setting in motion a sequel that most insiders in 1989 assumed would star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although Schwarzenegger was still a few years off returning for T2 during this moment, he’d already shown a willingness to do follow-ups by reprising his role as Conan the Barbarian in Conan the Destroyer. And eventually, he would return to the role of the T-800 in the Terminator franchise four more times in the decades to come. 

Yet if the experience of Conan had taught Schwarzenegger anything, it was to approach sequels with caution. Oliver Stone, who co-wrote the original hit Conan movie, had always envisioned Conan racking up as many as 11 sequels. Alas, the mixed response to Conan the Destroyer put an end to that, with plans for a third film directly continuing Schwarzenegger’s tenure with the character languishing in  development hell ever since.

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It’s a slightly different story where Predator is concerned though. The Thomas brothers claimed to have as many as six distinctly different ideas for how to follow-up the original, including a bold take that would have been set around the Battle of the Bulge with warring German and Allied forces teaming up to take on the Predator. 

From the off though, they seemed prepared for a potential future without Schwarzenegger. But that didn’t stop 20th Century Fox and any number of writers from pitching creative ways to convince Schwarzenegger to “stick around” for a little double Dutch.

Some had potential, others had problems, but one thing they all offer is a fascinating glimpse of a parallel universe where the cigar-chomping protagonist continued to take center stage in the fight against one ugly motherfucker. 

Predator 2

Back when Schwarzenegger was still in the offing to return, Predator 2 was an entirely different beast from the movie released in 1990. Taking its cues from the Mark Verheiden comic book miniseries Predator Concrete Jungle, Predator 2 was always intended to focus on a homicide detective, albeit originally one who is combatting an escalating gang war and the arrival of a Predator in a crime-ridden New York City of the not-too-distant future (as opposed to L.A.). The Thomas brothers initially pitched the sequel as a brutal buddy cop thriller between this cop and a returned Dutch. The most significant shift, though, came with the casting of Danny Glover as Det. Mike Hannigan.

Speaking in an interview with AVP Galaxy, Predator 2 director Stephen Hopkins recalled how producers Joel Silver and Lawrence Gordon had both been keen on the idea of the film offering a fresh spin on the buddy cop formula, which was the order of the day at multiplexes at the time after movies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs.

“Joel and Larry obviously had both done independently 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapons,” Hopkins explained. “So it was very much in that wheelhouse where there were two cops who didn’t really know each other and had to go head-to-head, and had to fight together against something.”

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Hopkins also elaborated further on Dutch’s role in the film, which would have seen him return as a rogue operative hunting the Predator outside of the purview of the authorities. “He would have been the guy who wouldn’t have been telling the cops what was going on but trying to use the police force to get him into a position to deal with the creature,” Hopkins said. “He wanted revenge and he wanted to know what was going on. He was going to use the government and eventually ally himself with [Glover’s] Harrigan and go head-to-head with the creature.”

Hopkins even went as far as detailing to Scream Magazine how Dutch would have been reintroduced. “The opening scene of the film was supposed to be these guys playing golf on a golf course and a helicopter lands, and there is a guy with white hair golfing and they come and say ‘he’s back,’ and Arnold turns around he’s got white hair and a scar across his face.”

Ultimately, however, Schwarzenegger turned down the film, prompting a series of rewrites that saw Gary Busey’s character, Special Agent Peter Keyes, play a more prominent role. Reports over why Arnie said “hasta la vista baby” are conflicting. Producer John Davis told Collider it was down to money, claiming, “The deal broke down over $250,000, which is a shame.”

However, Hopkins suggested James Cameron played a part in swaying Schwarzenegger’s decision. “He said to Arnold that he wanted him to do Terminator 2 and he didn’t want both [sequels] to happen,” the director claimed. “He didn’t feel it would help Terminator 2 if Predator 2 happened with Arnold in it, and Jim was preparing it for a long time.”

Some suggested Schwarzenegger chose to star in Kindergarten Cop and the opportunity to play against type. Alternatively, the idea of a buddy cop film, so soon after Red Heat, also may not have appealed. Whatever the truth, Schwarzenegger’s decision appeared a shrewd one when Predator 2, which was heavily cut to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating, earned negative reviews and was only a moderate box office success. 

But that wasn’t the end of the story just yet. 

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Fans would be left waiting 20 years for another Predator movie to arrive, and when it finally did in 2010, it was decidedly lacking in Dutch. That wasn’t for a lack of trying though. From as far back as 1996, Fox was trying to get Predator 3 off the ground, going as far as to enlist rising filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to write a script that would see Schwarzenegger’s character return to the franchise.

The result was a script so bold, rumor has it studio bosses estimated it would have taken as much as $150 million to make. Rodriguez’s original take on the sequel opened aboard a Spanish Galleon and its crew finding themselves suddenly under siege from an invisible enemy. Just when it seems they are about to be overrun, a pirate leader comes to the fore, dispatching the invisible intruders in typically brutal fashion. It’s Dutch. It’s not entirely clear how the ship got here or whether it’s a relic of time or just some steampunk-style creation, but Dutch is back!

The story would then be flipped on its head with the revelation that their invisible attacks are in fact humans tasked with returning Dutch to his bosses in the military to stand trial for insubordination. After his capture, Dutch and a rag-tag group of fellow criminals would then be sentenced to spend time on a mysterious planet called Arkus 6.

Through a series of twists and turns, the group would eventually discover they were the bargaining chip in a trade between humans and Predators, with the former eager to utilize the latter’s technology and willing to trade human lives for it.

Dutch and his fellow captives, it would emerge, were to be used to help train up young Predators by competing in a series of gladiatorial-like fights involving other alien species. The film would climax with Dutch leading an escape before teaming up with a rogue Predator to fight the  King Predator. 

Featuring a rogue’s gallery of cyborgs and human-Predator hybrids, Rodriguez would later acknowledge his script was a little ahead of its time.”

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“It had a lot of special effects that were going to be kind of hard to pull off for the time period,” he told the Daily Record. “I had written a pretty crazy script. It had Arnold in it and it had a lot of Predators, and was set on another planet. It was impossible, actually, looking back to 1995 and 1996.”

It’s not clear whether Schwarzenegger ever laid eyes on the script, though reports suggest Fox’s efforts to get him interested in a sequel fell flat. They may well have gotten cold feet too after 1997’s Alien: Resurrection, another sequel featuring mutants and clones, became the franchise’s lowest grossing entry at the U.S. box office.

Rodriguez’s script would eventually be dusted off in 2010 for Predators, albeit in a more streamlined, simplified form that saw an eclectic bunch of warriors and psychopaths, with Adrian Brody serving as a Dutch stand-in, being dropped off on a similar looking planet to be hunted by Predators.

That script was co-written by Alex Litvak,who had caught the eye with his own idea for a Dutch-led sequel, which would have seen Schwarzenegger’s character living in exile as a janitor or possibly in prison after being made a scapegoat for what unfolded in Val Verde.

Speaking in an interview with the AVP Galaxy podcast, Litvak explained how the story would kick into gear when a Predator ship crash lands in a “hard-to-access” location. 

“So now the powers that be come to him [Dutch] saying: ‘Dutch, we need you because another Predator ship has appeared and think of all the tech we can access, think of all the scientific leaps we can make. Come with us because you’re the only one who faced this creature and lived,’” Litvak said. 

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Dutch was essentially to serve as an advisor, a la Ripley in Aliens. But Litvak said his script would then turn the premise on its head once they reached the alien ship: “They blow the hatch, and there’s a whole fucking team of Predators just waiting there for them… the whole thing has been a trap to get Dutch. Dutch is the prized prey, and the reason they showed up again is they’re hunting him.”

Comparing it to Executive Decision, Litvak said he took it to his bosses at Fox and the Predator producers, but the message came back once again that Schwarzenegger was not interested in returning to star. Even so, at least one version of the Predators script included a cameo in the final scene. 

That version of the film would have ended with Adrian Brody and Alice Braga’s characters, Royce and Isabelle, surrounded by Predators following the final battle and facing what they assumed would be certain death. Suddenly a bigger Predator, adorned with multiple trophies, would have stepped forward and removed his helmet to reveal Dutch underneath. “Not bad, kid. Not bad at all,” he would have said before the screen smashed to black. 

So why did it never happen? The simple answer was that, by then, Schwarzenegger was Governor of California. That certainly chimes with the claims of Alien vs. Predator director Paul W.S. Anderson, who revealed Schwarzenegger had been set to appear in the crossover movie, but those plans were scrapped after he was elected governor.

Despite all of this, there would be one more throw of the dice to come.

The Predator 

When Shane Black signed up to write and direct The Predator in 2014, fans understandably jumped for joy. Not least at the realization it could finally mean the return of Schwarzenegger. It made perfect sense: not only had Black starred alongside Arnie in the original, he’d also worked as a script doctor, punching up lines on set with Schwarzenegger on 1993’s Last Action Hero

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With work on The Predator underway, Schwarzenegger met Black over lunch to discuss his involvement. Yet anyone hoping for Dutch delight was soon left disappointed when Schwarzenegger confirmed he would not participate.

“They asked me, and I read it, and I didn’t like it—whatever they offered,” he told Yahoo! Movies. “So I’m not going to do that, no. Except if there’s a chance that they rewrite it, or make it a more significant role. But the way it is now, no, I won’t do that.”

Though details are unconfirmed, script pages leaked online which suggested the part would have amounted to little more than a cameo in the final scene of the film—unless a sequel was greenlit.  In an interview with Moviefone, writer Fred Dekker explained, “What we had written was a cameo that would have spring-boarded into a major role in any sequel. He decided it wasn’t enough of a role, and nobody was willing to put money on the possibility of a sequel.”

According to Dekker, Dutch would have appeared in the final few seconds of the film, telling the survivors: “Come with me if you want to live” before the screen cut to black. Likening it to Mark Hamill’s brief appearance in the final seconds of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black and Dekker failed to heed Schwarzenegger’s warnings with the resulting disjointed, Dutch-less entry disappointing fans and financiers alike. 

The film’s failure, coupled with the subsequent success of Prey, which took an approach more in-line with the Thomas brothers’ alternative vision for the franchise, suggests we may never get another dose of Schwarzenegger ordering someone to “get to the choppa.” But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Prior to Prey, Schwarzenegger had made no secret of his disdain for the sequels, telling a Q&A audience in 2015: “So far, no Predator, no matter which one they did after the first one has come out, has been satisfactory to the audience.” In that sense, Schwarzenegger may be better served preserving the legacy of his one and only entry in the franchise, having already seen the impact of his turn as the T-800 in The Terminator watered down by one (or two) too many sequels. 

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But as long as Predator movies like Prey continue to have characters declaring, “If it bleeds we can kill it,” the specter of Schwarzenegger’s Dutch is likely to linger a little longer.